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Caring in a meaningful way is a mark of civility, perhaps even charisma

The phone calls, hundreds…thousands of them to constituents. The encouragement to people he met on the streets, to his staff that might have been having personal struggles. These were efforts that took a great deal of time. That’s what impressed me over the weekend as the nation honored Senator Ted Kennedy. Seemingly much of this was done without the senator seeking to impress anyone. He was a person showing care for other humans and empathy with their situations.

As I tried to decide what to write about this week, I looked through some recent notes. One was on charisma. Was Ted Kennedy charismatic?

Here’s what Wikipedia says about charisma
The word charisma (Greek "kharisma," meaning "gift," "of/from/favored by God/the divine") refers to a trait found in persons whose personalities are characterized by a personal charm and magnetism (attractiveness), along with innate and powerfully sophisticated abilities of interpersonal communication and persuasion. One who is charismatic is said to be capable of using their personal being, rather than just speech or logic alone, to interface with other human beings in a personal and direct manner, and effectively communicate an argument or concept to them.

I think a great deal of charisma focuses on caring about others, being inclusive, listening, asking questions and not seeking personal attention but furthering specific ideas. Many of those traits apply to civility when the ideas work for the public good.

Several years ago a British psychology professor led a study that concluded charismatic people have an infectious personality. The good news is Professor Richard Wiseman estimates charisma is half innate and half learned. The BBC News Magazine article about his study published a list on how to be more charismatic.

Whatever his faults and mistakes, Ted Kennedy seemed to be genuine and humble in his caring for others. Perhaps he was charismatic. His time spent reaching out to others was a mark of civility.


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