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Better Communication by Using All Your Brains

By Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach

If you use your brain, you can communicate better, but what "brain are you going to use? Why not use them all?

Standard understanding of the brain right now is that it is "triune, with three parts - the reptilian, or primitive brain; the limbic brain; and the neocortex. Further, the neocortex is divided into two hemispheres, the right and the left.


Briefly, the reptilian brain is responsible for keeping us alive and evolved millions of years ago. We share it with reptiles. This brain operates territorial defense and aggression, sex drive, and rudimentary life-maintaining systems such as breathing and heartbeat. It's automatic. We have no control over it.


When someone pushes you out of line in the movie theater, although it isn't really life-threatening, our reptilian brain acts as if it were. It is always lurking there, ready to flare up and "protect" us. It's responsible for a lot of fear we feel during the day.


The limbic brain evolved next and we share it with mammals. It's responsible for the look we see in the dog's eyes, and the way horses attune to us. It gives us the parenting urge (reptilians abandon their young at birth), bonding, compassion, family-ties, and things like that.


When the baby cries at night and you'd rather be sleeping, you get up. Why? Because those parental emotions are tugging at you.


The neocortex, or thinking brain was the last to evolve, and belongs exclusively to humans. It is divided into two halves, the left hemisphere (left-brain) and the right hemisphere (right-brain). They aren't isolated or separate. They are divided by something called the corpus callosum, which allows us to switch from one to the other.

The corpus callosum is typically better developed in women. This is why women can generally move from talking about feelings to talking about thoughts more easily than men can, though of course there are exceptions.

You will either be left-brain dominant, or right-brain dominant, but you can develop both sides and the communication between them by developing your emotional intelligence. I have worked with many people who have developed both sides of their brain so they are very balanced between the two. However, under stress, you will always revert to your dominant mode.


The left-brain is verbal, sequential, linear, and logical. People who are left-brain dominant respond to word meanings (more than how it's said), plan ahead and go by steps, recall people's names, and speak with fewer gestures and less expression.

Right Brain

The right brain is visual, holistic, and random. People who are right-brain dominant process in varied order, respond to emotion and tone of voice (more than the actual meaning of the words spoken), are more impulsive, remember people's faces (more than their names), and use more gestures and expressions.


This is how this helps with communication. The hemisphere that's dominant affects how the person hears, learns, relates and problem-solves, as you can see.


If you want to explain a project to a left-brained person, give them a step-by-step outline, with a timeline and accountability. Right-brained people prefer to be told what to do, but not how to do it. They're adept at figuring out how. Right-brained people, being visual, prefer to see something like a mind-map - it gives them the points to be covered, but does not dictate the order.

Since right-brained people are more flexible, if you're right-brained, you may need to accommodate to the left-brained people with whom you work. That's just the way it works. Whatever it takes to get a project done, right?


Here's a test to see if you understand the difference. Which "brain dominant is talking in each of these examples, "right" or "left"?

1.First you put a cup of flour in a bowl. Then you add a teaspoon of salt. Then you cut in a cup of shortening. Right or Left?
2.Mix up some flour and salt and shortening in a bowl. A cup or 2 of flour, some salt. Right or Left?
3.The first step is to do some general market research so you can get the big picture. Right or Left?
4.The first step is to write down your goals and objectives. Then do a timeline. Then do an accountability chart. Then do a budget. Then call me. Right or Left?
5.No one ever accomplished anything without a dream. Right or Left?
6.No one ever accomplished anything without a plan and a lot of hard work. It's in the details. Right or Left?
7.Personal hygiene means brushing your teeth, washing your hair, putting on deodorant, and wearing clean clothes. Right or Left?
8.Personal hygiene means keeping yourself clean. Right or Left?
9.You're driving me nuts with details. Just give me the ballpark figures. Right or Left?
10.Making a business projection is like throwing a dart at a board. You can't predict what's going to happen. Right or Left?
11. Stop yelling at me. It isn't what you say, it's the way that you say it. Right or Left?
12.Will you stop jumping around and tell me what you do one step at a time, please? Start at the beginning and go one by one. Right or Left?
13.Yes, I'd like to hear what's bothering you. Start anywhere you like. Right or Left?
14.I don't care what the figures indicate. I'm going with my gut instinct. Right or Left?
15.Draw me a picture. I can't figure out what the heck you're talking about. Right or Left?
16.I want a flow chart. I want to know the hierarchy and the sequence of events, and I want a logical explanation for each step. Right or Left?
17.I can't concentrate. It's too quiet in here. Right or Left?
18.Help me figure out who Ben Adams is. I know he's here because he's the CFO, but I can't remember what he looks like.
19.I know that guy over there. I saw him last week at Rotary. But what's his name? Right or Left?

Right - 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 19.


Emotional Intelligence means understanding how the brain works, how we process information, how to manage emotions, and how to communicate better. When you study EQ, your problem-solving skills, teamwork, leadership and interpersonal skills will improve, as well as your resilience. You'll function better at work and at home, with better relationships, and better health. You'll be more effective, more efficient, and you'll handle stress better.

Take an EQ assessment: http:/ take The EQ Foundation Course, which is on the Internet and interactive. Then work with a certified emotional intelligence coach. EQ is not something you can "just read about.

Improve your EQ and you'll notice positive results in your life immediately.

About the Author
Susan Dunn, MA Psychology, Emotional Intelligence Coach, I help people become better communicators and develop their emotional intelligence through coaching, Internet courses and ebooks. Susan is the author of "Nonverbal Communication."

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