The Art of Presence
Dramatic Resources at the National Gallery London
Wellness continues to be a huge buzzword, as businesses explore their role in helping employees stay happy and healthy.
Research from McKinsey shows that simply installing healthy food stations and encouraging people to exercise, doesn’t cut it. To quote from the article; “You can’t address wellness with exercise programs and then treat people like crap.”
This made us think about what role our communication skills training can play in answering the question of wellness at work. The emerging research says that when you look at people as human beings, they respond with higher performance. By investing in peoples’ confidence, ability to deal with pressure, and how they engage and interact with each other, it stands to reason that this would contribute to a happier way of working.
We had the opportunity to try some of these ideas out, in collaboration with the National Gallery in London. The links became clear as we planned our morning taster session, with so many shared ideas particularly around the idea of presence and being present, and how this contributes to wellness.
Some early morning yoga among the old masters was a first for all of us and set the tone for the rest of the morning. Simply being in the hushed gallery before it opened helped focus the mind and shut out the noise and distractions of the outside world.
DR Director Richard Hahlo built on the idea of presence in his session, exploring how small shifts in behaviour can have a huge impact on how our presence is perceived by others, and how present they feel we are with them. In just half an hour, we saw how peoples’ ‘level of presence’ could go from a 3/10 to an 8/10 – skills they can take back into the workplace and feedback which gives that all important feeling of confidence and self-belief.
Karly Allen, an Art Historian and Mindfulness practitioner, took participants on a different sort of journey; walking through the rooms of the gallery in silence until eventually taking a seat in front of Holbein’s The Ambassadors. Taking time to connect to breath, slowing down the mind, she brought everyone to a place where they were truly present with the work in front of them. Putting aside the history and meaning of the painting, by looking at one object, it was possible to remain present and return focus as the mind inevitably drifts.
Both Karly and Richard emphasised the importance of practice when developing personal presence and the ability to be present in the moment. This is not easy, and requires work and techniques that we don’t always use. You need the space and time to rehearse and reflect on your own confidence, which will allow you to engage in a positive way with others, even in the pressurised world of work. But they are inherently human skills; vital in becoming the best version of yourself – and bringing this to the workplace.