The One Thing You Must Do To Present the Best Version of You

Last spring, I was having a “30,000 foot” conversation with a friend, sharing some of our mutual leadership and relational challenges. During the exchange, he shared a statement that resonated so strongly with me that it became a personal theme, a constant reminder that underscores an ongoing obstacle in my life:

I will be where I am… wherever I am.

This simple sentence is a definition of presence, which is the ability to give people the gift of your attention, the willingness to fully engage in every encounter–at every meal, every meeting, every conversation, every day.

The older I get, the more I realize how difficult this can be for me. I suffer from a distracted and overactive mind.

In an effort to improve, as I’ve unpacked this whole issue of presence, I’ve come to realize that being present starts with listening. I know that sounds ridiculously obvious, but in an increasingly distracted culture, listening is one of the most difficult skills to consistently practice. And yet, if you are serious about building a strong personal brand by consistently presenting the best version of yourself, learning to listen–really listen–is non-negotiable.

Presence: Listening and hearing are not the same.

Listening and hearing are not the same.

How many times have you been introduced to someone, and, within minutes, or even seconds, you forget their name? (Don’t tell me I’m the only one guilty of this!) How can that happen? After all, you clearly heard the name, right? The problem was that you may have heard it, but you weren’t listening. Chances are, your focus was on yourself and the impression you were making. Or your mind was absorbed in the meeting you were preparing for, the weekend plans you were looking forward to, or something else that occupied your thoughts at that moment.

Instances like this cause people to say things like, “I’m bad with names” when the truth is, you’re simply unskilled at the discipline of listening.

Whether this example resonates with you or not, the key is to understand that listening involves more than just hearing words directed at us. Listening is an active process by which we receive, assess, and respond to what we hear–and the benefits are huge. As Mary Schaller explains in The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations:

People are often ready to listen to us only after they feel understood and heard. In a society full of folks who would rather talk than listen, people are starved for someone who is willing to move into their lives as a listener and learner. Being known as a good listener will cause you to stand out in our self-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me kind of world.

The stakes are high.

In an earlier post, I shared that today more than ever we tend to live in echo chambers where everything we pay attention to only reinforces what we already believe. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, Americans today are more polarized than perhaps any other period in our history. As a result, we are increasingly less likely to listen and learn from one another–at great potential cost to the health of our society.

In my upcoming posts, I will explore some proven skills to improve our listening, develop our sense of presence, and expand our capacity to present the best version of ourselves.

Are you listening?

How would you evaluate yourself as a listener? Are you, for example, comfortable with remembering names and noticing things? Does your mind tend to wander during conversations? Do you find it hard to concentrate in the midst of smartphones, social networking and other distractions? What would it mean to you and to the quality of your life if you could expand your sense of presence?

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    9 Responses to The One Thing You Must Do To Present the Best Version of You

    1. Keith March 2, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

      Great Blog as always Bill, our office went through “Active Listening” training about a year ago …one of the hardest and at first awkward trainings we have gone through as a staff. The hard part was repeating what the speaker was saying by first stating “what I hear you saying is….” to show the speaker you were actually listening. This also gives validation to what they were saying and a chance to clarify if need be. Keep up the Great Work.

    2. Bill Marsh Jr March 2, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

      Thanks for commenting, Keith. I went through a similar class at NMC several years ago. You’re right, the process of repeating–or paraphrasing–what was said is a challenge, but for people who consistently practice this skill, it can be powerful, especially in customer service and patient care.
      I really appreciate the feedback!
      Bill

    3. Folsom Blue March 3, 2017 at 9:28 am #

      I truly enjoy your blog, and as a person who has worked for years in customer care and in Christian service, I can wholeheartedly agree with the truth that people are starving for someone to really hear them with their heart and not with simply their ears. I, too, have made it my “mission” to be that person for as many people as I possibly can. Thank you for bringing this need to the forefront for your readers.

    4. Bill Marsh Jr March 3, 2017 at 11:24 am #

      You’re welcome, Folsom! You feedback is both convicting and encouraging as I, too, am taking a missional approach to being present with the people God places in my path every day.

      • Sherry Winstead March 4, 2017 at 8:04 am #

        I find myself doing this because of anxiety. Even though I know I do it and try to be mindful, it still happens. Looking forward to more of your blog’s.

    5. Becky March 4, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

      Great topic and the information you give regarding listening is spot on for me. I am actively practicing the art of listening and, I don’t mind telling you it is a challenge. I love learning and growing though and being willing to change so the Lord can do His perfect work in me. Thanks for the tips in your blogs 😃

      • Bill Marsh Jr March 5, 2017 at 9:29 am #

        Becky, as fellow learners on this journey to being better listeners, please feel free to share with me what you are learning so we can grow together.
        I love your comment about being a better vessel for the Lord to do His perfect work in you. What a privilege of the Christian life!

    6. christine campbell March 9, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

      Hi Bill-been wanting to comment lately-love seeing your posts. Back in 1993 or 4 (?) I had the great experience to be hired and work at the dealership. I was just doing some computer work and you guys did not know how grateful I was, what all was really going on, and how much help that job and trust was. I am so grateful for Kevin Foster, your Dad and many of you. I had to move on eventually, I needed to be with my sweet daughter who had been to hell and back with me. I was offered the job of a lifetime from you guys-and I had to search my heart for that decision and needed to focus on my girl. I celebrated 25 yrs of sobriety last January, have a Masters degree, and my sweetheart had a life of love, God, good people and was raised in Northport, a great sense of community. I did retire from the counseling field, and penned my memoirs-know that the Bill Marsh experience is in the book and part of the journey. Thank you!!
      Christine Campbell BSW MS

      • Bill Marsh Jr March 12, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

        Christine,

        Thank you for your kind words about your experience with our company. Your comments are especially meaningful to me having lost my dad 7 months ago.
        It sure sounds like your decision to leave us to care for you daughter was the right one. Congratulations on 25 years of sobriety! I’m sure you touched many lives as a counselor, thank you for sharing your memories with me.

        God Bless,

        Bill

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