What made Arnold Palmer the King of Charisma - Insights from Patti Wood, Body Language Expert

What made Arnold Palmer the
King of Charisma

USA TODAY Sports' Lorenzo Reyes was on hand during what was an emotional day as family and friends of Arnold Palmer gathered to celebrate the late golfer's life. USA TODAY Sports

Thousands of people are expected to gather Tuesday in Latrobe, Pa., for a memorial service honoring the Arnold Palmer, known as "The King" of golf but also considered a king of something else —charisma.
Two experts on the subject explained for USA TODAY Sports what made Palmer so charismatic and, in turn, made people so fond of the legendary golfer who died Sept. 25 at the age of 87.
Countless photos show Palmer flashing his signature smile — open mouthed and revealing his front teeth, noted Patti Wood, an expert in body language and nonverbal communication.
“Most boys stop doing that at the age of 5 unless they’re very joyful,’’ said Wood, author of SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma. “But he gave that smile all the time. And the crinkles around the eyes showed a sincere, real smile. You just see it over and over and over again."
The smile is encompassed in what Wood cites as charisma’s three categories — likability, attractiveness and power. Likability also includes laugh, and Wood said Palmer had a world-class laugh.
“His jaw would drop down, so he had a large, open mouth,’’ Wood said. “And the sound of his laugh was deep and just very warm and strong at the same time."
Palmer’s attractiveness, well, Wood suggested that requires little expert research.
“Blond and gorgeous,’’ she said. “Handsome and well dressed. He just had some of those classic characteristics of Adonis-like attractiveness.’’
Jennifer Withelm, an international speaker on charisma, said that Palmer wasn’t perfect and neither was his swing. More importantly, she said, he had great integrity.
“He played golf raw, ferocious and unorthodox and was an enormously good golfer nevertheless,’’ Withelm wrote it an email. “Palmer had rough edges and was a great role model for a charismatic person. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be full of integrity.’’
Controlled emotions also bolstered Palmer’s charisma, according to Withelm.
“Yes, Palmer showed emotions,’’ she said. “But he was always aware of his emotions, even when he lost. No uncontrolled fits of rages, just pure confidence in his ability to win.
“But Palmer was not always perfect in this personality characteristic. There were times in the 1960s where he wanted to win too badly and lost because he became a high flyer. Over time he got better in tranquility.’’
The rise of TV also captured Palmer’s extroverted ways, evidenced by his interaction with fellow players and fans, and that reflected his charisma, according to Withelm.
“Charisma is a relational phenomenon,’’ she said. “It’s no use to sit in your closet all alone and say: ‘Wow, I am charismatic!’ ” No one will see it.’’

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net. Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com.