There are some people who just seem to have it. They command attention, everyone wants to be their friend, people listen when they speak. They are completely fascinating. Though we may think that magnetic quality only belongs to a lucky few, Sally Hogshead — author, speaker, and founder of the Fascination Academy — argues that we all have extroversion within us. The key (contrary to what many self-help books preach) is not to change anything, but rather to become more of yourself. “This is the opposite of looking at strengths and weaknesses, which implies there is something you have to fix,” Hogshead explains. “What makes you fascinating is not what makes you better than other people; it’s what makes you different.” But first, you have to understand how others see you.
Hogshead, a former ad exec, achieved success early on with her ability to help brands like Target, BMW, Nike, and Coca-Cola develop their DNA and communicate their message effectively. She had the epiphany that we could apply the same principles of brand-building to market ourselves in the best way possible. “I had this idea that we already have the best of who we are within us,” she shares. “We just have to find that and communicate it.” Hogshead developed the Fascination Advantage Assessment to reveal those personal selling points — the things others see in us that stand out and what we bring to the table. (Brit + Co readers can take the test for free using code BRITCO.) We chatted with Hogshead to learn how you can use the results to own it every damn day.
Knowing Yourself, According to Others
Many personality assessments focus on uncovering underlying traits and motivations, but Hogshead’s assessment turns things around to focus on how the world sees you — insight that’s invaluable when it comes to business dealings and relationship building. It can be hard to see yourself from the outside, so the test identifies you as one of 49 archetypes, each of which comes with a report detailing the unique traits that make you amazing. “These are qualities you’ve had since the day you were born,” she tells us. “They are what make people admire you, evangelize, promote you.” It all comes down to confidence. If you are aware of what gives you your star power, you can learn to own those qualities and tap into them whether you’re on a date, at an interview, or doing a presentation. “When we have the words to define how we are at our best, it becomes easy to be that on purpose,” she notes. “This is especially true for millennial women.”
The Female Factor
“We live in a culture where women have to fix ourselves, which means we don’t have the confidence to feel fascinating,” Hogshead admits. Standardized and unrealistic standards are what she notes as the main barriers. “There’s a paralysis that comes from being told we’re wrong or have to fix something,” she adds. “We start playing small; we dumb ourselves down.” In the workplace, it shows up through overloaded positions in which one person is expected to deliver lofty creative ideas, nurture a team, and also be the super-detail-oriented master of the Excel sheet. We shine in the areas we are naturally good at and struggle with the rest, leading to burnout or loss of morale.
“When women are evaluated according to criteria that don’t support how they are primed to succeed, that’s when they become insecure,” Hogshead shares. Instead, when we focus on differences rather than strengths and weaknesses, we create an environment in which everyone has something valuable to add. Hogshead has found that successful high performers have two things in common: They deliver a specific benefit (brilliant creativity, flawless organizing, unmatched attention to detail), and they turn that benefit into a specialty. Rather than trying to be good at everything, they focus on their thing and work with partners who balance out the rest. If you do have to handle tasks that don’t come easily, Hogshead advises that you either “delegate it” (find someone who is good at it), “delete it” (if you have the option), or “be disciplined” (invest the time and energy to do it well enough).
Not Faking It ‘Til You Make It
There’s this idea that to be truly captivating we need to be upbeat social butterflies with charm to spare. But Hogshead says that’s just one way to be, and it only works for those who are naturally bubbly. “People can tell when you are being inauthentic, and it makes a bad impression,” she warns. They may not be able to say what exactly it is that turned them off, but they sense something is not right. “Besides,” she continues, “it’s exhausting, and you end up attracting friends and projects that are not a right fit. It’s hard to make big difference in the world if you’re playing a masquerade.” She shared some tips that anyone — no matter how reserved — can employ to get and keep someone’s attention.
1. Ask questions. One thing to note is that fascination isn’t the same as charisma (impressing someone with who you are). Being fascinating is about drawing people in rather than pushing yourself on them. If you’re a shy person, one way to fascinate is to ask questions. “Allow the person to feel fascinating by taking a sincere interest in them,” Hogshead suggests.
2. Be present. “Distraction is the opposite of fascination, which means to be in a state of intense focus,” she reminds. When you are paying attention to lots of things, your brain becomes fragmented, and both you and whoever you are with start to feel frazzled. So if you’re texting while at a lunch or thinking about what you will say next in a conversation, you cannot be fascinating. Similarly, the more fascinated (read: focused, engaged) you are with the task at hand, the more successful you will be at it. Looking at the relationship between income and the amount of time people spend in a state of fascination at work, Hogshead found that those who are most engaged with their work make more money.
3. Know and use power words. The Fascination Advantage Assessment delivers a set of words that relate to your standout qualities. It could be something like “nimble,” “unassuming,” and “independent” for people who fall under The Secret Weapon archetype, or “elegant” for The Royal Guards. “Those words are your secret weapon,” Hogshead reveals. You can think about your personal adjectives before you make a call or go into a big meeting to fully embody those traits — or drop them into emails and memos to make your message more persuasive.
4. Stand out, or don’t bother. “Every time you communicate, you are adding value or taking up space,” Hogshead observes. “If you keep raising your hand but don’t say anything, people start to tune you out. When you ask for attention, give something in return.” This applies IRL as much as it does on social media. “If you don’t have something valuable to say, you are going to be damaging your personal brand,” she points out. “Unless you are a food expert telling us about the best sandwich in town, we don’t need to know you had pastrami for lunch.”
5. Learn “unboring.” “In general, we don’t have to learn how to be fascinating, we have to learn how to not be boring,” Hogshead concludes. “Get rid of the layers of inhibition that came up from being told you were right or wrong, and become more of who you are. We don’t make a difference by being quiet; we make a difference by being heard.”
(Photos via Getty)