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  • Writer's pictureRachael Annabelle

Why some people are effortlessly more charming and comforting than others

Our own way of being has an emotional signature.

Some people can walk into a room and instantly put everyone at ease, or, could heighten stress and tension. This effect is known as affective presence.

Essentially, affective presence is the ability to influence how the people around you feel. Closely related to your emotional intelligence, it is a consistent and measurable part of your personality, and can be in the form of either a positive or negative presence.

Emotions are contagious. If one person feels angry, she may well infect her neighbor with that anger. However, affective presence is an effect one has on others, regardless of one’s own feelings — those with positive affective presence make other people feel good, even if they personally are anxious or sad, and the opposite is true for those with negative affective presence.

“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

People who consistently make others feel good are more central to their social networks, and negative affective presence is correlated with lower agreeableness and greater extraversion. Positive affective presence isn’t inherently good, either for the person themselves, or for their relationships with others.

Psychopaths are notoriously charming, and may well use their positive affective presence for manipulative ends. Similarly, negative affective presence may prove beneficial in the context of a soccer coach pressuring the team to perform during trainings.

How does this relate to our daily lives?

In the professional setting, having a positive affective presence and being able to make your employees feel at ease would encourage them to suggest new ideas, promoting a more flat hierarchy and inclusive culture, rather than them feeling anxious when pitching new projects.

Performance would thereby improve.

“Being listened to and heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart. And those who learn to listen are the most loved and respected.” — Richard Carlson

Additionally, being a charming leader whom people feel they can connect with and develop faith in you and your vision for the company, can also result in a more open and empathetic culture. Between co-workers, I believe that having a positive affective presence would also increase the enjoyability of the overall working experience.

When it comes to our personal lives, our connection with others would then come into play. Something I’ve learned is that when you speak about your thoughts or feelings, (in both the personal/professional context), is that the person on the receiving end may not be in a specific mental state, nor have the ability to empathize — and if they are unable to cope, they leave.

“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.” — Brené Brown

It often isn’t about what they feel towards you, but rather, the incapacity to manage their own feelings about it. This too, is an amplification of how they feel, based on your personal traits, as well as affective presence. Hence, other than being sensitive towards how different people react to your actions and words on varying occasions, it would also be beneficial to be more aware of how certain people feel just by having your presence felt — in other words, sensing for a comfortable, or uncomfortable silence.

In the social context, people often wonder whether if it is better to live life trusting everyone, until they give you a reason not to — or have them earn your trust before opening up to them. When you meet someone new, you often get a sensing relatively quickly, whether someone’s character sits on the “quieter” end of the spectrum which requires more time to open up, or on the more extroverted end.

If you feel someone is more extroverted, or perhaps interested in what you have to say (perhaps because their affective presence is more positive), you may feel more compelled to develop your relationship with them. How much you open up, goes back to the question of how comfortable you feel around someone, and how comfortable they feel around you.

Scientifically speaking, we can draw parallels to the game theory — which studies those situations where the outcome of a decision depends on the decision of other game players. Both character and affective presence influences this sensing you get, and you will find that your attitude and reaction to them will have a direct impact on how fast the relationship develops. Opening up to someone makes you vulnerable, but also more susceptible to various levels of growth.

Bear in mind that relationships are a two-way street, and they are heavily influenced by your personal traits as well as your affective presence. Learning how to wield both of these would probably be a good asset in life — just some food for thought!

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