Whole Brain Communications

Effective communications skills give us the ability to successfully understand and relate to other people. Becoming aware of different communication styles is an important step in developing these skills. Communication styles are based on how people use their brains to process and share information.

Research and advancing technologies in surgery of the human brain have revealed that the left and right sides of the brain are used differently to process information. The left side of the brain is found to process information through logical, rational, analytical, and sequential thinking, breaking things down incrementally. The right side of the brain sees the world in an intuitive way using visual, emotional, and expressive thinking, first seeing the “big picture” and then looking for parallels and similarities to connect details.

How does this knowledge of the brain affect our communication skills, as well as our relationships and career successes? We can look to the research and writings of American author and researcher Ned Hermann. Ned Hermann is famous for his research in creative thinking and “whole-brain” dominance, the preference of individuals to rely more heavily on processing information on one or the other side of the brain. His whole brain model is called HBDI®, or the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument®. Hermann breaks down the two halves of the brain into two parts each, resulting in a four-quadrant model of thinking process. Look at the following graphic, derived from his research, and find the quadrant that most describes you.


If you find yourself described in the left side of the chart, you probably enjoy working in analytical positions and managing process, such as in an accounting capacity, administration, or research environment. Reflect back on the jobs in your career in which you have excelled and think how these attributes contributed to your success. Conversely, if you find yourself described in the right side of the chart, you have probably enjoyed and done well in jobs that require creativity and teamwork. Perhaps a career in art, music or entertainment.

When thinking about the people with whom you live and work, do you begin to see their characteristics described in one of the four quadrants? Are they dominant in the same quadrant as you? Or are they dominant in an opposite quadrant? Recognizing the brain dominance of those with whom we communicate helps us to reach consensus and understanding. If you know how someone processes information and what might frustrate him or her, you can present information to them in a format in which they can be comfortable. Provide verified facts and details to a left-brain person in a logical, methodical way, avoiding emotional detours. Understand that a right-brained person tends to think in pictures rather than words and values creativity and interpersonal interaction, needing inspiration to solve problems and meet challenges. Avoid too much detail and hard facts, but rather, work to break down larger concepts with symbolism and visual descriptions.

By recognizing and developing the skills needed to communicate successfully with people of opposite brain dominance, we can begin to actually develop the less dominant side of our brain. This widens our thinking capacity and skillsets and increases our ability to solve problems and process information. Certain activities have been found through research to increase whole-brain thinking, such as dancing with a partner where the intuitive right side of the right brain interprets the music while the process-oriented left side of the brain anticipates the movements of our partner. Reading and performing music also engages both sides of the brain. The left brain is engaged in the sequential, organized construction of the written music, while the right brain interprets the sound of the music on an emotional, creative level.

There is much more information available on the research of Ned Hermann, and his work has been embraced by many Fortune 100 companies in order to improve employee interaction and increase production and profitability. The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® is a great tool for training in sales, as well.

Examine your dominant quadrant and begin working on developing the capacity of both sides of your brain and become a “whole brain” communicator!


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