William von Hippel, a psychology professor from the University of Queensland in Australia, conducts eccentric experiments to uncover the thought process behind social competence. In one, he and a colleague looked at why older people are more likely to ask embarrassing questions in public. In another, he had an experimenter offer participants a cooked chicken foot and judged their responses.
Based on his findings he believes, above all else, social skill — and specifically charisma — comes down to being adaptable. "There are clearly many qualities that enable people to be socially successful," he tells CNBC Make It, "but the fact that what works in one situation often does not work in another suggests that behavioral flexibility may be the single most important attribute for social functioning."
But that can be broken down further.