How to Be Charming

The answer might surprise you.

By Camille Styles
gorgeous orange and yellow roses

People-watching has always been my favorite pastime, whether I’m at a sidewalk café in Paris or my Starbucks run after I take the kids to school. And every once in awhile, I spot someone who has IT — that magnetic, charismatic quality that draws others to them almost magically.

Whether they’re male or female, old or young, drop dead gorgeous or not is irrelevant; these people are just plain charming.

toast at loria stern dinner party

I’ve always chalked it up to an innate sense of confidence that some people seem to be born with, and while I still think that’s part of it, lately I’ve noticed that there’s something else that all incredibly charming people share. I’ll explain.

Last summer when Adam and I were on our anniversary trip to Italy, we found ourselves practically bingeing on people watching as we sipped aperol spritzes at the Hotel de Russie. It was an embarrassment of riches: Italian men wearing sleek suits and vibrant pocket squares, families living that la dolce vita life over long pasta dinners and lots of wine. But I’ll never forget this one couple that was about our same age. From the moment they breezed through the doors, we couldn’t stop staring.

She was wearing a simple white linen dress and flat sandals, he was in a tailored suit and sneakers. And while her features weren’t classically beautiful, her sparkling eyes and megawatt smile made her impossible to turn away from. There was just something about her — I can only describe it as a presence that was fully in the moment — and as she stopped by a table to greet friends with a warm kiss on each cheek and close conversation, I realized that her ability to make others feel interesting and loved made her incredibly charming.

salad garnished with edible flowers at loria stern dinner party

Similarly, a dear friend of mine is one of those people whose charisma levels are off the charts — she manages to strike up a conversation and get a giggle out of even the most closed-off people. The other night at a party, I watched her in action as she made eye contact with every person she spoke with, showed a genuine interest in those people that others might have overlooked, flirted with the grumpy guy in the corner, and made everyone she spoke with feel like the most fascinating human on the planet.

I know this friend well enough to know that she doesn’t go into every situation feeling super confident, but her outward focus allows her to set aside her insecurities and be fully present, shining her light on others and inviting their best selves to show up.

candied flower shortbread cookies at loria stern dinner party

And I think that’s really the key: silencing our inner dialogs long enough to connect with the people around us and show them through our words and actions that we see them and we like them. It sounds simple, but I’ve found that most of us are often too caught up in trying to make ourselves seem charming (or cool, or smart, or insert any other aspirational quality) to really see the people in front of us and bring curiosity to our conversations. One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And that, my friends, is the secret to being charming.