On the Nature of Energy

While it may seem esoteric at first, when you think about it, we spend our lives dealing with the “energy” present in both living and inanimate objects. Since interpersonal and communication skills are vital in business, understanding how we can address energy when we encounter it is crucial to identifying the appropriate response to a given situation.

Essentially, we have four choices available to us when we encounter an opposing energy: we can seek to absorb it; we can meet it with force and seek to block it; we can deflect/redirect and release it; or we can “go with the flow” and not resist the opposing energy, but simply channel it to create a favorable outcome.

Those with a martial arts background may appreciate the physical expression of this “energy channeling,” although in our verbal and written dealings with others we must ultimately be conscious of the energy that we are facing and can apply the same basic principles that we would “out on the mat,” in the training hall, or “in the street.” So let’s briefly examine the options that we have and translate these to common business dealings to understand the ramifications of our actions.

Oftentimes, “absorbing” energy is a byproduct of being caught unawares, or having our first option fail. While it is possible to train the body, for example, to physically absorb to one extent or another various strikes delivered by an unarmed opponent, most would agree that the notion of deliberately “absorbing” the energy of a projectile (i.e. bullet, arrow, dart, etc.) or an edged or blunt trauma weapon is an awful idea. The same is often true in our dealings with others, which even if not physically violent or threatening to our person, can have detrimental effect to our emotional and psychological state.

Clients, customers or vendors that attempt to get their way through verbal bullying and other tactics may very well expect you to simply “roll with the punches” and concede to their demands, no matter how unreasonable or outlandish, especially if they feel that they have significant leverage over you. Such leverage may take the form of threats of non-payment (or delayed payment of bills), taking their business elsewhere, or trying to wrangle additional work or products without having to pay for them. The obvious downside in “absorbing” such energy as expressed in these examples is that you run the risk of being made a doormat, and always “giving away the store” in business dealings. While compromise is a necessity in business, and we need to be flexible and allow a certain amount of “give and take,” it’s simply bad business to allow yourself to be outmaneuvered.

Meeting force with opposing force can be a viable strategy as well as a tactic, but suffers from one serious weakness; if the energy which you project is not stronger than the opposing force, your defense will be compromised and you may very well wind up absorbing the energy that you had initially hoped to block. Within the world of martial arts, many systems rely on hard blocks with arms and legs to meet incoming strikes, which leads to a tremendous “clashing” of energies and perhaps some physical pain as well to both attacker and defender. In social dealings, an example of this might be raising one’s voice and verbally escalating a heated conversation, attempting to shout down, drown out or intimidate the other party. Again, this carries certain risks, because it can add “fuel to the fire” in an already tense situation and may backfire if the other party refuses to back down.

Many traditional “internal arts” such as Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua, and Aikido, along with a number of others which blend both internal and external responses (such as a number of Chinese styles including Wing Chun) understand that a more sophisticated approach to managing energy is to deflect or redirect incoming energy so it is safely released, which in turn sets up an appropriate counter, which often has the added desirable effect of leaving the opponent off balance or vulnerable. In business, this can be an excellent response for dealing with an opposing party that is seeking to be confrontational or uncooperative; by carefully channeling their focus to other things, or finding common ground or deal points that both parties can agree upon, a tense situation can be defused and a more equitable compromise or solution may be found. This might involve psychological ploys such as using flattery or otherwise stroking the other party’s ego, but does not have to involve outright fabrication or even “lies of omission.”

Our final option is one that Aikido practitioners refer to as “blending,” or channeling the energy of the opposing force by flowing with it, and simply allowing it to travel in the direction that it is heading, albeit perhaps with some additional assistance in the form of joint locks or throws. By yielding to the energy that is projected, yet guiding it in a manner which is conducive to one’s own objectives, there is no need to expend much energy in the defense. From a social standpoint, this approach can be employed by making concessions on issues which are of lesser importance, making the other party feel that it has won a victory, in order to secure concessions or favorable terms on the issues which really matter.

Learning how to direct energy, both one’s own as well as that of another party, using the appropriate method at the appropriate time, is a skill that is innate in some, and requires focused work for many. Yet it is a skill that once developed, can make one’s relationships on a business, social and personal level far more rewarding and even less stressful.

Why not give it a try?

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