Presence by Amy Cuddy Book Summary

presence

Presence by Amy Cuddy
Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

My Thoughts

Based on Amy’s TED talk (embedded at the end of the summary). Contains several good insights on how to be your best, especially in challenging situations.

My Favorite Quotes

  • True confidence stems from real love and leads to long-term commitment to growth.
  • Truth reveals itself more clearly through our actions than through our words.
  • Lying or being inauthentic is hard work.
  • Sometimes we express ourselves most eloquently by not saying anything.
  • What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The more often people say “I” the less powerful and sure of themselves they are likely to be.
  • The high status person is looking out at the world, the low status person is looking at himself.
  • Often doing nothing is better than doing something or doing the wrong thing.
  • Incremental changes, based on tiny nudges, will eventually lead not only to professional success, but also to confidence, comfort and improved self-efficacy, relationships, health and well-being.
  • Change your future by slowly, incrementally changing how you interact with the present.
  • Feel strong enough to be compassionate to people that wrong you.
  • Begin to be now what you will be hereafter. -William James

Best Questions

  • If you don’t trust yourself, how can others trust you?
  • Is our authentic best self the same as our true self?
  • What three words best describe you as an individual?
  • What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performances?
  • Reflect on a specific time, at work or home, when you were acting in a way that felt natural and right. How can you repeat that behavior today?
  • What are your signature strengths, and how can you use them?

Introduction

Our bodies can influence our brains and behavior.
Presence stems from believing in and trusting yourself. Your real honest, feelings, values and abilities.
If you don’t trust yourself, how can others trust you?

Chapter 1: What is Presence?

We convince by our presence. Walt Whitman
We often borrow trouble from a future that has not yet unfolded.
We can’t be fully engaged in an interaction if we are busy second guessing ourselves.
The next time you are faced with a tense moment, imagine yourself approaching it with confidence and excitement.

The elements of presence.
Analysis of venture capital pitches.
Strongest traits predicting those who got the investment:

  1. Confidence
  2. Comfort level
  3. Passionate enthusiasm

Self-assured enthusiasm is a strong indicator of success. This quality predicts:

  1. Drive
  2. Willingness to work hard
  3. Initiative
  4. Persistence in the face of obstacles
  5. Enhanced mental activity
  6. Creativity
  7. The ability to identify good opportunities and novel ideas

This is contagious and spreads confidence, passion and commitment to people who work for and with them.
These traits can’t easily be faked.

Presence is the next 5 minutes.
Author’s definition of presence as meant throughout these pages:

The state of being attuned to, and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values and potential.

Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful.
Through small tweaks in our body language and mindsets, we can self-induce presence.
Presence is confidence without arrogance.

Presence manifests itself in two ways:

  1. We communicate passion, confidence, and comfortable enthusiasm.
  2. Synchrony

Observations Amy has collected from venture capitalists evaluating pitches:

  1. Watching for clues that let me know they don’t completely buy what they are selling.
  2. They are trying to hard to make an impression on me, when they should be showing me how much they care about this idea they are pitching.
  3. Too high energy and aggressive, maybe even a little pushy. It seems pushy. I don’t expect them to have all the answers.
  4. I don’t mind if they are a little bit nervous.

Don’t try selling something you don’t believe in.
Don’t try to sell a skill you don’t have.
Presence is not about pretending to be confident. It’s about believing and having confidence in the abilities you really have.
Practice answering the question “why should we hire you?”
The more we are able to be ourselves, the more we are able to be present.
Presence has nothing to do with extroversion.
Book Reference: Quiet by Susan Cain
A bit of quiet goes a long way towards being present.
Focus more on the impression you are making in yourself and less on the impression you are making on others.
Confidence is often confused with cockiness.
True confidence stems from real love and leads to long-term commitment to growth.
False confidence comes from desperate passion and leads to dysfunctional relationships, disappointment and frustration.

Fragile high self-esteem. Seemingly positive view of themselves depends on continuous external validation. Intolerant of people or feedback that challenges them. Quickly become defensive and dismissive of people they perceive as threatening.

Secure high self-esteem. The source is internal. Does not need external validation to thrive. A truly confident person does not require arrogance, which is nothing more than a smokescreen for insecurity. A confident person does not need to one-up anyone else.

You wouldn’t be nervous if it didn’t matter to you.

The Synchronous Self
Alignment: emotions, thoughts, physical and facial expressions, and behaviors must be in harmony.
If our actions are not consistent with our values, we won’t feel true to ourselves.

There is strong cross-cultural support for the universality of at least nine emotions:

  1. Anger
  2. Fear
  3. Disgust
  4. Happiness
  5. Sadness
  6. Surprise
  7. Contempt
  8. Shame
  9. Pride

Emotion is authentic, negative or positive.
Lying or being inauthentic is hard work.
Truth reveals itself more clearly through our actions than through our words.
The body says what words cannot.
Presence stems from believing our own stories.

Chapter 2: Believing and Owning Your Story

Presence is the inner self showing up.
What is the authentic self?

  1. Multi-faceted not singular.
  2. Expressed and reflected through our thoughts, feelings, values and behaviors.
  3. Dynamic and flexible, not static and rigid. It reflects and responds to the situation.

Is our authentic best self the same as our true self?
Identify enablers and blockers in your life.
Questions developed by scholars to help us identify the best parts of ourselves:

  1. What three words best describe you as an individual?
  2. What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performances?
  3. Reflect on a specific time, at work or home, when you were acting in a way that felt natural and right. How can you repeat that behavior today?
  4. What are your signature strengths, and how can you use them?

Self Affirmation
Reminding ourselves what matters most to us.
Examine a list of common core values.
Select the one or two closest to the core of who they are, then write a short essay about why the value is important and a particular time it was important.
Example affirmation of a person who deeply values service: serving others is the most important thing to me, I am passionate about it and I believe we all would be better off if we focused on taking care of each other. It also deeply satisfies me and fills me up, I enjoy doing it and feel that it comes easily to me.

Self-affirmation is the practice of clarifying your story to yourself, allowing you to trust that who you are will come through naturally in what you say and do.

Study on people in their fifties and sixties telling their life stories. Four common narrative themes:

  1. Agency: people felt they were in control of their lives
  2. Communion: people describe their lives as being about relationships
  3. Redemption: people felt that challenges had improved their attitudes or conferred wisdom in someway
  4. Contamination: people felt that positive beginnings had turned toward negative endings

Take control of how you tell your story to yourself and to others.

Find and express your authentic true self.

1992 study by William Kahn on psychological presence in the workplace.
He identified four critical dimensions, a person must be:

  1. Attentive
  2. Connected
  3. Integrated
  4. Focused

The result is personal accessibility:

  • To work: contributing ideas and effort.
  • To others: being open and empathetic
  • To ones growth: growth and learning

Such presence is manifested as personally engaged behaviors.

Exercise with new employees to think and write about what they can uniquely bring to the job, then share answers with the group.
Results were superior to those of other groups given a basic orientation or a company culture based orientation.

Acting with Presence
Closer solid definition of presence: by finding, believing, expressing and then engaging our authentic best selves, especially if we do it right before our biggest challenges, we reduce our anxiety about social rejections and increase our openness to others, and that allows us to be fully present.

When a musician is present we are moved, transported, and convinced. They bring us with them to the present.
Technical mastery is not enough to become the principal dancer.
When you find your true presence, it is the strength to be there, to be there in a state of balance because you are not trying to protect yourself, you just are.
Article describing Julianne Moore.
She is present in the moment of performance: enters without fear, performs without anxiety, leaves without regret.

What keeps us from being present in our lives?
People feel the least present when they don’t feel seen. It’s impossible to be present when no-one sees you.

Chapter 3: Stop Preaching, Start Listening: How Presence Begets Presence

Approaching others with kindness instead of toughness.
Often our default behavior when approaching people is trying to demonstrate our own power and control.
Story of Jeffery Brown, Baptist minister.

How people judge each other in first encounters.
When we meet someone new we quickly answer two questions:

  1. Can I trust this person?
  2. Can I respect this person?

The author refers to these dimensions as warmth and competence.
We usually think a person we have just meant is either more warm than competent, or more competent than warm, but not both in equal measure.
We classify new acquaintances into types.

  • More warm than competent = lovable fools
  • More competent than warm = competent  jerks
  • Incompetent and cold = foolish jerks
  • Competent and warm = lovable stars

We don’t judge the two equally. Most people prioritize warmth over competence.

When the author asked people if they would rather be seen as trustworthy or competent, most choose competent.
We want others to be warm and trustworthy but we want them to see us as competent and strong.
Employment study results. Your chance of being seen as an unlikeable but effective leader is about 1 in 2,000.
Trust is the conduit of influence.
The only way to establish real trust is by being present.
Presence is the medium through which trust develops and ideas travel.
Without trust your great ideas are impotent.
When you listen to someone it is the most profound act of human respect. William Yuri

Book Reference: Getting to Yes
Real listening can’t happen unless we have a sincere desire to understand what we are hearing.
To listen we need to overcome our fear of silence and space.

When to stop talking and listen, here is what happens:

  1. People can trust you.
  2. You acquire useful information.
  3. You begin to see other people as individuals and maybe allies.
  4. You develop solutions other people are willing to accept and even adopt.
  5. When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen.

References:
Boston 10 Point Coalition
The Boston Miracle

Just being there and listening may be better than anything else in the long run.
A ministry of presence.
Sometimes we express ourselves most eloquently by not saying anything.

Chapter 4: I Don’t Deserve to Be Here

Impostor syndrome.
We cannot be present when we feel like a fraud.
High perfectionism is associated with impostor syndrome.
Low self-acceptance, low self-esteem, introversion.
Fear of failure is often considered the root cause.
People who have achieved something dread failure the most.
Neil Gaiman experiences this.

Chapter 5: How Powerlessness Shackles the Self (and How Power Sets It Free)

When we feel powerful we feel free, in control, un-threatened and safe. As a result we are unrestricted.
Powerlessness activists a psychological and physical inhibition system.

When deciding whether or not to do something, we focus on one of two things.

  1. Possible benefits of the action
  2. Possible costs of the action

What we focus on effects our actions.
Power makes us approach.
Powerlessness makes us avoid.
Presence is power we confer on ourselves.
Power can liberate.

Personal Power versus Social Power
Social Power is characterized by:
Ability to exert dominance.
To influence or control the behavior of others.
Earned and expressed through disproportionate control over valued resources.
Social power is limited, requires some kind of control over others.

Personal Power
Freedom from the dominance of others.
Infinite instead of zero sum.
Access to and control over limitless inner resources.
Makes us more open, optimistic and risk tolerant.
Ability to control our own states and behaviors.

If we start with personal power, we may increase our social power without trying.

Joe McGee: personal power is about having the confidence to act based on ones own beliefs, attitudes and values, and having to sense that ones actions will be effective.

Personal power allows us to shed fears and inhibitions.

Powerful people think and act in a way that leads to retention and acquisition of power.
Power can often activate at a non-conscious level.
Reflect on a time you felt powerful.
Briefly saying words that connote power like control, command and authority and make you feel present and powerful.
The feeling of power can be summoned by little nudges.

Feeling powerless impairs thought.
Powerlessness impairs planning.
Powerlessness induces goal neglect. General phenomenon of failing to remain focused on a goal, which prevents you from executing the necessary task.
Powerlessness makes us self-absorbed.

Anxiety and self-absorption are linked, they cause and feed each other.
People aren’t paying as much attention to you as you think they are.
Known as the spotlight effect.

Power seems to improve cognitive function.
Power can synchronize us. Thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Power incites action.
I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I am changing the things I cannot accept. Angela Davis.
The decisiveness of power is rooted in knowing that we will always have access to the resources we need.
The feeling of personal power is: The effortless feeling of being in control: lucid, calm and not dependent on the behavior of others.
Power can make our actions more effective.

Power effects our physiology.
Testosterone
Cortisol = the stress hormone
High testosterone and low cortisol is the optimal combination.

Personal power is infinite. It does not require us to in any way control someone else. There is no sense of scarcity about it. It can’t be taken away by someone else. Personal power becomes contagious.
And more personally powerful we feel, the more likely it is we will want to help others feel the same.
Reference to Robert Caro and his books.
Power always reveals.
Personal power brings us closer to our best selves.
If power reveals, then we can only know the truly powerful. Because only they are bold enough to show who they are, without subterfuge or apology. They have the courage and confidence to open themselves to the gaze of others.
The path to personal power is also the path to presence.

Chapter 6: Slouching, Steepling, and the Language of the Body

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Power expands our body language. Likewise our body language can influence and expand our feelings of personal power.

Amy gives example of the New Zealand “All Blacks” rugby team and the haka  they perform before each match. She calls it the ‘most extreme fearsome display of dominant body language’ she has witnessed. Forms of the haka she references include the ‘ka mate’ and ‘Kapa o Pango.’ Here is clip for reference.

 

References studies of powerful walking by Niko Troje. He has computerized demos of powerful walking here, and you can search his name on You Tube for others.

Our voices communicate power.
Powerful people make more eye contact while they are speaking.
When we feel powerful we speak more slowly and take more time, we don’t rush and aren’t afraid to pause. We feel entitled to the time we are using.
When people speak at a low pitch they are judged to be powerful by strangers.

We want power to, not power over.

Chapter 7: Surfing, Smiling, and Singing Ourselves to Happiness

At some point you just have to decide to stay on the board.
Decisions create confidence.
Bodily experiences can cause emotions.
Does smiling make us happy?
Facial feedback hypothesis.
Several scientific experiments lead them to believe that smiling does impact emotions and make a person happier.

Presence through the body.
You can think of yourself in a certain way and then take steps to bring that version of yourself into existence.
Yoga and it’s health benefits. To learn more the author recommends Yoga for Pain Relief by Kelly McGonigal.
Train yourself through breathing. Inhale quickly and exhale slowly.
Benefits of the breathing exercise.

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved optimism
  • Emotional control
  • Pain management
  • Reduced aggression and impulsive behavior
  • Improved addiction management
  • Improved work and school performance

A few deep slow breaths can change your body and mind at any time. You have access to this anywhere.

Chapter 8: The Body Shapes the Mind (So Starfish Up!)

Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. Mzya Angelou.

The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power. The kind of power that is the key to presence.

Expanding your body expands your mind and allows you to be present.
We pose in a powerless way much more often than we think.
High power poses are expansive and open.
Low power poses are constricted and clenched.
In tests performed, adopting power poses increased testosterone and decreased cortisol.

Test comparing interviewees with upright vs slumped positions.
People in powerful upright positions:
Used fewer negative and more positive words.
Used fewer first-person pronouns, such as I and me.
Talked less about themselves, reflecting less self-focused worry.
The more often people say “I” the less powerful and sure of themselves they are likely to be. (according to social studies by Eva Kasowitz, and James Pennebaker)
The high status person is looking out at the world, the low status person is looking at himself.

Powerful people speak more slowly.
Slow speech demonstrates a kind of openness.
In speaking slowly one indicates that he or she has no fear of interruption.
Speaking slowly allows us time to communicate clearly.

Expanding your body brings you to the present and improves your performance.

Your body shapes your mind, your mind shapes your behavior, and your behavior shapes your future.
Let your body tell you that you are powerful and deserving and you become more present, enthusiastic and authentically yourself.

Chapter 9: How to Pose for Presence

Notice situations and people that trigger powerless body language.
Prepare with big poses.
In the morning practice your favorite poses for a couple of minutes to start the day.
Lists specific tips on preparation before public speaking.
Stand at work instead of sitting when you can.
Consider having walking meetings instead of sitting.

Chapter 10: Self-Nudging: How Tiny Tweaks Lead to Big Changes

Sleeping on a decision often improves the quality of our decision.

Slowing down is a power move. Take your time to figure out how to respond.

Why rush to make what will probably be a poor decision? That is not boldness, it’s just reacting.
Doing nothing is doing something. Often doing nothing is better than doing something or doing the wrong thing.
Calm down and respond from a place of reason.

Presence is about

  1. Approaching your biggest challenges without dread.
  2. Executing them without anxiety.
  3. Leaving them without regret.

Nudges
Why nudges are effective:

  1. Nudges are small and require minimal psychological and physical commitment.
  2. Nudges operate via psychological shortcuts.
  3. Attitudes can follow behavior.

Individuals can nudge their own behavior towards more productive helpful habits.
Incremental changes, based on tiny nudges, will eventually lead not only to professional success, but also to confidence, comfort and improved self-efficacy, relationships, health and well-being.
Tiny tweaks with the potential to, over time, lead to big changes.

Incremental Change: Baby Steps
Book References to Mindset by Carol Dweck
Growth mindset vs fixed mindset.
Focus on the process not results.
Focus on the how not the what.

Why resolutions can be bad.
Most of the big goals we set require us to make hundreds of small changes along the way to achieve them.
Resolutions can kill intrinsic motivation.
By focusing on the outcome we ignore the process.

Improve intrinsic motivation by attaching goals to something you love. Amy’s example she attached running to travel. She likes running outdoors and exploring new places she visits on foot.

Instead of trying to change emotions from high to low, try to change from negative to positive. Example, anxiety to excitement instead of anxiety to calm.

Picture yourself 10 years in the future.
Create an age progressed image of your future self, you can do this online. Love and be kind to your future self.

What we wear can change how we see, feel, think and behave.
Change your future by slowly, incrementally changing how you interact with the present.
Power builds upon power, presence builds upon presence.

Chapter 11: Fake It Till You Become It

Chapter contains several stories and testimonies from people that have listened to her TED talk.

The ideal effect of presence. You execute with comfortable confidence and synchrony and leave with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, regardless of the measurable outcome.

Olympic swimming coach told his athletes to physically behave as if they had already won the events prior to the races. [this reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attitude and behavior before body building competitions]

A horse trainer used the power pose body language test on one of her horses and it worked.

Feel strong enough to be compassionate to people that wrong you.

Begin to be now what you will be hereafter. -William James

Here is her TED Talk on YouTube that the book is based on.

My Action Steps After Reading

  • Slowing down and taking my time more often.
  • Power posing when needed for confidence and presence.

Related Book Summaries

Hope you enjoyed this and got value from my notes.
This is the 7th book read in my 2019 reading list.
Here is a list of my book summaries.

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