What impact do you have when you enter a room? What do people feel when you leave?
Being powerful means that people experience something, positive or negative, when in the room with you. To ensure you have a positive powerful presence is a conscious choice.
Every aspect of your presence has social meaning, including your emotions and how you are assessing the people you are with. People are “feeling you out” before you speak. Therefore, you need to develop both your Cognitive and Sensory Awareness to ensure people feel safe and uplifted by your presence.
To choose how you want to show up, you need to be aware of what is going on inside your head as well as what is happening around you. This level of attention requires you to be cognitively aware.
When you pay attention to others, you suspend your judgment and idea creation to take in what others are saying. You notice how they are reacting to your words through their gestures and expression of emotions. If you are curious to learn more, you will ask questions to better understand how they are defining the situation and the challenges they see, what they need in the moment, and what they might resolve to achieve their desires.
You can also pay attention to what is going on your mind while you listen, checking in with your thoughts without losing focus on others. You want to notice if a judgment creeps in, or if you are impatiently waiting to give your opinion. You can then choose to set aside your ideas and opinions to remain outwardly attentive, or share your thoughts if you think they will move the conversation forward in a positive direction.
Being consciously aware means you can be inwardly alert while being outwardly aware.
A positive presence must go beyond being consciously aware
There is far more going on in any interaction than what people are saying and expressing and what you are thinking about it. Your emotions, intentions, and regard for the people present will impact how they feel and behave. You must have Sensory Awareness as well as Cognitive Awareness to maintain a positive impact.
Being powerfully present includes an inward awareness of your own emotions, your intention for the conversation (what outcome you want), and your regard for people in room. You also need an outward awareness of people’s experience beyond what is apparent. With sensory awareness, you are able to receive what is going on with others and use this information to better connect with, reassure, and inspire others with your presence.
First, notice how you feel. Learn how to recognize emotional reactions in your body. Do you hold anger in your stomach, shoulders, or jaw? When you are anxious, does your heart beat faster and the back of your neck heat up? Get in the habit of noticing your emotions by setting your phone alarm to go off three times a day in the next two weeks to trigger you to ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” You can click here for an emotional inventory to help determine your emotional state.
Second, ask yourself, “What do I want people to feel?” If you want them to be curious, calm, hopeful, or excited, you need to shift to feeling this emotion yourself. Breathe and allow yourself to feel your chosen emotion before you enter the room. You can’t expect people to react well when you are feeling anxious, annoyed, or doubtful.
Third, assess how you regard those you are speaking to. In a study of 838,151 people in 158 countries, being treated with respect was the strongest predictor of positive feelings. Periodically, you need to check in with yourself to see if you are valuing those you are with. What do you appreciate about these people? Recall good acts or intentions to shift back to respect.
Fourth, tune in to what people need from you in the moment. Do they need assurance? Do they need space to talk about their fears and frustrations without being made wrong? Do they need you to recognize their knowledge or skills? What can you offer to help them feel you understand and appreciate their needs?
Open your mind with curiosity. Open your heart with gratitude, compassion, and hope. Open your gut with courage. You will better sense what they need. They will appreciate that you are listening and caring so deeply.
You can find a quick visualization for opening all three processing centers of your nervous system—head, heart, and gut—on this page, taken from the book, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.
By elevating your Sensory Awareness, you help people feel seen, understood and valued. This connection can activate passion, creativity and hope.
Maya Angelou said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Choose to inspire others with your powerful, positive presence.
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