I define anti-charisma as a phenomenon that causes the unlucky bearer to inspire an instinctively hostile reaction in others. If an anti-charismatic person says “Yes we can!”, the response is “You’re not the boss of me.”
Anti-charisma doesn’t seem to be as well analyzed as charisma, but here is my unscientific list of a few prominent people who I believe have it.
- Dick Cheney
- Richard Nixon
- Bill Belichick
- John Kerry
- Al Gore
Most of them are politicians–Kerry and Gore largely unsuccessful ones, Cheney only successful by joining with a charismatic running mate, Nixon by avoiding debates with other candidates. Belichick, despite being the best active NFL coach, inspires none of the admiration in the national media or fans in general that is expressed for lesser coaches.
The reason I bring this up is because Martha Coakely looks destined to join them on this list. One of the hallmarks, in my opinion, of anti-charisma is that mistakes the anti-charismatic person makes tend to have greater impact than they really warrant, and Coakley is no exception. Whereas Obama could be forgiven for saying he’d been in 57 states, Coakley is mocked far more aggressively for a campaign ad in which “Massachusetts” was misspelled.
Then there are personal factors such as appearance and voice. This ad is a textbook example of a charismatic voice vs. an anti-charismatic one. And Nixon provided a legendary illustration of what a difference looks make.
To be continued…