Sometimes, magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.
—Teller (from Penn & Teller)
If I asked you: “what interpersonal skill stands out most in the successful people you know and have met?”, what might you say? Confidence. Charisma. Resilience. Ambition.
For me, it would be PRESENCE. That ability to make someone feel like not only the most important and interesting person in the room; but the only person in the room.
Now, you might have chosen a different #1 quality for your model successful self. And I respect that.
But now that you’re thinking about presence, I hope you’ll consider adding it to your list of interpersonal skills worth honing. Because we already know presence is crucial – we use it all the time.
We do it when we’re chasing promotion or interviewing for a new job; when we’re trying to impress a new client or win new business; when we’re meeting with our boss.
The difference with super successful people is: they do it all the time. It’s a habit. It’s natural. It’s almost like breathing. And why don’t the rest of us? Because we forget; we get distracted; we tune back into ourselves; we rush to get into our own futures – at the expense of the present.
The magic of presence
In the coaching context, coachees often describe the positive effects of coaching as magic. And although coaching regularly achieves magical results, it’s not magic; it’s presence.
Presence is a crucial skill for any coach. In fact, so much so that it’s one of the International Coaching Federation’s 11 core competencies. And it’s crucial because presence is the quality that creates and holds the space between two people. For great thinking to emerge; to create energy and resourcefulness; to find motivation and inspiration; to create strong rapport with another person.
All skills hugely valuable in any professional interaction – and arguably more so, the higher we ascend.
So what can we borrow from the coaching toolkit to up our professional presence?
To develop your own quality of presence, it’s often as much about turning-off some of our presence-blocking behaviours, as it is about turning-on new qualities. Here are a few things to turn off:
- Listening to respond
- Being judgemental
- Thinking too much
- Trying too hard
- Pushing your agenda
- Giving advice
- Trying to impress
Eliminating some or all of these will amplify your presence.
And here are 5 tips from the coaching toolkit of presence-inducing behaviours to develop your presence.
1. Come from a place of authentic curiosity.
That means asking questions – and then listening to the answer. And listening to understand – as opposed to our default: listening to respond.
2. Be open to not knowing.
It can feel like a risk not to know where the conversation is going – and so we keep to the shallows. Instead, be adventurous and inquisitive.
3. Develop an awareness to distraction.
Practise noticing your attention wandering. Rather than trying to “un-think” it, simply acknowledge it to yourself; before gently bringing your focus back to the exchange.
4. Trust your intuition.
We often see and hear things relevant to the conversation – but not understand why that has occurred to you. And so we ignore it. Instead: trust yourself enough to communicate what you’re sensing.
5. Be spontaneous.
No need to plan your conversation or try to lead it in a certain direction: that’s your agenda coming to the fore. Instead, stay curious and enjoy flowing with the energy of the conversation.
An interpersonal skill that stands out
Acting with presence is a powerful skill to have. And when we exercise it, we uncover a useful paradox: the more you prioritise the other person, the more you will shine in that person’s eyes.
Practise and you will learn to develop your awareness, deal gracefully with distractions and focus on being with the other person, completely.