Embracing the “We-Centric”: A Look at Social Energy

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“There is no doubt that the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” This very first sentence of Chapter 17 in the book “Powered by Me: From Burned Out to Fully Charged at Work and in Life”, by Neha Sangwan, left Deborah feeling a great paradox. “I felt a great sense of familiarity and at the same time, a door to my mind was kicked wide open by a new concept that had been sitting in plain sight.”

You see, that first sentence mimics one of Judith E. Glaser’s mantras. “To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of the relationships, which depends on the quality of the conversations. Everything happens through conversations.” It’s through Judith’s work that Ute and Deborah met, and Conversational Intelligence®, like Social Energy, has the ability to enhance the quality of our lives.

The concept of Social Energy was a delightful surprise to Deborah because it fits beautifully into the holistic approach of Intentional Productivity, a large portion being personal energy management. While Dr. Sangwan lays out Social Energy as the relationship within and the relationship you have with the world, as Ute and Deborah dug into the concept of Social Energy, we continued to find areas to explore on The Three Tomatoes.

We invite you along to explore this new energy tank with us. After all, we humans are social beings, hard-wired with the desire to belong. And when we are in safe spaces, and feeling connected, our energy can soar. Alternatively, when we’re over extended or affected by “energy vampires”, or when our people-pleasing tendencies dominate and we avoid saying “no”, forgetting our own boundaries, we can find ourselves exhausted. Our Social Energy tank, well, tanks!

Now, if the concept of Social Energy is new to you, too, you may be curious about what exactly Social Energy is, and how it shows up.

Before we share the definition, we invite you to consider how Social Energy feels in different situations. Tune into your body as you read the following scenarios. What do you feel and where do you feel it?

  • A loved one holds your hand or gives you a hug in the midst of a scary situation.
  • Despite your thorough preparation for a high stakes meeting, your materials can’t be used as you had imagined. (Remember Ruth from our previous article?)
  • You’ve tepidly accepted a colleague’s request and continue to remind yourself that you “should have said no”.
  • You express gratitude to someone who has positively affected your life.

Now that you’ve gotten the feel, you might think, “Wait a second, they wrote about this already in the article about the emotional energy tank!” Yes, they are both very close but slightly different. When we look at emotional energy, we are looking at ‘us’, the individual, the “I”. Whereas when we look at Social Energy, it’s how our emotional energy radiates out into the world, into the “We”. We will explain more in a later article as we take a closer look at the science. For now, here is our attempt at a definition:

Social Energy is a concept that refers to the dynamic interactions and exchanges of energy within social relationships and groups. Carl Gustav Jung said, The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. Isn’t that powerful? Now, replace the words “dynamic interactions and exchanges of energy” with the word “conversations”. Wow! Our minds have now opened to a menu of Social Energy options.

During our weekly writing meetings, we’ve enjoyed discussing how Social Energy is inextricably linked to Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Neurobiology as our close colleague, Debra Pearce-McCall, explains it. And the framework of IPNB explains several ways the “we”, (powered by Social Energy), influences multiple aspects of our embodied experience of a “me”. After all, EQ is the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of others around you.

From a science perspective, this effect is also known as “Social Baseline Theory” (Beckes and Coan, 2011). Get ready to examine and explore this theory, as we look at the many ways in which the phenomenon of Social Energy is backed up by science.

We will also reveal the growing importance of Social Energy in light of remote and hybrid work. There is a need for connection and belonging in a digital working world— a world that Ute is looking at in her doctoral research, and which is full of paradoxes. Also, in Higher Education, the notion of PALM (Peer-Assisted Learning and Mentoring), or Learning Communities, are good examples of the benefits Social Energy brings to the various areas of our lives.

Social Energy, unfortunately, is at an all-time “low” in society. The world is becoming more geographically separated and I-centric. From a Social Energy perspective, we are not learning from history. For example, when read today, a speech given by Tony Blair at the end of the 20th century eerily depicts the socio-political context of 2024!

So, let’s fill up our Social Energy tanks for our own benefit, but also for the benefit at large. As you can see, there is a lot to explore and discover in this new energy tank.

Join us as our travel companions on this journey of discovery, as we determine what is compelling to share in our next articles on Social Energy through the lenses of:

  • Science
  • Workplace and Education
  • Family and Society
  • Boundaries and Connection
  • Conversations
  • Empathy and Compassion

This list is a ‘working agenda’ for our weekly writing meetings. What stands out to you? What would you add?  Let us know in the comments or reach out to us on LinkedIn.


Deborah Goldstein is the founder of the Driven Professionals, a community driven to support the health, well-being & success potential of NYC professionals. Deborah is also the founder of Goldie’s Table Matters, providing education and entertainment to both corporate and private clients nationwide. http://drivenpros.com

Ute Franzen-Waschke

Ute Franzen-Waschke is passionate about developing people for the international workplace. Throughout her career, she has worked with her clients on co-creating environments that allow individuals, teams, and businesses to thrive, be the focus on communication, relationship, or corporate cultures. Ute is doing research on how Coaching can support wellbeing and engagement in contemporary corporate work environments. She is the author of the book “How to create a successful remote work culture”, Co-author of the book “Changing Conversations for a Changing World Vol 1 & 2”.

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