Amy Cuddy, author of national bestseller, “Presence,” has my attention. And she has it good.
I’m rivetted, I think, because I read her book—aforementioned—and then I watched her TED talk presentation right after.
Both were great.
And she is attractive.
That’s not chauvinistic or demeaning, either; also not fodder for people who love to be offended.
She was so attractive because of the way she carried herself.
Confident but never speaking aggressively.
Knowledgeable but not pretentious.
Deferential but not timid.
Curvy but mindful of the waistline.
That was a joke. Relax, Nancy (mom). That is sexist and inappropriate.
But everything else, everything about the way she presented herself, both in physicality and language, was genuine.Which is the whole—well, like 95% percent—premise of her book and discussion. It is why I’m writing this post.
Presence, when we know what it is, what real presence is, can help us overcome just about anything. Our biggest fears, anxieties Instagram setbacks (@emmawatson), and difficulties can be met with presence. Then, when we are aware of our capabilities and privy to what exactly those difficulties are, on a physical/chemical level, things change. We become present. And the difficulties become challenges.
If you’re not going to read her book, or listen to her TED talk, which you should, then ask these four questions. I’ll give you the answers to three, summarizing her research and then adding some of me, and then let you ponder the fourth.
- What is presence?
- What prevents it?
- How do I get it?
- Are there people who actively want to be offended and do you dislike them?
1.) What is presence?
Presence is first an honest conversation with yourself.
It is introspection, where you ask two paramount questions: 1) Who am I—what am I doing and how am I feeling—when I am most happy, engaged, and helpful? 2) What am I doing when I am having the most positive impact on others?
Honesty, and parts vulnerability, are most important in this conversation.
As Professor Cuddy notes, many people misinterpret presence to mean flare (see: Office Space), and gregariousness, and impressive speaking ability. While those are not bad things, not usually, they are not real presence. It can be quiet, or reserved, or mild-mannered, too. Real presence occurs when you act in supreme accord with who you are. When you find those answers, and you have cultivated that self-understanding, your body, and intonations, will organically speak to confidence. It is as if those values and those beliefs that you have identified that optimize you, and your impact, are externally visible.
It is the teacher always available, confident in who they are and what they want to do (educate/inspire).
It is the fitness instructor you can’t wait to be around, always inspired and always inspiring (may or may not nose-rip pre-workout).
And it’s your sales manager, someone you can always approach because he/she is always real.
Self-confidence, routed in selfless thinking, presenting their best, most genuine self.
That is it.
Self-aware and in love with the process of understanding is a presence others will see and feel.
So, do that.
(Slim-fit (skinny) jeans and coercing an XL type torso into a MEDIUM is not presence. Just FYI.)
2.) What prevents it?
Extrinsic thinking and external measurement.
That’s what kills presence.
Like, absolutely beats it up.
I think a lot of us forget, or overlook this, because it seems counterintuitive. Other people, the people we are trying to help and to aid, are external. They are outside of us, so that’s confusing…
How am I supposed to help others, to make the biggest impact, when I’m worried about myself?
And this makers sense.
If you are to give a presentation to your board, or to a large audience, an audience you are trying to reach, it is natural to be concerned with their opinions and how they are feeling.
When you approach the girl with the side-hip flower tat that is really too attractive for you, it makes sense to approach cognizant to potential objections.
It seems we should be thinking like this, wondering how they are viewing us, especially as we talk to them.
In any type of education, isn’t it going to serve us best to compare and measure ourselves with our classmates, with our competition? Won’t that let us know where we need to improve and where we stand?
For clarity, though, and an answer to question number two that I posed, about getting presence, go to the airplane. Picture the stewardess—olive-skinned and wearing a silk lady-ascot, if your imagination works the way mine does—standing in the front of the plane, giving instructions.
In case of emergency, when air masks deploy, please secure your own mask first, before assisting others. Your kid should be fine.
In any instance, even in the most severe, self-care is most important. Always.
It’s also important to know that that’s not selfish. Just like securing your mask first—while your seven-year-old fear-rockets a turd in pants—isn’t selfish, taking time to introspect isn’t either. In fact, it’s the most important thing to do.
When you think outward, and you need validation or gratification from things external, you are thwarting presence. People can sense it, too.
In the end, you want to vibe extrinsic, cognizant of others and what good you can provide, but you have to start inside first.
Suring up yourself, creating positive, unrelenting internal identity and direction will do more for the people you are trying to reach than anything else ever could. You are the medium, the ship (airplane, if I can shove that analogy on you some more) that is perpetuating the good you want.
When you know everything you can about that ship, the deliverable is always better. It is what people recognize—genuine self-awareness—and it is what registers.
(Respect to the OG flight attendants who still rock the lady-ascots and don’t assume unrealistic precautions asking me to fasten my selt belt prior to take off. That’s presence.)
3.) How do I get it?
You have to want it (insert motivational sales conference speaker here).
There is a common saying, or adage, that states to be who you are.
It’s kind of what I’ve been saying for the last 800 words (insert h
*nd-job motion here).
But there is just a little more to it. A little more required to really grasp, and then exhibit presence:
Be who you want to be.
Organically, that’s how you get from thinking about the self to impacting others.
Aware of your optimum—what makes you feel best and when you make others feel best—you can act confidently. You live with that personal identity in mind. In a way that isn’t fake, or disingenuous, you act with assurance, because you have eliminated fear and insecurity from your thinking. You’re not concerned with their (you know who they are) judgement or opinion because you know you are acting in accord with your highest self, and that is what matters.
Your highest self, doing the things you do best, eliminates any need for external validation. For, at your peak, you know you are contributing the most. To everything and everyone.
When you can live that, and embody that, aside from freeing your active mind from some cluttersome/burdensome sh*t, you become present.
Others, always, will recognize that presence.
(Avoid extreme thinking, believing your way is the only “right” way. See: “Fox and Friends” and/or AOC (Alexandria Ocasio Cortez). Not presence.)
4.) Are there people who actively want to be offended and do you dislike them?
The answer is yes to that question.