We have all heard how important body language is in terms of communicating a message to others. If you slump your shoulders after a mistake, it is clear you are upset and frustrated with that performance. But what does your body language communicate back to yourself? Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard University, attempts to answer that question through her research findings. Cuddy starts with the concept of “presence” and how we first need to understand what presence is and how it can help or hinder us striving towards our goals. Her book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenge is about defining presence, identifying how presence and confidence are connected, and connecting our body language to both presence and confidence. Our first blog of this series will tackle defining presence.
What is presence? According to Amy Cuddy, “presence stems from believing in and trusting yourself – your real, honest feelings, values, and abilities.” That trust and belief allows us to show up as our best selves, instead of filled with worry, doubt, and fear. Presence is observable and palpable, although more challenging to describe and define. Cuddy explains traits including confidence, comfort level, and passionate enthusiasm to be common elements of presence because such traits signal our worthiness and value of our ideas and can’t easily be faked. Presence isn’t only for CEO’s or high-power executives, presence is for everyone to be able to bring their best self to the next important moment in their lives. Another important aspect of presence is that is does not replace competence. We must put in the work and preparation to achieve our goals. Presence is about believing in ourselves when the moment comes to execute and deliver on that preparation and hard work.
Presence manifests in two important ways, one as confidence without arrogance, and the other through something Cuddy calls “the synchronous self.” Confidence sometimes gets confused with arrogance, but they are quite different concepts. Cuddy explains, “focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself.” Arrogance is a “smoke screen for insecurity”, while true confidence is believing in your authentic self. Synchrony is where our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and actions are aligned and communicate a consistent message. Cuddy offers, “When we are truly present in a challenging moment, our verbal and nonverbal communication flows.” If you don’t actually believe in yourself, others will pick up on the subtle messages your body language communicates, and they won’t believe in you either. We must find and then learn to express our authentic best self in order to truly be present.
UpsideDown Performance Quick Tip included with email subscription. Subscribe here!