Presence – a state of being or existence. Existing, or is present in a place but is not seen.
Presence – is something I have thought much about when it comes to us as individuals, as human beings and even as souls.
Presence – is about being in the present moment, paying attention to those that are speaking to us.
Presence – is when someone walks into the room, and they glow and command the audience’s attention naturally, with ease and delight.
Why is presence important?
Have you ever noticed that people with presence work with ease?
Having entered different worlds and industries from law to space, from art to engineering, I have noticed people of presence speak little, express little, because they don’t need to signal that they are physically there.
Naturally, those around them, give them space, and perhaps more accurately they give others space, and people naturally go towards them because they are curious, impressed and eager to hear what they say.
I am not speaking of people with titles. I am not referring to people with labels such as CEO as such. I am referring to a kind of presence, an aura as some others would call it, that makes it clear they are people worth paying attention to.
Of the 30 or so years of my life, and despite having attended many events, there are only a few people whom I have felt really commanded this kind of presence. Why?
Is it something you can train for?
Is this something someone is born with?
I think it is the latter. I remember attending an annual law conference and I spoke to a fellow lawyer about intuition. They asked me, ‘What kind of qualifications does one need for that?’ My response was quite direct, ‘I don’t think you can train for that.’ I think intuition is a bit like ants with antennas. They sense things which guide them in the right direction, or at least the direction that they need to go.
I think presence is like an invisible pull like a magnetic field which pulls us in certain directions. Why does this matter?
source: Research Gate
In the world of entrepreneurs, I have noticed with certain key individuals the discussion of nurture or nature become somewhat more important.
Why? Because we are curious about what makes people successful. We are curious, when given the same conditions, education, opportunity some do well, some do really well and some just break world records. With the same ingredients, why did some become a third- hand kitchen assistant and the other became a Michelin star chef?
Choice? Why of course choice does have a play here, some choose to become third place whilst others strive for the top stop every time. So success is difficult to define then, isn’t it?
How we present ourselves, may not always be who we really are. The two words I have been presented most since being in Japan is honne and tatemae.
A simple way to describe honne is like our inner thoughts, hidden and rarely expressed views to the public save for close friends, which often may include views opposite to that of society. Whilst tatemae is presenting our outward self, behaving as society expects, depending on one’s position and circumstances.
This high context culture, vs low context culture, reminds me of many analogies though is somewhat like navigating across an ocean and trying to reach safe harbors.
Lewis Model source: jpinfo.com
Perhaps presence, as described above, applies Universally. Though perhaps more significantly silence is greatly valued, or so I have been told. In meetings, imagine sipping tea and appreciating each others silence and presence, building trust through the gap.
Whilst in the West, if one were to have a meeting, such silence could be interpreted as misunderstanding, disinterest and a lack of connection. Perhaps the same could be said about eye contact.
Someone once told me to look between the eyes, but not directly in the eyes as it is considered confrontational. In the west, it is considered rude not to look one in the eye. In fact, some may go as far as saying, one would trust another by how they would look them in the eyes. And of course by how strong the handshake is.
For the few months in Japan, I could count the number of handshakes literally on one hand. Whilst bowing is really more of an art than science and the levels of the bow. The bow is so natural and measured as to one’s relationship with whom one is interacting with.
A lowered bow to a more senior colleague and a shallow bow for those that are leading. At times it could be a ceremonial experience. Over the New Year when people return back to the office, the bow is formalised and feels so natural.
Paying attention to this subtle, and at times not so subtle nuanced differences in what is appreciated in terms of formality, I have come to appreciate presence more.
That silence in meetings is a virtue, that silence in meetings allows the thoughts to crystalise and for a kind of bonding and understanding as such.