by Daniel Kingsley
Presence. Charisma. That special something that certain speakers have when they step onto stage or into a room. The common wisdom is that this is a something, a magical personal magnetism that some lucky people are born with, and others of us mere mortals don’t have.
It’s a respectable point of view. The only thing about it is it simply isn’t true. I can exhibit this quality and I know that you can do that too if you understand what it really is. The only difference between us may be that you haven’t discovered what it is yet.
How can I be so sure? So sure that you, the reader could have this ineffable magnetic presence, even though you may currently be able to walk into a room without being noticed at all? The reason I know this is that presence is not in truth a thing that anyone can own or even learn – it’s an aspect of who we are.
More accurately, this quality of personal magnetism which some people call “presence” or “charisma” is simply one aspect of a wider experience of something simpler and more basically human that many teachers of awareness often call “Presence”. And that presence is something everyone already has. It’s something that is part of our nature as human beings and we get access to it once we stop using our thinking and judgmental minds too much.
Presence is simply an aspect of our being that comes to the fore when we choose to put our awareness on what’s happening in the present moment in a non-judgmental and interested way. If you’re choosing to be interested in the totality of what’s actually going on right now without being invested or caught up in the outcome, you will be experiencing your own presence. In this form, your presence isn’t necessarily magnetic to others, but it is a delightful way to live. It’s easy-going and real-time.
The quality of presence becomes magnetic to others when we simultaneously get interested in what’s going on for us and what’s going on for the others around us, and start enjoying both.
A speaker who steps onto the stage and takes in the room with curiosity rather than fear, who is enjoying themselves and their audience simultaneously will naturally be experienced as a speaker with presence or charisma. Most of the speakers that I have witnessed who have this quality exhibit this unconditional enjoyment and interest in what’s happening in the present moment for themselves and their audience. It really is that simple.
But although it’s simple, it’s not necessarily easy. If we’re wrapped up in the fear of how our audience may receive us, we won’t be able to pay non-judgmental attention to what’s happening in the present moment, let alone enjoy it. If we’re wrapped up in ourselves and what’s going on for us without paying attention to our audience or the space, we are likely to be experienced as being cut off. In either case we won’t really be available or relating to those around us. These are not insignificant obstacles to our ability to be relational and relateable.
Stepping into presence requires a measure of letting go of something and a measure of getting interested in something else. Letting go of being bothered about what they think and letting go of viewing ourselves as a problem that needs sorting out. And getting interested in what’s happening for us and what’s happening for them.
All it takes to start to do this is some interest and a little practice. (Though getting good at experiencing it takes much more practice).
Why not start right now and give it a go? You can do it when you’re with others or when you’re by yourself. Try these 3 steps, repeat them for a few minutes and see what happens:
- Be “with” yourself in an appreciative way. Notice the feelings and sensations in your body and see if you can be with them in a non-judgmental and appreciative way, even if they include feelings or sensations that you usually don’t like such as pain, discomfort or nervousness. Notice how it feels to be with yourself. Breathe.
- Let the world come to you. See if it is possible to “let in” your environment, the people (if any), the space and the objects, without losing this sense of being firmly located in yourself. Let your environment come to you rather than trying to go out to meet it.
- Practice appreciation of who or what is around you. Include a sense of warm curiosity about your environment, including the people you are with (if any), regardless of whether they appear to be friendly, unfriendly or neutral. Breathe.
So presence or charisma is really just an unconditional appreciation of you and an unconditional appreciation of them.
The best news about this is that presence or charisma is simply a happy side effect of you genuinely enjoying all of your experience and enjoying the people you are with, regardless of what’s actually going on. It’s amazingly simple, but potentially game-changing.
So there you are… and here we are. Presence – you’ve “got” it, it’s yours, and you didn’t need to do anything to get it.
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