Do you work with someone who relates better to a computer than to you?
Do you know someone who has to do everything by the book? Do those people who want to get in touch with their feelings drive you crazy? Do you find people who always look at the big picture annoying?
These four questions describe the whole brain concept, a metaphor for how our brains process information, communicate with others, learn and solve problems. It suggests that our brain processes information in different ways in our right and left brain hemispheres.
It further states that one hemisphere will dominate.
The left hemisphere prefers a logical, sequential and structured approach. A left brained person will be on time, have a plan, want just the facts and are comfortable doing it by the book. They will follow a methodical, traditional approach to problem solving. Think of an engineer.
The right hemisphere is comfortable with an impulsive, emotional or ambiguous approach. A right brained person underestimates time, likes social activities, is spontaneous, wants to get a feeling for the situation and is comfortable wandering around in search of a solution. They may see the answer to a problem in a few minutes. Think of an artist.
Here’s an example of how this gets lived out:
A left brained Jill is married to a right brained Jack. Both love to cook. When she makes spaghetti, she methodically follows the recipe, cuts portions in to exact sizes, measure spices to be added, adheres to the specified times and temperatures, and cleans as she works.
Jack, on the other hand, follows no known recipe, cuts things into various sizes, guesses on the amounts, estimates the time and temperature and the kitchen looks like a food bomb went off when he’s done.
Here’s the amazing thing both dishes are excellent! Two opposite paths produced great results.
Now imagine a left brained father with a right brained daughter. On the spur of the moment, she wants to go to the mall. He immediately wants to know where, when, how long, and how much it will cost! In short, Dad wants a feasibility study! He sees her as disorganized and not focused; she thinks he’s inflexible and uptight.
When his immovable need for order and structure meets, her irresistible desire to socialize sparks fly further damaging a strained relationship. Talk about a failure to communicate!
We just don’t understand each other. How many arguments come from not recognizing the brain language someone else speaks?
It happens at work, in marriages, with friends and in other countries. No one is immune.
I’ve seen this in schools. Teachers describe good students as those who pay attention, are organized, follow instructions, arrive on time, complete assignments and stay in their seats. They see poor students as having short attention spans, disorganized, arrive late, don’t finish assignments and fidget in their seat!
Sound familiar? Our schools are designed for the left brained, “good” student. Pity!
Whole brain concepts are not about right or wrong, good or bad, male or female.
They’re about preferred styles. They explain why we do some of the things we do.
They legitimize hunches, intuitions, dreams and flashes of inspiration that we may have passed off as irrational.
Knowing that we are all different may be the greatest use of the theory.
Here are a few things you can do to about your brain dominance.
1. Recognize your preference, right or left brained. Realize that what you say, how you interpret what you hear, what you do and how you do it is influenced by your preferences.
2. Appreciate your own uniqueness and the uniqueness of others. You are wonderfully made.
3. Look for opportunities to exercise your weaker mental muscles. If you’re more right brained, try balancing a checkbook or being on time for one whole day. If you’re more left brained, try taking a 10 minute daydreaming break or telling someone significant all the things you like about them.
A few cautions:
Avoid thinking the whole brain theory is the answer, it is not a cure all method.
Don’t cram every situation into a right brain/left brain box. People are still people. Avoid categorizing others.
A statement like “I know what’s wrong with you, you’re left brained” is dangerous. Categorizing people causes you to miss their uniqueness.
Charles Fields is a Loyal Advisor to the Habsburg Empire, Scribe of the Lost Journals, Knight of the Realm, Privateer on the Great Sea, Agent for the Allied Forces, and Keeper of the Ancient Secrets. He has traveled the world by rail, ship, plane, and goat cart, been to the headwaters of Willimantic River, watched the sun rise on Victoria Peak, fought pirates in the South China Seas, converted a large fortune into a small one, led men into dinner with everything from knives to forks. He loves Chris, his bride of 40+ years, and is father to three creative children. He lives out his destiny whenever he can in Connecticut. Author of “The Listener: Conversations to Create Trust”. Find out more about his work here.
From a small mental pub somewhere in my right brain where I’m loafing with my left brain.
Editor: Olga Feingold