As infants, when we want something, we cry. As adolescents when we want something we rebel, sulk, or just keep asking. As adults when we want something we negotiate or fight.
All of these behaviors are ways of exercising our power in an attempt to get what we want. But there is a better way . . . we can learn to embody the power of presence.
Power is the ability to influence
But, as we mature, there is a better way to exercise our power. Instead of using force, which is what’s happening in the above examples, we can use presence. There is a significant and profound difference between the power of force and the power of presence.
The power of force relies on forcing things to happen or forcing people to behave in certain ways. It has a combative quality to it. “I will make you do X.” And force creates resistance. What do you do when someone tells you how to behave? If you’re like most people, you resist. It’s a natural and immediate response for most of us.
The power of presence depends upon being present (here and now), showing up (not withholding), and listening or sharing while maintaining a state of equanimity. Presence does not create resistance; it creates respect. And it is a way to exercise power without exhausting oneself.
The power of presence is not always appropriate, but in any situation where you find yourself exercising the power of force, I invite you to step back and ask yourself, “Is there a way that I could use my presence-rather than force-in this situation?”
To embody the power of presence requires a few things.
- First and foremost, being present in the moment.
- Recognizing that you and your nervous system are separate from the people with whom you are interacting. This allows you to witness them without being reactive. What they say and do is about them, not you.
- Knowing your values-what’s negotiable and what’s not.
- Being willing and able to clearly express yourself, including your vulnerabilities.
- Seeing the bigger picture so that you don’t get lost in details that may be disagreeable to you.
When you embody the power of presence you may or may not get the specific thing or result that you are seeking, but you will experience a state of equanimity and centeredness that is rewarding in and of itself. Based on our experience, very often you may also get the result you are hoping for.