You have a superpower that you’re probably not aware of: your presence.
Thinking back on your encounters with particularly angry or peaceful people, you might have noticed how their emotions seemed to rub off on you. Turns out, that’s a real thing. Research has shown that people unconsciously and automatically mimic the emotional expressions of others. In many cases, people actually “catch” the same feelings simply by being exposed to them in social interactions.1 In other words, attitudes are contagious.
An attitude that seems to be more and more common these days is general disinterest. People are on their phones multitasking or shifting their thinking between many different things instead of being present with other human beings in the moment. No matter how kind your words are, if you seem distracted or disinterested, people will feel that they aren’t important to you. This feeling can damage relationships, whether it happens in a business or personal setting. That’s why it’s worth the time and effort to work on your presence.
If you’re a leader, whether through title or influence, your presence has even more power. All eyes are on you, and your mood can make a big difference in how people feel after your interaction with them, either individually or as a group. It’s up to you whether you use your powers for good or evil, but if you want to spread positivity, it’s easier than you think.
Bring intentional awareness to your presence: Check in with yourself a few minutes before a meeting or conversation. Take three to four deep breaths and bring yourself into the present moment. Remind yourself of the goal or intention of the interaction, and if necessary, shift your energy to something more appropriate for the situation. These steps will help you truly be where you are, instead of being stuck in a place you are only traveling to in your mind.
Defuse a heated situation: The next time you’re in a group setting and you see tensions rising, try to bring down the level of agitation by being calm. Come into your body and allow yourself to feel the tension and not react. Lean fully into it, breathing slowly and deliberately, and allowing the tension and anxiety to move through you. This can help to create some space in the room, take away some of the anxiety and create openness for creativity and conversation.
It can be a challenge to harness your personal presence, but it’s worth it. Your presence really can be so powerful that it can change the dynamic in a room, help others feel connected, and help them come back to what is pertinent. Harnessing this superpower can be difficult at first, but all it takes is deliberate practice to master.
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou