Have you ever felt that your boss, co-worker, friend or spouse just did not understand what you were trying to communicate? Both of you seem to be approaching the problem from two radically different places? You want to chalk it up to them not listening; chances are they just are processing the information much differently than how you prefer to do it.

HBDI Sample Profile ResultOne of the ways I help to explain why you feel frustrated with some individual communications styles is with the Whole Brain Model. Based on the work of Ned Herrmann, the model is central to explaining the results from receiving a personal Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) profile.


Often people will try to guess their own or someone’s profile; which is marginally helpful. We are prone to blinders and miss cues. There is no substitute for knowing actual profile results and to work with a certified practitioner who provides accurate interpretation.

Establishing a non-threatening common language is important for everyone trying to understand what is going on with the situation and not the person. The HBDI will relay a person’s preferences for thinking styles. It is possible for someone to have strong preferences in all quadrants, though the majority of people have strong preferences in two quadrants. When we understand how people think, we can begin to understand how they communicate with another. We can also begin to figure out where common ground exists.

When working with people who struggle with communicating effectively, a trend occurs – individuals who have strong preferences in opposing quadrants (“A” vs. “C” or “B” vs. “D”) have higher levels of difficulty with one another. Why? Individuals who prefer the “A” quadrant are more likely to communicate with facts, data, numbers and logic. They are more likely to want to lively debate an issue, often leaving others feeling personally attacked. The person, who prefers to communicate from the “C” quadrant, tends to go more with their gut feelings, pay attention to how people might perceive their message or seek consensus in a decision. The “A” quadrant will fail to see the logic in their style, believing their approach may be too soft or touchy-feely.

Let’s look at how individuals with strong preferences in the “B” quadrant might begin their conversation. It would be important to know the details, have an agenda (because we know the path or decision) and follow a defined procedure. They shun risky ventures and revel in keeping things in the safe zone. Conversely, someone with a strong preference in the “D” quadrant, is more likely to want to start with the big picture and ignore details, embrace brainstorming to get more ideas (after all there are always lots of options), and ultimately want to throw out what is not working and start all over again.

Think back to a conversation that did not go so well. Looking at the Whole Brain Model, do you find their approach may have been opposite from yours? If so, then either you will have to learn to adjust to their preferences or figure out if one of the other quadrants might be a better place to start your next conversation. With out having any actual results, it might be hit and miss until you figure it out.