What Is Charisma Arbitrage? How Do You Earn More Of It?

A Dead Simple Tip For Looking Smart & Funny By Winning Predictable Moments

Louis Shulman
5 min readMay 19, 2021

You are wasting frequent opportunities to look smarter, wittier, and more confident.

Where are these charisma freebies hiding? As is too often the case, the answer lies in plain sight.

Brief intro: I’m Louis and I love learning. I finished my bachelor’s in Computer Science 16 days ago, and I’ve already started my next degree.

With my STEM foundation firmly established, I’m focusing on “soft skills” to counterbalance years of conditioning from spending too much time with introverts.

To do this, I’m going all-in on a self-designed program: a Ph.D. in schmoozing.

This past weekend, while conducting research for this fake degree, a massive realization smacked me in the face.

Semi-planned responses to predictable questions are an extremely underutilized way to improve your schmoozing prowess.

No, We Aren’t Brothers (where did this idea come from)

I spent the weekend letting loose in Tuscon, Arizona. One of my best friends, Shaun, finished school, and I wanted a front-row seat to all of the debaucheries a grad weekend entails.

How I Felt This Weekend

Shaun is a social butterfly. We couldn’t go more than four steps without running into someone I needed to meet. It was speed dating without the romance.

While Shaun and I have similar Semitic features, we are far from clones. Despite this visual incongruity, seemly every new person we met asked if we were brothers.

For the first five of these encounters, we responded with a simple “no, lol just friends.”

Why? We 👏 aren’t 👏 brothers 👏.

Simple question. Simple answer.

It was only after being asked the same question for the sixth time on the same day that I decided to make a change. We had a lot more socializing planned, and I was unwilling to spend my last hours in Tuscon having the same boring conversation on repeat.

The true answer sufficed, but it violated the first law of schmoozing.

The First Law of Schmoozing

Avoid boring people.

There are two meanings to unpack.

  1. You, yes you, need to not be boring.
  2. Avoid conversations with people who are boring.

As stoic schmoozers, we focused on the first because it was within our control.

Thx Marcus

My vodka-Redbull-powered Bayesian inference told me that the brother question was going to come again, and I committed to being prepared. Instead of letting inaccurate paternity probing lead to conversational dead ends, I’d use the question to launch a series of jokes.

This semi-planned mini-skit would shift our vibe from boring lookalikes to charismatic and witty best-friends.

We spent a whopping 120 seconds brainstorming better ways to handle this predictable encounter and waited for our next opportunity.

“No, I’m Actually His Dad”

For the time being, we decided on this mediocre one-liner as our substitute answer and waited patiently for the next stranger to walk into our trap.

What I learned in school

To keep the laughter rolling, we mapped out a few additional lines to extend the bit.

As anticipated, the question surfaced within a few hours.

At dinner, we were battling wits with our waitress. She was unsuccessfully trying to convince me that a Tomahawk steak was meant for three people, not just one. A few moments later, she popped the question.

Hook, line, and sinker. We launched into action and executed the bit to perfection.

As she laughed through her mask, Shaun smirked, and I chuckled.

Mission accomplished.

Learn to expect the expected

How Can You Apply This?

My anecdote is a trivial example of interjecting a bit of harmless fun into your social encounters, but the idea has broader implications.

How often are you asked the exact same question only to fumble and give a boring, unclear, or otherwise unappealing answer?

  • What do you want to do after college?
  • Why are you vegan?
  • Why did you get divorced?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • Are you and Shaun brothers? (just me?)
  • What is your passion?
  • What are your political views?
  • What are some five-year goals?
  • Tell me about yourself…

It is a mark of genuine laziness to not be ready for something you know is coming.

A repeated mistake is a choice.

Resolve to stop letting obvious everyday questions catch you off guard.

It only takes a few minutes to convert these small stumbles into personal charisma arbitrage opportunities.

Take the nearest sheet of paper or note-app and plan out a simple, articulate answer to the question you are always asked. This should take under 5 minutes.

Striking out on conversational curveballs is forgivable, but a batter who can’t slam a slow, lobbed softball into the parking lot is going to get chewed out by the coach, and rightfully so.

Expect the expected. Perfect your elevator pitch, craft clever one-liners, and be ready to express your goals, opinions, and plans with clarity, structure, and poise.

Build a reserve of rebuttals. An arsenal of arguments. A collection of comebacks.

While being overly scripted is inauthentic, a few prepared lines and explanations will do many favors for your social skills.

Own your conversational sweet spot. The next time these softball questions come your way, hit the ball out of the park.

Do We Look Like Brothers?

May 2017
May 2021

What questions are you going to prepare for?

I’d love to hear from you.

While there is an ever-increasing scope of happenings beyond our control, you should at the very least expect the expected.

Cheers 🍻




Louis Shulman

Insatiably Curious | Growth at Pomp Crypto Jobs | Computer Science alum from Roll Tide