May 8, 2016

Presence by Amy Cuddy

Presence by Amy Cuddy
Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges

Have you ever left a nerve-racking challenge and immediately wished for a do-over? When we walk into a high pressure situation in that frame of mind, we are condemned to leave it feeling bad. The very moments that require us to be genuine and commanding can instead cause us to feel phony and powerless. Too often we approach our lives’ biggest hurdles with dread, execute them with anxiety and leave them with regret.

By accessing our personal power, we can achieve ‘presence’ the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we are making on others and instead adjust the impression we have been making for ourselves.

Next time you are faced with one of these tense moments, imagine approaching it with confidence and excitement instead of doubt and dread. Imagine feeling energized and at ease while you are there, liberated from your fears about how others might be judging you.

After meticulously analyzing videos of 185 venture capital presentations - looking for both verbal and nonverbal behavior - Lakshmi Balachandra ended up with results: the strongest predictors of who got the money were these traits: confidence, comfort level and passionate enthusiasm. It came through mostly in nonverbal ways - vocal qualities, gestures, facial expressions and so on.

Social psychology had amassed a great deal of evidence that humans persistently make biased decisions on minimal, misleading and misunderstood first impressions. The first impressions based on the qualities of enthusiasm, passion and confidence might actually be quite sound - precisely because they are so hard to fake. When you are not present, people can tell. When you are, people respond.

Presence is removing judgment, walls, and masks so as to create a true and deep connection with people or experiences - Pam, Washington State

Presence is loving people around you and enjoying what you do for them - Anonymous, Croatia

Presence is being myself, and keeping confident, whatever happens - Abdelghani, Morocco.

As the blogger Maria Popova has written, “This concept of presence is rooted in Eastern notions of mindfulness - the ability to go through life with crystalline awareness [to] fully inhabit our experience”. “ The root of our human frustration and daily anxiety is our tendency to live for the future, which is an abreaction and that our primary mode of relinquishing presence is by leaving the body and retreating into the mind - that ever-calculating, self-evaluating, seething cauldron of thoughts, prediction, anxieties, judgments and incessant meta-experiences about experience itself”.

Presence as I mean it throughout these pages is the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values and potential. When we are present, our speech, facial expressions, postures and movements align. They synchronies and focus.

Not only are introverts every bit as likely as extroverts to demonstrate resonant presence, but research conducted in the last decade has also overwhelmingly shown us that introverts tend to have qualities that very effectively facilitate leadership and entrepreneurship, such as the capacity to focus for long periods of time, a greater resistance to the kinds of decision-making biases that can doom entire organizations: less need for external validation of their self-concepts and stronger listening, observing and synthesizing skills.

Focus less on the impression you are making on others and more on the impression you are making on yourself. The later serves the former.

Following are the summary of observations I’ve collected from many successful venture capitalist over the years:

  1. I’m watching out for clues that let me know they don’t completely buy what they are selling. If they don’t buy what they are selling, I don’t buy what they are selling
  2. They are trying too hard to make a good impression on me when they should be showing me how much they care about this idea that they are pitching
  3. They are too high energy and aggressive, may be a little pushy. It seems defensive. I don’t expect them to have all the answers. Actually I don’t want them to have all the answers
  4. I don’t mind if they are bit nervous; they are doing something big, something that matters to them, so it makes sense they’d be a little bit nervous.

Anxiety gets sticky and destructive when we start becoming anxious about being anxious. Paradoxically, anxiety also make us more self-centered, since when are acutely anxious, we obsess over ourselves and what others think of us.

The self is:
  1. Multifaceted, not singular
  2. Expressed and reflected through our thoughts, feelings values and behaviors
  3. Dynamic and flexible, not static and rigid.

In a recent study of narrative identity - how we make sense of the events of our lives - researcher tracked the subjects’ (people in their 50s, & 60s, - a period of life that tends to be marked by family, work and health transition and a time when reflect deeply on our lives) psychological and physical health over a period of four years. Four narrative themes emerged from the way people told their life stories:
  • Agency (people felt they were in control of their lives)
  • Communion (people described their lives as being about relationship)
  • Redemption (people felt that challenges had improved their attitudes or conferred wisdom in some way)
  • Contamination (people felt that positive beginnings had turned toward negative endings.

Those whose narrative fell into the three positive categories - agency, communion and redemption - experienced significant positive mental health trajectories in the following years-

As per William Kahn, identified four critical dimensions for presence in workplace: a person must be attentive, connected, integrated and focused.

The key to presence is relaxation. Preparation is obviously important, but at some point, you must stop preparing content and start preparing mind-set. You have to shift from what you will say to how you will say it.

As per Oscar Ybarra, people process words related to warmth and morality (friendly, honest, and others) faster than words related to competence (creative, skillful and others).

Asking for help from managers will make them look weak and incompetent, when in fact asking for feedback from a manager or college would give them a chance to interact, show respect and becomes part of the group.

Students who did internship in firms, but did not get permanent placement and the reason is not they show competence, but they did not seem to ‘play well with others’. They have not established any productive collaborations or relationships of trust.

When you listen to someone, it is the most profound act of human respect - William Ury.

When you stop talking, stop preaching and listen, here is what happens:

  • People can trust you
  • You acquire useful information
  • You begin to see others people as individuals and may be even allies
  • You develop solutions that other people are willing to accept and even adopt.
  • When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen

Power makes us approach and powerless makes us avoid.

Power affects our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and even physiology in fundamental ways that directly facilitate or obstruct our presence, our performance and the very course of our lives. When we are powerless, we cannot be present.

Personal power is characterized by freedom from the dominance of others. It is infinite as opposed to zero-sum - it is about access to and controls of limitless inner resources, such as our skills and abilities, our deeply held values, our true personalities, our boldest selves. Personal Power - not entirely unlike social power - make us more open, optimistic and risk tolerant and therefore more likely to notice and take advantage of opportunities.

Power can protect us
Power can connect us
Power can liberate our thinking
Power can synchronize us
Power can incite action
Power can make our actions more effective
Power affects our physiology

When people posses a strong belief that they will be able to perform the task at hand, they are more likely to perform it.

High testosterone and low cortisol are two great personal attribute for leadership skill.

Decisions create confidence - more decisions you make, more confident you will be.

Power poses were both expansive (meaning that the body took up a significant amount of space) and open (meaning that the limbs were held far away from the body).

Expanding your body language - through posture, movement, and speech - makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed and generally more positive.

Expanding your body causes you to think about yourself in a positive light and to trust in that self-concept. It also clears your head, making space for creativity, cognitive persistence and abstract thinking.

Expanding your body physiologically prepares you to be present; it overrides your instinct to fight or feel, allowing you to be grounded, open and engaged.

Among people who’d imagined themselves holding high power poses, 70% used words that we called ‘comfortably confident’. They completed the statement “I feel .. “ with phrases that reflect their mental image of themselves:

Open and strong
Grounded and confident
Comfortable and poised
Grounded, confident and solid

Prepare for big poses:

  • Prepare by power posing first thing in the morning. Get out of the bed and practice a couple of your favorite poses for just couple of minutes

  • Pose in elevator, a bathroom stall , a stairwell

  • Don’t sit in waiting room, hunched over your phone, Stand and walk around instead
  • If you can’t strike a pose physically, do it mentally
  • If you are about to face a challenging situations and you have no other option but to sit, wrap your arms around the back of your chair and clasp your hands together. This forces you to open your shoulders and chest
  • If possible, arrive the location before your audience arrives. Get comfortable with occupying and expanding in the presentation space. Make the space yours so audience is coming to your home as opposed to you are going to theirs.

Present with good posture

  • While you are presenting on interacting, sit up or stand up straight
  • Keep your shoulders back and your chest open
  • Breathe slowly and deeply - remember how much power proper breathing can center us
  • Keep you chin up and level, but don't raise it so far up that you are looking down your nose at people.
  • When you are stationary, keep your feel grounded
  • When you can, move around (movement is more engaging - it allows you to occupy more space and inhabit more of them)
  • If the space allows, take a few steps, then pause in one spot as you continue speaking
  • Use props. If you don’t have big prop, use a little one: hold a glass of water of a laser pointer or a remote control - anything that will prevent you from collapsing your arms and clasping or wringing your hands.
  • Adopt open gestures: they are both strong and warm For example, when our arms are outstretched with palms  up, it is a welcoming and signals trust
  • Avoid ‘penguin arms.
  • Don’t take up physical space, take up temporal space
  • Pause - we often fail to harness the immense power of pause
  • Try relaxing the muscles of your throat so that your voice lowers to its natural level
  • If you make a mistake; if it happens, don’t allow yourself to collapse inward. Pull your shoulders back, unfurl and power up.

Mind your posture throughout the day

·         ·     Notice what is happening in the moments when you do begin to contract, collapse and disappear.
·         Set posture reminders for yourself
·         Organize the spaces in which you spend time in ways that facilitate good posture
·         If you tend to sleep in the fetal position, stretch in bed before you fall asleep
·         Combine power posing with daily routines
·         We are learning more and more about the many psychological and other health benefits of standing instead of sitting at work
·         Take breaks to walk around throughout the day
·         Seize the social opportunities you have to stretch out, such as going to the gym, running, taking yoga and dancing. Don’t waste opportunities to expand.

1 comment:

Jose Antonio Mayoral Chavando said...


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