“The vibes are off.”, “This ain’t it fam.”, “I’m matching energies.” These are just a few phrases that young and developing professionals, regardless of profession, have integrated into their work lives. Frequently, these terms or phrases can be used to identify feelings of disconnection in personal relationships as well. Author and mental health advocate, Kira Parris-Moore (2022) shared that
“[e]nergy matching is the rhythm of how we communicate to those around us. It is kind of like the therapeutic version of mirroring but is intentional and occurs in your personal relationships. It allows for the recalibration of energy into people and the things that pour into us.”
Parris-Moore describes the act of matching energy to focus on what pours into us as individuals, however, in practice many focus on those things which do not pour into us or our development and view the concept of matching energies as a form of punishment. You aren’t pouring into me so i’m not pouring into you is the mentality. In the world of personal relationships, this may work. For example, a romantic relationship that has changed to feel more one-sided or a friendship that puts you in the driver’s seat of making plans and reaching out may benefit from some energy matching. In the context of our work in student affairs this stance or mentality when matching energies could inadvertently have impacts on our students.
For many years, the field of student affairs has focused heavily on the relational aspects of our work: advising, supervising, mentoring, teaching, leading, collaborating, etc. These are practices that we put to good use day in and day out. In order for our work to be impactful and life changing for students, we must understand how energies, vibes, and feels impact the way we work with colleagues, supervisors, and campus partners. Imagine you have a colleague that wants to collaborate on a program or initiative that would serve your target population well. At first, the ideas are like a waterfall, flowing and changing, getting deeper and wider, continuously expanding. Over the course of more conversations and planning, your colleague begins to withdraw from the planning and execution. If you follow the above mentioned way of matching energies, you are now withdrawing from the program/initiative. While the intention in this scenario was to get your colleague to take on more or hold them accountable in a non-confrontational way, the impact is that the momentum behind this (potentially) successful program is gone. This ultimately leads to not creating something for our students to grow.
Pauline, a blogger for Relationships Etcetera, wrote about how matching energies is counter productive to the work of building healthy relationships (2019). In the formation of healthy relationships, it is important to be authentic to one’s values and uphold your own integrity. This can be accomplished through emotional and mental regulation. You’re probably thinking “okay, and?” When we match energies, we are lowering our passions and drives to meet what we are perceiving from someone else, we are conditioning our own behavior to be based upon the behavior of other people rather than self-regulating.
So how do we combat these negative ideas of matching energies? When we recognize that people’s energies or vibes are a bit off from what they have traditionally been or what we hope they would be, we can engage in an authentic conversation, just like we encourage our students to do. Talk about mutual expectations with partnerships in our work and how to impact students. Rather than changing our own energies downward to match someone else’s, create the energy that you want the other person to match. Burford (2022) explained matching energies through the lens of a romantic partnership/encounter that left them hurt. Burford’s blog entitled “If You Want To Let Them Go, Match Their Energy” focuses on herself and the other person as the beneficiary of the relationship and the impacted from matched energies. If we, as professionals, continue to match energies as a way to hold others accountable or to a standard that wasn’t communicated, our students ultimately suffer.
Burford, M. (2022, March 28). If You Want To Let Them Go, Match Their Energy [blog post]. Retrieved on January 13, 2023 from https://collective.world/if-you-want-to-let-them-go-match-their-energy/
Parris-Moore, K. (2022, July 20). Energy Synchronicity: Is your energy being matched in your relationships? [blog post]. Retrieved on January 13, 2023 from https://books2inspire.com/energy-synchronicity-is-your-energy-being-matched-in-your-relationships/#:~:text=Energy%20matching%20is%20matching%20the,things%20that%20pour%20into%20us.
Pauline (2019, March 14). Stop Playing the Matching Energy Game. [blog post]. Retrieved on January 13, 2023 from https://relationshipsetcetera.com/matching-energy-game/
Author: Mark Wade currently serves as a Residence Hall Director and Title IX Investigator at Bowling Green State University and as one of the Co-Chairs for NASPA’s New Professionals and Graduate Students Steering Committee. Mark received his Master’s of Education in Student Affairs Counseling from Bridgewater State University and center’s inter- and intra-personal relationships in his practice. He believes that change in the world begins with minds and hearts through authentic conversations and emotional exploration.