By Kristen Manieri

How to Be Compelling

Science has discovered that connection is the multivitamin we all need more, that our bodies, our brains and our immune systems are all nourished when we are with other people in a positive way, even if that’s something as simple as exchanging a smile with a total stranger. 

This week’s guests on The Synced Life podcast have learned a lot about the impact of a smile, but also our posture, our gestures, and our tone of voice, on the people around us. They’ve studied these things in the context of how to be a compelling person, because being able to influence people, whether that’s getting your toddler to eat her carrots or getting your employees to meet your company’s objectives, is how we make things happen in the world. It’s how movements are started and how ideas come to life. 

John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut are the authors of Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential. John is a co-founder of KNP Communications, a private firm that specializes in helping clients become outstanding live communicators. He and Matthew, a managing partner of KNP Communications, work with entrepreneurs, ambassadors, scientists, and best-selling authors to prepare them for the podium, whether that’s at a board meeting, live television appearance or TED talk. 

Here’s the thing: we are always influencing people. The moment we step into a room we create an instant impression of ourselves. But is it the one we mean to be creating and could we be forging better connections and a stronger influence if we knew how to be more intentional about the impressions we are generating? These questions and many more are answered in this fascinating interview.


1. Being compelling is all about striking your perfect balance of strength and warmth for your authentic self. We don’t need to portray something we’re not but we do need to play up our positives and pay attention to the signals we’re sending others. 

2. If we want to become more effective at what we do—whether that’s at home with our kids and partner or in our professional world—it’s helpful to start to notice that that the two powerful dynamics of warmth and strength are always at play. 

3. When we’re talking about strength we’re talking about your skill, your will and your ability to convey your capability. For warmth, it’s all about your ability to create a sense of commonality and connection, and that you care about the same things others care about. Put these two together effectively and you have a superpower for generating respect and affinity. 

4. Perception happens through three channels: visual, vocal and verbal. These all tell a story of how much warmth and strength you have. 

5. The inside-out approach is key to conveying an authentic demeanor. Great smiles come from a genuine happiness or contentment you’ve cultivated on the inside. It’s got to be real in order for that emotion to be accurately and naturally reflected on your face. 

6. The handshake sends a signal of how comfortable and confident you are. Especially when you’re starting out in your professional life, this two-second moment speaks volumes about your strength and warmth. 

7. If you only focus on three things make them your posture, handshake and eye contact. Get these three things right and you’re 90% of the way there. 

8. Learn to value and appreciate the pause in what we’re saying and what others are saying. We only fill our talk with “ums” and other fillers when we are unpracticed in slowing down and being with our pauses. There is power in the pause. Practice being comfortable with it in low-stake settings. 

9. Great photos are not about the perfect smile or angle. Shoot instead for conveying a genuine “happy to be here” expression that’s in sync with the emotions of the moment and come from an authentic inside-out feeling. 

10. If all else fails, follow “Grandma’s Rules”: stand up straight and smile. A lot of being compelling boils down to these fundamentals. The 80/20 of influence is good posture and a “happy to be here” vibe. 


A big, huge thanks to Matt and John for being my guests this week. You can connect connect with them at http://knpcommunications.com

And thanks to you for being here. Did it get you thinking of your unique balance of strength and warmth? I hope so. 

Until next time, 

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