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Book Review: Conflict and Charisma

by Jeff Thompson
April 2012 book cover

Olivia Fox Cabane’s new book The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism is a beneficial book that can help you become more effective in the conflict resolution services you provide.  Specifically, the book can help you become a better mediator and conflict resolution professional as charisma is intertwined with each of the basic conflict resolution skills (summarizing, validating, listening, reframing, asking questions, etc.).

After reading The Charisma Myth, I realized charisma very well could be a trait all mediators and conflict specialists need yet has never been discussed or taught (off topic but my PhD research includes this).  If a mediator is to help people who are involved in conflicts, we must assist them by motivating and inspiring them to articulate why they want or do not want certain things, explore options, and try to develop mutually acceptable solutions.  A charismatic person happens to be someone who motivates and inspires others.

As someone who has been researching nonverbal communication for years, I was interested in reading the advanced copy of Olivia Fox Cabane’s The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.  Firstly, the myth she refers to is that either you have charisma or you do not and thus reading and trainings are pointless.  Fox Cabane’s book instantly pans this myth and offers insight into how anyone can develop charisma.

The Charisma Myth is a 234 page book divided into 13 chapters with each offering guidance on charisma based on previous scientific research and work she has done with an impressive list of clients from a variety of backgrounds.  In essence, she is a conflict and communication coach without using that title.

The Charisma Myth is a book that will be of value to conflict resolution professionals as it offers tips and insight on becoming more effective communicators. Fox Cabane’s distinct writing style has the ability to motivate the reader into believing it is possible to increase and create an individual charismatic style.  She makes reading each chapter both informational and fun. 

The book shares what the author believes are the main components of charisma: presence, power, and warmth while later in the book it offers methods to develop each as well as overcoming obstacles such as creating comfort in uncomfortable situations.  In our field of work, being with people who are in uncomfortable situations is a daily activity!

Throughout each chapter Fox Cabane offers exercises allowing you to put to practice each of the skills she offers.  Each exercise is practical and easy however she does acknowledge in her down-to-earth manner, which is consistent throughout the book, that some might seem odd to try at first.  It is relieving to know I was not alone in thinking that and it was reassuring that she realizes this and encourages the reader to still try it.

Adding further value to the book are the chapter summaries and more exercises at the conclusion of the book.  For people who like to delve deeper into the research that is cited in the book but does not clutter each chapter, Fox Cabane neatly compiles each reference in the notes section.

If you are interested in increasing your ability to be charismatic in your conflict resolution work, this book will give you direct skills to use in a style that will have you believing (and practicing) starting with the introduction and increasing with each chapter.  The book is available at many websites and bookstores including [here].


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)

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