I am hoping that you all had a wonderful, happy and festive season – and like most of us, slowly easing back into the reality of everyday life.
This blog is about reviewing an old concept about brain dominance that has been around for over 150 years. Psychiatrist Carl Hammerschlag, in his book The Dancing Healers wrote… “to heal ourselves or to help heal others, we need to reconnect magic and science, our right and left brains”.
Mainstream America and Canada are left-brain cultures who believe in rational, scientific thought, causality explanations. The right brain is the home of magic, of intuition, emotion, creativity, faith, the irrational. Great discoveries in science or art are made through the non-rational, non-linear insights of the right brain. It is the left brain that knows how to speak, but the right brain that remembers the lyrics to songs. You need both sides to dance (heal). You need both sides to remain healthy.
Unfortunately, more and more, psychiatry emphasizes the left brain and the biochemical explanations for all behaviour, without equal effort to understand the magic and mystery of healing.
Basically, the right hemisphere governs our artistic, musical, innovative, imaginative, entrepreneurial, political, theatrical and visual tendencies. The left brain controls our analytical, scientific, logical, mathematical and verbal learnings.
However, the person who uses both sides of his or her brain is the most successful in either right or left brained professions. Einstein, for example, developed his theory of relativity while pondering (daydreaming) about buildings flashing by when he was on a train. With his right brain, he continued to muse on the problem until all the elements came together. He then went back to his desk and, using his analytical and logical left brain procedures, developed the formula (E=Mc2) which changed the world.
This is all very interesting but how about me – how can I tell which brain is dominant and determines how I process information and solve problems?
People who are left brain dominant create a routine and use their day-timers to establish hours, appointments and patterns to their work day. They are usually quite orderly, logical and prefer to communicate with memos or emails at work. Left brain dominate persons use facts to illustrate points. They look for the rationale or logic behind an idea, are usually neatly dressed, traditional clothing, not showy and have a very neatly arranged purse or billfold.
Their desks are neat, usually with a clock and calendars and appointment books are prominent. Left brainers gesture sparingly and speech is usually business focused. At work they are focused on information, statistics, practicalities. They are usually quite articulate, informative and ask many who, what, when, where, why questions.
They often thoroughly research products and can site advantages and disadvantages in great detail. They ask precise questions and will usually make decisions quickly. At work, costs, assembly, delivery and maintenance are of interest.
On the other side, right brain dominant persons are more casually dressed, they wear more colorful, flamboyant clothing with more and larger jewelry. Appointments are usually written on scraps of paper, desks are cluttered as are purses and billfolds. They organize only when the need arises and general fly by the seat of their pants.
These individuals use a lot of gestures to convey the picture – but no details. They prefer drawing diagrams to convey information and they are quite animated with lots of humour. They usually can’t find a pen or pencil, speech is imprecise, filled with… “I feel…I wish….looks great”. There is usually a lot of emotional meandering and speculation. Right brainers are usually vague about their needs, listen poorly to explanations but prefer pictures and schematics to be shown instead of verbal explanations. They tend to use lateral thinking and approach problem solving from off-beat directions. And yes, there are stacks of paper and clutter on their desks.
However, the most effective full brain thinkers like Leonardo DaVinci and Einstein revel in the ambiguity of the big picture, bird’s eye view of the right brain versus the earthbound, worm’s eye view of the left brain.
Of course, all of the above must raise questions of why some things come easy – other issues so difficult? Why are some people so smart and dull at the same time? Why can’t some of the most creative thinkers comprehend a balance sheet and some accountants have no sense of product development?
Many salespersons are being taught how to sell to a left or right brain dominant client. In dealing with left brain customers, the emphasis is to be concise, prompt, exact and talk “bottom line”. For right brain clients, the emphasis is upon comfort, prestige, fun and meeting the emotional needs of the client.
Of course, there is always the “oops” factor. What if one person is very right brain dominant and they have a left brain boss or are married to a very left brain partner?
I happen to be very right brain and when I was running The Old Spaghetti Factory (for ten years), I made certain that I surrounded myself with strong left brain planners/thinkers so we could maximize and benefit from our cognitive style differences.
I know, I haven’t answered the “oops” question. Perhaps the best strategy is to really find out how your brain works in order to process information and then make the necessary adjustments between you and your partner or boss to make the flow of information smoother and less tangential.
Lee Pulos, Ph.D., ABPP