HOLD YOUR SPACE

bout it. You can’t calm a small child if you’re checking your cell phone. You can’t train a dog or a horse if you’re worrying about what your boss said this morning. And if a three-year-old and a member of a different species can tell whether you’re engaged, a fellow adult from a different cultural background surely can.

In addition, empathy, which is increasingly recognized as an essential leadership skill, depends on your ability to be present for another person. Research demonstrates that you feel empathy when you are attending to another person so closely that your neural pathways start mirroring one another’s. Empathic behavior therefore depends on your capacity to show up fully. When you’re distracted, you can neither feel nor project empathy.

New research cited by Susan David in her recent book Emotional Agility demonstrates another benefit of presence for women. She notes that, although women often struggle to be heard, they in fact receive as much attention as men when speaking in public if (and only if) they are perceived as being fully present. Being present also has the effect of making women seem more credible and authoritative. This powerful finding adds to the evidence that the ability to rest in the moment and hold your space is vital for women seeking to project leadership presence.

The capacity to be present requires freeing your attention so you can show up where you are. And because of the special challenges as well as the specific benefits described above, the ability to do so can be especially valuable for women.

tant to realize that, while multitasking feels efficient, it always comes with a cost. For the fact is that doing two things at once makes it impossible to be present for either because your attention is by definition fragmented. And fragmented attention is a highly effective minimizer.

Multitasking is also the quickest route to mental exhaustion, the true source of which is not being busy but the strain you put on your brain when you do two things at once. By contrast, research into meditation and other mindfulness practices shows that the most powerful way to reenergize and refresh yourself is by focusing your attention on one thing instead of permitting it to bounce all over.

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