Own Your Presence
We all know people who can just walk into a room and own it. People pay attention to them, they might want to be noticed by them – or hidden from them depending on the circumstances. The mood, energy and attitude of these people impacts the room. They are the rapport leaders – for good or bad, they influence how others behave, interact and even what they think. These people are connected energetically, they are noticeable, they have a presence.
When we look at the constructs of our society it is geared towards needing to stand out, needing to be heard and to have an impact – and that is certainly true for business owners. In short, we are geared towards valuing extrovert behaviours.
We see this in the workplace, in schools, in many social clubs and certainly at parties – outgoing, sociable people, ones with lots of friends, ones who ’know’ lots of people. All are considered more noticeable. According to Susan Cain, in her book ‘Quiet’ this happens to an extent that people with more introverted tendencies fear they are at a disadvantage or even ashamed of their quiet natures, and somehow less worthy. She talks about society’s bias towards extroversion and how many introverts feel that in order to progress they need to develop more extrovert styles. She also points out that somewhere between a third and a half of the population favour introversion as their natural style, and by denying the value of this we are reducing the connectedness, the creativity of society, we risk losing some of the great talents that lie within introverts who cannot express themselves in this noisy world.
Let’s be honest though, introvert/extrovert/ambivert – we all need to have an impact, and we all need to have that impact in a way that suits our style, personality and values – in other words we need to be real and show up as ourselves.
Wherever you sit on the introvert/extrovert spectrum there are challenges and wins for you when we get down to presence. And for most of us we have a natural preference, but move backwards and forwards along the introvert/extrovert spectrum depending on the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
Let’s look at extroverts first – you find it easy to walk into the room and seek attention, you like being in the spotlight, you have something to say, you’re on form and you easily tune in and engage with people around you, you carry the conversation on and on and never tire.
But, and it’s a big but, if you are not given that attention you are quite likely to crumple quickly, feel insecure, try harder to get noticed and probably be more inclined to talk about yourself and your accomplishments, not listen too closely to what others are saying and as a result not engage very well. People around you may tire of you your tales and your Duracell bunny style energy.
We need extrovert behaviour in business to get the conversations going, to start the exchange of creativity, to hold the energy for the room sometimes – just note this is extrovert behaviours, any one of us can learn and adopt these.
If you are an introvert then all I’ve just mentioned forms part of your worst nightmare. You are much more likely to listen, not get your point across, or not even be noticed, while at the same time finding the whole affair exhausting. You’d much rather slink into a quiet corner and have a conversation with one or two like-minded people.
We need introvert behaviours – that quiet introspection, to step back from group think, to allow individual creativity and revelations, which can be later developed or refined by a group. We need leaders who listen and are driven by what they believe is right, and not just a desire for the limelight – and again these introvert behaviours can be learned by any of us.
Of course, these are two extremes and as I said before you are most likely to move around the spectrum with a whole range of learned behaviours that allow you to function reasonably well in situations which are not your preference.
So, let’s come back to having a presence, being that person who owns the room – and just to be clear this is about authenticity, being real. It is not about being an introvert or extrovert, it’s about understanding what behaviours you can step into to have the impact you need to have in any given situation.
I believe there are three things that enable you to show up with conviction – confidence, position and clarity.
Confidence – understanding what value you bring to the table
Position – where are you coming from, what do you know, what do you need to share, what is your opinion.
Clarity – where are the lines, what are you prepared to do or not do in support of this thing or issue, what are your personal values around it?
And your answer to those three questions will vary depending on the circumstances, the issues, and how important a given topic is to you – and that’s ok.
The final piece of work around presence is self-management – and again what you need to do is both circumstantial and dependent on your introvert/extrovert tendencies.
Story, communication and energy all impact on your presence and with some planning and some attention they are all controllable.
Check in on the stories you tell yourself. Do they drive you to greatness or are they holding you back? Where might you need to do some work on your stories (or excuses) in order to achieve what you need to achieve?
Communication – be yourself, if you are not shouty, rah, rah – then don’t try to be. You’ll feel odd, look fake and lose impact. By the same token if you have something to say, say it, your way. If you are more dramatic then go for impact – be yourself.
Here’s the thing with communication, particularly when you really need to make an impact, practice and precision matter. Plan beforehand – even if you prefer to wing it! Know what you want to say and how you want to say it – then practice. This will make you more confident, more able to find a rapport with the people, and more able to lead the conversation in a connected way.
Energy – your energy is a huge part of your presence so control it. Use your physical presence to reinforce your message, not to undo it. Remember, actions speak louder than words – ensure your body language supports what you are saying. And ensure your mood or state does not undermine your impact. In short, think about the energy you are spreading and ensure it matches what you want the people you are with to feel.
We covered a lot her. Fundamentally, presence – or owning a room – is about paying attention, being true to yourself and who you are, while at the same time being mindful of what people need from you. It is about being able to connect, to share energy, and to move people with your courage and conviction. Personality type is not an excuse, or a cop out – it is a vehicle for understanding behaviour and how to show up in a congruent but powerful way, whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert.
So go have some fun with this, pay attention to what you do currently and where you could be more impactful, then practice.
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