Schools should directly teach us social skills, alongside how to do our taxes and how to negotiate romantic relationships. These things aren’t just secondary, they are mandatory elements of the human experience that directly affect how smooth our ride on this Earth is going to be.

Social skills and charisma, in particular, may be the most important. And those two are indeed one and the same, and they are both things you can — and should — practice, learn, and master.

After all, people are everywhere, they are everything. From your employer to your doctor, from your parents to your future wife; how well you can talk, connect, and negotiate with those people will greatly affect the course of your life.

Inborn charisma is a myth

Charisma is often passed on as something you are born with. Something granted by the gods or genetics, or maybe something related to whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. But the truth is a bit more complicated than that.

There are indeed individuals who are born with a natural talent for dealing with people, just like some people are born with an affinity for music or mathematics. But just like those other activities, the existence of talented geniuses does not mean that everyone else can’t learn those to be more charismatic.

As for the introvert/extrovert duality, first of all, most people are not on either extreme of the polarity — they have extroverted and introverted tendencies depending on the situation. Second of all, introverts may have more trouble with charisma, but that’s not due to the nature of their introversion itself. It’s just that introverts often get fewer chances to practice due to their preferred habits often involving solitude.

Chances are, if you were able to somehow find two people — one extrovert and one introvert — who were at the same level of social skill, and then proceeded to give them the same amount of training, the two — all other factors being equal — would progress at the exact same rate. Being introverted does not make one socially crippled; a lot of politicians and very charismatic people have displayed deeply introverted tendencies in the past. Some of them could only bear to speak in public for a few hours a day before they retreated to their libraries, and they were still great speakers when they did it. Why? Because they had practice.

How you can start practicing

There’s no universal way to start working on your charisma. It’s often best to take stock of the opportunities you have and try to set reasonable goals.

For example, do you go to get bread every morning? Maybe start giving good morning to the person behind the counter, maybe add a smile and a bit of eye contact while you do it. If the thought of doing that makes you shudder, you either live somewhere where people are very formal — like Germany or Japan —, or you have a lot to work on.

Trial and error is the name of the game. If you’re really at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to being warm and socially proactive, you’ll often feel like a beginner comedian on an open mic night — your every other attempt at being social will bomb and make you cringe. But over time, practice will lead to skill and confidence. You’ll get better.

Try working on your eye contact, on being more present when talking to people, on smiling more and trying to make people smile, and on just generally being more polite. Over time, you can work your way up to opening conversations with strangers, making friends out of acquaintances, and maybe even finding chances to speak in public so you can learn to deliver better presentations. Those are all skills you can master.Looking good can make this process smoother. You don’t need a perfect body. Just looking clean, organized, sharp, and smelling nice will help people react positively to your presence. Wearing a cologne will also do wonders towards making you feel more comfortable in your own skin.