Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Do you ever meet somebody and think, “Wow, they are going to go far!”? What is it about that person that makes you think that? Kristi Hedges, the author of The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence & Engage Others argues that that something is “presence.” She writes:

We’re all experts at presence. I study it. You do too. Presence has many descriptions. We may call it confidence, or charisma, or being compelling – but we experience it the same. When we meet someone with a strong presence, we can feel it. And if the person is a leader, we are inspired by it.

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Even more than that, Hedges argues that presence is the great equalizer. She explains, “That’s true not just for me growing up, but for anyone in a professional situation. Presence has the power to bring people to you, and to open any door. I’ve leaned on my presence to work my way through corporate environments, strike out as an entrepreneur before the age of 30, manage a business through volatile markets, and reinvent myself a few times along the way. Not only does this confidence create presence, but more important, presence can create confidence.”

So what is presence? And how can we actively work at acquiring it?

In her book, Hedges presents us with her three part I-presence model. She argues that you can develop presence through the following three “I”s, each contributing in its own way to the development of presence and confidence.

  • Intentional. When you enter a new situation, it’s important to be intentional – not only about your emotional state but about the way that you exhibit these emotions. This means that you should be intentional about your body language. Whether you intend to portray being close-minded by crossing your arms or being nervous by fidgeting, you are portraying these characteristics. Instead, be intentional with your body language to show confidence. This means having an open posture and smiling while making eye contact. Being intentional can also be about the way that you dress for different occasions, signaling your control of the situation.
  • Individual. If you want to be a leader, you need to make connections. People need to see you as an individual with imperfections and vulnerabilities. They also need to see you as someone who remembers a special occasion or checks in on a sick family member. This means that it’s important for you to be competent and efficient, but that you also need to display your humanity. Let those around you know who you are as a person as well as learning who they are.
  • Inspirational. This one can often be seen as “fluff,” but Hedges has a suggestion to build inspiration in those around you based on the work of David Rock. He calls it the SCARF method and it is as follows: Status. Give public praise. Make sure that the message you are sharing is not going to be seen as threat to the status of the people listening. Certainty. Be clear about your expectations so that everyone can know what is right and wrong. Autonomy. Give people the freedom to do what they need to do without micromanaging them. Relatedness. Create an environment of inclusivity rather than exclusivity so that everyone feels safe and accepted. Fairness. Make sure your decisions are fair and that you can explain the rationale behind them.

This book is certainly geared toward presence in the work place, but presence is important in all aspects of your life. If you are in the parsha of shidduchim, the section on being intentional is particularly relevant. This means that you prepare for the shidduch in a variety of ways – in terms of how you will present yourself with clothing, body language, and other non-verbal cues.

If you have just moved or are entering a new community, the section on representing yourself as an individual can shed light on social interactions. Are you paying attention to what people say to you about their family members? Are you checking in with them when they are sick or need help? Letting people know that you see them as an individual will help them see you as an individual.

And, the section on being inspirational can help parents, educators, and any career focused person. As a parent, it’s important to give positive reinforcement to your children, and often helps them develop more successfully than negative feedback. As a teacher and employer, constructive criticism is key to student and employee success.

Who can’t use a bit more presence in their lives?

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.