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Left- Vs. Right-Brain Myths Hold You Back at Work

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A few weeks ago, I shared some insight into Why Your Training Fails, and I loved hearing from so many of you who could make personal connections to those concepts. One of our key pillars is Honor Human Complexity, so I want to spend a couple of minutes tackling a common learning myth we encounter a lot with our clients.    

Myth: People are either left- or right-brained. The right side is creative and emotional. The left side is logical and mathematical. Everyone is either one or the other.  

How many times have you heard this, thought this, or said this out loud? 

Here is how this myth shows up in our work with clients:   

  • “I’m very technical. I’m all left-brain, so communicating and empathy aren’t my thing.”  
  • “It’s hard to work with her because she’s so emotional…total right brain…”  
  • “I’m the right brain, and she’s the left brain of the team.”  

Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support that people are either “right-brained” or “left-brained.” While we all have skills and talents that may come more easily to us than others, there is no scientific evidence that people have a dominant side that leaves them unable to perform certain skills or experience certain emotions. The brain needs to utilize both sides to function appropriately.    

You might be thinking, “Oh great, I’ve believed this my whole life, and now you’re telling me it’s not true. Now what?”     

Here are a couple of thoughts to push your thinking and expand possibilities:  

  • Over the years, I’ve seen many learners of all ages—and oh yes, grown-ups, I’m looking at you—basically, exempt themselves from learning certain things because of the myth that their brain isn’t wired in a certain way. Change the narrative in your mind about what you are capable of—just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Humans are capable of tremendous learning and growth throughout their lives.   
  • Many companies, and perhaps American culture overall, have a bias towards mathematical and scientific knowledge. We hear the phrase “soft skills” used to describe the human side of the business. The best solutions to problems require logic and creativity—a technical and a human element. “Soft skills” are essential. They’re skills that build trust, promote collaboration, and get work done more efficiently. Not attending to them, or worse, pretending they aren’t important or don’t exist, causes more issues on a team than any technical challenge. If you believe you’re a “left-brained” technical person, let go of the myth that you can’t be great with people.

You might also like: How to Build More Powerful Partnerships

Here’s a quick, informative video: The left brain vs. right brain myth – Elizabeth Waters | TED-Ed

 Does this resonate with you? Scare you? Annoy you? How might you approach things that are difficult for you differently? Please share your ideas below or Contact Us. 






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