Understanding How Left-Brain and Right-Brain Work
Have you ever heard people say that they tend to be more of a right-brain or left-brain thinkers? From books to television programs, you’ve probably heard the phrase mentioned numerous times or perhaps you’ve even taken an online test to determine which type best describes you.
What Is Left Brain – Right Brain Theory?
According to the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance, each side of the brain controls different types of thinking. Additionally, people are said to prefer one type of thinking over the other. For example, a person who is “left-brained” is often said to be more logical, analytical and objective, while a person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful and subjective.
In psychology, the theory is based on what is known as the lateralization of brain function. So does one side of the brain really control specific functions? Are people either left-brained or right-brained? Like many popular psychology myths, this one has a basis in fact that has been dramatically distorted and exaggerated.
The right brain-left brain theory grew out of the work of Roger W. Sperry, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981. While studying the effects of epilepsy, Sperry discovered that cutting the corpus collosum (the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain) could reduce or eliminate seizures.
However, these patients also experienced other symptoms after the communication pathway between the two sides of the brain was cut. For example, many split-brain patients found themselves unable to name objects that were processed by the right side of the brain, but were able to name objects that were process by the left-side of the brain. Based on this information, Sperry suggested that language was controlled by the left-side of the brain.
The Tasks Specific To Left and Right Brain
|Left Brain||Right Brain|
|Focus and Details||Big Picture|
Strategies for Leveraging Your Functional Differences
If you discover that you and your mentoring partner have functional differences, these suggestions can serve as a guide for making the most out of it.
- Measure the Gap – Take a few minutes to discuss with your mentoring partner the left and right brain activities that make up your job. During this discussion, pay particular attention to the differences between you. These differences hold much future learning potential for you. They will also give you insight into how you can avoid needless conflict and misunderstanding as your mentoring relationship progresses.
- Practice Empathy – As your relationship moves forward and you see novel approaches or methodologies being applied by your mentoring partner, seek to understand them instead of reacting to them. Be curious and inquisitive about those things that you are unfamiliar with. Consider the value of your mentoring partner’s approach before dismissing it.
- Explore New Ideas – Take the time and effort to try new practices and approaches. Often those things that do not make much sense in thought actually work wonderfully in practice. Mentoring is all about gaining new perceptions, insights, and behaviors. Take some risks and be willing to fail, because often that is the price of learning. As the old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
The following exercise can help you discuss with your mentoring partner how to best work with your functional differences.
1. Use the following self-evaluation to assess your functional differences.
Think of the core functional responsibilities associated with your current job. Do you use more left brain or right brain activities in your work? For each of the categories listed below, rate the amount of left brain or right brain activity you use. Circle L if you use more of the left brain, R if you use more of the right brain, and E if you use equal amounts of the left and right brain.
Summarize your results by looking for any patterns that emerged in your evaluation. Overall, are you left brain, right brain, or equal parts of both?
2. Discuss your self-evaluation results with your mentoring partner and solicit his/her perspective of your results.
3. Determine how you can use these tendencies in your mentoring relationship and where there is room for growth in your non-dominant side.
4. Set up a time to review your progress with your mentoring partner.