Wearing thick black-rimmed glasses and a casual jacket, Danish Sheikh greets me pleasantly as we first meet.
The young entrepreneur, who calls himself ‘India’s first charisma coach’, is now in Dubai to prove that charm is a quality that can be taught and bought.
Speaking in a soft but convincing tone, he argues that charisma is not purely a natural trait – as many believe it to be – but can be developed and nurtured through practice. To prove this he has created an in-depth programme and offers to work his magic on me. I accept the challenge.
The first session is more of an introduction. He asks me several personal questions and I talk endlessly, revealing ambitions and challenges, personality traits and experiences.
His reaction brings a smile – I am reasonably charismatic, he says (perhaps diplomatically) but a few sessions can help me charm my way into becoming the next Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs or Shah
Our first actual session starts with Sheikh sitting “unobtrusively” and watching me work in the office. I am certain that I will be uncomfortable and conscious about his presence. Thankfully, work overpowers my thoughts and very soon he walks up and says he is done.
Now comes the next round of feedback.
I sometimes talk to my colleagues without actually looking at them and may occasionally fiddle with my phone. As Sheikh points out, even small actions can trigger subtle reactions. For instance, occasionally touching the arm of a person assures trust and patting a person while hugging them is sign that you have the upper hand. In my case, I displayed a lack of concern and confidence.
Several of the characteristics required to be charismatic are fairly obvious. Display better body language (gesture with your hands, make eye-contact and do not fidget). Listen attentively, dress smartly and smile often but genuinely.
One suggestion he offers, which does not go down too well, is to wear ‘branded’ clothes and accessories. Unfortunately, the world is a shallow place and people tend to make instant judgments based on what we wear and how we look, he says. I grudgingly accept. He quickly adds that this is not an absolute “requirement” for being charismatic. It is purely a tool that might aid the process.
Something that is more vital to becoming charismatic is the ability to add value to people’s lives and “quality” to conversations. Basically, make your life more interesting. Create such an impression that people find it hard to forget you. And always ensure that you dig deep and find something that really matters to the other person so that you can win their trust and affection.
Sheikh stresses that the only way to develop these skills is by practising them with strangers. And to prove it, he has tested out this method. He has spoken to at least 5,000 random people on the streets.
So by the end of the two and a half sessions, can I say I am oozing charisma?
Not really. But, on the other hand, the programme is not meant to transform you overnight. As Sheikh emphasises in his last tip to me – it is all about practice, practice and practice.
* Danish Sheikh has managed 36 clients including chief executive officers, entrepreneurs, politicians and actors
* He offers an exclusive day-long shadow programme specifically for CEOs where charisma is assessed and measured
*He charges Dhs 800 per hour in the United Arab Emirates