Communication and Whole Brain ThinkingPosted: November 18, 2011
I am honored and delighted to share this interview with Susie Leonard Weller. She shared with me that children mirror their parent’s brain. I am really curious about this.
Susie teaches Life Skills classes through the Institute for Extended Learning, Adult Basic Education program in Spokane, Washington. She received training through Herrmann International in North Carolina. They studied brain research for over 30 years to improve results at Fortune 500 companies. Susie has applied this research to strengthen family relationships. She is now a Certified Thinking Consultant and her book is Why Don’t You Understand? Improve Family Communication with the 4 Thinking Styles
Susie, I am really curious. What is whole brain thinking?
Susie: Thinking styles are innate preferences for how the brain gathers and processes information in distinct ways. It’s part of who we are. Just like we have a preferred hand to write with, we also have a preferred thinking style. We use our dominant hand more often because it’s easier. In a similar way, our brain requires less effort to talk with someone who shares the same thinking style.
Some people are more left-brained and make logical decisions with their head. Others are more right-brained and make relational decisions with their heart or gut instinct. A whole-brained approach integrates both of the left and the right-brain hemispheres, as well as our intellect and heart.
- No two people are alike. Our brains are wired differently, right from the start.
- Most family squabbles are linked to biological differences in how we think.
- The brain requires 100% more energy to think and communicate in its opposite style.
What styles are there?
Susie: There are four main thinking styles. Imagine the brain as a four-room house. The two upstairs rooms concentrate on problem solving or seeking new solutions. These are called the Logical and Creative thinking styles. The two downstairs rooms focus on handling everyday realities and maintaining relationships. These are called the Practical and Relational thinking styles. Although we might prefer spending more time in some rooms than others, those using a whole-brain approach can access necessary skills from any of these rooms whenever they are needed.
Here’s a brief summary of all four thinking styles:
Focuses on facts
Clarifies the bottom line
Likes to figure out how things work
Focuses on thinking outside the box
Is imaginative and playful
Like to be spontaneous
Focuses on follow through
Likes to plan ahead
Focuses on feelings
Is friendly and supportive
Likes meaningful conversations
How is it that children mirror their parent’s brain?
Susie: Babies are born with “mirror neurons.” They copy everything they see. An infant’s brain is like wet concrete. The earliest impressions make the deepest impact. Experience shapes their brain—both positively and negatively. Repeated patterns become hardwired as established neural pathways. Children “download” their parents’ beliefs and behaviors to survive. By the time children are three years old, about 85% of their brain is already wired with subconscious programming for how to relate to others.
What is the best way to deal with conflict?
Susie: Conflict is a given—even within healthy relationships. The best way to handle conflicts is learning how to respect and leverage our differences. Rather than polarizing people into extreme positions, try to hear the need underlying and fueling their behavior. Learn to speak in ways others understand instead of more “loudly” in your preferred style.
Each thinking style has strengths and challenges. Learn to see them as complementary rather than sources of irritation. For example, when Logicals only focus on the facts and minimize the role of emotions, Relationals feel discounted. And, Relationals need to develop a firm backbone as well as their heart. Likewise, Creatives and Practicals can antagonize each other by refusing to accept each other’s desire to explore options or to make timely decisions.
Opposite styles are like oil and vinegar. They don’t mix easily, but they add great zest to a salad. Rather than take conflicts personally, practice becoming multi-lingual and speak in all four thinking styles whenever needed.
The key to managing conflict is finding win/win solutions to meet each others’ needs. Families are 24/7 learning labs to develop life skills—particularly how to communicate with those who think differently than we do.
How can we best set limits?
Susie: In a half-brained world, discipline styles swing from one extreme to another. But, whole-brained parents know how to balance nurture with structure, as well as to play and problem solve. First, they acknowledge the feelings; then they set an appropriate limit. Adults set clear boundaries and follow through on consequences. Wise parents know when to take charge and when to follow the child’s lead to meet their needs for connection.
What could we do to be a wise parent or a wise communicator?
Susie: Under stress, our brain regresses to a more rigid style. To avoid melt downs, learn to practice the Four C’s of courageous conversations. They will soothe the emotional brain to shift gears more easily to use all four thinking styles as needed.
Logical: Clarify a common goal and code of conduct.
Relational: Care enough to seek understanding (not to prove you’re right) and protect the safety zone so that no one shuts down or becomes aggressive.
Creative: Cultivate choices of both/and rather than either/or positions.
Practical: Commit to practicing mutual respect on a regular basis and express at least five positive comments for every negative one. In my book, I also describe the NARN (Notice, Accept, Reflect & Nurture) Process for shifting the brain to a higher gear when triggered:
1. NOTICE what’s happening—physical, emotional and mental warning signals
2. ACCEPT and work with what is, rather than deny or dismiss it.
3. REFLECT on other possible options to resolve this situation or find ways to re-frame it.
4. NURTURE yourself by choosing a concrete action to calm yourself within this moment—breathe deeply, take a break, stretch, listen to music or hum a song.
In our half brain world, more whole-brain families are needed. Our children will face increasing complexities and challenges. As Albert Einstein said, “The problems we are causing can’t be resolved in the same state of consciousness in which we created them.” Our future depends on our ability to use our whole, creative brain to discover new ways to respect how we think, communicate, relate, play and even pray together.
Thank you Susie. This is a good beginning. How can readers get more information?
You can download FREE excerpts from my book by visiting my website: www.susieweller.com
In addition, for those who contact me, I’ll send a FREE 13-page report with 30 tips for how to calm yourself in stressful moments. They are organized by each thinking style to soothe you from head to toe.
Susie Leonard Weller, M.A. for personal coaching
Call USA (509) 255-6676
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.susieweller.com