I figure needing to google a word that I use in the title of this blog portends well for neither me nor the blog. Yet I feel the need to explore this topic of presence (ha! You might’ve thought I would google ubiquity… or maybe importance?). I wish to differentiate presence from the concept of being present. They are related, but different. English majors, spiritual gurus and psychologists everywhere: I apologize for taking liberties, as usual. This blog is where I attempt to convert naïveté into a semblance of coherence, in a public fashion.
The presence I’m referring to is defined in the book Leadership Presence, by Lubar and Halpern. The book talks about presence in terms of leadership, but learned from the art of acting and theater. This type of presence is also used for professional effectiveness in terms of public speaking and interacting with customers or patients in a way that is responsive and authentic. The authors describe four components of presence (PRES) as being present (P), reaching out to others with empathy and sharing of self (R), being expressive with body language and tone (E), and self-knowing (S). R and S, and maybe to some degree E, are important components of emotional intelligence (EQ). If you think about it, isn’t PRES the primary ingredients you’d like to experience when interacting with another person under any circumstances?
I personally feel presence, as defined by Lubar and Halpern (PRES), has been hugely helpful to my effectiveness as a speaker, facilitator and teacher. But I am finding that PRES is also important in other areas of my life. First, for my Command strength, I believe this strength has everything to do with PRES. Command is not just about being able to command an audience or attention, but also has to do with influence and leadership. Developing PRES concurrently develops Command skills in the best possible way, at least from my perspective.
PRES is also important for communication in my personal life. Chris and I have decided to be proactive about managing our communication, especially when conflict is involved. As a result, we have learned to use deep listening skills to communicate our relational needs to each other. I know, it’s a little bit of a cliché, but when you commit to the process and really do it right, it makes a world of difference. What is involved is listening to the other person until they’ve said everything they want to say (in a non-blaming way), and then you reflect back to them what they said. When they’re done, it’s your turn. There is no interrupting or criticizing the message (though you don’t have to agree, just try to understand). To do this successfully, you must be total present to accurately capture their message, you should respond with empathy, and when communicating your own perspective/needs, you must have self-knowledge and share yourself. Yeah. That equals PRES.
Finally, I feel that what I learned at Arbinger is also the equivalent of PRES. Arbinger talks of being out of the Box and interacting with people as humans, not objects. So, PRES is required to some degree whenever you’re out of the Box. But as I’ve discovered recently, when I move through life viewing every person I encounter as someone that is important, beautiful and talented (this is my interpretation of seeing them as people), I cannot help but interact with them on a new level. I’m alive to where they are in that moment (distracted, happy, depressed), and open to interaction with them on whatever terms they wish (no eye contact, a smile, or a chat). If they wish to engage, then my complete attention and Being is available to them.
Please do not misinterpret this essay to mean that I’m always PRES. I’m not. I’m only recently connecting the above dots (I told you I was working this out as I go) though this is probably painfully obvious to many of you already. For me, I’m just getting my head around how important and impactful PRES is for almost every aspect of my life and deciding it’s well worth investing in. Simply being present and out of the Box is difficult enough. I’m never going to master either of them, but feel like these are essential tools for my lifelong journey.
I cannot help but feel that this is all the tip of the iceberg. In what other dimensions or applications are these tools useful? What other tools are out there? I’m excited to find out!