Start Using Your Whole Brain


It’s the time of year when spirits—and tensions—are high, schedules are out of whack, and everyone is consuming way more sugar and alcohol than usual. (Well, maybe not everyone. My kids haven’t had any alcohol lately.) A friend recently posted on Facebook, “My To Do List is growing exponentially by the minute and my stress level is through the roof. Does anyone out there actually LIKE December?”

Families, friends, and co-workers are coming together… and sometimes also splitting apart. The meaning, emotion, and stress wrapped up in the holidays can create a make-or-break season for relationships, both personal and business.

If you want to survive crazy times—whether it’s the holidays or some other major event like a business merger, a wedding, or a big presentation—with your personal and business connections intact, you already (if you’ve been following my blog), know my #1 survival tip: Breathe. But what else? Assuming you’re breathing well, how can you communicate in a way that increases your rapport and protects important relationships?

Turn off the auto-pilot and step out of your comfort zone.

I’m fascinated by personality typing. It’s a bit of a quack “science,” but I love learning about personality types and how they show up. I’ve taken dozens of personality tests and strength assessments, partly in order to get to know myself better, but also because they often demonstrate how different people use their brains.

For example, in the Myers-Briggs world, Sensing and Thinking are left-brain functions whereas Intuition and Feeling are right-brained. Introversion and Extraversion correlate to where a person stores data: Introverts use long-term memory more than Extraverts, which is why Extraverts can hardly get the words out of their mouths fast enough while Introverts come up with great things to add to the conversation about three days later. (At least, that’s my experience as an introvert.)

But here’s the problem with personality typing: You have more than half a brain. I mean, I hope you do. Granted, there are people who act like they are incapable of rational thought or, conversely, feeling any emotion. But just because you lean in one direction or another doesn’t mean that’s the ONLY way your brain works.

That’s why I emphasize looking at behavior versus personality type in my blogs and workshops. Analyzing personality may be fascinating, but noticing behavior is much more useful in real time. Unfortunately, that requires turning off the auto-pilot. It’s way easier to label people (especially those you know well) as “Thinkers” or “Feelers” or “Introverts” or “Triangles” or “Fiery Red”—and they may well be!—than it is to assess what people need right now from you. Being a good communicator means being present and letting go of your stories and preconceived notions.

The other half of the equation, beyond being present and adapting to meet the needs of others in the moment, is expanding your own abilities and reaching beyond your normal way of communicating. Look, as an Introvert, I know how hard it can be to face a group of strangers and open your mouth. But your brain can handle it. Resist the urge to label yourself and say, “That’s just the way I am.” Yeah, whether you’re a “Sensor” or an “Intuitive” or a “Sunny Yellow” or a “Driver,” that IS the way you are. But it’s not the ONLY way you are. You have a whole brain at your disposal—an amazing, intricate, much-bigger-than-you-think brain that loves to learn and grow and create new neural pathways. Use it.

Personality typing is great if you use it to A) connect with others in a way that is meaningful to them and B) leverage your natural strengths. It will become just another excuse to limit yourself, though, if you hide behind it. 

End the year on a positive note. Pay attention to how others want you to deal with them and expand your comfort zone to include the parts of your brain you’ve been neglecting. If you can do those things (and don’t forget to breathe!) you’ll enjoy the holiday season much more and get the new year started on the right foot.


Change your communication, change your life.

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