TC 288: Cafe Book Club – Presence Part 3: How Presence Begets Presence

TC 288: Cafe Book Club – Presence Part 3: How Presence Begets Presence

In this week’s Cafe Book Club we focus on part 3 of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy. This chapter is titled “Stop Preaching, Start Listening: How Presence Begets Presence”. It features a very moving story of how a group of pastors were able to address very serious problems of gang violence by being fully present.

On the work of the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, co-founder of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, to help reduce gang violence in the city in the 1990s, which she discusses in her book

Jeffrey and these other young ministers decided that what they needed to do was meet [gang members] in their homes, which meant going out and walking the streets from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. And they wore their collars, but they came saying, “We don’t have answers. We want to listen.”

Stop Preaching, Start Listening

And it took a long time to earn the trust of these young people. Jeffrey said, “Before that, everything I knew about gang violence I learned on the 11 o’clock news. So I started asking questions, like, What’s it like to deal drugs? What’s it like to know that this is a short life?” As he would say, “Stop preaching and start listening.” And presence is so much about recognizing that. You don’t have all the answers. Sometimes you have to shut up and listen to be effective, to actually, truly, authentically engage in that situation, even when it’s really, really challenging to do that.

Amy Cuddy with Rev. Jeffrey at TED.

Amy Cuddy with Rev. Jeffrey Brown at TED.

“The paradox of listening is that by relinquishing power — the temporary power of speaking, asserting, knowing — we become more powerful.”

TED talk by Rev. Jeffrey Brown, a Baptist minister and key player in the “Boston miracle” that lowered the rate of youth crime and gang violence. His story is featured in this chapter.


Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. – Simone Weil

During the discussion, Robin mentions a book by Mark Nepo, one of her favorite authors, called Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred.

Using Presence to Negotiate Peace

William UryAnother individual featured in this chapter is William Ury, author of Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents, and Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Ury is cofounder of the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP), with a mission to improve the theory, teaching, and practice of negotiation and dispute resolution, so that people could deal more constructively with conflicts ranging from the interpersonal to the international.

In this episode Amy suggests an exercise to reflect on someone in your life that has demonstrated being present by really listening. It could be a teacher, coworker, family member, clergy, anyone that has made you feel that you were being heard. Share your thoughts about this topic by leaving a comment.

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