Right and Left Brain Employees Communicate Differently

yhst-55030780566641-2268-5217947.jpegIf you're right brained and have a job working with anyone left brained, particularly supervisors, you may have noticed how difficult it can be to communicate with them. They probably don't understand you at all, what you need to be able to do your job properly, why you ask so many questions, why "just do it" just doesn't cut it. We right brainers don't think the same way as the lefties and since the world spins for them, they think it's our fault when we don't understand them. They're not bad people really. They just don't get it, and don't see why they should. In their minds, we either need to change to suit them or we're not suited to the job. Well, it's time to tune them in and do a little educating of our own so they can learn to communicate with US, and take advantage of our enormous often misunderstood and untapped potential.

Here's an example. Your supervisor, we'll call him Leftie, tells you to clean up the office storage room. And then he walks away. You stand in the storage room looking at overflowing boxes and shelves full of mismatched paper and ancient supplies and the painting the son of the big boss gave him as a birthday present, the broken Halloween and Christmas decorations, the video equipment that belongs in a museum, and Leftie's box of autographed baseballs he's trying to flog to the rest of the staff without the big boss knowing about it. And you ask yourself, what does he mean by "clean"? Do I throw it all away? Do I tidy and sort and categorize? Do I dust the shelves and polish the floor? Do I ask the big boss what he wants done with his son's masterpiece? Do I give Leftie his box of baseballs and run the risk the big boss might possibly stop by for a chat? So you go to Leftie's office and wait at the door while he's on the phone. He ignores you for ten minutes and then hangs up giving you a look dripping with sarcasm and says, "What?" You start to sweat because you know he's going to blow up the second you start asking questions. So you try stammering out the first question and he looks at you with arched eyebrows for about five seconds then interrupts and says the dreaded words, "Just do it!"

You trudge back to the storage room and stand there looking at the mess and wonder what to do. You might even stay there a long time thinking of a hundred possible ways you could "clean" and be totally paralyzed as a result, because we righties tend to be perfectionists and like to do things right the first time, in the quickest amount of time. In the end, not exactly sure what Leftie wants you to do, you move a few boxes around and tidy up a bit and fix a shelf maybe, throw out what looks like trash on the floor and then return to your desk. Leftie shows up not long after asking why you're sitting at your desk when you haven't finished the job he assigned you, and then marches you past all your co-workers like he's hauling you off to the principal's office. He flings open the storage room door and in a condescending, frustrated and angry tone, he orders you to throw certain items away, label the boxes and stack them in the corner, hide the masterpiece behind the shelves along with the baseballs, donate the video equipment to the local school, and buy some new shelving. Then he stalks out of the room without a glance back in your direction. Your heart pounds and you know he's making a mental note for your next review. But now you can get on with the job.

You might ask the perfectly reasonable question, how would even a left brained person know what to do in this situation? Since Leftie didn't give any instruction at all, what could he possibly expect from ANY employee? But this happens all the time. I've seen it over and over again. And what I've noticed is the left brained employee will usually dive into the situation and do what they think the supervisor wants, whether they understand it or not, and not ask questions. They may get some or all of it wrong, and often not even finish the job, but Leftie will give them an "A" for effort and initiative and probably not go as hard on them as he would on you for being unable to even start the job without asking a bunch of annoying questions.

We've all been so conditioned NOT to ask questions from our earliest classroom experiences, how many teachers really like to be interrupted? They will ask if anyone has a question, but often what they really mean is, "which dummy out there didn't get what I was just saying and how much time do we have to waste answering their question?" And this problem exists very much the same way in the work place. Asking a question is almost the same as saying, "I'm an idiot and didn't get it the first time".

We right brainers are what I like to call "reality thinkers". We think the same we live: in the real world. And we see the WHOLE world in front of us, at least as it relates to whatever we're doing at that moment in time. That means we see every possible direction we can take and every option for solving a problem. Try going five directions at once and see how far you get. But that's what happens in our brains. If we're in charge and can lay out our own path, no problem. Our analytical brains will leap instantly into action, envision the end result and come up with multiple charts and maps to get it done before our chair is cold. But if someone else is making decisions, we need specific, concrete answers to all our questions, or we can't move in any direction. That's just how we're wired.

Once we have answers, we can solve multiple problems in multiple ways, faster than just about anyone else. We'll figure out the most efficient, accurate and complete way to do a task and often set standards or create procedures that others will follow for years after. We can come up with the best way to do something, because we've first thought about ALL the ways to do it and then distilled those down to the best possible solution. But to get there, we need INFORMATION, which means specific and complete answers to all our questions.

So, to all those Lefties out there, your right brained employee is just dying to do a great job for you but you need to give them the time of day. You need to be patient, encourage them to ask questions and give complete and specific answers, and you will get amazing results. To all those righties out there who are trying to communicate with a Leftie, tell them why you need the information and keep telling them until they get it. Then dazzle them.

Cate Frearson

Wandering Writer for Dyslexia Victoria Online


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