How Many Brains Do You Have?

I know that sounds like a strange question, but I’m always surprised at the number of people who think we have more than one. One for our personal life, one for our professional life, one that falls in love, one that does our taxes.

But, of course, we don’t. We don’t swap out one brain when we leave our house in the morning and insert another as we go into work. It’s the same one. The same 100 billion neurons that control and react to everything around us, regardless of the situation we are in. Despite what we may think, our brain doesn’t distinguish the differences. It just does what the past 100,000 years have trained it to do. Especially when it comes to relationships.

We may think that the personal relationship of a “couple” (dating, married, etc.) is very different than the business relationship between an employer and their employee or between an organization and its clients. But it isn’t to our one brain. What satisfies us professionally are the same things that satisfy us personally.

A few years ago, Shelly Gable, PhD. and her colleagues studied couples’ interactions and discovered that while being a supportive partner was an important ingredient of any good relationship, responding positively and enthusiastically to his or her partner’s accomplishments was a much stronger predictor of a relationship’s current and future success. I tested this out recently by applying that theory to the business relationships of one of my clients and, not surprisingly, the results were the same. Clients and employees want more than just support. They want recognition. They want you to notice what they have done, and they want you to celebrate what they have accomplished.

We tend to be pretty good at expressing empathy, insight, foresight, attentiveness, and enthusiasm to the ones we love - our family, our children, our closest friends - yet feel awkward doing the same with our employees and clients. It's that different brain thing we think exists. But keep this in mind. That client and that employee that you value left their house this morning with the same brain they had last night, the same brain they had last week, and the same brain they will have next year. What it craves and what makes it happy doesn't change simply because its owner put on a suit. 

James Kane