How It Works: Clinton's "Reality Distortion Field" Charisma

One piece of the puzzle: getting eye contact right. Not evasive, not creepy — just right. (Photo: Mr. Theklan)

This is a guest post from Michael Ellsberg, a good friend who’s spent the last several years studying interpersonal persuasion and language (spoken and unspoken).

He has performed hundreds of tests in the field as the creator of Eye Gazing Parties, which resembles speed-dating with no speaking. Elle magazine called his parties “New York’s hottest dating trend,” and for good reason. Having attended one party, I can attest: three minutes of staring into someone’s eyes tells you more about them than ten minutes of talking.

In this post, he deconstructs Bill Clinton’s so-called “reality distortion field” into elements you can practice for business or pleasure. Don’t miss the play-by-play video demonstration…

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.'”

A post on the celebrity news blog WENN said, “Actress Gillian Anderson has discovered the secret behind former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s sex appeal—lingering eye contact.”

Anderson (Special Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files) spoke on Late Night With David Letterman of an encounter she had with Clinton several years earlier: “We all, mostly women, lined up. And when he gets to you, he takes your hand and makes eye contact. After he leaves and he moves on to the next person, he looks back at you and seals the deal. When I got home, I expected to have a message from him, and I didn’t. I bet women across America expect it too.”

Is it possible to hack this skill with eye contact? Is it possible to recreate Bill Clinton’s fabled RDF? (At least, the eye contact part?)

Absolutely. In my experience training myself and others, you can become a world-class master of eye contact in about 2 weeks.

How to Go From “Eye Shy” to “Eye Ballsy” In Three Easy Steps

STEP 1: Practice Brief Eye Contact With Strangers

While you walk down the sidewalk (during daylight hours!) look at the eyes of every person walking towards you long enough to see their eye color. Less than a second. Then look away. This is the best technique I know for building solid eye contact skills quickly. In my experience, if the eye contact is brief enough, no one minds at all, and you get tons of practice in.

You can also practice longer eye contact with waiters, salesclerks, cashiers, and other paid service staff, so long as you do it respectfully and in a friendly way.

In all cases, keep a neutral facial expression and soft gaze. You don’t want anyone to think you’re trying to stare them down, rob them, or get them into the sack. If you practice all this for a week or two as you go about your daily business, the quality of your eye contact will become better than most people’s, in a short amount of time.

STEP 2: Learn the Art of Personal Space

You’ve probably experienced bosses or strangers “get up in your face,” and it feels very unpleasant. Bill Clinton and others with RDFs are experts at getting close to you while making you feel totally safe and comfortable. This increases feelings of intimacy, trust, and affinity.

How do they do it? They have mastered the subtle art of personal space. First written about in-depth by anthropologist Edward Hall, our sense of “personal space” is the feeling we get of being “invaded” when someone steps too close.

Interestingly, our sense of personal space is not a pure function of physical proximity; many other psychological factors influence it. In general, your sense of physical proximity with someone increases when they are:

  • Making direct eye contact with you
  • Facing you directly (as opposed to standing side-by-side looking into the crowd)
  • Touching you (i.e., rubbing elbows in a crowd, patting your back, touching your arm or shoulder)
  • Raising their voice
  • Talking about you (as opposed to a neutral subject)

If a stranger starts doing too many of these at once, your personal space begins to feel violated, and you start having that icky “eww get away from me!” feeling we’ve all experienced with unwelcome conversations at parties.

In contrast, if you learn to modulate these five different factors, and combine them in different ways, you can make your conversation partners feel safe and comfortable while at the same time feeling close and intimate with you.

When you increase eye contact, try leaning back or standing back a little to increase their comfort. When you are physically close because it’s a crowded room, try lowering your voice. When you pat someone on the back or touch their arm as you talk, try standing at an angle, not facing them directly.

By playing with these different factors, cranking some of the dials up as you turn others down, you can create the feeling of being incredibly close, without triggering the “Red Alert! Get Away!” response in your conversation partner. People with RDFs are masters of this skill. And it’s very seductive.

STEP 3: Practice Being Present

Have you ever felt someone was making eye contact with you, but wasn’t taking in a thing you were saying? My friend Marie Forleo has referred to this phenomenon as a “pretend gaze—their eyes are on yours, but their mind is on a Hawaiian beach.”

In our age of tweets and Facebook status updates and cellphone buzzes and new texts and IMs and VMs every few seconds, focusing your inner attention on the same person you’re talking with can be challenging, but its worth practicing the skill. (BTW, following Tim’s low-information diet helps with this.)

For one week, whenever you talk with someone, practice noticing whenever your mind drifting—to the laundry, your bills, you co-worker’s snide comment today, that hottie you just spotted at the party whom you want to meet. Then, when you notice this inevitable mental drifting, bring your attention back to whomever you’re talking with at the moment. They will truly appreciate it.

We are living in a world where no one, it seems, has attention for anyone or anything for more than a few moments. How rare it is when someone pays attention to us. Consider the wording of the phrase: pay attention. In industrialized nations, at least, attention is becoming almost as scarce a resource as money. Someone who “pays” it to you is giving you something of true value.

As Elizabethan poet and statesman Fulke Greville has written, “Our companions please us less from the charms we find in their conversation than from those they find in ours.”

Clinton pays out his focused attention generously, making us feel he’s truly interested in us and what we have to say. This is why people love talking with him face-to-face.

That feeling of “we were the only two people in the room,” which Clinton is so skillful in fostering, stems from his eye contact, from his careful use of personal space, and from his unshakeable attention once he’s talking with you.

Learn to combine these three factors together, and you’re on your way to a rock-star Reality Distortion Field. Just be careful about what you do with all the attention!

BONUS: If you want a fantastic education in how the three factors we’ve been talking about–eye contact, personal space, and presence–interplay to create legendary persuasion, watch the below video clip from the second Bush-Clinton-Perot debate, on October 15, 1992.

The idea of a town-hall format was proposed to the Bush team by Clinton’s team in 1992, and Bush agreed. This was the first town hall presidential debate in US television history. Little did Bush know he had just agreed to battling the master on his own territory.

To appreciate just how fully Clinton nails this debate moment, I suggest watching the 4-minute clip twice–first with audio turned off, and then with audio on. If you’re at all interested in this post’s topic, it’ll be worth it.

I’ll put several comments below the video. [Note: I am not making any endorsement one way or the other about the political views expressed in this clip. I’m only talking about body language and persuasion.]

First point: In the initial seconds of the video, Bush checks his watch when the voter begins asking him a question. Presence? How about “How long do I have to listen to you before I can talk?” This was widely considered a “Dukakis-in-the-tank/Dean Scream” moment during the campaign, and among the worst gaffes in presidential debate history (up there with Gore’s sighs and eye rolls in 2000). And it all hinged on one moment of absent presence.

Notice Bush’s eye contact as he answers the woman’s question. It is sporadic, weak, drifting, and random. He hasn’t decided whether he’s talking to her, to the moderator, to the whole audience, or to the air in the room. In terms of personal space, he is totally unsure of how close he should stand; he walks closer to her, then backs off, visibly uncomfortable with the personal space aspect of the interchange. In all three factors of RDF we’ve talked about–eye contact, personal space, and presence–he’s clearly not making a personal connection with the voter.

At 2:30, when Clinton begins to answer, notice how he manages to simultaneously own the space and put the woman at ease. He walks up several yards closer than Bush did, making a personal connection in her space, without making her uncomfortable. His eye contact is clear, unwavering, and calm. There’s absolutely no mistaking whom he’s talking with. Clinton’s there in the room with two rival candidates, news media, other audience members, and a national TV audience of millions. Yet that feeling of “The only two people in the room” is palpable when he talks with the voter.

The result of this town hall debate? 58% of viewers declared Clinton the winner of the debate, 16% for Bush, and 15% for Perot. (In the previous debate, with a traditional podium format, 47% of viewers declared Perot to be the winner, with 30% for Clinton, and 16% for Bush.)

Look at the woman’s response at 3:22. Clinton completely has her. (Remember actress Gillian Anderson’s comment?) Bush’s facial expression at 3:47 is priceless. He knows he’s been beaten.

###

About the author: Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Power of Eye Contact. For his forthcoming book, already purchased by Penguin/Portfolio, he’s seeking to interview people who didn’t finish college who are successful at what they do. Fit the bill? Go to this page.

Ellsberg is also the creator of Eye Gazing Parties, a series of social events based on eye contact which attracted feature press coverage from the New York Times, Associated Press TV, CBS News, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, Regis & Kelly, and more. Elle magazine called Eye Gazing Parties “New York’s hottest dating trend.”

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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231 Replies to “How It Works: Clinton's "Reality Distortion Field" Charisma”

  1. I don’t know why you do not post my previous comment. I see you have approved others since mine. The reality is that sociopaths are typically charismatic. Do you plan on guest posts about the “techniques” used by Ted Bundy or Charles Manson?

    I know those are extreme comparisons, but the point of my comment is that such techniques can be used for good or bad, and your guest writer seems to gloss over the fact that Bill Clinton did use those same techniques to reel in an intern which would get you or me fired from a private firm and caused him to be impeached.

    There is a clear pattern in his past with women that is questionable and has caused him self-inflicted political damage and will cause him to be viewed in history in a negative way.

    I think any discussion of Bill Clinton’s persuasion powers without touching on his svengali ways is not giving the reader a full understanding of how the misuse of those powers can cause you much harm.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I haven’t yet seen your prior comments, as I was in Mexico off of Internet, mostly. Just going through comments now to approve things, as I enjoy reading them.

      Best,

      Tim

    2. “Do you plan on guest posts about the “techniques” used by Ted Bundy or Charles Manson?”

      If they have something to teach, I’d be happy to learn. Skill, knowledge and information are without morality. To allow the wielder to taint your perception of them is a protest of futility.

      In fact, to take the talents of those you hate and wield them in a way you find moral is a much better way to get your righteous pow-wow on.

  2. Jason, I have to disagree on that, at least partially. For business purposes, yes, it’s possible to hire a really gifted presenter or salesperson. But we have to use social skills ourselves to some extent, and in any case if you found a way to totally avoid socializing, it probably wouldn’t be too fun. Social skills, along with things like dieting and exercising, belong to a class of activities which can’t be entirely outsourced. That said, for purely business purposes there are definitely ways to minimize the impact of one’s own social weaknesses- case in point: Tim outsourcing his online dating.

    Jeff- good point. I find it helps to use neutral phrasing in responding to criticism and voicing disagreements. Avoiding 2nd person language, for instance- I initially wrote “you could hire a gifted salesperson,” etc. in my response to Jason, because my intent wasn’t to be combative. I think things like that help to keep debate focused on issues instead of people.

  3. I highly recommend the principles discussed in this post to anybody looking to improve their ability to interact with others, whether it is for business or pleasure.

    Time and time again, I am fascinated when I meet people who possess an ‘aura’ when they are talking or merely in a room. If you come across one of these people, I recommend studying their body language to see what it is is giving them that aura so you can learn to have a similar effect yourself.

    It is a true asset if you can make a stranger feel comfortable in your presence and also engaged in what you are saying. These seem to be the foundations of being a great influencer amongst people.

    @Tim – The email that your assistant sent out regarding the free book for those who submitted content for the book was a really nice touch thank you. Please may I ask when you will know if you can distribute them internationally? If intl postage is too expensive, I’d be happy to pay the postage to get it to the UK.

    Freddie

  4. OK, I’m trying to post this comment for the 4th and last time – it keeps ‘throwing’ me out of the web everytime I submit it. I’m supposed to get some kind of a confirmation that it was submitted, no? Hope it’ll work this time.

    Great post, indeed. Thank you, Michael and Tim.

    As an Israeli who’s lived in the States for a few years in the early 90’s (and visited many times since; San Francisco is my favorite place in the world!), it’s something I’ve always found interesting, especially the effect a people’s mentality has on its social interactions.

    On one hand, it’s amazing to think that people actually have to learn to look each other in the eyes, and they have to practice it to master it. On the other hand, in our parts (the Middle East) eye-contact is in fact too well mastered, to the point where total strangers, just passing by on the street, can easily make you feel personally invaded, just with their eyes.

    The Art of Personal Space, as you may understand, is non-existing. They’ve not heard about it here, and Personal Space is altogether a foreign concept.

    Being Present – or indeed the inability to be present, I think is a universal phenomenon, and I agree with Michael it has everything to do with today’s short attention span.

    Unfortunately (for us, out here in the Levant), The Art of Personal Space is so much harder to learn than eye-contact (which I agree can be practiced), because it is rooted in our upbringing, our education, our social interactions from early childhood. When you grow up in a society where there are no borders, or boundaries, especially no personal boundaries, and it is not at all clear where you end and the other begins, it is very hard to explain Personal Space. Thus, having no boundaries and no personal space explains the too-intense, ‘un-limited’, eye-contact.

    Of course, there’s the whole issue of why a society has no boundaries; I could go on and on, but I won’t… 😉

    Thanks again,

    efrat

  5. Eye contact etiquette differs from culture to culture. In some cultures, even brief eye contact can be offensive and rude.

  6. All these comments that Clinton is a borderline psychopath is b.s. If you agree with his politics or not, there is no denying to his intelligence is off the charts, socially and intellectually. So, he used his charm to seduce a few women…many men who have such power and charm do. The morality of his actions (and taste in women) is another discussion. Apparently JFK would be labeled a psychopath as well to some of the commentators on this board. Give me a break.

    Aside from that rant, I really enjoyed this post. I have been trying to become more self aware of my body language and this post has helped reinforce some of what I’ve been learning. Thanks Tim!

    1. I agree with Mike R. The article had nothing to do with politics nor ethics. I guess many people have trouble focusing on the topic at hand in their need to clamber up on their soapboxes. Which…brings to mind another popular tactic called ‘listening’. Most people seem to be accustomed to “waiting for their chance to speak” rather than listening to what the person across from them are actually saying. Listening and observing provides clues to whom you are speaking to and what their motivations are. I hope I don’t have to spell out how valuable that is for any two-way conversation.

  7. Not really related at all, but that HelloBar is awesome!

    One of the few things which has gotten my attention and gotten click-throughs from me.

    J

  8. Personally I don’t think that you can deconstruct body language in this way, without understanding more about psychology. I don’t think you can extricate the appearance from the substance. What I am trying to say is that Clinton most likely believed deeply in what he was saying. He wasn’t trying to communicate, he just did it how it flowed from his inner beliefs and convictions. A person that communicates with Clinton is not created overnight, he had a lot of training (I know he was a lawyer, but his proficiency probably goes back to his childhood, to how he was encouraged to speak his mind within his family context, etc). Without belief, you would have to be a really good actor to be trying to manipulate body gestures and facial expression. Only a very thin slice of the population can be a very good actor or actress, so I think this type of manipulation of body language and facial expression and even voice tone is not applicable to most people. Thanks!

  9. Tim this is great.

    Body language and eye contact are also very important in the dating world. I have been on dates where I wasn’t present in the moment and women can smell it.

    When you have the ability to deliver an idea really well or understand a person at a deeper level you will be very successful at being a magnet:)

    Thanks for the post.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Nabil

  10. Off topic but striking: Clinton’s top 3 stated priorities in the video — middle-class jobs, educational quality, and healthcare cost control — are still our top 3 unsolved problems, and worse now than before. 18 years, no progress.

    1. This reminds me of the memorable speech made by the great Barbara Jordan on July 25th, 1974, while the House Judiciary Committee met to consider impeaching Richard Nixon:

      It is amazing, and not even seven minutes long. In that speech she says this:

      “Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do: Appropriations, tax reform, health insurance, campaign finance reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency, mass transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we are not being petty. We are trying to be big, because the task we have before us is a big one.”

      Recognize any of those issues?

  11. I recently attended a 50th anniversary for my high school. I gazed into the eyes of people I hadn’t seen for 32 years. Each initial 5 seconds with an old acquaintance brought back a flood of emotions. The puppy love, the heartaches, the jealousy, the gut wrenching laughter…some good, some bad. All water under the bridge now, yet I felt like I was being swept away at hide tide with each and every passing eye contact.

    Now I know why I felt like a freight train had run me over when I woke the next morning.

    Thanks for this learning opportunity.

  12. As always a great post,

    I actually just purchased Michael’s book and am going to work on my eye control powers over the holiday break. Some really interesting stuff!

  13. Good post. Maybe the most powerful aspect is the most subtle. To learn to have the presence you speak about is not a quick technique. You can’t fake it. You need to be first present with yourself, and then you are able to be present with someone else.

    I spent years studying this because growing up with Asperger’s I was anything but present. Through bodywork and teaching myself mindfulness I learned to relax so I could start to learn presence.

    In the men’s groups I run single men want to know how to attract and relate to women. We teach them what I had to teach myself. The more the man can be with his own experience, the more women are attracted to him.

    There is a group of men and women in San Francisco that teach men to attract women through being present. Several of our men have done the AMP – Authentic Men Program and love it.

    I continue practicing being more present. There are times when magic happens without any effort.

  14. Sounds like the Art of the Empty Suit to me

    Empty Suit: The physical manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect (the illusory superiority of the incompetent) with the additional components of power and authority.

  15. Very interesting post, Tim. I think that the eye contact you offer when listening to someone is almost more important than that when you are talking.

  16. Agree with Ramiro regarding utilisation of belief. its not enough to copy only eyey movements. you need to be congruent with your belief also and with all your body to make persuation believeble by receiver. In NLP methodology to succesfully model people, one should need 3 types of items to model:

    1) Behaviours (eye contact, voice tone, voice tempo, pauses, micromuscle movements of face, postures, hands movements, etc)

    2) Beliefs (what is model thinking when doing this? what is his main belief? what are supporting beliefs?)

    3) strategies (what is the sequence of his representational systems? for example what goes after what? first hand movement, what after? voice tone cchange? eye movement change? how content of the talk is fit to physiology? )

    this posts precisely describes 1rst part’s one of subparts: eye contact.

    wonderful post!

  17. Like many others who have commented, this is one of the best blog posts i have read in a long while. Utterly absorbing and fascinating content that had me gripped and has got me thinking about the whole concept of RDF. I’ve often heard people in the media talk about Clinton’s magnetic persona, but not seen it analysed in this detail. Thanks Michael, some great tips

  18. It is funny to read this article. People feels like they found the magic bullet when I don’t.

    Eye contact is utmost important and a norm to me. I am a deaf man and living in deaf community subscribing to its culture at fullest.

    You must maintain an eye contact when converse. If you don’t and it is disrespectful. We are master of able to tune out of visual noise. I laugh when people thought we need to track the hand motions with our eye. The whole language is in the eyebrows, mouth movement, body space, and hands. Neurolingust has discovered that we use right and left of our brain hemisphere when converse.

    There is even a breakthrough filmmaker are making a movie based on how deaf people’s eye works. The film captures as the deaf person view. The filmmaker behind this on how we look through lens is Wayne Betts of Mosdeux.com.

    IN essence, I hope Ellsberg study us, deaf community, just like Dr. Oliver Sacks did in 1988 when he wrote his book “Seeing Voice”. I am sure Ellsberg will learn lot about eye contact in next 30 minutes with right guide.

  19. In addition, when people are talking to me and you probably will find me saying, “Look me in my eye.” “I can’t understand what you are saying.”

    Want to communicate with clarity and being connected. Lock on eye contact. I realized it will be difficult for you and you maybe will be fortunately to secure a friendly and willing deaf person who can ‘explain’ the eye contact. Some of us can’t because it is our natural. We don’t know how it happen and it just happen.

    Our eye are highly adaptable. We don’t know how it happen. I think this may be your next research project, Ellsberg.

  20. LOL, at one point Bush actually turns to the side complete destroying any rapport he had with the woman who asked him the question (which was little to begin with).

    If that one study is correct and 93% of communication is non-verbal, then things like eye contact can have a bigger impact on the effectiveness of the persuasion than even better word choices.

    Great stuff! Thanks Tim and Michael 😀

    Jeff

  21. I met Bill Clinton once at a book signing, and although this article goes a great way to explaining his charisma effect, it can only be comprehended through experience – his personal power is on a whole other level.

    I really did feel as though he had flown across the Atlantic just to meet me for those 30 seconds. I was so overwhelmed by it that I was rendered speechless – and I never stop talking.

    If he had asked me to punch myself in the face, I would have done it without thinking. I will never forget that brief encounter. I hope I can develop the same skills!

    1. Hahaha… it’s a good thing he didn’t ask you to punch yourself in the face! I have to meet big Bill sometime…

      Best,

      Tim

  22. It seems this is the best way to contact you. I am so blown away by your life and how many similarities your life has to mine. I have traveled the world quite a bit and I have friends all over the world. Lucid dreaming, total immersion swimming, gluten-free, learning languages. . . the parallels are all there. The more I would read on your website I just had to shake my head. I completely understand the problem of trying to explain yourself when the question comes up, “what do you do?” My resume is also quite varied with jobs ranging from aircraft mechanic to high end hand made leather goods maker in Munich, with a few other very different things in between. I am also a 4 time Paralympian. It has been a great life and it is great to read here how you are helping others learn to live in this way, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thanks for helping me expand on this wonderful lifestyle. How exciting. I am also looking forward to the new book.

    Thanks and see on the road sometime

    Hope

      1. In Atlanta and Sydney I competed in Wheelchair tennis and we won the silver in Doubles in ATL and then I competed in sitting volleyball in Athens and Beijing. We took the bronze and silver respectively. I competed in Wheelchair tennis on the tour for many years so that is the sport I am the best in. However, the US volleyball team competed in a tournament in Europe where they allowed teams to have able-bodied people and we had none and we won the tournament. That was a great! Training for the paralympics is not the kind of career where you can cut the work-week to 4 hours, but it did bring me all over the world and with all my friends all over I have a great advantage. Now I am pretty much a full-time traveler. Best job ever. But once I get to Israel I will begin Krav Maga training and this is a great new challenge for me. Have you ever tried Krav Maga?

        thanks

      2. Hi Hope,

        Wow — I am terrible at tennis! Which is a shame, as I love watching it. I have tried Krav Maga, a great system if you have a teacher with real combat experience. Great to combine with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

        All the best,

        Tim

  23. So much of this is learned the hard way. I got a clue when a good friend who is also a politician and i met for lunch. just in looking around the restaurant while she was talking completely derailed the convo. since we know each other so well she asked me what are you looking at. I had to say nothing, because indeed i was still paying attention, but lack of eye contact said to her that i was not. I will remember this lesson. thanks

    1. I really do wish to one day be someone who has an impact in the way the world sees itself and provide clarity like Bill Clinton does. I would love to meet him.

  24. By connecting with one person so intimately, Clinton essentially connects with everyone else in the room. I got a sense that he truly respected the questioner (whether real or very well-acted), which was quite different from the more condescending attitude that Bush displayed. Bush interrupted her, and the look on his face was more “you don’t understand what WE go through” (me-focused) rather than “we understand what YOU go through” (you-focused). That’s where Clinton really excelled. Amazing – thank you for this amazing example.

  25. Great Article. Thank you. You have described these techniques brilliantly and I hope to share some of these with our European clients when helping them with presentations and media interviews.

    Interesting that you focus on eye contact/body language, which is very important. Do not forget the many other techniques that Clinton uses to great effect here. For example, he uses the work ‘You’ frequently; he tells personal stories and he communicates a lot in terms of how it will effect the questioner and the audience.

    A great example of a great communicator at work.

  26. Great post Tim… truly powerful realizations here that I will be digging into as I push into 2011 speaking gigs.

    Eye contact and body language plays such an important role in communication… just ask any parent. Infants don’t understand a word you say but that eye contact speaks volumes to them and your body language can change their demeanor in a flash.

  27. Wow. You really laid it out beautifully. What Clinton also did was ask a question in a calm, clear manner about HER, which further made the eye contact “seal the deal” Great points, and gave me some excellent tips to think about when I give my next presentation this afternoon.

  28. When Clinton gets up to speak and makes his points about the economy he folds his index finger so that he does not appear as rude by pointing his index finger. That is a neat way to make the point. This person has many speaking tricks it seems.

  29. I tried the eye contact step last week while attending a conference (lots of opportunities). Some things that I noticed: (1) more people seemed to notice me more and some even spontaneously spoke to me even though I did not initiate a conversation; (2) more people seemed to recognize me even though I don’t think that I knew; (3) conversations with people seemed to last longer when I focused on keeping eye contact; (4) it seemed to make more of a difference with women than with men (I’m a guy). This is an amazing concept that I intend to follow up one. I would also like to hear from others that tried steps outlined in the article.

  30. I really liked the post and I completely understand the importance of eye contact and body language, but I think the results are a little skewed. The content of Clinton’s answer was much better than that of Bushes, not to mention he directly addresses the woman. It also seems odd to me that no one has considered that Clinton is a more attractive and youthful candidate than Bush. I’d compare this with the Kennedy vs. Nixon debate of 1960. I think there’s a little more importance in the wrapping than people are giving it.

  31. Clinton nails Bush. Hahah. Great post! It’s really amazing how one can elicit a reaction with the kind of stance and assertion a person displays. I just can’t help but smirk when at 3:47, where Bush’s facial reaction was captured, it reminded me of the TV show “Lie To Me”. His could be an example of someone who’s been had it. Thanks for this, Tim.

  32. Monica should have looked away to avoid presidential eye persuasion. It helps a man make persuasive eye contact when his wife’s stare is a glacier. Poor Bill spent his life trying to melt down the ice in the eyes of his wife.

  33. @lorien, @lorenzo sierra: who said anything about physical appearance? This article, and the statement about sleaziness, are about behavior. By bringing physical appearance into it, you are suggesting that it is more important than behavior, not less, in making someone attractive.

  34. Excellent example especially with the audio on. I stipulate there is no comparison between the two mens’ communication abilities in context of this blog. They are in different universes.

    Whereas Clinton’s had the advantage of the moderator clarifying the woman’s question (she asked about national debt but confused the issue with recession examples) – he didn’t need the clarification. (also classic media interference, the moderator needed to butt out and let the segment progress organically).

    One must take a moment and LISTEN and be able to quickly get it clarified in one’s mind correctly to be able to formulate an answer the person will be receptive to. We all know politicians answer questions with irrelevant responses if they can’t think on their feet quickly enough. Ironically, Bush got it right but fumbled terribly.The national debt impacts his children/grandchildren “personally”. He learned about recession impacts from meeting constituents. Bush was more forthright about her question being “off” and asking for clarification but was totally incompetent in how he did it. He should have been able to charm her AND point out the difference between recession and national debt without fumbling or insulting her for being clueless.

    Clinton is always masterful. Style aside, politically he took the question and gave the same answer as Bush about “meeting constituents” but gave such an earnest “I feel your pain” STYLE not substance – she melted in the first 5 seconds lol. Then he quickly turned the “I feel your pain” act into attacking his adversaries’ political economic policy (trickle down theory) and turned the answer full circle .The correct answer of course for Clinton should have been that he and his wife have struggled as public servants their entire lifetime and the national debt impacted them and their kid in paying off loans, tax burdens, not affording houses etc but he certainly was wise to not even GO THERE and completely change the answer in a lawyerly non-responsive way. LOL.

    The SMARTEST thing about Clinton in this clip is he correctly judged his [female[ target as weak, uninformed and easily manipulated. This is why his non-answer worked.

    Practically speaking, Clinton didn’t have any different answer than Bush for an example of how “economics” personally affects him (to clarify the woman’s wrong question) but he sure makes you think he did. LOL. Gotta love and respect skillz.

  35. Hello Tim i will be in San Fran Jan 14 to Jan 17 if u will be in town at that time maybe we could grab a chocolate croissant or two only on Saturday of course. I have bought both your books and by using the 4 hour work week and your blog and other ideas I have lost 60lbs . Hoping we can meet up . If not could give me the names of some good places to visit . Thanks ken Feese

  36. Nice posts Tim. Could you please comment on what you have used to monitor physical changes (blood test, urine test, pressure, heart condition, and the like) in the course of deconstructing. I was intrigued to learn what you meant by that your studio resembled a lab full of equipment!

  37. Tim,

    I finished “The 4 Hour Body” last night. I know you said not to read it all the way through, but I wanted to do it once, just for the laughs. I think I lost a pound or two laughing, so thanks for that. The book was great. I gave away two copies to friends. I recommend it highly.

    Anyway, I will be setting my goals this week and re-reading the sections pertaining to that. I will start the program next week, right after Christmas, and post my progress.

    I was thinking about a name for your next book. I am down to two possibilities:

    1) “The 4 Hour Psychology”

    2) “The 4 Hour Lube Job (How To Pull Your Head Out Of Your A## So That You Start Using My First Two Books)”

    I kinda like the second title the best.

    Thanks Again!!!

    Jim

    1. The food conclusions are interesting. It seems like the ultimate result is a calorie reduction by eliminating foods. True that “white” anything is not nutritionally beneficial. However, the elimination of fruits is questionable. However, what a person achieves by doing that is the reduction of sugar and calories. Fruit in moderation will not disturb a fat loss program. Natural vitamin C is necessary. I agree with the eat the fruit and not the juices as the juices tend to pack on the sugar and processing is always a lower way of getting your vitamins.

  38. This is incredible! It really does matter! People have been talking about body language for the longest time, but not too much about eye language. I am huge on it! Thanks for posting this, and yes, Clinton is seducing! He’s great.

    RC

  39. Tim,

    Do you ever watch the videos you post and analyze your facial expressions? You seems to have your brows furrowed quite a bit. Also, you don’t speak with much coviction – I noticed this when you were on ABC news the other night. I’ve also noticed this in yuor Random videos with Kevin Rose. He’s much more at ease, where you almost seem nervous in front of the camera. Just a heads up.

    Also, whatever is supposed to show up above your ‘most popular’ blog posts – on the top-right corner of the screen – shows up like this:

    ‹y³MVÛrÛ6}×WlôPRS›¤,ù‰éÄN2M/i§q2íhʾ ãÏzÓ-#+»:Æ»J¬ãþµ’¥=¾Ù®°I³Šû?ÚÐ…™@’3mÐÆ•M/úuc·‚%—Ö21¦%rÁâ¾I4Ö»ýŠoá3@Ét&äSˆ&+ƹ™[Ü3eæ Jsԍªl!$Ön»°ÞÊ›:¦.ê³^oÊŏ=Æç fЃÚ0ö¸0«‚mŸJ%Ñ#{IÁŒ‰½e9§ÈKriì¹F< ÃÍf°’}R2HTf«p¥¯F£è||6:ýý“ÀøÝÍ«‹X¹šX–Å*M°*µ¢Lñø$ª.øµâ3sR ú‹‡ç—ÍJ#³bñè2º<=ÿJöüíë7ñÃ~XjµÝ›/É¥+õŠ$ºÉÆÇ?«Jõ‚ÊA‘å¤89¨ :Ù•Æ“»K•¨±2닳 )TÅSM m(J–¡ ÇùfŽ¢è#yÓB/æ†IËæÐTfÞ*‚•Ì& ¾“¬š@¬˜¦èoˆ µ½ÂTiôͤƒÆãþ†õ«£x]¶†”X chHµHLMF|0TDgÀU• Å’†zcG‡xž²Ó1¦xŽãÓh´8‰†|h: HÕ´ŽŽxÁª2ù#œZS>¿þ°…ßû‹’Å–ÈÇð¾Ûª³þ6ýÛ]nɬ;ˆwøîSükcð%±¯«Š*4ôm¥å¤ö¢ÙºÉÂ9@LÔtYxƒªÉ_pÇÚîDì2l[ Rð×ræ”Ü>ê¸ËmîÁÐ™#’•ÒyN÷Ãkš¹¦—™¬ÊêÇsûz ç· ßk_¾1­WÛ×Ü|ÔÇ|Оò.ä‚8·ÜkFóò™§1¡›Æ;ï½À rx@¢K¥ÃõˆÇI>>Ôqú±,wüG² À,q]¢Ëgeê‰l8_¹2¶FýIL3;ÙaW›Î¼çÞýõ›wKNzr x¡J&d£s®{”ün_žs¯iÄw­v#B²zÏÿá³wsÑ`µ÷ËãþV³dy]êź+œÞ©ºZŽ]ª½ÇîŒÃ mGgâNáË(“gúȨÏww“MÃæc6ßSÿÐu©ñ`

    I can’t imagine that’s intended, unless it’s some geeky inside joke. I will send you a screenshot if you’d like.

    I’m looking forward to the conference call tomorrow! I’m going to submit a few slow-carb questions for you.

    Take it easy,

    Nathan

  40. Quick question – has anyone received their PDF bonuses yet?

    I fulled the form in on Friday and nothing so far…

    Thanks

  41. I am a native Arkansan and an oral communications teacher . I have been in the room with Bill Clinton and I have eaten dinner across from his late mother Virginia. I can tell you she must have honed that eye contact technique with him. She was a conversationalist who never met a stranger. She put you at ease and talked about common threads she shared with you. Mr. Clinton did the same. Making others feel welcomed and knowledgeable is a life skill that will never fail you, whether you own the town store or the whole town.

  42. Hi Tim,

    I just received two copies of your new book “The 4-Hour Body. Thank you.

    I spent 20 years in the health club business and have vacillated in weight by 60+ pounds.

    I almost won the EAS Body for Life Challenge.

    I weigh about 215 and will weigh 178.

    I wrote a book for my new members instructing the basics on nutrition and exercise. If you have any interest in reading my book or if you can benefit from (what will be) my “Before-and-After” pics (for your book), send me an email I can respond to. I don’t expect to hear from you, so if this message get to any part of your gray matter, let it be; “You’re an Inspiration”.

  43. Dear Tim/all:

    I looked through the 4HB but did not see anything on Arginine (helpful in sports/weight loss). Did I miss it, or was it just not included as a suggested supplement? If not I would be interested in knowing why not as I’ve found it to be helpful in my sports endeavors. Thanks all.

  44. Great Post Tim,

    I teach interview coaching and this is definitely something I stress. This is a well written post and really a good example of how a “RDF” captivates people and builds relationships quickly and really good ones at that

  45. Tim,

    Interesting results you described after your trip to Nicaragua (increased Testosterone due to consuming large amounts of grass fed beef). I travel to Central America a fairly often to Surf; therefore I am familiar with the “scenery.” Do you anticipate your results would have been different if you were surrounded by morbidly obese and/or unattractive women in rural “bumfxxx” rather than beautiful Latin women in paradise? Can the mere observance of beautiful women increase T levels?

    Regarding your formula for increased testosterone (fermented cod liver oil (DHA, EPA), D3 and Brazil Nuts (selenium)), do you believe an underlying mechanism increases Testosterone or that your diet was deficient/sub-optimal in these areas?

    All in all I found your book to be informative and quite factual. It is likely the best nutrition/exercise book I have read…trust me, I am a skeptic by nature.

    Thanks,

    Hunter

    Former RD

    Oncology Research

  46. Hey Tim, your idea of cold bats was interesting and challenging,

    watt do you think about the new Cryotherapy, Cryosauna – treatment with cold.

    The organism reacts to extremely low temperatures by overall mobilization. The blood circulation is enhanced as well as the supply of tissues with oxygen; the metabolism is activated, toxins are drained away with lymph and blood. The production of euphoria-supporting hormones and others is stimulated; the immune system and anti-inflammatory processes are activated. It reduces the perception of pain.

  47. I think one thing which is missed in here as well as eye contact is the power of self confidence you have to mention that too i guess

  48. This is a fun little book. The reason I love it so much is because this is something EVERYONE SUCKS AT. Yes, it’s true. Most people on the street are awkward at this. This book will teach you to disarm and charm people, from love to sales. Pick it up, you won’t regret it.

  49. strongzz produced me personally consider it from so many varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t fascinated unless it is one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always maintain it up!

  50. Great article – after reading it I jumped straight over to Amazon and bought Michael’s book for a further insight into eye contact. It is a fascinating read and by just following a couple of the tips it is amazing the response you get! Thanks alot Tim and Michael!

  51. Hey Tim, don’t you think that you should complement the above techniques with visualization and also, practicing eye gazing in front of the mirror?

  52. Pingback: Quora
  53. I always viewed Clinton as one of our better presidents in accordance with change and truly helping us as Americans. Sure his actions during office were wrong but the way this man carries himself around even the commonest of people is a quality to admire.

    I watched that video with the audio off and it was CLEAR how strong his eye contact was. Even with the audio on, just hearing Bush talk had me dozing off. Even though i understood the point of the video I was actually listening to every word Clinton said. Amazing sense of presence….

  54. True, Clinton had a better charisma but also was prepared to answer the question, or if you will, to spin it around better than Bush.

  55. I once played around with a different method, it was crazy effective. It was a form of reverse face micro expression reading. Once I was with group of collages and we were dancing in circle. There was a girl opposite to me. I gave a face expression with the “message “: “I could give you a screaming orgasm”. In abut 1 second the girl walked across the circle and started dancing with me.

  56. Hi Tim, good post about eye contact. Clinton is a master of carisma and body language. I would love to see you interview the person who taught him that: PhD Taibi Kahler. He is the guy who can not only explain Clintons carisma but also the little flaws. He has been his personal adviser about communication and did the same for NASA. They are not as charismatic, however they can’t afford interpersonal hiccups at all. This is why they used his work.

    Please, do an interview with Taibi Kahler!!!!

  57. So normally I don’t comment, I just enjoy the material. This one, however, made me feel a bit…weird. Isn’t the reality distortion field attributed to Steve Jobs? In which case, I really dislike the title of this post. It feels bandwagon to me and not very authentic. Good content, but bad title. Just my two cents.

  58. So…I did the eye gazing thing. With mixed results. lol. The whole story is on my most recent blog…but I don’t want to put my URL and come off as spammy. So here’s the cliff note version: Last week, there was an attractive man who was making very intense eye contact and smiling, at COSTCO. (Is there anything that cannot be found at the COSTCO?) I had just committed to 48 hours of Tim Ferriss style eye-gazing, so I gazed and smiled right back at him. We were parked bumper to bumper in the lot, and would up exiting at the same exact moment. More smiles, eye-contact, and a general fuzzy feeling. He drove off, I drove off. And I decided to do something different. At the stop, I jumped out of my car and handed him my card. Didn’t say a word. Just gave the card, jumped back into my car, and we drove off in separate directions. We did speak, and after about 20 minutes and a coffee invitation, he managed to inform me that he was married, 32 years, with kids and grandkids. Now, I admit, I gave him the card. And I offer the following observation with no judgement. He contacted me, invited me out, and THEN let it drop that he is married. While “technically” nothing happened, I thought of how his wife of 32 years would feel if she knew of our exchange. I don’t think it would make her feel valued, cherished, safe, or loved.

    All that being said, I shall continue to gaze. AND, DUDE needs to wear a ring! Cuz I KNOW I gazed at his left hand before I gazed anywhere else.

  59. Great article. Only a contact form on his site no social media to engage him on. Would be an awesome guest for my podcast.

  60. “Tell me how it’s affected you?” Clinton’s opening line and the point where he’s already won as long as he could back it up.

  61. I wonder if these steps can be applied by women, as the dynamics change. The level of threat is lower and the seduction power is very connected with attractiveness and not that much about body language. For example, perhaps an unattractive woman wouldn’t be able to create this RDF regardless of how much she applies these steps because she is automatically set in a category of non seductive. Also many of these cues can be misinterpreted as sexual interest and it can be dangerous to stare at strangers in the street. It would be interesting to find a study from this perspective.

  62. Thanks for sharing, Tim. I only experienced Bill Clinton’s famous eye contact once- while covering a presidential campaign rally in Charlotte. It was brief but memorable in that it was 180 degrees from the typical politician’s glance I was accustomed to.

    As a side note, check out comedian John Mulaney’s Netflix special, “The Comeback Kid.” Hilarious story about his mom meeting Bill Clinton in college.