Ask yourself, “What effect do you have on people when you enter a room?”
Now ask yourself, “What happens when you leave the room?”
Just as an observer alters behavior by the fact that the behavior is being observed, whenever you enter or leave a room, your presence affects the thoughts and behaviors of those in the room. Even if no one seemed to notice, their brains selected to ignore you, minimizing your impact.
However, if you are a leader or a contributor to the group, you need to determine the impact you want to have. The presence you project is more important than the words you carefully rehearse.
3 Realms of Presence
There are three realms you need to consider to regulate your presence: 1) Mindfulness, 2) Intent and 3) Emotional Tone.
Mindfulness is bringing yourself into the present moment.
Intent is what you expect and want to happen.
Emotional Tone is a based on what you are feeling. Your emotional energy affects how people will interpret and accept what you have to say.
1. Mindfulness happens when you observe your body, your emotions and your thoughts. The more you are skilled at mindfulness, the more you will be able to monitor and adjust even as you interact with others.
Exercise: Take a deep breath in and slowly release it. Feel your feet on the ground. Become aware of the ground beneath you. Gradually move your awareness up your body. When you notice a point of tension, release it so your body relaxes. Work your way up your legs, your torso, your arms, your shoulders, your neck, and your face. How does your body feel? Make yourself as comfortable as you can while staying alert.
Next, determine what emotions you are feeling separate from your thoughts. Are you angry, anxious, cautious, distrustful, resentful, frustrated or impatient? If so, try to calm your emotions by breathing and clearing your mind.
Now, notice your thoughts. Has your mind drifted to work or people concerns? Are you judging the value of this moment? Clear your mind by putting your awareness back on your body.
Keep your mind focused on your body as you start to become aware of the room. See if you can notice the room and people around you without judging and thinking.
With practice, you should be able to ground yourself and become aware of your body, emotions, thoughts and surroundings in a matter of seconds.
2. Intent is being clear on what your purpose is in any interaction and what you expect to happen as a result.
When was the last time you interrupted someone? What was your intent, really? Had you been listening to understand their point of view or listening for the chance to respond? Was your intent to engage the person or to have them accept your point of view? What did you want them to do as a result?
When was the last time you presented to a group? What was your primary intent? Secondary intent?
The Buddhist teacher Pema Chedron said, “Patience means allowing things to unfold at their own speed rather than jumping in with your habitual response.” But sincere patience depends on your intent.
Ask yourself, “What do I expect to happen?” Will there be resistance? Will people be excited? Will they eagerly accept or reluctantly comply with your point of view?
Then, based on your expectation, ask yourself, “What do I want to happen?” Do you want people to be inspired or enthusiastic? Do you want them to accept your ideas without argument? Do you want to facilitate collaboration? Do you want to create a sense of win-win where everyone gains? Do you want to explore possible solutions? Do you want to discover the source of a problem? Do you want to create a plan of action?
Once you determine what you want to happen, determine who you want to be in the moment – an inspirer, expert, commander, detective, facilitator, advocate, explorer, or architect. Use this as a keyword to return to your intent if you find that you are not getting the result you want.
3. Emotional Tone
The emotions you feel set the energetic tone of your words and will impact how people will accept what you have to say.
If you are recognized as the “socially dominant” person in the room (a leader), you will set the emotional tone for everyone else. Therefore, your emotions will either bring the energy up or down.
Are you angry, anxious, cautious, distrustful, resentful, frustrated or impatient? If so, try to shift your emotions to feeling calm, hopeful, optimistic, proud, grateful, caring, respectful, curious or amused. What can you feel enthused about? What are you curious to discover? Can you see the humor in the moment? Do you care about the success of the project and the people in the room?
Choose how you want to feel. Practice mindfulness, clarify your intent, and then choose one “feeling word” to anchor the emotion you want to spread in the room.
When you are mindful of your body and thoughts, clear about your intent and deliberate about your emotions, you are in control of your presence. You impact people when you enter a room and when you leave it. If you practice mindfulness plus mental and emotional choice, you are in control of your presence.