Martina Payette is a graduate of the 2012 Newfield Certified Coach Training Program.
As we go about our day, we move in and out of conversations with family, friends, colleagues, managers, leaders, and people whom we are meeting for the first time. Our presence, particularly, upon arrival to these conversations, sets the stage for building our reputation, integrity, trustworthiness; or our personal brand.
Research shows that within a few seconds, we make unconscious and conscious assessments about who we think others are and how they will respond to us. Recall the last few conversations or meetings you have had. How did you assess others in their various states of arrival and their presence in relation to you? How did that affect how you related to them? How did their presence and your presence affect how the meeting went and the outcome of it?
I recall times in my career when I rushed from meeting to meeting, sometimes prepared, sometimes not. I rushed home, a commute involving a 30-minute highway drive at 100-120 km/hour, to pick up children, eat, and move onto the next activity; in between checking my phone for emails, texts, and social media posts. I was living in the future most of the time, in the rush of, “What’s next?”
The importance of presence was placed in the spotlight one evening by my then 13-year-old son. From the pile of dinner table discussion cards, he happened to pick one that asked the question, “If you could punish your parents, what would you do?”
In response, he silently put the card on the table, stood up, picked up my cell phone (from the table), walked into the living room, and placed it on the very top shelf of a bookcase. He came back to the table and sat down without a word.
It stopped me in my tracks. I looked at him in silence. Annoyed and then awed! One of the most powerful lessons of my life and not a single word was spoken. I had to take a deep breath to really let it sink in and stick: to fully process his response. He clearly communicated that my full presence was important to him. I’m grateful to this day for his courage at that moment.
What is Presence?
Although it may be difficult to verbally define presence, we quickly notice when others are or are not present to us or to a situation. Awareness of our own presence may be more challenging to uncover. Being aware of and practicing presence as you arrive at a conversation or meeting can improve the quality of your relationships and the reputation/personal brand that you build throughout your career.
For the purpose of this conversation, let’s define presence as being in awareness of self (emotionally and physically) in relation to the environment (physical space and the objects, people, plants, animals in that space). It is to be fully self-aware in the present moment in relation to the environment rather than being in thoughts of the past or the future.
Over my years of facilitating workshops, I’ve noticed the effect of presence and the various states of arrival on how I assess others as they enter a space. I’ve noticed clients who arrive and connect with no one, who immediately check their phones, are preoccupied with their own thoughts, and those fully present to others in the room and the space they occupy. From a networking, connecting point-of-view, those who are present and open to others generally leave the room with more people connections and future actions.
My rush, my inattention, my distraction was not appreciated and certainly did not create a foundation for a healthy and respectful relationship with my son. His insightful response at that moment led me to a greater awareness of my arrival presence and how it was negatively impacting our relationship and others in my life and work.
From that moment, I began to create a practice of building awareness of my arrival presence – to my home, family, friends, workspaces, clients, colleagues, workshops, and other social environments. My awareness has grown along with new practices for developing my presence. It’s an ongoing evolution!
How to Build Your Awareness
Do you notice your presence and how you arrive? How often do you arrive to meetings, phone calls, and conversations without connecting to your emotional, physical, and intellectual preparedness? What arrival practices serve to build strong relationships in your life and workplaces?
Here is a learning process to help you build awareness, practice, and reflect on your arrival presence:
- Begin to notice how present you are upon arrival. Ask yourself questions like:
- How present was I when I arrived at the space I’m in now?
- What emotion did I arrive in? What did my body language speak? How did I articulate my thoughts?
- Did I arrive prepared and open to connecting?
- Is this the presence I want to bring to this space?
- How did this presence affect the outcome of my conversations/relationships in this space (my personal brand)?
- Create a physical practice for the transition moments between conversations/meetings. (For example, try consistently touching the doorknob of the door and taking a breath. This can be the door of the room you are leaving or entering or the steering wheel of your car or a wall. This works as a physical reminder for your body and brain to pause and be present.)
- Arrive early.
- Do a body check-in: Breathe to settle your nervous system. Take a moment to ground/center yourself. Notice your head, shoulders (shake them a little), arms, hands, knees, and toes. Notice your heart, lungs, stomach. Inhale. Exhale. Notice your feet on the floor, grounded. This check-in can be completed in a quiet space prior to the meeting.
- Notice your feet on the floor, connect your eyes to the people and the place. Notice colors and faces.
- What reputation (personal brand) are you building with your presence?
- What would change if you arrived centered, feeling confident and prepared, on time and holding space for curiosity, care and connecting?