A second and a half is not a particularly long time in daily life, it passes right away. But when it comes to social interactions, a second and a half becomes a very long time and can make a substantial difference.
In fact, it is likely that more than in one occasion this second and a half betrayed you. For example, when your best friend told you he was going to get married and instead of congratulate him, you needed much time than usual to respond.
We all know what it means not to say anything for a second and a half, and it is almost never good. Those little pauses in fractions of a second can reveal what we really think, with no need tos ay it. Of course, they can also affect profoundly our interpersonal relationships because the other person perceives our surprise or rejection. And the worst thing is that this effect can not be eliminated.
The mental agility is the foundation of charism
Psychologists at the University of Queensland are convinced that one of the secrets of charismatic people is just to react fast enough in social contexts, not remain silent or paralyzed during this second and a half of time.
In a recent study, these psychologists made a series of relatively simple questions of general culture to a group of volunteers, and measured the time they took to answer these questions. Those who responded faster did it in 400 milliseconds, the slowers needed the double of time.
Later the psychologists asked friends of each of the participants to give a score to their charism. So they discovered that people who responded quickly to questions were also considered the most charismatic.
No doubt, the speed in answering to questions says that we are able to analyze our memory fast enough, add points and draw conclusions that allow us to respond properly. This ability is not only useful for solving problems that require mental agility but also in everyday life, especially in social relationships, where it is often necessary to use ingenuity to give quick answers to make a good impression or avoid a problem of major proportions.
The first thing that springs up in your mind doesn’t work
The truth is the speed at which we react in social situations is a determining factor in different contexts and according to the type of interaction. For example, stop and think for a second and a half when your partner asks you if you love him can lead to a discussion or generate a strong insecurity in the other person. There are situations in which it is assumed that we have to respond quickly without thinking too much.
Obviously, you can not sacrifice precision to speed. In fact, the charismatic people don’t do it, they don’t say the first thing that comes to their mind, but are able to find the right answer in a short time. In practice, these people can evaluate different answers and find the most appropriate in a few milliseconds, a time that makes a substantial difference in interpersonal relationships.
This means that if you want to become charismatic, a good starting point is to improve your mental agility. To do so, it is sufficient that you propose constantly new intellectual challenges to yourself, put into question everything, especially things you’ve always taken for granted, and that you have the courage to open your mind to discover new answers, less traditional and more ingenious.
W. von Hippel, R. et. Al. (2016) Quick Thinkers Are Smooth Talkers: Mental Speed Facilitates Charisma. Psychological Science; 27:119-122.