Day One of the initial Gestalt International Coaching Program, co-director Dr. John Carter said to the assembled group of eager students, (of which I was one). A good practitioner of this art should be able to walk into any room of people, anywhere in the world and make a difference with his or her presence.

That was a mouthful and at the time I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Presence . .  . room of people  . . . anywhere in the world?

Many years later I know something of what John Carter meant.  Presence, the essence and embodiment of who we are, the full expression of our competencies, experiences, our assumptions about life, combined with our style.  It is how we show up, it is how we bring ourselves to this big dance that we call life ~ and it makes a difference how we do this.

Our presence either draws people to us and makes us attractive to others or the reverse. If we are in positions of leadership, if we have both authority and influence we need to learn how to bring others along.  We can neither dictate nor force people to follow us, it must be earned. Our presence matters.

All of us have life experience of someone who engaged us in a singular and meaningful way. An individual who made a difference in some way large or small. A person who let us know that what we thought, said and did, mattered to them and was important. Perhaps it was how they talked or listened to us, how they made us feel connected to them or to ourselves. Something powerful got stirred. This was presence at work.

Presence is not a magic formula reserved for wizards. It is something that anyone can cultivate. Here are some good building blocks.

  • Self-Believe & Self-Confidence

  • Self-Awareness

  • Courage

  • Sense of humor (you can laugh at yourself)

  • Compassion and Gentleness, for self and others

  • Humility

  • Willingness to have fun

  • Willingness to experiment or to try something new

Edwin Nevis, co-founder of the Gestalt International Study Center on Cape Cod, loved to talk about this topic. His advice on developing presence along with a few of my additions.

Have a lively life. Travel, learn another language, go to live theatre and dance, attend the symphony, go to a jazz club. Eat different foods, learn to cook. Walk in the woods. Notice what is around and pay attention. Be curious and inquisitive. Do something that scares you half to death.

The final word on this subject is from Edwin’s co-founder of GISC, his wife of 60 something years, Sonia Nevis. Sonia would say something like this, it is important to accept that we are powerless to predict, to determine, or to control what others will think and feel about us. We have to do what we do, say what we say, be who we are, that is all that we can control.