How do you increase your presence?
Being present is thrilling, inspiring and absorbing all at the same time. It is the energy you feel when you know you’re alive. It is in these moments that we do our best work and create powerful human to human connections that feel authentic. We all yearn to be present and be met by people who are equally present. Presence empowers and enables you to connect and empathise with others in a really human way.
The 3 Circles of Presence
There are strategies for identifying your unconscious default presence setting and then establishing the behaviours that will enable you to become consciously present and start truly noticing in every situation. Patsy Rodenburg came up with the concept of the three Circles of Presence, which we will explore further in this post.
Patsy is a theatre and actor coach who works with some of the most famous actors in the world, helping them to develop their presence to be able to inhabit a role with impact, but also, in the case of Tom Cruise, to have less presence, to enable him to go unrecognised when in public. What’s interesting is how her theory translates to the rest of us; presence is the energy that comes from you and connects you to the outside world. It is when you are fully present that you make your deepest impression on others.
We all have impact. Some people’s impact is positive; other people’s impact is negative. You will know people who have a very calming impact, others who have an energising impact and those who have an energy draining impact!
If you are in Circle One you are introverting your energy, which means your focus is inward – it is where you are when you are on autopilot, not noticing the little details that matter. Circle One energy absorbs other people’s energy and draws outward stimulus inwards. You are not very observant or considerate of the other person’s perspective. You are more introspective, reflective and to some extent withdrawn from the world.
Someone who habitually lives in Circle One will probably hide physically and vocally, their impact diminished by a hunched posture, shallow breath pattern and weak voice. A Circle One operator might find themselves ignored in meetings or passed over for promotion. They can come across as uncaring, not listening and self-centred. In this circle, people have low personal power.
In Circle One, your energy is inward-focused, your breathing deeper and your body language more closed and withdrawn. Your energy levels are low. In your mind, you have decided to withdraw from the situation and are no longer in the moment, but are thinking about the past or what could happen next. You may go into Circle One around people that make you nervous, in confrontational situations with customers or situations like public speaking.
The behaviours you would see – compliant, submissive, talks little, vague non-committal communication, self-doubt, praises others.
In this circle, ‘I give power to you’. I become passive and give in to others, we don’t get what we want or need. Our thoughts become self-critical and our limiting beliefs impact how we communicate and connect with others. We believe other people’s opinions are always more important, so it doesn’t matter what they think anyway.
You are in the Circle One if you:
- Find yourself withdrawing physically from people, feelings or ideas
- Find you are holding your breath or your breathing is shallow
- You are asked to repeat yourself
- People lean forward to notice you
- You feel left out
- You feel self-conscious
By drawing inward, you lessen your impact on the world. You may operate in this circle because of years of abuse, frequent criticism or if you surrounded by lots of Circle Three energy. You may have learnt to disappear or become unnoticed to avoid confrontation.
A Circle Three state is one where you are extroverting your energy. It is like someone is spraying their energy around in a scattergun approach. This is the person with their own agenda, so they may well be noticed, but they are on their own path and it’s their path or no path. They talk over the customer and push their own agenda forward in the conversation.
Circle Three is the Circle of Bluff and Force, where energy is outward moving and non-specific. People who operate mainly in this circle are self-centred, but in a different way – they want to be the centre of attention – we have all come across people like this at parties and all the energy they push out has the effect of making us switch off.
Circle Three operators are in fact using this way of behaviour as a shield to protect themselves. They do not receive any energy from the world, as they are alone, fighting to control life and perceived by people around them as arrogant and over-bearing. It is more about them, rather than the other person.
Their attention is outside themselves, yet lacking in precision and details. In Circle Three their exchanges with people lack intimacy. They may speak well and sound confident, but they don’t listen well. They look through people, rather than at them. The world is a dimly lit audience for whom they are performing. They attract attention and make a favourable first impression.
The behaviours you would see – sarcastic, harsh, always right, superior, know it all, interrupts, talks over others, critical, put-downs, patronising, disrespectful of others. In this circle, people believe they are entitled to have things done their way, the way they want it to be done because they are right and others (and their needs) are less important.
People in Circle Three take power from you. Their aggressive behaviour is based on winning. It requires that they do what is in their own best interest without regard for the rights, needs, feelings or desires of others.
You’ll recognise this circle if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a ‘hard sales’ experience or seen a politician interviewed about a contentious policy. A Circle Three operator might dominate conversations with their overly loud voice and overbearing physicality.
Circle Three is useful if you want to keep others at bay; it acts as a shield to the outside world. You can defend your privacy, as you do not fully engage with people. You may have learnt to go into this circle because your back was pushed up against the wall at some time in your life and you came out fighting – you wanted to be seen, heard and felt and or ignored.
If you recognise any of these behaviours you have moved into Circle Three:
- Notice people backing away from you and giving you space
- Breathe with noise
- Are often too loud, either in speech or laughter
- Don’t really notice people or what they are saying
- You take command of a situation, even though you don’t have all the facts
Circle Two is where your energy is focused; it is the Circle of Connection. It is a two way street where you react and communicate spontaneously with others to influence and connect, without barriers or trying to impress or impose your will on them. You are in flow or the zone, living in the moment. You are really listening to other people and hear what they have to say, which positively impacts levels of trust and rapport.
Circle Two energy represents the perfect balance; it is the powerful, reciprocal energy of true connection, which focuses on a specific object or person and, crucially, moves in both directions, taking in and giving out. We sense it when we encounter it: it belongs to those radiantly magnetic people who interact openly with the world, listening authentically and contributing generously.
If someone were following you home with bad intent, you would become present: your antennae would come up. In this circle you quickly connect to something beyond you and become hyper aware of your surroundings.
In Circle Two you react and communicate freely and spontaneously with the energy you are giving and receiving. You can touch and influence people, rather than impress or impose your will on them. You influence them and allow them to influence you.
The behaviours you would see – actions and expressions fit with words spoken, firm but polite and clear messages, respectful of self and others, empathetic listening and genuine questioning.
In this circle, we have ‘equal power’. We believe and act as if all the individuals involved are equal, each deserving of respect and no more entitled than the other to have things done their way. The result is we have great human conversations and relationships with others.
You know you’re in Circle Two when:
- You feel centred and alert
- Your body belongs to you
- Your breathing is easy
- You suspend judgement and remain curious
- You connect with people and hear what they have to say
- You start to notice little things about people and what they have to say
- You acknowledge others
Most of us have a ‘preferred’ circle, but will also move through all three states during our day to day lives. Indeed, our ability to stay present and powerful can be compromised by the human energy we encounter: a dominating Circle Three character can intimidate us into cowed first, whilst our own energy can be fatigued by the presence of Circle One apathy.
To really maximise the success of our interactions, we need to refine our existence in Second and learn how to stay there in defiance of all external influences. Rodenburg suggests that we regularly tune into the physical and mental facets of this key energy.
A check through the list below might be just what you need to focus and invigorate yourself the next time you have an important meeting or customer conversation:
- Body: your shoulders should be open, upper chest released, head positioned on the top of the spine, spine long, feet spread evenly on the floor, knees ‘unlocked’ – social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s talk from TED Global two0onetwo touched a nerve and sparked a sensation. In the talk, ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’, Cuddy offered a free, low-tech life hack: assume a posture for just two minutes — and change your life. The idea caught on, the talk has now been viewed more than nine million times and the idea of ‘power posing’ has truly entered the vernacular. When the researchers looked at the results, they were stunned by the impact that body language had on the hormones in the body. High power poses increased testosterone by 20 percent and decreased cortisol levels by 25 percent. Just by adjusting your body language you can have a direct impact on your presence.
- Breath: calm and silent, going deep into the body and opening the ribs and lower abdominal area. You are breathing to points of focus outside yourself, touching where you are focusing
- Eyes: focussing on the world around you
- Voice: free, open and directed outward to the people you are addressing
- Ears: alert, listening to people
- Heart and head: curious, non-judgemental, full of sense and feeling
We all have the power to be present: in the end, it’s just a matter of tuning in and harnessing it! If we are consciously aware of which circle we are in, we can choose to shift our mindset. The power of Circle Two can be life-changing. Through practice and conscious effort, you can not only positively impact the customers’ lives your touch, but also your loved ones. Try it out tonight with your partner, see the difference it makes immediately.
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