In response to David’s comment to my last post about fear arising not at the beginning of a talk but rather 3 or 4 minutes into the talk, I thought I’d share the first article in a 26 week article series I’ve written entitled The ABCs of Presence in Speaking, Leading, and Life! This first article explores the what happens when we become self-conscious and compares it with presence. Here’s the article:
A is for… Arrows of Attention
Recently I had the privilege of watching a lovely young woman at her high school graduation party as she performed a modern dance she had choreographed. A living room had been cleared and we were all sitting and standing within five feet of her “stage.” Not an easy place to perform because the scrutiny was so close!
She was quite remarkable and maintained a strong connection with her movement, the music and the emotional tone of the dance throughout her performance. Only occasionally did I notice that she became self-conscious and in those brief moments, the sense of presence I experienced dropped away, and instead I saw a young woman feeling a bit awkward.
This was fascinating for me because it so clearly marked the distinction between self-consciousness and presence. When we are self-conscious, when the direction, or arrows, of attention are directed towards ourselves, we often feel awkward, clumsy, and we feel a sense of separation from the outside world. When we are really present, we are fully engaged in the activity of the moment, our arrows of attention are directed away from our ego, and we no longer feel separate, alone, afraid.
This is especially true when we speak in public. So often, we become self-absorbed and fearful about looking inept, making mistakes or forgetting what we planned to say. If, instead, we turn our arrows of awareness towards the people in our audience, becoming open to receiving them, and being genuinely curious about them, we lose that self-consciousness and drop into a shared place with our audience that better serves them (and ourselves).