Thursday, February 3, 2011

Presence, Charisma, and Charm

There are 3 levels of presence.

At level 1 presence, we give out very little energy. Energy flows from others to us. We sap energy from others. We are withdrawn like a tortoise retreated into its shell. When we are at level 1 presence, people find interacting with us draining, and may avoid us or simply leave us alone. Examples of level 1 presence behaviours are:

• Withdrawing from people, feelings, ideas, challenges
• People leave you alone, and you are comfortable with that
• People do not notice you
• You are not attentive to your surroundings
• You are not alert to what is happening around you
• You use cloths to hide from attention – you use cloths like the way a tortoise use its shell
• Your audience find interacting with you draining
• You don’t speak, or rather not speak
• Sometimes you wish you could just disappear.

At level 3 presence, we give out a lot of energy but block energy from others. We broadcast about ourselves to unspecified audiences, but do not listen. We try to perform and impress rather than communicate. At level 3 presence, we are hungry for attention – peacocking behaviour. At level 3, we try to influence the audience through pressure or force. Examples of level 3 presence behaviours are:

• You wear cloths that scream loudly for attention - you use cloths like the way a peacock uses its feathers
• You don't pay attention to your audience - it's all about you
• You dominate discussions even when you have little knowledge of the topic
• You dominate discussions even when you heard only a fragment of the discussion
• Always feel internal pressure to inject life into any party or meeting
• You are afraid that people may leave you alone, hence the urge to “perform”
• Your audience eventually find interacting with you tiresome
• You don’t listen when others speak, you are only waiting for your turn to speak

There is little connection between you and your audience. People may initially be impressed by your performance but they will tire after a while from the lack of connection. The audience tend to eventually withdraw from people with level 3 presence, hence you tend to go searching for new audiences or pontificate to a captive audience.

At level 2 presence, we are connected with the other – we give and receive energy. We energized others and are energized by them at the same time. The energy flow is 2 way. At level 2 presence, the connection is transformational. Your energy influences your audience and your audience’s energy influences you. Your audience find interacting with you uplifting. Examples of level 2 presence behaviours are:

• You are aware of how your verbal and non-verbal communication is affecting your audience
• You notice details in your audience – what their eyes, faces, gestures, breathing are saying
• You are able to sense your audience’s moods, concerns, hot buttons
• You listen actively and is non-judgmental

We are all born with level 2 presence, that’s why babies and toddlers are always so charming and attractive. We later developed preferences for one of the 3 levels of presence. Some of us become habitually at level 1 or level 3 presence, and lose our baby charm and attractiveness.

What’s the point of knowing all these? Because life’s much more meaningful and rewarding for those who “get it” i.e. operate at level 2 presence.

When we are aware of what level of presence we are at, we will know why we are connecting with our audience, or not. If we are at level 1 or 3, we need to shift to level 2.

We can use the set of rapport tools in Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) to help us connect with our audience at level 2.

We are all born with level 2 presence, and so charisma and charm are our birth right.

The first step to recover our level 2 presence is simply by being conscious of what level of presence we are at. From level 1 or 3, we can use NLP rapport tools to move to level 2 presence.

Life’s like that.


  1. Level 1 presence people are happy just recieving other's energy passively, and level 3 presence people are happy just giving to anyone happy to recieve unquestioningly. Aren't they a perfect match? - both are comfortable and have their needs meet.

  2. Yes, that does seem so but is this a meaningful relationship? Both kept their insecurities and stayed within their comfort zones. Neither is transformed or uplifted. It can certaintly be a very close relationship but perhaps not an enriching one.

  3. I am uncertain if Level 1 and Level 3 are a good match. For the time being maybe. After a while, Level 1 may find Level 3 too noisy and Level 3 may find talking to Level 1 is like bouncing a ball against the wall - meaningless.

    @Itrustican: Your description of Level 1 sounds so much like me. I hope interactions with me ain so tedious. However, one question on this post - what does this topic has to do with the Hero's journey?
    Btw, keep these posts coming. Love to read it