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


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.