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Change the way you “show up” at work with these three tips

Learn how to leverage biodynamic dialogue, attention and empathy to change the way you show up at work.
Stefania Montagna

Stefania Montagna

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Have you also run into the mistake of focusing too much on “doing your job,” and not enough on how you’re showing up at work?

I have. It happened years ago, and I realised that just because my manager graciously told me that my performance was good but for one aspect: I lacked presence.

His words flew over my head as though he’d been speaking Finnish. I had no idea what he meant.

The company had internal documents to clarify all the right ways to “show up at work,” including such descriptions as “Effective at communicating,” or “Able to adapt one’s communication style to the target audience“.

“I am effective at communicating,” I wanted to reply back, puzzled, deceived and confused.

After all, I felt like I was showing up at work plenty: I was committed; I worked a lot; I was beating my targets. True, I tended to get defensive when I had to present my business plan for the year and sometimes, I realized, I came across too aggressively. I would occasionally try and make a point that nobody else would dare to raise—even though it was getting talked about a lot in the corridors.

But still, the feedback wasn’t helpful, cause I had no idea how to go about taking a different stance or showing up at work in a different way.

I needed to grow and develop, but my efforts to do so were frankly ill-placed. My focus was with-out, where it should have been within.

In this article, I will share three essential tools and techniques that, eventually, allowed me to learn how to show up at work in a way that was not only different but impactful and that supported me to create deeper and better relationships—at work and beyond.

Coach yourself to leverage these tools and techniques and gradually witness yourself showing up at work in a new way.

Develop your ability to show up at work by developing your listening skills

Biodynamic dialogue is a healing and psychotherapeutic technique that first emerged in the realm of Biodynamic therapy. The latter was developed by Norwegian psychotherapist, clinical psychologist, and physiotherapist Gerda Boyesen (1922-2005) and inspired by the work of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich.

Biodynamic therapy rests on the theory that life energy, in a healthy body, flows naturally. However, life experiences—both inner and outer—can alter such flow, causing both physical and psychological symptoms.

So much of our interpretation of the world gets filtered by our life experiences. Meanwhile, what we communicate is impacted by our own filter and the way it is received by others around us.

What, then, if we could remove the filter?

Learning to show up at work by removing the filter

Practicing biodynamic dialogue is one way of attempting, however so subtly, to remove that filter.

The practice consists in listening deeply to what another is saying, not with a goal of answering back, but with the intention of relating back to another—or ourselves—exactly what we are hearing.

Biodynamic dialogue:

the art of listening deeply to what someone else is saying, not with a goal of answering back, but in order to relate back to them exactly what they have said.

This allows you to show up in an entirely different way, because it helps you to focus on what’s being said, rather than, say, what you’re contributing. It moves the focus from being defensive, to being collaborative. It’s easy to get the impression that success at work depends solely on your inputs, but being a great sounding board can make you more of a team player than crushing your targets. Crucially, developing the reputation of a great listener makes you appear as someone who’s showing up in the workplace as an executive, rather than as an employee.

This is easier to understand if you think of frequencies. Some days you wake up on the frequency of happiness. The sun is shining and you feel light and inspired. Other days, not so much. Maybe you’ve heard something the night before that has bothered you. Maybe you have an upcoming project that is making you anxious. You might find yourself tuning in to any of these frequencies: 

  • Nobody around me can see the great work that I am doing.
  • Life is fundamentally unfair.
  • If only I had the same circumstances as X, I would be… (Fill in the blanks)
  • If only my parents/my boss/my husband had been different, I would have become/been (happier, healthier, less angry, etc.)

You’ll notice that none of these frequencies is particularly empowering. And yet, underneath each and every one of them, there hides a need. That need can be to be seen, to be heard, or to see the gifts you have received that might not feel like such great gifts (yet).

Practicing biodynamic dialogue helps you create detachment from such destructive frequencies, at the same time as it allows you to be there in an entirely new way for others who might find themselves with a problem at hand that needs to be spoken out, before it can be solved.

How to practice biodynamic dialogue to learn to show up at work in new ways

To practice biodynamic dialogue, invite a friend or colleague to speak freely for about 20 minutes about what’s going on in their life (No questions and no interruptions!)

Then, gently tell them what you’ve heard them say. The key is for you not to interpret what they’ve said, but rather to repeat back exactly what they’ve said. Most likely, they’ll end up feeling very grateful. They might suddenly hear, amidst your words, what they’ve been thinking all along but might not have been ready to acknowledge.

If your colleague or friend is willing, you can then switch.

When practiced over a period of time (Once a week for several months), this exercise will transform the way you relate. You’ll find yourself listening deeply, and therefore be the person that’s showing up, at work and in life, in refreshingly new ways.

Photo by Jarosław Głogowski on Unsplash

Don’t have a colleague or friend that’ll join you?

Do this by yourself, by write down your thoughts unrestrained in your morning journal.

This technique, popularized by Julia Cameron, involves stream-of-consciousness journaling, i.e., writing down all of your thoughts without filtering. The recommendation, as the author shared in The Artist’s Way, is to handwritewrite at least three whole pages, or to keep writing for half an hour.

Do this on the regular to understand the frequencies you’re often connected to. But don’t judge yourself. The goal is to listen and become aware, so that you can transform your presence: at work and in life.

What “feeling the field” has to do with showing up

We live in a society that’s so fast-paced, it seems we seldom have the energy (Or the time!) to stop and feel.

But epigenetics shows us that it is precisely our ability to feel that allows for our survival.

As Bruce Lipton wrote in “The biology of belief,” the reason why multicellular organisms developed was precisely to team up in order to feel more. And, as Stefano Mancuso writes in “The Genius of plants,” there’s evidence that plants have distributed their ability to perceive across all of their organs to increase their chances of survival.

We, as the human species, seem to be going in the opposite direction.

Perhaps it’s because we rely on tools so much.

But the truth is, it’s also personal. Maybe you’ve grown up in a culture that invites the suppression of feelings (Typical of Northern Europe, for instance). Perhaps you’re the child of a culture where oversharing is the norm, but not with a few of actually listening. In Italy, for example, the culture I’ve grown up in, complaining is tantamount to a national sport, but it’s not about feeling at all. Instead, complaining deals with teaming up, with creating alliances.

If you’ve been affected by trauma, including early childhood and attachment trauma, you may have learned to suppress your feelings as a coping mechanism.

Whatever the reason, listening to the field is an ability we might have to train. And it starts with observing what’s going on.

Need help to start observing what’s going on? Check out 7-questions-guide to help you reflect on how you’re showing up right now and what’s stopping you

Improve the way you show up at work by taking note of your surroundings

There are lots of ways to enhance your ability to feel the field, yet all require paying attention.

Attention, etymologically, means “tending towards,” and that’s exactly your invitation: tend to what the environment is offering you.

To start with a simple exercise, commit for a week to observe what you feel in the room at the start and end of each meeting (You can also do this with a virtual room).

Observe how you feel before and after. If you have the time, take notes. Do this, as much as you can, without judgment. Then ask yourself:

  • What energy or frequency am I contributing?
  • Am I empowering the field?
  • Is this field empowering me to be at my best? Why? Why not?
  • How are people showing up?
  • How am I showing up? What’s the archetype I’m inhabiting?

Reflect back on a field that you found particularly empowering: what made it so?

Show up at work in a new way by taking note of what’s arising

After you’ve tried the above exercise for a week, try and take mental notes of the energies and inputs that you receive.

For example, what if somebody tells you about reishi in the morning, and when you turn on the radio, there they are again—Reishi being the topic of conversation?

Reflect: What are reishi telling you about yourself? Are you…

  • Skeptical?
  • Interested?
  • Annoyed by all the hype around health and food?
  • Or maybe you’re feeling suspicious?

Tell yourself that Reishis, just like anything else, are a totally neutral topic. But your own filter is coloring the way you see them.

What’s the filter you’re looking through? How is is affecting the way you’re showing up, at work and otherwise? Why?

“Like me” — developing presence by developing empathy

This is a great exercise to practice if you feel that you’re struggling to meet others at the same level as you are.

if you’re anything like me, you might find yourself placing others on a pedestal (e.g., Sasha feels so much better in her skin than I do, this is why she got promoted!), or down below (e.g., But of course I can’t trust Dory to do my accounting: she’s never going to be as precise with numbers as I am!)

Sometimes, what we might be putting on a pedestal is a certain level of ambition, and therefore, others who embody that ambition. But the opposite also applies: we might put down a certain way of seeing the world, a particular need that we have, a certain way we’ve been—a given way someone else is.

To use a more prosaic image, we might look down at pee, but the water we drink today was likely a dinosaur’s pee a million years ago. And that doesn’t make it less than. In fact, it’s the one thing that can make us feel connected to the very origin of life.

Whatever the rationale, as Matthew McConaughey shares in an interview with Tim Ferriss, putting the world on a pedestal or down doesn’t allow us to see it as it really is. Instead, we must bring things at eye level. It is at that level that the “I” meets the “We”, and that we can meet the world. 

And that’s where “Like Me” shows its power: as a wonderful formula to bring yourself back to eye level and show up as an equal. 

Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

“Like me” then, is a formula to bring yourself back to eye level, to the idea that everything is on the same level.

Changing the way you show up at work by setting yourself on the same level as everyone else

To bring this practice to life, bring to mind someone you either tend to put on a pedestal or down. It could be a difficult client, a manager that’s very senior to you, someone who you find intimidating, or even somebody you have a crush on. Then silently repeat in your head some of these sentences:

  • This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me
  • This person has a body and mind, just like me
  • This person has experienced pain and suffering in their life, just like me
  • This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me
  • This person wishes to be free from suffering, just like me
  • This person wishes to be happy and loved, just like me

Repeat this exercise over a few days, and observe your interactions with this person.

Are they changed?

If so, how?

Developing presence — In summary

To learn and show up in a new way is a practice and takes time.

It starts with developing self-awareness, listening skills and an ability to tune in with the world around you.

If you need support or would like further inputs, consider booking a discovery call.

I’ll be delighted to support you in this journey!


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