A client recently asked me— what does it actually mean to be present and why is this something we are working on in a communication training?
This “presence” word is something that gets thrown around a lot, so it’s a great question. Here’s a simple way of thinking about presence: you’re in the here and now. Another word for it is— you’re oriented, which means, you’re connected to your environment through your senses. Your eyes are seeing what’s around you, you’re hearing what’s around you, you’re feeling what’s around you through your sense of touch, and so on. Your thoughts are oriented to what’s going on in the moment, including who you’re with, and what you’re hearing them say!
Cultivating this kind of presence can be so helpful for communication training for so many reasons. Being oriented to the here and now, unless there is a massive life threat, tends to help us feel more grounded, breathe a little better, and therefore be able to think and speak more easily. It also means that we’re listening better, so we can understand who we’re talking to better and be more responsive to them. It’s a very different experience to say, disorientation, where you might be feeling anxious or having negative thought loops that are not actually in response to what’s happening in the moment that make you feel tense, and like it’s hard to breathe or listen to who you’re talking to.
So when I’m working with clients, we often start with this kind of presence work, because we can do all the voice/breathing work you like in isolation, but it won’t translate into the performance or public speaking context unless you’re present.
Click here for a “Voice what Matters” podcast episode that is a presence warm up.