I recently heard Laura Scott – a Tampa-based coach, author, and speaker – give a talk on the topic of “energy management,” which is her term for managing our energy, state-of-being, or presence of mind. During her talk, she answered three basic questions.1
What is human energy?
Laura described our state-of-being as having an either catabolic (harmful) energy or anabolic (healing) energy at any given moment in time. Catabolic energy is pessimistic, destructive, and is associated with negative emotional states like anger, worry, apathy, and powerlessness. Anabolic energy, on the other hand, is optimistic, creative, and is associated with positive emotional states like empathy, joy, and peace.
From moment to moment and situation to situation, our energy arises from our perception and is expressed through the language we use. By paying attention to linguistic cues, we can read the energy state of ourselves and others.
Different expressions of language create different feelings in the recipients of the communication. For a rather obvious example, visualize someone telling you they love you, and then visualize someone telling you they hate you— the different expressions of language incite different states of energy within you.
Why is human energy it important to conflict management?
Laura’s perspective is that, while conflict management skills are essential for effective conflict interventions, the energy of the practitioner is equally, if not more, important to the success of an intervention. As she put it, “Conflict intervention has less to do with what you are doing and more to do with who you are being [in the moment].”
The topic of human energy is import to practitioners because we are the anchors of the intervention, be it a negotiation, mediation, facilitated meeting, or coaching session. The energy we bring into those settings and the way we respond to the energy of others is critical to how effectively the problems at hand are addressed. When we stay fresh, focused, and positive during an intervention, we provide leadership to the disputants by modeling energy that is more likely to yield a successful outcome.
What can we do to manage our own energy?
Managing human energy is about maintaining equanimity, or evenness of mind, moment by moment. Laura provided several tips for managing energy:
- Always “exploit the opportunity that exists in the now to choose peace and happiness and become more intentional and masterful about who you are and what you choose to create.” Laura stressed that recognizing we have the power to choose our state of mind/being is essential to cultivating positive energy. She also noted that being aware of how catabolic energy manifests in our body is a good first step in being able to actively choose our energy. The second step is to label the emotion that is arising, then ask what you would like to do about it or how you would like to be in the moment
- Create space for healing energy by being un-phased by the negative energy surrounding us during an intervention – a task which is difficult to do but powerfully models the behavior and state of mind needed to resolve the differences at the heart of the conflict. This can be accomplished, at least in part, by setting high expectations about how you are going to be present in a situation
- Let go of judgment of yourself and others, and be the dispassionate observer of the dynamics of the room. This happens by monitoring your feelings, labeling the judgment or feeling, and analyzing that state of being through introspective questions. Non-judgment of oneself is key to maintaining energy conducive to helping others
Laura also provided so introspective questions to help with the process of analyzing our energy.
- What am I feeling? What label belongs on that feeling?
- Does this feeling serve me at this moment?
- What do I want to feel right now?
- I am feeling _________, what is happening here?
- How do I want to show up in this situation? What choices are available to me?
- How would my highest self choose to respond (or show up) to the feeling of _________ right now?
- Do I want to be the stone in the river or the water that flows around it? What attachments have I cultivated?
- Laura S. Scott, “Energy Management and Conflict,” Teleseminar hosted by the Association for Conflict Resolution Workplace Section’s Conflict Coaching Committee, Hosted on August 15, 2014.