Reality Distortion Field

Tim Ferriss has a piece on Bill Clinton's Reality Distortion Field.

Enter Michael Ellsberg

I’ve figured out the secret—or at least, a big secret—of Bill Clinton’s legendary charm and face-to-face persuasion.

“I have a friend who has always despised Bill Clinton,” a person at a cocktail party told me during the time I was writing my book about eye contact. “Yet, somehow my friend found himself at a function that Bill Clinton was attending. And, within the swirl of the crowd, he was introduced to Clinton.”

“In that moment, face-to-face, all of my friend’s personal animosity towards Clinton disappeared, in one instant,” my new acquaintance at the party continued. “As they were shaking hands, Clinton made eye contact with my friend in a way so powerful and intimate, my friend felt as though the two of them were the only people in the room.”

Steve Jobs is famous for having a “Reality Distortion Field” (RDF)—an aura of charisma, confidence, and persuasion, in which people report it almost impossible to avoid surrendering to the man and following his will when interacting face-to-face. Well—love his politics or hate them—Clinton is known for an RDF even stronger than Jobs’.  Perhaps the strongest in the world.

So, what’s the secret to Clinton’s RDF?

While writing my book, I heard some version of the above story about Clinton not once but three times. So, I Googled “Bill Clinton” and “eye contact.” A number of references to Clinton’s eye powers turned up.

A New York Times Magazine profile near the beginning of his presidency referred to his facility for “making eye contact so deep that recipients sometimes seem mesmerized. Tabloid rumors aside, Clinton embodies the parallels between the seductions of politics and the seductions of sex. As one Clinton watcher said recently: ‘It’s not that Clinton seduces women. It’s that he seduces everyone.’”

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I chastised someone on the PhysicsForums yesterday evening for thinking that there are no non-intellectual skills. Bill Clinton's charisma is a good example of this. The advice in that article seems pretty good to me, I'm interested in trying it myself. Being more persuasive is always a good thing to learn.

However, I feel like the article does not do justice to how powerful personal charisma can be. I've never met Bill Clinton, but I do admire the old reprobate's ability to woo voters. I did have a friend once with powerful charisma. He was a total penis, but I still wanted him to like me. Even though I knew exactly what he was like, I couldn't help it. Even when he wasn't around, his influence persisted. Charisma is incredibly powerful.