Not long ago, a client and I were visiting when the meeting changed from a review to a deeply meaningful connection that changed both the content and texture of our relationship. What began as a business conversation faded into the background as she shared with me challenges brought on by her aging father whose fierce independence had all but shut her out. Her father—in his nineties—and his only child—my client—faced an impending communication and resource crisis that had left this 70-year-old daughter feeling isolated, helpless, and afraid.
What would you have done? How do we respond when a conversation descends to an anxious place touching terror? When others are losing their composure, how do we keep ours and be for them a source of strength and hope?
At the core of an effective advisory practice is the awareness that who we are as professionals hinges on our commitment to being present to and with those we serve. The shallowest definition of presence is occupying the same space with another—same room, same time. Transforming presence, however, is of another species altogether. This higher reality finds us listening with heart and compassion knowing our inner self is anchored to a rock that does not move when the world tilts.
Mental health specialists call this being a “non-anxious presence,” meaning “an inner calm in the face of difficulty.” What moments cry out for such a posture?
- A caller whose voice is so hot, your handset heats up
- A client who’s experiencing the numbness that comes with grief
- A colleague weighed down with uncommon anxiety
- A spouse whose job is taking all the joy from his or her soul
- Any circumstance when fear would shout down hope
What if, even before we turn on the lights in our office every morning, we made a pact with ourselves to be a non-anxious presence not for a day, but for the first hour of the day, one second at a time?
In those seasons of life when chaos would rule, and common sense cowers (maybe like 2018), we who have that little “advisor” word on our business cards must be anchored to a rock that does not move. Thirty years of pastoral experience, tinged with more human pain than I care to remember, taught me that a calm centered-ness that leans into life’s howling wind is the one gift above all others I often gave those I served. It was not the one-liner or imagined wisdom, but rather a quiet, non-anxious presence that connected and helped.
Our clients look to us to guide them into a preferred, purposeful future. Their greatest need, however, is for us to be in their lives what others cannot or will not be. Start becoming a “non-anxious presence” one hour at a time and watch how “the business” moves to a more ennobling place that changes you and the men and women you serve.