In an interview earlier this week, Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain showed difficulty in giving his opinion about President Obama’s handling of the current situation in Libya.
We all have those moments in high pressure situations in which a flurry of competing thoughts collide in our minds like a NASCAR pileup, causing us to give incomplete and unsure answers.
The big question is: How can you avoid appearing like you’re not confident in your material or yourself?
The answer: Be present.
The Problem with a Lack of Presence
I’m not sure if Mr. Cain didn’t study the Libya situation, if he didn’t form an opinion at that time, or a combination. In either case, he did not appear to be fully present with the reporters even after he took that long pause. His body language and half-completed answers showed that he was neither confident in his knowledge nor comfortable with the subject.
In his defense, he faces tough questions about a wide range of economic, social, national security, and international topics all the time. He likely travels from one media event to another and has to switch subjects quickly. As a result, his ability to immerse himself in the moment becomes crucial for his success. The start of the immersion process might only take a few minutes, as long as some type of visualization or mental preparation occurs instead of moving into an interview cold or thinking about another priority.
How To Be Fully Present
Being present means you only concern yourself with the people and situation that you are facing, nothing else. If you find being present difficult to do, you’re right. We all have a long list of work-related tasks and personal chores that need attention everyday. No one is saying that you have to walk around, fully present, 100% of the time. That’s impossible and too exhausting.
Your Presence on the Street
However, you already know how to be present in one situation — walking while reading emails on your phone. When you bump into enough people or almost get hit by a car as you cross the street with your head down, you learn to be present in those situations.
In addition, you can condition yourself to be present for 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 45-minutes during meetings and presentations. Remember this idea when you’re leading your next conference call and let everyone know that you would like their complete attention for the next 20 minutes. You will be surprised at how focused people become when they know a meeting will be short and you provide structure for the conversation.
Take the Phone-Check Challenge
You can sharpen your ability to be fully present by giving yourself an occasional phone-check challenge during meetings. In this challenge, you would set a time limit within which you do not look at your phone for emails, text messages or voicemails. Start with five minutes and then build up to ten and then fifteen minutes.
Want to increase the degree of difficulty? Take this challenge the next time you’re having dinner with family or friends. You will be amazed at how quickly you can teach yourself to be fully present by focusing for short periods of time and removing distractions. Let me know how these ideas are working for you.