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How do left-brain and right-brain thinking styles affect communication?

Left-brained people tend to approach problems differently from right-brained people. Would understanding the differences help you communicate better in the workplace?

Left-brained people tend to approach problems differently from right-brained people. Would understanding the differences help you communicate better in the workplace?

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In this blog, I've touted the importance of communication until, I'm sure, some of you want to bludgeon me. But good communication is the key to success in just about everything in life. There are always going to be challenges to successful communication, like those that arise from cultural, personality, age, and gender differences, but if you understand the challenges, you're a step ahead of the game.

So let me throw one more obstacle at you: left-brained vs. right-brained. You've probably heard a lot about how the two hemispheres of the brain are responsible for different ways of thinking. Although pop psychology would have you believe you are strictly one or the other, the fact is that people use both hemispheres, but some have a distinct preference for one over the other. (My personal theory is that teenagers operate from a yet-to-be-discovered third hemisphere.)

According to research, left-brained subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy. Right-brained subjects focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity. Right-brained people can remember details better if they have a story quality.

(This could go a long way toward explaining why I can't remember any elements from the periodic table but have somehow retained the name of every sitcom's pet dog. Oh yeah, the science teachers loved me.)

Just think about how these differences in thinking and perception could impact your relationships with people you work with.

For example, you may be an IT pro whose job it is to convey information to end users. If you understand going in that your audience tends to be more visual and creative than linear detailed, you can better tailor your presentations, lessons, and even ordinary conversation to ensure they pick up what you're saying.

The left side of the brain also processes information from part to whole. It takes the pieces, lines them up in a logical order, and then it draws conclusions. The right brain, however, processes from whole to parts. It starts with the answer; it sees the big picture first, not the details.

You can see how two employees with opposite thinking styles like these could either work together very well or drive each other crazy. I would venture to guess that IT pros would fall more on the left-brain continuum. Here's a quiz that you can take to find out whether you're right-brained or left-brained.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

23 comments
Sherlin14
Sherlin14

The way you study shows which part of your brain is stronger. Say if you prefer to study lying down or sitting up erect is not only relative to your study habits but also which part of the brain you use to study. When left-brain students read or listen, they look for pieces so that they can draw logical conclusions. They have no problem comprehending or expression oral or written language. Right brain students know how they feel but have trouble expressing it in words. http://www.healthandsoul.com/left-brain-right-brain.html

simon.child
simon.child

52% Left 52% Right Im right handed but everyone thinks i should be a left hander. Im not from the middle ages or anything but feel like i was forced to use my right hand in school when learning to write due to not being able to decide the hand to hold the pen in.

sura.jan
sura.jan

I heard that it is the basic difference between man and woman thinking. Is it right? Or do exist both groups in each men and women groups?

Bizzo
Bizzo

Right Brain |||||||||||| 44% Left Brain |||||||||||||| 56% Now I don't know what to think.

Snak
Snak

I've always prided myself on my likeness (not physical) to Isaac Asimov in that I use both sides equally well. I'm an IT Pro, with all that entails, but I also have a vivid imagination and write stories, songs etc. For this reason, I've been a very successful teacher. I have seen people who's left side has dominated and people who's right side has dominated. In fact it's easy to work out which is which with most people. I consider myself lucky and try to use both as well as I can. It CAN throw up some oddities though. For example, I imagine that having a soul that lives on after death would be fantastic, but I just cannot logically see how that would come about.

GSG
GSG

I'm 82% left brained. It fits my personality, and I do know that I have trouble working on a project with extreme right brains. I can't stand working with someone who doesn't follow a logical progression, but instead jumps from task to task, usually without documentation. Edited to add: I predicted two co-workers quite accurately. Now, we're having the whole department do this. I'm keeping the statistics of % right and left brained, then we're going to chart it out in a nice graph. I think that's the left-brain working on this one.

mahadeva_sarma
mahadeva_sarma

In your Blog you have just skimmed the surface. Psychologists now talk of just hemispheres but something akin to "quarters" Earlier Intelligence was of two kinds. Left Hemisperical = Logic, Language & Math and Liner Order Right Hemispherical = Thinking in Images(spatio-temporal), Aesthetics, Feelings & Emotions- Intuitive having a holistic approach to understanding. Now we are told there is something like Kinesthetic and Musical also as kinds of "intelligence" The fact remian that the communication styles and skills of RB & LB people differ. We re even advised that one should sit on and speak into the left ear of a Right Brained person and vice-versa. This is due to the cross wiring. Mahadeva Sarma

gafisher
gafisher

Most of us have probably already seen the "spinning dancer" test (http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,22492511-5005375,00.html?from=mostpop) which is supposed to identify left or right "brainedness." Those who see the dancer spinning clockwise are said to be predominantly right-brained (intuitive) while a counterclockwise spin marks the viewer as primarily left-brained (logical). Perhaps the most interesting thing about the "spinning dancer" test is that most people can, with time or minor effort, reverse the perceived spin. This effect can often be accentuated by concentrating on the animated dancer after reading text (to "force" a left-brained counterclockwise spin) or viewing an image (often revealing a right-brained clockwise pirouette). In this way, a person who is naturally left- or right-brained can use conscious thought to control the mind's perception, linking three separate but closely related aspects of personality. This suggests that communicating with a group or individual whose "brainedness" is unknown can be enhanced by utilizing a combination of text and images, a concept which seems to be borne out by the success of magazines, newspapers and ... PowerPoint. (As for myself, I'm overwhelmingly left-handed, making me one of those people who are almost always in their right mind. :-)

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

Both genders experience both left-brain and right-brain tendencies.

Snak
Snak

I had NOT seen the Dancing Lady thing before and found her to be rotating clockwise. She then changed to anticlockwise but I couldn't decide whether that was because the animation changed or because I perceived it as such. I called a colleague over, who not only saw it rotating in the opposite direction to me, when it flipped, it flipped for both of us. This means that it flips anyway - no matter how hard you concentrate, but the test is valid anyway. Hmmm...

shanse3
shanse3

At first, I saw her spinning counterclockwise, and then she started spinning clockwise. After about a minute of staring, I could make her turn whichever way I wanted. It's very interesting. I've always wondered about the left brain/right brain question. I'm a designer who likes computer programming and solving complicated problems. I don't like to be categorized into left or right brain, and I don't like how people assume it's one or the other. For example, I was working as a graphic designer for the last company I was with. When one guy I used to work with at that company found out that I like to build and program computers, he became skeptical of my design skills. Before I told him that, he liked my work, but afterwards he would always find problems with it. It was very frustrating for me, so I stopped telling people that I like computers and problem solving just so they wouldn't judge my design capabilities based on that knowledge. Why do people think that right brain folks can't think logically and left brain folks can't think creatively? I think it can be both.

onefocus99
onefocus99

Right Brain |||||||||| 32% Left Brain |||||||||||||||||| 78% and the dancer was spinning clockwise. How's that for a switch? I'm Programmer and Web Designer/Developer, however I play sax, guitar and a bit of piano and write a bit of poetry, ride my bike and I'm always wondering what's around the next bend in the road, so I keep going.

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

I took the multiple choice test first. Tested 54% left, 26% right, more or less as expected. The spinning dancer aroused my libido and sense of aesthetics, both of which I consider right-brained. I saw her spinning clockwise. A look at another part of the page and back, and she was spinning counterclockwise. Another look away and back and she had switched again. Not a valid test for 'brainedness' IMO. FWIW: I am right-handed, (perhaps cultural) left-eyed, and semi-ambidexterous.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

The truth is our field of psyc... takes some simple facts and tries to fit or stretch it till it covers inappropriately. The brain is too complex and human knowledge is too limited to define the aspects in such a concrete way. I'm right handed, took the written test and tested as left brained, and saw the girl only going in a clockwise rotation. Yes, I did notice her figure in "guy-thing way". For every rule, there is are exceptions in these kinds of modes. I myself, think more in the way we store information which tends to be either graphically or symbolicly. Seems like graphical storage types are the more methodical and logical while symbolic types are the more human oriented types. But, even this isn't consistent across the human population because there are too many exceptions and we just don't understand the brain as we want to think we do. I tend to be graphical storage than symbolic. So, that makes me test as left brained, I see right brained and I store as left brained and I'm right handed.

Your Mom 2.0
Your Mom 2.0

All it did for me was make me aroused and dizzy...

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

all three of us in the office see clockwise, I got half a counterclockwise spin when concentrating but she spun back to clockwise again. ow yuo suggest MOST people woul dsee her moving counterclockwise, whereas I have seen this same Psyche test as a differentiator between men/masculine women and women/effeminate men. It is usually that women see her going clockwise and males see counterclockwise. I have always matchd the female brain in those aspects, visual presentation and spacial thought. (yeah I admitted it, so what are YOU gonna do about it?) :) It is more common for artistic. creative minds to see it as clockwise, people who are more technically detail oriented would see counterclockwise, which adds merit to yrou own comments I suppose.

NetMan1958
NetMan1958

all you noticed was that she has perky breasts?

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

which side of my brain to use. That dancer just kept going back and forth, back and forth. That, or maybe I need to see a shrink. :D

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

[i]same Psyche test as a differentiator between men/masculine women and women/effeminate men.[/i] Another freaking decision.

smcquay
smcquay

you're a man and your whole brain is perverted! lol! ;) BTW, I saw her spinning clockwise first, then counter-clockwise . . . wonder what that means?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

The real test is an actual rotating figurine, it can be seen both ways very easily but the concept is to determine which way it spins at first glnce. someone that has a very spacial mind will see the dancer moving in the intended direction, clockwise. But if you look at it longer you will see it rotate the other way. In this case, being a reproduction on a computer just doesn't have the same illusion effect to it.

NetMan1958
NetMan1958

that you use both sides of your brain alternately. You know, kind of like load balancing/sharing on a router. :-)