Kenya is a medical intern living and working in the Nashville area. She’s a big fan of country music and has been enjoying the many live music options in the city. As a medical intern, she’s responsible for administering care to patients and developing the skills she’ll eventually utilize as a full-time doctor. However, life as an intern can be extremely difficult. Because she’s not always 100% sure of what to do in every situation, she becomes apprehensive about taking the lead and answering the head physician’s questions. She also finds herself doubting her ability and stressing over her future as a medical professional. What actions can Kenya take to become more confident in her role and develop a sense of presence that others will notice? In this article, we’ll go over strategies and techniques she can use to do just that:
What is Presence?
Before we delve into strategies related to improving your presence, we must first define what having presence actually means. The encyclopedia definition of the word “presence” reads “The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing”. In our context, it means being present in the moment and allowing yourself to be you. It means having confidence and clarity in your thoughts. It means having the ability to remain in a relaxed state even when the pressure is on. A recent study conducted by Harvard University shows just how important learning to develop presence and confidence in yourself can be.
Researchers evaluated 184 entrepreneurs as they gave their pitches to venture capital firms. They found that the most important factor that determined whether the entrepreneur received funding for their venture was not how many credentials they had, it was their confidence. People who have presence and confidence are perceived to be more competent, hardworking and are viewed as better leaders. Now that we understand just how important presence can be, let’s see how we can improve our presence in our day to day lives.
Personal Power vs. Social Power
In the book “Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges”, Professor Amy Cuddy seeks to understand how humans can improve their presence in their every day lives. One of the concepts highlighted in the book is the difference between personal power and social power. I’ve highlighted the definition of each word below:
Personal Power: Power over yourself
Social Power: Power over others
If you have high social power, you’re generally in a position of authority and/or control resources others desire. The president of the United States, the CEO of a fortune 500 company, the pastor of a 100,000-person congregation all have high social power. If someone has social power but feels powerless (low personal power), they will assert themselves over others and take challenges from employees as threats to their ego. On the other hand, personal power is the power someone has over their own life, health, wealth and mind. People with high personal power tend to be very confident in their own skin, have strong empathy for others, are extremely disciplined and check their egos at the door. They are very approachable and genuinely care about others. People who have both high personal power and high social power are the ones who make a substantial positive impact on the world.
What this means is that instead of pursuing social power for the sake of controlling others, we should first develop personal power so we can be more empathetic and effective leaders. People want to follow someone they respect and who conducts themselves in a way that they aspire to become. Interestingly enough, you may only be a habit or two away from improving your personal power.
Recent studies have shown how establishing a daily routine increases your overall effectiveness throughout the day and improves self-confidence. This is especially true for teens who need more structure in their lives to develop effectively. Start by establishing a morning routine and looking for ways to create systems in your life. This can be as simple as taking a 15-minute walk before work or reading a good book for 15 minutes. As you establish positive routines you’ll begin to notice how much more in control you feel of your day to day life.
Your body talks
I loved attending networking events when I lived in Washington DC. There would always be plenty of meetups during the week where you could meet other professionals living in the city. I remember a particular instance where I was at an event near DuPont Circle. This restaurant had opened its upstairs area for the event and there were people from all walks of life interacting with each other. As I made my way around the room and began interacting with everyone, I found myself talking to a group of professionals.
Although each person worked in a similar industry, the way they projected themselves in the group was starkly different. The person to my left had a slouched posture, was frowning and talked in a low and muddled tone. The other stood up straight, had her head held high, was smiling and projected her voice with confidence and clarity. Based on these profiles, who do you think had more presence?
Your body language is a powerful indicator of how present and confident you are. If you walk into a room hunched over, frowning and speak in a muddled tone, you will be perceived as someone lacking in presence. Not only that, but studies suggest that body language can actually affect your hormones. In a study conducted by Harvard University Professor Amy Cuddy and her colleague, the professors sought to understand how low-power and high-power poses affect our mental state. As part of the study, two groups of students were tasked with performing either a low-power or high-power pose. I’ve provided a photo of the various poses below:
After they held their pose for 2 minutes, they were asked a series of questions about how powerful they felt and if they wanted to gamble. Not only did the high-power pose group report feeling more powerful but they were also 26% more likely to gamble. Along with that, the participants who had adopted the high-power poses experienced a 20% increase in testosterone (the dominance hormone) and a 25% decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone). Next time you feel powerless, try adopting a high-power pose for 2-3 minutes. Not only will you be perceived as more powerful by those around you, your mind will respond to your body language and make you more confident as well.
Bringing it all together
After reading this article, Kenya decided to implement these techniques into her day to day life. She began by establishing a morning routine of reading a good book for 15 minutes, walking her dog for 15-20 minutes and journaling for another 10 minutes. This routine provided structure to her morning so she felt more prepared for the day. Once at work, she would stand in a power pose for 1-2 minutes before her shift started. Throughout the day, she would be wary of her body language and tried to adopt a more powerful pose whenever possible.
As a result of implementing these techniques, she felt more present, asked/answered more questions and felt much more confident than previous months. Kenya finally feels present in the moment and is excited about what the future holds. Just like Kenya, many of us don’t realize how our body language and routines affect our presence. Making these slight changes can result in significant improvements in our overall presence and self-confidence. If you found the information in this article helpful, share this article with others you feel will benefit from this information!
My book recommendation for the article is “Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges” by Amy Cuddy. Through her meticulous research on the power presence has on our lives, Professor Cuddy was able to uncover various techniques we can use to train our minds to adopt a more present attitude, how we can manipulate our body language to effectively convey our sense of presence along with many other valuable insights. I found the research and strategies in this book extremely insightful and I highly recommend it. I’ve provided a link to the book below:
Be sure to also check out my new book “The Millennial Playbook: Proven Success Strategies for the Millennial Generation”. This book is packed with strategies and techniques millennials can utilize to improve their lives. I’m donating 100% of the profits to Puerto Rico Relief efforts. I’ve provided a link to the book below: