Actors often exude presence – that is their job. Are they more confident? Not always. They are more comfortable. They are trained to see others and to let themselves be seen. They become comfortable with their voices being shared, their bodies in space, and sharing their feelings. Actors rehearse and practice seeing others – observing and really seeing them, not only on the surface, but more deeply, more expansively, more holistically.
Many factors are connected to and influence Your presence.
In actor training, there are four foundational elements that create a base of presence. We call them the Pillars of Presence.
Permission – allow yourself to be seen
Claim Personality- decide how to be seen
See People – choosing to see others
Receive Presence – be seen by others
Over the next few weeks we will explore the Pillars of Presence and provide you with some actionable steps as you embrace the power of your own individual presence.
Pillar of Presence 1:
Permission – Allow Yourself to Be Seen
In order to have presence you have to be seen. In our society we are often taught that looking at others is rude. Question: how are others going to see us unless they look and when they look, are we present? We must resist our early training around politeness and allow ourselves to be seen. We need to drop the shield and be available, visible, and see-able, not in an arrogant manner, but by simply switching an internal button. Then you are seen. When seen, you have a presence that can be felt.
Think of the people in your life that are comfortable with being seen. They create an energy that is easy for us to be around. Why? Because they are vulnerably allowing others to see them being themselves while also allowing others to be themselves.
So HOW can we begin to work on this?
Consciously let people see you — it’s a mind adjustment. Know that a smile is often a mask. So, allow your breath to ground you. Exhale and let the breath back in. Keep your body open — notice and honor the fact that your arms and hands may try to cover you up to keep you safe. Give yourself permission. Let yourself be seen – simply seen.
First off, I’m quick to remind everyone that men and women both use upspeak. Also, it can be as simple as being part of one’s dialect or accent. I believe upspeak is an adaptable skill, not a flaw. It may not be the right vocal tool for the job but it is not a personality deficit. It has received a lot of attention and has a negative connotation in today’s environment. If we think about why people use upspeak, we realize that often it’s used to soften our message – we don’t want to be “too much”. Upspeak can feel as if we are coming across as more caring, empathetic, less intense or pushy due to the ending of phrases having a lightness and lack of completion. We often use upspeak to take care of others. This is where intention and landing diverge: Our intention is to be careful that we are not coming across as knowing too much and it is often received as us not knowing much of anything at all. Because it is often misinterpreted it can undermine our authority on a subject. And, now that it has become a communication hot button it has even more baggage of leading the listener to the stereotype of flighty, silly and sometimes even incompetent when in reality it is most often the opposite.
“Lacking confidence” is a phrase stamped on assessments and appraisals quite frequently.
It’s possibly a misdirection and it’s hobbling us. If you tell someone they lack confidence- or seem to – they often believe you. They’ve heard that their whole life. You may have as well. And what’s familiar, feels right. But that’s a huge lift. Getting more confident, finding confidence – yikes.
Let’s reframe lack of confidence: let’s say, you really are only lacking comfort in a certain situation.
Why do we so readily grab on to the fact that we lack confidence?
Initially, in looking at this perspective, I assumed it was going to show up more on intake surveys of female clients. But that isn’t the case. It’s across the board — people accepting that they lack confidence because someone said it to them in relationship to the way they show up or speak or lead a meeting means they lack confidence. Reframe: How about it shows they may be uncomfortable and that they lack a few tools and techniques that can help?
Confidence can be a head game and quite discouraging.
Comfort can be a technique game and you can learn communication techniques that allow you to be more comfortable.
Many of us were full of joy and confidence when we were little – maybe 5 or 6 – we could be anything. We were joyously confident and comfortable – not arrogant.
Did we truly lose confidence as we moved through adolescence or did we simply get less comfortable?
If we believe we are lacking in confidence it seems to be self-perpetuating – a powerful snowball situation.
Why not say to ourselves – or others – “I’m lacking comfort in this particular situation – I’m still confident and competent – just not comfortable.” Yes, it’s only wording, and yet, words are powerful.
We have seen so many people light up with this reframe! Bright, talented, successful folks who have accepted and sunk under the weight that they lack confidence, are now investing valuable time in reclaiming their confidence, when suddenly they are reminded that they already are confident.
Reframe is a relief. It rings true. Yes, they are confident and excellent at what they do. They simply are in a variety of situations that are new and different and uncomfortable.
What mileage do we get out of equating comfort and confidence? Truly, I’m asking.
You can equate them. You can substitute them for each other.
Your choice. We suggest it’s simpler to reframe your “lack of confidence” to a “lack of comfort.” Seek out the tools that free you to be more comfortable communicating in a variety of situations – and accept that some situations do feel odd and uncomfortable and you can still rock your confidence and competence.
Oh wow! We made the Wall Street Journal! It is so great to share our love of communication. Here is a snippet from the article which is linked at the bottom of this post for you to read on:
“Hilary Blair has acted professionally and served as chief executive of her own communications-coaching company for the past seven years. She oversees a staff of 13 and counts Staples and Boeing among her clients. She says her success comes despite the first impression she makes on some people, not because of it.
“I remind everyone of their second-grade teacher,” says Ms. Blair, chief executive of Articulate Real & Clear in Denver. “And if they didn’t like their second-grade teacher, I’m in trouble.”
Ever get a small piece of a walnut stuck in your teeth? Do you notice yourself distorting your face while communicating with others trying to get it out? You can alter your communication when you have a walnut person in your life, too. Watch to find out more!
Wait. Do you hear that?
Do you too have voices that are getting in the way? Are you aware of one majorly loud voice that’s interrupting yours?
I recently made a list of voices that tell my own voice to pipe down. Some were newer voices. Some were incredibly old and I was still listening to them without realizing it. Yes, I also enjoyed noting the encouraging voices but the number of subversive ones surprised me!
Who let these sabotaging voices in here?
Some didn’t even necessarily start out with the intention to keep me quiet. I interpreted them that way. Over the years, some have grown nasty biting teeth and when they nip, I silence myself.
Be gone I say!
We have voices that are louder than our own. Voices that we may give more credence to than our own. They are known by various names – saboteur, monkey mind, limiters, well meaning friends, etc. We can tame them with practice.
Decide on your own ritual to remove them. Here are a few suggestions:
Make a list and burn it.
Share a cup of tea and ask each one to leave, thanking them for what they offered and “no thank you.”
Tell friends and have a mutual sharing and banishment.
Take a class or commit to a new hobby that feeds your inner voice.
Calmly and confidently address each voice individually and tell each one why you are braver.
Close your eyes. Envision blue and white light being absorbed into your body as you inhale and red light leaving as you exhale. You are in control of your brain and thoughts – let the limiting and sabotaging voices out and open up to the affirmative.
Wear a rubber band or hair band around your wrist. Every time you hear or think of those silencing voices, snap that band. Train your brain to focus and not let them impact your awesome self.
Stop the shouting match with other opinions in your head.
Refuse to be shushed by old comments. Stand up for your voice. The world needs the fullness of you and your authentic full voice. Voice on!
How do you know if the training is sticking? How do you know that soft skill improvements are making a difference? Regardless of the industry, these questions are always present. Organizational stakeholders and individuals need to know that there is a Return on Investment (ROI) when they make decisions to train their workforce. We must also consider the Return on Expectations (ROE) so that we deliver an experience and result that meets expectations.
To invest in training we need to know that it is working – and how well. Entire systems are created in an attempt to measure soft skills.
Capturing Data vs. Capturing Experience
We are realizing that data isn’t capturing the importance and detail of training outcomes. Trainers are shifting their approach so that soft skills are measured through videos and pictures. For instance, if stakeholders are looking for engagement and fun, they are able to watch their employees participate through captured videos. The visual moves beyond the non-interactive data collection of the spreadsheet toward a more impactful connection. But what about the coaching or training that is not all fun – the ones where stakeholders are looking for shifts in outcomes.
Stick-to-itiveness (n) :
Dogged perseverance. The quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult or unpleasant.
Stick-to-itiveness, first coined in 1867, speaks to this determination to understand how to measure the impact of soft skills. We are trying to capture the impact as a person or group enters into communication coaching and/or training. When soft skills training is sticky, the training can be seen and measured through how it impacts the employee, their experience, and business connection. We know it isn’t enough to “talk at” people – we must find ways to engage people in a true life-altering experience. So many coachings | trainings skim the surface of issues plaguing our current workforce cultures. When we coach the situations that shift the effectiveness of personal and interpersonal interactions, we see a deeper engagement and connection personally, as well as within and between teams. When we coach individuals to effectively engage, connect, and create relationship, they’re able to maintain open communication. For instance, when a consultant explores and understands what is getting in the way of their approach, they are able to have a greater connection with their client, which can help support and move the business initiatives forward. The results are greater efficiency and greater impact. We also see this in choices made in team interaction. By coaching the communication, we experience teammates having greater collaboration, and with greater collaboration, the team is more effective. The effectiveness and efficiency speaks to the importance of soft skills communication training.
Revisiting the training & participant commitment
As ARTiculate coaches, we measure the effectiveness of soft skills by revisiting the training with the clients a month after the training. This brings the participant back to their written and stated commitment from the training. On a sheet of paper, participants write down the 1 – 2 things that they want to shift in their communication style. They are turning in these commitment sheets, and, months after the experience, we are checking in with the participant to inquire about the commitment they made and how they are noticing the shifts in their working relationships. Not only are they drawn back to their commitment, they are reminded that a coach remembers and cares about their growth. I have found that when inquiry happens, the participants want to share their personal stories of how the training is sticking, as well as with their appreciation for the coach – client connection. The email testimonials are saved so that examples can be shared when a measurement is required for business justification. Management can witness the stick-to-itiveness of the training by seeing how their staff is practicing continuously and their entire company benefits from these shifts.
Meaningful Experience & Lasting Impact
So, yes to flipcharts, pictures, pollings and videos – AND as a communication coach, the real measure for Return on Investment is stick-to-itiveness which impacts and shifts behavior so that connection and relationship supports the business culture and an employee’s personal fulfillment.