The Secret to Having a Commanding Presence

You know him when you see him - he's the guy everyone notices when he takes his first three steps into a room. A natural leader. Is it witchcraft, or perhaps just a combination of simple body language tricks you yourself can master.

How does “that” guy do it? When your boss assigns a team project everyone seems to subconsciously recognize him as the leader no matter what he does. At the bar after work, he barely makes it through half of his first drink before the girl you wanted to talk to is giggling at his jokes. I bet he was always the first one picked in 2nd grade kickball, too.

What does “that” guy have that you don’t? What’s his secret? Presence.

Our culture has advanced a great deal, but we are still often guided by our most primal instincts. Our highly developed brains are directed by the same instincts that guided the Cro-Magnon. A confident, powerful presence becomes the “big club” of the modern day caveman.

Nothing can ever take the place of presence. The world is simply a reflection of the energy we put out from within. Consider the fact that it is impossible for someone to know your history at first glance. You don’t walk around with a resume taped to your chest announcing your finer points to the world. People are drawn and respond to the physical energy you display. We analyze your “visual resume” to form an opinion of you within about 3 seconds of first meeting. Everything you say and do from this point is judged on the basis of that 3-second opinion. It’s not a question of rather that is right or wrong. It’s a fact of life we must learn to work with.

We are constantly under scrutiny. If you can’t deal with that fact, you will most likely spend the rest of your life locked in your house watching daytime television. Job interviews, dates, coworkers, waiters, etc., all will deal with you according to the type of presence you have in the situation. Savvy marketers have used this truth to sell products with the “status symbol” and “dress to impress” theories. There is a great degree of importance to how you look, but we’re going to concentrate on the importance of how you present your physical body.

Posture

How come the President never leans back during the State of the Union address as he does in casual conversation? The reason is that a tall, erect posture displays self-confidence, which allows others to be confident in you. Information received from a slouched, downward-looking presenter is automatically assumed to be incorrect. Whether you’re selling insurance, asking for a discount, or convincing her she wants to give you her number, you must present a confident, convincing posture.

Keep your feet shoulder width apart in a grounded stance, hold your shoulders back, and keep your back straight. This presents a confidence that leads people to trust you, subconsciously admire you, and begin to agree with whatever it is you have to say. Take notice of how you stand in your next presentation or conversation. Practice the skill of straight posture until it becomes a natural part of your presence.

Eye Contact

The eyes are the windows to the soul. We’ve all heard that one. Like most poetic statements, there is some truth in it that can be applied to daily life. When you speak to people, they search your face for your real motives. Western culture has accepted that direct eye contact is a sign of confidence and truth. When you look others in the eye while speaking, it gives a sense of absolute certainty to whatever you are saying. Presenting yourself in this way draws people in to trust you and view you as an authority on what it is you’re discussing.

There are some situations in life when a man must show strength. You can take a cue from the animal world and see the power of looking an opponent directly in the eye. A strong powerful stare can do more to control a situation than any sharp statement you can think of. Richard Nixon was said to have had a piercing, unbreakable glance when displeased that would cause top White House staff and politicians to drop their heads.

When you sense an argument or confrontation, look the other person straight in the eye focusing on the iris. Hold your stare with a commitment that the other individual will look away first. Most people are uncomfortable with direct eye contact and if you master this ability you will develop a powerful presence. (Note: Save this exercise for the right environments. Nightclubs, New York subways, or MMA fights are not good places to practice “the stare down.”)

When you make direct eye contact while listening, you show a respect, interest, and concern that people appreciate. You’ll be amazed at how simply looking your boss directly in the eye during his next super-boring planning meeting will cause him to see you as a smart, fast-rising, focused executive. If you can look your girlfriend intensely in the eye while she goes on about her friend at work, you’ll become the sensitive, interested, good listener she wants.

Body Movement

How you move your body is a reflection of your thoughts. No one can read your mind. Yet, what makes them ask, “What’s wrong?” Your body tells exactly what’s going on in your head. To have a strong, positive presence you need to monitor your thoughts. When you put yourself into and keep a positive state of mind you will move with freedom and confidence.

Consider Kennedy’s smiling youthful style compared to Nixon’s serious tight-shouldered demeanor, or Obama’s smooth, bouncy stride versus McCain’s rigid military marching style. Both are examples of the nation’s support for a younger, less-experienced candidate due in part to their presence.

Despite the pressures you may face, focus on a positive thought when you walk into a room or meet someone new to create positive motion and presence.

Don’t let weaknesses in your presence limit your success. You can be an intelligent, skilled individual that misses an opportunity due to an inability to show confidence in an interview. Many kind, sensitive, guys never get the girl because they can’t even look her in the eye.

It’s the way of the world. You wouldn’t go into a restaurant with garbage spilled at the front door would you? It may have 5-star food and service, but you would never venture in to find out. People won’t see the good qualities in you without a positive presence. Put the work in to present yourself as you wish to be viewed by the world and all will treat you accordingly.

What do you think? Do you have any techniques for creating a dynamic presence?

Antwan McLean is an author, speaker, life coach, and modern Renaissance Man. He shares the wisdom of old in a way you don’t have to wait until you’re 40 to understand. You can find him on Twitter @froma2z and check out his newest book, “Your Greater Self: An A-Z Guide to Becoming the Person You Most Admire” on Amazon.com.