The Shrubbery
September 1999
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How to Charm the Pants Off Anyone

Or at least get a free drink

by Jessica Brandt

Here at The Shrubbery, Jason and I have agreed that he's the brains and I'm the charm. Not that Jason isn't a charming little fellow, but frankly I blow him out of the water when it comes to charming people into doing things for us.

I don't mean to sound pretentious. Other people have literally said to me "Jess, how do you get to be so charming?" I used to think it was inherent in me, but as I look back at my friendless days of childhood, I realize I haven't always been this charming. I must have worked at it. So I gave it some thought, and decided there should be more charming people in this world, particularly the intelligent and witty readers of The Shrubbery.

As my gift to you, then, I will now share the secrets of being charming.

Be Sincere: The first step to being charming is to be sincere in all you do. Whether it's meeting someone for the first time, or sincerely telling someone to go screw themselves, The Charming do it with full confidence and sincerity. With each of the following points, remember that you must do them sincerely and honestly. Sometimes, people confuse a sincere attitude with an overly positive attitude. Being positive about everything is not only annoying, but it is dilusional. Take heed of every situation, decide how you feel about it, and then emote your feelings sincerely.

The Handshake: Yes, it all starts with a handshake. Firm grip, and a good pump. Not too overzealous, but sincere. Remember, don't let them shake your hand, shake their hand. This also goes along with...

Eye Contact: When shaking hands or engaging in conversation, be sure to look your Charm-ee in the eyes at all times. Even if they look away, be sure to be looking at them when they look back. Since you sincerely want to talk to them, you must stay focused and attentive. Otherwise, you won't be Charming, you'll just be Someone Out for Something.

Wit: Some people like comedians. Some people hate humor. The safest place to be in that spectrum is witty. Wit is something you might have to work at. A comedian will tell non-stop jokes and quickly become annoying. Someone who is too dry will scare off others. Throwing clever, witty, short comments into conversation will lighten serious tones and endear your Charm-ee for a long time. Judge the situation to know when you should use wit and when it would be inappropriate. If you work in a restaurant, try this little tidbit on someone:

They: "Dammit, I asked you to thaw that roast two hours ago!"

You: "Well I couldn't find anything sharp enough to thaw it with."

Unless that roast is truly needed promptly and you just ruined a complete night of pot-roast dinners, your boss should at least crack a smile.

Knowledge: One of The Charming Person's greatest tools is his knowledge of infinite subjects. The Charming Person does not need to know everything about everything, but a little about a lot. Watching Discovery, The History Channel, and even MTV every so often will keep you full of new little factoids and you will be able to charm anyone with your conversation. Being able to go up to a Rock Star™ and discuss the history of a Theramin will most likely get you an autograph and perhaps a picture. Being able to identify quirky things (like a Theramin) is great, and only knowing a little bit about it gives the Charm-ee a chance to share his or her knowledge on the subject. This leads to...

The Subject of Them: People love to hear themselves talk. Even more so do they love to talk about themselves. If you are sincere, keeping eye contact, and asking questions about your Charm-ee, you will be sure to keep an audience with him or her. This will also help you learn about them to the point where you can find some common ground to talk about.

They: "...And I have a sister who goes to Virginia Tech."

You: "I drove through Virginia once. Isn't it absolutely beautiful in the spring? I think it's one of the nicest states to drive through."

This conversation could go anywhere, and that is the key if you hope to get a phone number, a free drink, an autograph, or an interview for your 'zine.

Remember Your Manners: Learning good table manners and etiquette is still not a bad idea these days. Eating without putting your elbows on the table and knowing where to place your napkin and which fork to use when can still Charm a great number of people. Be a good tipper. By God, be a good tipper! 15% is the norm, 20% is way Charming (Unless service was terrible. First, assess whether it was the server's fault or the restaurant's. If you're sure your server is a complete moron, 15% on the nose will do.) Also, use "sir" or "madam" no matter who you're talking to if it is the first time you've met, even if the person is younger than you. This most especially applies when talking to a law enforcer, a professor or teacher, or a prospective employer.

Don't Be Selfish: It's better to give than recieve. It is also true that you usually must give to recieve. Always have lots of cash or a credit card on you. You can buy a round of drinks (if you are all over 21) and you don't even have to drink. You can offer up a cigarette even if they have one (provided you are over 18 and a smoker, as are they). Before I started smoking, I carried a lighter anyway, just to offer up a light. Offer to pay for a meal. Another thing that comes with being Charming is becoming a people-magnet. If others sense your air of Charm, you might be asked by a total stranger for directions. Giving correct directions to someone with a smile, while trying to Charm someone else, will very much put your foot in the door. This makes you a Charming Citizen.

You Rule!: Confidence is also a major player in this game. Believe that you are awesome and that you are truly Charming. The secret is to not let them know. When they say "You're really a Charming person!" you say "Well you are really interesting person to talk to!" Ba-da-bing! Never talk down to your Charm-ee. Even if they are a Rock Star™ or a CEO of the company you hope to get a job with, remember that they are human too. They were once a kid, they most likely wear underwear (and so do you!), they have a mother, and so on. A wise young bartender once told me:

"Jess, I know the richest people in Cleveland. I also know strippers and prostitutes. There's one thing that they all have in common, something they all feel at one time or another. That's fear. They all have fear."

That's so true! Although while being Charming, you are to have no fear, you have at least once felt fear and can identify with your Charm-ee.

So now you're ready to go get 'em, Tiger. Now you can talk to that girl. You can get free Coke from your favorite restaurant. You too can meet and become friends with your favorite Famous Person™. You don't have to be beautiful to be Charming. I'm one of the dopiest-looking people I know, yet I've never paid for a drink, have met lots of Famous People™, and am often asked for directions.

Remember these nine points and you will go far. If you don't go far, well it's not my fault. I didn't say I was a good teacher.

But I've Charmed people into thinking I am!

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