The Nature of Charm and Charmers
Charm is an interesting personal characteristic. It’s an inherently attractive trait. But exactly what it represents is often hard to discern. That’s because charm can be the mere manifestation of amiable traits in a decent individual’s personality. However, it can also represent a disturbed character’s way of seducing, manipulating, and exploiting.
Unfortunately, these days, it’s harder than ever to differentiate a genuinely decent individual who happens possess charm and charisma from a charmer with a hidden, nefarious motive. So, it’s worth taking a closer look at the nature of charm and the different personalities who might display it.
All charming folks have certain personality characteristics. They tend to:
- Seem genuinely glad to meet or reconnect with you. They make good eye contact. And their eyes light up when they encounter you. This can make you feel instantly valued.
- Put you at ease. They’re generally easy-going folks. And they create the kind of atmosphere that naturally invites you to relax and open up.
- Are affirming. They seem to “get you.” And they seem to like what they see. They make you feel good about yourself.
- Display an ease of connection. They have great interpersonal connective skill.
- Seem comfortable enough in their own skin to be kind and gentle toward others.
Benign Charmers Versus Charming Narcissists
Charming and charismatic folks can be of genuinely decent character. But some narcissistic and other nefarious characters are also capable of great charm. So, how do you know when someone’s charm should sound an alarm? That’s very hard to tell, especially these days. But there are some subtle signs to look out for:
- Too much, too fast. In putting you at ease and allowing you to open up, you might find yourself disclosing too much, too quickly. And this could well be the result of a person with their own poor boundaries and limits getting you to surrender your necessary boundaries and limits.
- Interest not match by regard. I’ve written about this several times before. Someone’s interest in you doesn’t mean they have true regard for you. The best indicator of a person’s capacity for genuine regard lies in their intimate relationship history. Narcissitic charmers often have had many relaitonships, few of which were characterized by depth and genuine commitment.
- Affirmation of a particular kind. Charmers are notoriously affirming, which always feels good. But beware. If the qualities the charmer affirms in you are the same qualities they’re enamored of in themselves, you may well be dealing with a narcissist.
- Selective gentleness and kindness. It’s easy to be gentle and kind when you can reasonably expect gentleness and kindness returned. And it’s easy to show acceptance when you’re confident of being accepted. What tells the whole story is what happens when a person is slighted, confronted, criticized, or called-out on something. That’s when narcissistic insult can turn into narcissistic rage.
- Smugness (SEE BELOW!)
Charm and Smugness
As I’ve described many times before, narcissists come in two main varieties: vulnerable and grandiose. Relatively speaking, vulnerable, compensatory, “neurotic” types are more benign. Grandiose types, however, will almost always do you in. And these types often have a characteristic smugness that they cannot hide. (See also, Character Disturbance, pp 85-86).
Some narcissists are more than cocky. They’re more than confident, too. They exude a smug demeanor that lets you know that they’re acutely aware of how interpersonally skilled they are. Smugness is a reliable red flag for character disturbance of the worst kind. When you witness it, it should always sound an alarm.
Some charmers know how easily they endear others and cause them to swoon. And some can’t help brandishing pride in their skill. So, here’s the general rule: When you encounter someone who exudes both charm and smugness – run!