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What does it mean to offer quality presence?

Has your partner ever asked you to be more present?  While you may not have quite known how to be more present, you likely have experienced someone who was completely present with you and noticed how it met your needs for being seen, connection, support, and more.  Offering quality presence meets many needs in any relationship, and it's especially critical in intimate relationship.  "Being more present" isn't an act of will power, it is learned and developed. Let's look at some of the key elements that help with being able to offer quality presence.



One of the most obvious elements of presence is giving someone your conscious attention.  But to really offer quality presence there are three aspects of attention to name.  First, allow your attention to be relaxed and rest gently in the interaction.  When you are tense and giving your attention with willpower, it may seem like you are just waiting for your turn to talk.  Relaxed attention allows your energy to be expansive, which creates a large space in which the interaction can land.


In addition, it's not about giving all of your attention to the other person.  A big part of what creates a sense of presence, is that you hold some of your attention in your own center.  This might mean noticing your breath as you listen, or it might mean literally noticing the center of your body (that place between your belly button and pubic bone and between the back and front).  Centering your attention in this way makes you less vulnerable to reactivity.


Lastly, presence usually involves attending with your heart.  This means you are compassionately attending to the other person's experience rather than getting caught up in the details of what they are saying.  Here are some common signs that you are caught in the details:

·      You have to know what happened next or how it ended as though you are watching a TV drama.

·      You are asking investigative questions trying to figure out how or why something happened.

·      You are giving your opinion, and agreeing or disagreeing.

·      You are giving advice imagining you have to fix something.

·      You are jumping in with your own story of how something similar happened to you.


Attending with your heart means getting curious about someone's experience in the moment, feelings, needs, thoughts, etc.




You can't offer quality presence from a sense of threat.  If you don't trust yourself to take care of your own needs, you may have at least a background sense of threat. When you consistently tend to your own needs in harmony with others, you develop self-trust.  This refers to creating life structures that consistently support you, as well as self-care in the moment you are offering presence.  In the moment, you trust yourself to interrupt when your needs aren't met.  For example, you are willing to say you are tired and need rest or you are willing to interrupt when someone doesn't meet your need for respect.  Essentially, you know that you have the power to choose to offer your presence or not in any given moment.



Resolution of Internal Conflict

The more you attend to and resolve internal conflict, the more quality presence you can offer.  You can think about resolving internal conflict in at least two ways.  First, there is the daily level of internal conflict that arises from internal judgments, "should's", aversions, clinging, etc.  For example, let's say you are running late for work and really value the sense of dependability that comes with being on time. Taking even a few seconds to feel the grief of arriving late (rather than thinking about how you should have gotten up earlier) can help with acceptance of the situation and lessen a sense of internal conflict.


Second, unhealed wounding from the past not only creates a sense of internal conflict, but also requires a lot of energy to manage.  The journey towards wholeness needs your consistent attention.  As you heal and move towards integrated wholeness, you will have more energy available for all of life, including offering quality presence.




Holding still isn't the same as the stillness that comes with quality presence.  A relaxed stillness is the natural result of the three elements named above and can be developed in specific ways.  For example, several times a day you could invite your muscles to release and relax wherever you typically hold tension, or you could pause frequently and rest in the present moment by focusing on your breath, listening to sounds, or noticing the sky.  Or you might make a habit of responding to urgency and rushing by reciting mantras to yourself like;  "I can only do what's in front of me," "One thing at a time,"  "Tensing up won't get me there faster."


This might seem a lengthy list of potential practices.  The important thing here is not to do all of them, but rather to notice what you feel drawn to or maybe what you are already doing and would like to focus on more.



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8 Responses

  1. Jun 01, 2016
    David Parker

    Marvelous! What a fine gift we can give each other. Thanks again for your clear instructions, LaShelle.

  2. Jun 01, 2016

    Thanks, LaShelle. This will help me to implement Covey's seek to understand before responding principle. Mr Covey eschewed technique posturing, etc. in favor of a genuine listening and connectedness with the respondent during interactions. The tuning in steps you have suggested here should help achieve open minded listening to the messages of those who have come to us for assistance. We help people in their work and career training goals. We need to really listen to those customers before unpacking solutions they might choose from.

  3. Jun 01, 2016
    Carolyn Scott

    This was so relevant to my experience at this time. Thank you so much. My personal counselor, Amy Piper @ SoulWalk sent this to me after our session today. Many of my feelings were clarified and put in perspective after reading your writings. Thank you again, Carolyn.

  4. Jun 04, 2016

    Thanks David!

  5. Jun 11, 2016

    "If you don't trust yourself to take care of your own needs, you may have at least a background sense of threat."

    This explains with deep clarity one reason I often feel threatened in human interactions. Building trust with myself quiets my reactivity.

  6. Jun 13, 2016

    I have been integrating NVC for 11 years now and just got a new insight reading your post. The notion of how to be both inward and outward focused at the same time is so challenging. For me it has been one or the other. Your writing about Presence - holding a part of yourself to attune to your own center.

    I also resonate with, "Centering your attention in this way makes you less vulnerable to reactivity." The importance of noticing getting caught in the details and reacting to them as well as healing the internal conflicts of past disconnections/traumas. And the part about Self Trust and Stillness.

    It is a lot, what you describe as our path to awareness, to Presence and yet I feel there is nothing more important.

  7. Jun 15, 2016

    Glad, this helps clarify.

  8. Jun 15, 2016

    Allison, I smile reading your words, "I feel there is nothing more important", meet my need for community and comraderie on this path.

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