Beliefnet
Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Whether it’s a workshop I’m attending or one I’m speaking at, I notice a dynamic in where people sit. I can often tell many things about people from their choice. It can reflect your view of yourself, your level of confidence, and how serious you are about the workshop you attend. When I come to hear a speaker or panel and it’s to something that interests me strongly, I sit near the front. When it’s not of great interest, I’ll sit further back and on the end so I can leave early if I don’t like it.

When you sit near the front, you make your presence more known, if only in your mind.

Many people say they prefer to sit in the back to be more invisible, even if the event is important to them. They don’t want to be noticed. Nor are they likely to ask questions. Talking to them, it’s obvious they don’t have good self-esteem. They’re at the event and that’s enough. But walk to the front and maybe do something that gets them attention, no way!

When you don’t feel good about yourself or your confidence is low, you’re more like to stay in the back of the room, and in life.

I can get a little crazy when I’m about to speak and people are sitting all the way in the back when there are many seats still open in the front. I often joke that I don’t bite or have bad breath and encourage them to move forward. Many do, almost like they needed permission to come closer. When I was a DoorMat, I always sat in the back. I was scared of the unknown and couldn’t pinpoint what made me so uncomfortable about sitting closer to the speaker. Maybe I’d cough and people would look? Or they’d point me out or ask me to come up to demonstrate something. Goodness knows why! I just believed I had to fade into the background.

Sitting in the back at an event that’s meaningful to you can reinforce how you see your place in the world.

Not all events are meaningful. Sometimes I attend industry panels more for the networking. I sit near the back so I can more easily slip away to get more food or drink.? But if you do go to learn, consider where you situate yourself. It’s not necessary to sit in the first row, but try to be in one of the first few if you can get a seat. There are advantages in doing so:

• You’ll connect better with the speaker when you can look into his/her eyes and feel their energy.

• Even if the person has a microphone, you’ll hear them better watching them speak up close. Their presence gets the message across better.

• You’re forced to pay better attention when you sit close. This is why some people prefer the back. If this is you, ask why you’re there in the first place if you don’t want to get the most you can out of the talk.

• You’ll feel more confident having done that. Sitting up close makes you feel more a part of the presentation than straining to hear or see from the back.

• If you do have a question, it’s more comfortable to raise your hand and ask when you sit close and can see the speaker well.

Even for meetings at work, it’s good to sit somewhere that you can make direct eye contact with the person leading a meeting or discussion. Speakers like seeing people nod their head in agreement when they say something or have a reaction of some sort. That increases the connection between you. And at work, it can make a good impression when you confidently take a seat near the boss (as long as there’s no protocol for where to sit).

If you tend to sit in the back or the furthest seat from the person running a meeting, ask yourself why.

Do a mental check up and see if you can figure out the reason. What are you afraid of if you sit closer? Or do you feel you’re not worthy of sitting up front? Is it a habit created by older insecurities? Sometimes we begin doing it in school and the habit carries into adulthood without realizing it. Maybe you want to dissolve into the room because you don’t care about what’s being said. But if you do, try sitting a little closer next time and get more comfortable with moving up.

I used to sit in the back when I was a DoorMat to be invisible. I’m not even sure what worried me but it was automatic to enter a room full of people and look for a seat in the back to melt into. I felt so lousy about me that I assumed I should keep a distance from the speakers. Now I sit in one of the first few rows and get soooo much more out of hearing a talk or panel discussion than I did straining to see what was going on from the back of the room.

Think before you sit at an event where you can sit anywhere!

When I give a talk I always connect more with the people sitting closer to me. I remember years ago when I was speaking, a guy walked in late. There were seats in the back but he unabashedly walked to the front and sat in the empty seat in the first row. His confidence radiated to everyone as he owned his right to sit in the front. People flocked to him in the break. This guy went on to develop a great career. I figured he would! Even if your confidence is low, fake it as you take your seat.

Moving up to the front of the room can filter into other avenues of your life.

When I sat a few rows closer than usual I felt good to break out of my back of the room hideout. As I moved closer to the front for each event I attended, I realized how much more I enjoyed presentations when I could see the person clearly and feel his or her energy. Next time you go to hear someone speak, be a bit brazen and sit right up front. Pack a smile and you’ll find that it can be empowering!

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