Writing with Presence, Part I

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An interesting observation on both leadership and writing.

Posted at Editors Only on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 4:19 PM

Aiming for presence in your confidence, communication, and subject matter.

By Peter P. Jacobi

The dictionary says “presence” has two meanings: “fact or condition of being present” and “appearance or bearing.” Both can fit into a discussion about writing, the power and significance thereof.

But consider also social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who works at Harvard and has written and recently published an already much-discussed book titled Presence, a state she says we can achieve by accessing our personal power, by applying the right body language, a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident. Such a level of control has an impact on testosterone and cortisol levels that, she argues, directly impact our chances for success.

“When we judge others, especially our leaders,” Cuddy explains, “we look first at two characteristics: how lovable they are (their warmth, communion, or trustworthiness) and how fearsome they are (their strength, agency, or competence)…. Researchers agree that they [lovability and fearsomeness] are the two primary dimensions of social judgment.” And why are these traits so important? “Because they answer two critical questions: ‘What are this person’s intentions toward me?’ and ‘Is he or she capable of acting on those intentions?'”


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