In a world of MSG, be umami: How to be authentically fascinating

How can you be your authentic self and stand out in such a competitive world? You may think you need to be louder, brasher, or more outrageous than the next person to capture attention.

But what if you’re not naturally extroverted? Can introverts shine just as brightly?

The short answer: Absolutely!

To explain how, follow with me on a short culinary journey…

For thousands of years, people believed the flavors of sweet, sour, bitter and salty comprised the full spectrum of your tongue’s taste.

However, a fifth flavor known as “umami” was identified and is recently creating buzz.

Umami is a savory flavor that coats the taste buds with a lingering impression that dallies on the tongue.  Think of the flavors of finely aged steak, slow-cooked veal stock, anchovies, and Smoky Bacon Pringles.

You know it when you taste it, but it’s not easy to describe or categorize.

What does umami have to do with fascination?

Your Fascination Advantage is your own unique flavor, your umami of personality. (If you don’t yet know which of the seven Fascination Advantages is yours, click here to take the 5-minute test.)

Whether you draw people in with stories or influence them with opinions, your communication stands out when you deliberately apply your Advantages to your communication.

Your own umami can be a subtle force of attraction that pulls listeners in your direction. It enriches your words, it adds flavor to your messages, it brings depth and nuance to your presentations, your conversations, your writing.

When you consciously channel this force of attraction, your communication is more likely to be savored by your audience. They’ll eat up what you say, what you write, what you sell.

That is, IF you’re using your true Fascination Advantage, your authentic umami, and not trying to fake it.

Fake charm is the MSG of communication

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an attempt at manufacturing umami. It’s a “flavor enhancer” that tries to create that elusive “flavorful non-flavor” of umami.

MSG causes adverse side effects in a lot of people, including headaches and nausea. The only way to reduce the risk of these conditions is to avoid eating MSG all together.

Trying to communicate against your Fascination Advantage by using fake charm and being something you’re not is like a chef trying to create a 5-star dish with MSG.

And like MSG, fake charm can cause headaches, upset stomach and overall aversion in your audience.

That’s the exact opposite effect you’re going for when trying to capture attention and fascinate your audience.

But when you know your Fascination Advantages that make up the highest and best use of your personality and discover your Archetype, you can put a strategic framework in place to intentionally fascinate in a way that leverages your natural style, your umami.

You become more refined and skilled at understanding how the world sees you.

There is no substitute for umami—or your unique style of fascination

Frequently, people mistakenly think they should fascinate in a certain way.

But trying to be loud and opinionated doesn’t work if your Fascination Advantage is, for example, Mystique.

People with the Mystique Advantage are the embodiment of “still waters run deep.”

They communicate carefully, by listening first. They remain quiet while they gather and sort information, then blow everyone away with their fine-tuned solutions and ideas.

But a Mystique who tries to communicate like, say a Power Advantage, may come across as inauthentic, and maybe even arrogant or delusional.

This is because Power Advantage people communicate with the language of authority and intensity.

They’re more likely to be outspoken about their strong opinions. They often lead the discussion, take charge, and motivate others.

To operate at their best, organizations need both Mystique and Power Fascination Advantages (and other Advantages as well).

Great organizations, like great recipes, are made of balanced components. Some elements are bold and action-oriented. But they must be balanced out with subtle components, lest the organization becomes inoperable (or in the case of a recipe, inedible).

If you’re a Mystique who thinks you need to always be “on” and up front, you’re going to exhaust yourself before you can get very far.

By the same token, a Power Advantage shouldn’t try to fade into the background because their unique umami is naturally bolder.

For a short time, you can pretend to be someone you’re not in order to get noticed. But that takes a huge amount of effort, and it doesn’t last.

Fake tans, fake gold, and fake laughter quickly lose their appeal, and so does fake charm.

Discover your Fascination Advantage and your Archetype and you can confidently bring your umami out in all your communications, without ever resorting to fake charm or being someone you’re not. Get your results right here.

A version of this article was originally published on

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About the author

Sally Hogshead

Sally skyrocketed to the top of the advertising world in her early 20s, fascinating millions of consumers for clients such as MINI Cooper and Coca-Cola. Since then, she’s published two New York Times bestsellers on the science of fascination, and is one of only 172 living members in the Speaker Hall of Fame. Over a million professionals have taken the Fascination Advantage® personality test to discover how others perceive their communication.

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