The key to presence is being present


A common issue for our coaching clients in the past year has been the challenge of increasing the impact of their personal presence. Their  questions are often: ‘What is this ‘presence’  thing and how do I get more of it?’

While everyone needs to be aware of their personal presence, as we take on more influential leadership roles, we  need to be even  more conscious of establishing our presence.

 The key to it is simple…..or is it?

Seek first to understand

The message isn’t new:  Great personal presence requires us first to simply be present to others – by listening to them very carefully. Steven Covey sums it up well with his quote: ‘Seek first to understand before being understood.’

This seems very straightforward, but most of us tend to go into conversations focused much more on our own point of view – what we find interesting, what we want to talk about and so on.  This approach certainly establishes presence, but of the wrong sort!  To develop a strong positive presence, we need to focus first on understanding where the other person is coming from in the conversation.  

 Active listening is the key communication tool for keeping ourselves present.  There’s a challenge though, because while listening appears to be simple, it isn’t often easy.  The process requires commitment and real discipline of our conscious thought. Sometimes we have to keep repeating to ourselves: ‘I really want to listen to this person.’  When we manage to focus in this way, we are truly present. There is a very powerful story that captures the magic of this combination in The Power of Presence and Listening: A Fellow’s Narrative by Musharraf Navaid MD, in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

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