Charisma or Character…How To Tell The Difference


In life we encounter many different types of people.  Introverts, extroverts, funny, serious, loud, quiet, shy, and jocular.  These are all personality traits or characteristics of an individual.  They do not define or identify their character.  Many times we try to “read people” to determine if they have good intentions or selfish desires.  Confusing character with charisma is an area where most people struggle.  It also poses potential danger if misread.  So what’s the difference between character and charisma and how do you determine if the person you’re interacting with has great character or is simply charismatic?

Before you can determine character from charisma let us first establish a working definition for both.  Character is the way someone thinks, feels, and ultimately behaves.  Think of character as an individuals guiding light, or true north.  People of great character operate with authenticity.  They have strong self-awareness, and the likelihood of them doing the right thing under the most difficult of circumstances, is incredibly high…almost unquestioned.   Character boils down to doing the right thing when no one else is looking.  Character is hard-wired.  You can teach right from wrong, but you can’t teach character.

Charisma on the other hand is an appeal that attracts others to an individual.  It could be a specific talent or attribute.  Charisma, or charm, are qualities that are also hard-wired into a personality.  Many celebrities, politicians, and public figures have great charisma.  It’s a quality that has been developed over time and used to rally support behind a persons specific efforts.  In the movies, as in life, there are people who have enough charisma to make obnoxious characters likable.  Perhaps this is where the saying “wolf in sheep’s clothing” came into existence.  We are often times fooled in life by people who are very charismatic rather than supporting the individual with strong character.  People with charisma seem to have it all and it’s exciting to be around them.  But charisma is no substitute for character.

So how can you tell the difference?

  1. When talking with someone do they open up or keep things shallow or superficial?
  2. How willing is the person to roll up their sleeves and “do”, versus simply talking about “doing”?
  3. When interacting with others does the person focus on the material things or do they make human connections?
  4. What examples can be found where this person did something good for someone, or some company, for which they received nothing in return?
  5. How do they treat and interact with their family and friends?
  6. Do they keep their word even if doing so results in a loss?  Or are they quick to abandon their commitments and justify doing so with one reason or another?

Learning how to deal effectively with people throughout life will determine your success and happiness.  Being proficient in identifying people with character versus charisma will give you greater opportunities to align yourself with those who will truly add value to your life thereby create lasting relationships.  Focus on establishing relationships with people rich in character rather than charisma.  Remember, charisma is an outward sign whereas character comes from within.  Surrounding yourself with people high in character will bring you a lifetime of self-fulfillment and happiness.

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