“Developing poise doesn’t just make you appear composed and dignified. Over time it will help you reach a state of true inner calm and contentment.” —Robyn Wahlgast
Have you ever wondered why some people hold our attention in an almost hypnotic way, even if they don’t fit conventional definitions of beauty? A man can become mesmerized by a woman who displays that special something he can’t quite name. It doesn’t matter what she weighs or how old she is or what color her hair is—she has It.
In my grandmother’s day, that special quality was called “poise” and everyone worked to develop it. Poise was considered such an important part of adulthood—separating the girls from the women—that some of us were actually sent to places called Charm School to learn how to achieve it. A related idea is that of “presence”—when someone so fully inhabits the present moment that they radiate a powerful, concentrated energy. At a party, our eyes might skip past a woman giggling and gesturing wildly to her friends, and instead focus on someone sitting quietly in a corner. A calm, centered mind is the foundation of magnetic presence.
Sadly, over time, the idea of developing poise became associated with out-dated female role models, like beauty pageant winners. Dating and relationship guides began to substitute the word “confidence” for poise, to appeal to educated, professional women. But don’t be fooled. Confidence and poise are absolutely NOT interchangeable. When a 4-year-old marches up to you and insists that today will be Opposite Day, or that from now on you MUST address her as Princess Starshine, she is displaying a boatload of confidence—but very little poise.
A client recently asked me to create a modern “charm school” lesson plan for her. She is a single mom who is actively dating. While she is confident in her career and in her parenting, she struggles to know how to attract men to her in social settings. Here are some tips I shared with her, to help her unlock an authentic, grown-up presence—the essence of Beauty Queen composure.
A poised woman is:
- She doesn’t look around the room, smiling or trying to make eye contact or wondering what others think of her. She is fully absorbed in whatever she is doing at this moment. Men will notice you more and watch you intently when you are self-contained and focused on the task at hand. This creates tension—and it can feel vulnerable or uncomfortable at first, if you’re not used to being noticed this way by men. If you look around, smile, or wave, you are breaking concentration and diluting the energy that fuels attraction, so train yourself to maintain composure and stay absorbed in what you’re doing. Let the tension build.
- There is a meditative quality to her conversation. She never “tells all” in an interview, offers unsolicited advice, or goes on and on in a boring way about her personal opinions. (Perhaps this is why everyone is eager to hear what she thinks.)
- Her feelings and thoughts are informed and considered. She doesn’t share her beliefs with just anyone. Her inner life is like a precious gift, given to those who earn her respect and trust.
- Her manner is warm and welcoming, not cool and self-conscious.
- Women have a gift for bringing others together and building community. Whether at the center of her family, the center of a professional network, or in service to an important mission, her power lies in uniting people—never dividing them with gossip or jealousy.
- Life is what it is. Sometimes we are rushed, pressured, and filled with stress. We can all work to carry our burdens as lightly as possible. Assume good intentions and act with kindness whenever you can.
When you know that you are enough just as you are, we can say you are confident. But when you come from a place that is so composed and centered that even your smallest gesture has importance—that is poise.