I’m pleased if you’ve been attracted to my headline and perhaps reading my column for the first time. (Regular readers will know that my topics are all over the place!) A few weeks ago I had no idea what a “window of presence” was, or is. And then I went on a management training course and it was one of the items they covered. Put simply, it’s being present in the moment to deal with whatever is at hand, or mindfulness, if you prefer. I’m going to focus here on the work-related aspects although the same principles apply at home or with friends.
Most of us aren’t very good at staying within the window of presence much of the time. We get angry and frustrated, which can lead to losing our tempers and shouting at people – above the window of presence. The other possibility is that we become withdrawn and quiet, shrinking away from people – below the window of presence. My colleagues will know that I have a tendency to drop below; I would choose to be quiet rather than shouting at people and upsetting them. But neither response is helpful, the objective is to stay within the window of presence and deal with the matters at hand.
So how do we train ourselves to stay in that window as much as possible? There are many ways, some of them touchy-feely, and some that are easy and practical. You could tell the other person that you need a few minutes before you can respond. Did you know that science tells us it takes 28 minutes to recover after a significant shock to our systems? That’s quite some time in a business environment. Find a quiet space, take some deep breaths and compose yourself before going back to the task.
Or leave the office, walk around the block, thinking happier thoughts – look at the beauty of nature – appreciate something that you love and then go back. Smoke a cigarette and/or have a coffee if that’s your thing. Anything to take you away from that immediate situation, to change your point of view, restoring order so that when you go back you are in a strong mental place – within your window of presence – and you can handle the issue.
Whatever you decide to do, it takes practice. It helps me to remember that there is a window of presence and to recognise when I’m in danger of slipping out of it. That mere fact helps me to keep myself more grounded and, if you like, in the moment. Mindful. There, that word again. Try it yourself and see how you get on. There is plenty on the Internet to help, or you could just drop me a note and we can have a coffee and chat about it.
As usual, let me know if you have any particular topic you would like to see covered here.
Gary Woollacott is an executive search consultant who works for Horton International in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. He can be reached at +84 8 3910 7682 or via firstname.lastname@example.org