The People Factor: It’s All About Energy

by | Collaboration

Editor’s Note: Today’s brilliant feature is a guest article by Sarah Kathleen Peck of It Starts With.

Ever been at a party and felt like you were completely exhausted? That you couldn’t stand to keep your eyes open for another minute, even though it was supposed to be an amazing party?

Likewise, have you ever stayed up almost all night, focused and driven, surrounded by brilliant people and creative ideas?

Energy comes in limited quantities. It is finite, it waxes and wanes, and it grows or diminishes based on what you are doing and who you are surrounded with. What dictates our energy? How do we capture these spaces that help us be amazing, and remove the events and things that deplete our energy?

There are people, places and things that make me feel like I’m building my energy stores, that rejuvenate me, and help me to do my best work. Likewise, there are also people and places that zap my energy; that leave me exhausted; that make me feel as though I’ve waste my time and my energy – and my day – without getting anything useful done.

While brainstorming in a coffee shop with a dear friend, we both asked each other how to deal with these different personality types as they come into our lives. People are exceptional – they are our number one resource – but not all people are helpful at any given project or time.

How do you make decisions about how you spend your time – and who you hang out with? And more importantly, how do you say no to people and things that zap your energy reserves?

Together, we made a map of the different types of people in our lives, and agreed that we would consciously try to say no to hanging out with people that didn’t help us in our long-term goals – or in our energy management.

This system isn’t just about eliminating “Negative Nancys” and “Debbie Downers” (although every effort should be made to reduce their presence in your life).

Understanding how people affect you means that you can do a better job matching what you need at any given moment to what your energy requires. Sometimes I don’t need to be around excited people. Sometimes I just need another balanced philosopher to do and create my best work.

And sometimes I need to be more judicious about reducing the time I spend with people who don’t match my energy.

On the energy spectrum, here are the ranges of personality types – from high, positive energy, to balanced and stable individuals, to strong negative energy.

Do you identify with any of the following energy personality types? How do you bring these different personas into your world? And do you pay attention to how people make you feel?

The Positives

  • Buzzers. These are my excited electrons. People who are so thrilled to be around other people and in the world, talking with them is like getting a burst of inspiration. When I wake up in the morning, a phone call with them is better than coffee. They are my muses, my inspirations, my creatives. Like coffee, however, I can’t drink it nonstop each day – so they are better in quantifiable bursts.
  • Happys. Generally positive, seem to be happy almost all the time. People you would skip with, laugh with, enjoy being with. I have lots of these in my life. They aren’t as physically excited as the Buzzers, but they are generally happy and have a positive attitude about most things.
  • Wonder Listeners. People who can hear what you are saying without you saying it; who seem to listen to you with both their bodies and their ears, and who exude a positive radiance without necessarily saying or doing anything, are your Wonder Listeners. After hanging out with one of these, I leave feeling happy, excited, and inspired.
  • Coaches and Mentors. These are people who seem to have endless stores of hope and inspiration designed just for you. People who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer and how you are doing. The coaches and mentors are usually a check-in, once a week or once a month, and they offer their advice and wisdom to you in their interactions.

The Middle Balance (Balancers and Grounders)

  • Quiet Stabilizers. People who are refreshing, rejuvenating, and inspiring without being showy or ostentatious. Someone you can sit quietly in a park with, without talking very much, and leave happier. These people don’t toot their own horn, and likely don’t know how cool they are. Yet being around them is satiating, relaxing, restorative.
  • Feedbacks. People who tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. These people can be mistakenly labeled as negatives, but they still have your best interests in heart and are actually looking out for you in the long run. Keep them around, but note the times when you aren’t up for receiving feedback and need encouragement instead – and seek them out when you need smart advice.
  • The Strugglers and Changers. There are people who are struggling, working towards change, and are sometimes frustrated or caught in-betweens. They are on their way towards becoming the person they want to be, and conversations with them are raw, open, inspiring, hard, and generally variable.These are my strongest friends, the people who open my eyes and listen to my shared experiences as well. We learn well together. To note, however, sometimes I don’t have enough energy to devote to these conversations, and it’s best to say No and save the date for another, more energetic time.


  • The Repetitives and Non-Changers. People who are stuck in a problem that you’ve listened to for years. Their complaints are the same, over and over again, and they don’t bring anything new to the table. Each time, it feels like you’re stuck in déjà-vu, because you’re still talking about how to deal with their terrible relationships, bad work situation, or general malaise. To deal with these types, tell them, politely and firmly, that you don’t want to talk about their ____ problem anymore. “I appreciate all the struggles you are having with your job situation, but I’d like to not talk about that anymore. I know you are working hard on it. Let’s focus and talk about new things when we meet.”
  • The Fakes. There are people who masquerade as positives – the words they use are cheery, they tell you what they think you want to hear; they quote inspirational things and bits. But the substance is not there. And, more importantly, you are not rejuvenated by the words or the ideas in the way you are around Quiet Wonders or Listeners or Buzzers. Some people are obviously fake; others not so obviously. At the end of the day, what’s most important is how you respond when you’re around them.
  • Negative Influences. There are people who are wonderful, interesting, bright, and creative. And yet, for some reason, I am negatively influenced when I am around them. It’s not that they themselves are bad people – it’s that I make bad choices when I’m around them. For some reason or another, hanging out with them is not conducive to my success. These are the trickiest people to identify, because there’s nothing about them that’s bad or easy to rationalize avoiding. It’s how they influence you that tells you about whether or not it’s a good person to have in your life.
  • Toxic. These are the people who make you feel like shutting down when you’re around them. The people that drain you, that zap your energy, that are filled with negativity and cutting remarks. Most of us quickly eliminate these people from our lives after just a few interactions. They are easy to spot and identify. If you still have them around, ask yourself why? What do you benefit from being with a toxic person?

In each of these scenarios, the most important thing is how each of these personality types make you feel.

It’s not about whether or not the person is a good or bad person – it’s about whether or not they are the right energy type for you.

It’s important to note that not all people can fit neatly into each of these categories – often the dynamic relationships we have with others changes depending on who is interacting and what the objectives are. Sometimes my friends are Buzzing-happy, and other times they are balanced-stabilizers.

Defining these personalities – and how you feel when you’re around different types of energy – has helped me in understanding why I leave feeling out of sorts from some interaction. In turn, it helps me decide what to do – and who I choose to spend time with – in the future.

Relationships matter. Pay attention to how the people around you are making you feel.

Which is your favorite personality type to be around?


Image credit: The author, Sarah Kathleen Peck

Sarah Kathleen Peck

Sarah Kathleen Peck

Sarah is the founder of Landscape Urbanism and writes a blog about design, business, psychology and strategy at Her work overlaps in the space between architecture, design, technology and business – during the day she works as a Communications Specialist for an international landscape architecture firm, SWA Group, in Sausalito CA.

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