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Whole Brain Communication

Have you wondered why people sometimes seem “not to speak the same language even when they speak the same language”? Russell Hoban

According to Professor Neethling of the Kobus Neethling Institute of South Africa, the answer is most likely that these individuals have not learned the skill of Whole Brain Communication. Professor Neethling’s theory of Whole Brain communication was developed on the basis of findings that various areas of our brains can be identified with different functions which influence the way that we think, talk and act in our daily lives. His research in this area led to the development of a tool to assess thinking styles called the NBI® or Neethling Brain Instrument, which is a significant advancement on the popular concept of being left-brained or right brained. This instrument describes thinking preferences as falling into four different categories or quadrants, which can be expanded into a more detailed model of eight quadrants. While some of the most recent research may suggest that this theory of how the brain works is perhaps too simple, its application in the field has proved to have significant predictive validity.

A sufficiently clear understanding of the theory can be gleaned by examining the four-quadrant model. This model seeks to describe how an individual communicates by identifying which quadrant or quadrants best captures the way they think. A brief description of the thinking preferences in each of the quadrants of this model is described below.

Four Quadrant Model of the NBI ®

It is important to note that, while a particular thinking preference as described by any quadrant may be dominant, the way in which a person engages with the world can be described across all four of the quadrants because we all harbour certain aspects of each thinking preference.

It stands to reason that understanding how a person thinks and expresses themselves is an invaluable aid to improving communication. To illustrate the point: Next time your significant other has something negative to say about the haphazard way you pack the dishwater or put away the groceries, stop for a moment and consider what motivates their comments. If your partner is an organised individual who likes to analyse and plan tasks in a logical, systematic manner, then you could be dealing with someone whose dominant thinking patterns are described by quadrants L1 and L2 – which in itself this is not a problem – unless you are predominantly right-brained. In this scenario your partner may perceive you to be disorganised and unwilling to make an effort to help, whereas you may perceive them to be pedantic and dismissive of what is really important such as spending quality time with the family. In this scenario we have a recipe for a misunderstanding because neither of you understand the other’s perspective or thinking preferences. However, this situation could have unfolded differently if you had taken cognisance of both your own and your partners thinking preferences and modified your response to relate more effectively to the way that they think. For example, you could have explained your desire to spend some time together and offered to pack the dishwasher later or have asked them to indicate how they would like the task done – and of course, if your partner had been able to respond with the same insight then you both would have been all smiles.
This is the challenge of employing Whole Brain Communication. We may always have a particular way of seeing the world, but it is possible to learn to communicate better by adopting different communication strategies from across the four different quadrants so that we speak the same language.

By Ronelle Huddy, Emotional Intelligence Specialist

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The NBI ® assessment is a user-friendly and relatively inexpensive tool which can be completed as an on-line questionnaire and the results have the power to revolutionise the way that you communicate. The applications are numerous because understanding our own thinking preferences can provide insight into why our job may not be the right fit, or how to create an environment to enhance or our creativity and even why we clash with certain family members or colleagues.

Feature Image by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash