August 6, 2014

Comfort & discomfort


I just attended an amazing clinic on emotional fitness with Linda Parelli and Jenny Susser. Comfort and discomfort were definitely central themes as Jenny taught us to embrace discomfort in ourselves as an opportunity for growth and as Linda talked about how to help our horses find comfort. But that’s not why I’ve titled this entry “Comfort & Discomfort.”

Instead, today I want to muse on a very specific comment that Linda made. She was talking about how the heart of horsemanship lies in figuring out what your horse needs, and about looking for ways to help him be calm, connected, and responsive. At one point she added quite intriguingly that the comfort/discomfort model is, by current standards, “caveman horsemanship.”

She was referring primarily to the way that, for instance, in the past Pat would work on trailer loading a horse by making the area outside of the trailer uncomfortable (via movement, noise, pressure, etc.) so that the horse started hunting the inside of trailer as the place where all of that pressure was removed. Now, however, Linda said Pat will instead think about what that individual horse needs in order to be able to get on the trailer.

Most people who practice or teach natural horsemanship are familiar with the idea of making the desirable behavior easy (or comfortable) and the undesirable behavior difficult (or uncomfortable). Just this morning in my news feed I found this quote from Buck Brannaman: “As a rider, you must slowly & methodically show your horse what is appropriate. You also have to discourage what is inappropriate, not by making the inappropriate impossible, but by making it difficult so that the horse himself chooses appropriate behavior. You can't choose it for him; you can only make it difficult for him to make the wrong choices.” 

As Buck implies here, the appealing idea behind the comfort/discomfort model is that you don’t take away the horse’s ability to choose; instead, you guide him toward making “better” choices. Or, in Pat’s terms, you “cause” your horse to want to do something rather than “make” him do it. In an ideal scenario, then, you are empowering your horse while simultaneously getting the result you are looking for.

This is, undeniably, a step above just making your horse do what you want without caring whether he is on board with your plan or not. On reflection, however, it does seem that the horse must feel as if he is simply being channeled between banks of discomfort when he’s with his human.

For example, say that we want our horse to go in a straight line. When he’s on the line, we leave him alone. When he goes off it, we get busy with our aides (rein, leg, stick, what have you). Again, this is a step up from just micro-managing the whole time because there is a reward (being left alone) when he’s doing what we want. But it seems to me that the horse’s main perception would be that, when he’s with his human, there’s a lot of discomfort that he has to find his way to avoiding.

What’s good is that we have provided a way for him to do this—it is no longer a lose-lose situation for the horse as it is when the human continues to pressure the horse even when he's on focus. But nonetheless, it seems like the best deal the human is offering is a cessation of discomfort.

Now, many people agree that this is pretty dang motivating for horses. While other species, like dogs, are motivated by praise, horses really are motivated simply by being left alone. But they have that already when the human isn’t there. So what are we adding, then, that will cause them to really want to be with us? Just a lack of being an asshole means that they’ll like us okay, but as Linda said, we want our horses to be passionate about being with us—to love being with us. What would inspire them to feel that way?

I’m thinking today that the real limitation of the comfort/discomfort model is that, traditionally, our focus has been much more on the discomfort side. Sure, we are careful to offer, in Buck Brannaman’s terms, “the good deal”—which is to say that we start with just our focus and an invitation for the horse to follow it. But most of our effort and attention then goes into creating the appropriate level of discomfort to inspire our horse to accept that good deal. Hence, we focus on a line for the horse to follow, then pick up the rein, stick, etc., then tap with a rope, stick, etc., then tap harder, etc., until the horse finds our focus and we quit. Most of the process has to do with discomfort.

What if, instead, we put more of our effort and intention into the comfort side? What if we made that focus delicious for the horse to follow by being positive and enthusiastic about it ourselves? What if we worked on tuning all of the static out of our focus by having a clear idea and not getting sucked into distractions so that it’s easy for the horse to see it? What if we softened our focus by asking with relaxation and mental lightness rather than determination and direct-line thinking? What if we envisioned the good feeling of harmony with our horse and invited them to join us out of that space? What if we asked our horses, “Can you do this with me?” instead of “Can you do this?” What if, while asking our horse, we also radiated gratitude for all that our horse has already done?

I’m not suggesting that we focus exclusively on comfort, and I don’t espouse the “positive reinforcement only” model of horsemanship; sometimes you need to apply some form of pressure. But I think we’ve let our obsession with how and when and how much to apply pressure and when to stop applying pressure hijack the other side of the equation. I think there’s a space for positivity, not only in our release, reward, and gratitude when the horse does the right thing, but in the way we ask in the first place.

If we put half or more of our attention on envisioning the different kinds of comfort our horses need, then we’ve begun to balance the equation. What does comfort mean to your horse? Is it really just a lack of pressure? Or is it having a companion who speaks his language, understands his needs, seeks to create harmony, and helps him feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically? And how can we help our horses with all of these things?

These are the kinds of questions that, I think, will bring the comfort/discomfort model from a “caveman” level to a level that is present, immediate, and highly relevant to our larger horsemanship goal, not of getting our horse to do—or even to want to do—what we want, but of getting truly in harmony with our horse.

First, I’d like to give a big thank you to Mark Rashid, who has done a lot of thinking, writing, and teaching about softness and harmony with horses. (See, for example, Mark’s excellent new blog: Considering the Horse).

Second, I am excited that Parelli seems to be evolving in the direction of really emphasizing the comfort side of the equation and all of the things we can do to be positive presences in our horses’ lives. That element has always been in Parelli—in fact, “putting the relationship first” is, as any Parelli student knows, a central tenet of Parelli. But it’s a concept that needs a lot of fleshing out for people to be able to practice it successfully.

The good news is that, based on the things Linda and Jenny talked about this weekend, I believe the methods for doing so are about to come much more into the foreground, and I can’t wait!

July 24, 2014

Horsenality/Humanality course notes (part 3): Horsenality & Strategy

For the horsenalities, one really instructive thing that Linda did was to show videos of the different horsenalities having, ah, challenging moments. 

The LBE was having a grand time: he was standing up on his back feet practically dancing whenever his human approached, and you could tell it was all a big game to him. The LBI would plant his front feet and buck with his back end and land actually going backwards whenever the rider asked him forwards (you could just here him saying, “Shan’t!”). The RBE was identical to Linda’s drawing of RBE’s on wheels (with the rider at about a 45 degree angle to the ground as she got left behind), and the RBI was, as Linda hardly needed to note, by far the scariest of all: he was all over the place, explosive, and completely unpredictable.

Here’s an overview of what each type tends to do when they’re pushed, upset, or, as Patrick would put it, triggered—and what each one needs in that situation:



LBE

go UP

needs: play


RBE

go  FORWARD

needs: focus


LBI

WON’T move

needs: a reason


RBI

CAN’T move

needs: gentleness



Linda also explained the idea of spirit—as in, horsenality is determined by innate characteristics, learned behavior, environment, and spirit. While the first three are pretty self-explanatory, I’ve always been unclear on spirit. For instance, it can be a bit confusing to think of what a high-spirited introvert would look like.

But Linda clarified that spirit is, essentially, an amplifier—or a volume control—on a given horsenality’s traits. So whatever the behavior is, the higher the spirit level = the more effort the horse will put into the behavior. A resisting LBI might lie down if he’s got a high spirit level, but depending on what he’s doing, he might also move his feet a lot. However, the movement will be in the service of being a more extreme LBI—which is to say, pursuing his own ideas and resisting yours. (This is why to be successful with LBI’s, you have to make it their idea, because that is when they are motivated to move.)

Ideally, we learn to harmonize with our horses so that they don’t need to exhibit extreme behaviors, just as we try to communicate with other people in a way that doesn’t trigger them into being reactive. In addition to outlining the needs of the individual horsenalities (which I’ll discuss below), Linda gave two general pieces of advice about our own attitude that will help with our ability to harmonize with any horse:

(1) Before a session with your horse, visualize not so much what you want to do with your horse, but more how you want to do it and how you want your horse to look/feel. Primary goals are things like trust, responsiveness, confidence, relaxation, and we should be looking to reward these things as much as, if not more than, the specific movements we want from our horses.

(2) Warm-up is not training—it’s play time. Really don’t be critical here; just let them go and let them express themselves however they need to. The goal of a warm-up is to get them calm, confident, and responsive, and if you correct them, they won’t get there. If you plan to teach something new on the ground, that’s fine, but have a clear idea in your head about when you’re warming up and when you’re teaching. Until they’re connected, you’re still in warm-up, and zero brace is the concept you need here, as well as the belief that the horse can do no wrong.

The other big thing you’re trying to do during warm-up is to match your horse’s energy. The introvert/extrovert axis is more important here than the right brain/left brain, and you identify this by looking at the energy the horse is projecting. Is it inward, or outward? Where is his focus? Up and around, or more internal? That’s the first big question you need to answer so that you can harmonize with your horse.

After that, you can move on more to particulars. Here’s what Linda said about each horsenality type:


LEFT BRAIN EXTROVERTS (i.e., Highland)

Quite often, LBE’s aren’t the most dominant: they’re more interested in playing than in dominating. But often they go into fight mode with us because they are allergic to suppression. We tend to brace against them because we’re trying to control them, and when we do this, they can fight for hours. But it’s over in minutes if you don’t give them anything to fight/brace against. You have to take a leap of faith and really believe that zero brace is the key.

You also want to mentally engage/challenge LBE’s from the start. You’re not trying to calm them down or control them: let them play! However, this doesn’t have to be change, change, change; it’s more that when you ask them to go, have them GO! Don’t be afraid of the bigness. You can use this same attitude to embrace their ideas (“Yeah! That’s a great idea! You should GO!”)

Also, praise them a lot. LBE’s love to hear an enthusiastic “Good boy!”


RIGHT BRAIN INTROVERTS (i.e., Hot Jazz)

In an RBI, willingness is a measure of trust/confidence, and hesitancy is the opposite (they may be going forward but they’re thinking backwards because they’re not really confident enough to be going forward yet).

RBI’s want to do the right thing and get stressed when they don’t know how to. They don’t tend to play much, and they may not look at you much either. Linda: “if he can’t look at me, that’s the worst time for me to send him off.” RBI's are often most comfortable with you in Zone 3, 4, or 5, and sometimes that’s a better place for you to rest with them than Z1.

But RBI’s generally want to be in physical proximity to you, and doing things further away from you is hard for them.

With RBI’s you want to take it slowly, and the attitude of “they can do no wrong” is crucial. Don’t be afraid to ask RBI’s to do things, but do give them lots of time to process and build gradually. For example, circles further away and at liberty are hardest for Jazz, so when Linda started, she would let him come in whenever he wanted. As their training progressed, she asked more and more for him to find relaxation (blowing out, more rhythm, lower head, etc.) out on the circle and in movement. (During the demo my class watched, she asked him to keep trotting on the circle until he blew out, which was a progression from letting him come down to the walk to blow out.)

The biggest thing with an RBI is to wait until they’re able to do what you’re asking to do rather than going up your phases. Trust takes time, and particularly if you’ve got damaged goods, it’s a long road. Think about how to make what you want a more comfortable thing for your RBI (for example, if your RBI doesn’t want to go over poles, make the pole the comfort place by doing more away from it and letting her rest by it).

When you’ve asked your RBI to do something hard and stressful, follow it up with something easy and relaxing, like Stick-to-me.

On a side note, Linda has followed Luis Lucio’s lead and started using a heart monitor on her horses, particularly with Jazz. This gives her an indication of what the horse’s stress level really is, since RBI’s will try quite hard for humans even when they’re stressed. Linda rode Jazz around further away from and then closer to his herd mates while calling out his heart rate, and though he looked practically the same, the heart rate varied wildly just at the walk. Luis waits for the heart rate to go below 70 before he does anything, even walking.


LEFT BRAIN INTROVERTS (i.e., Na’avi)

LBI’s are slow on the outside but very busy inside. We tend to think it’s about getting the trot, canter, etc., but what it’s really about is getting the mind: the higher gaits and the responsiveness will come when you have the mind. In fact, as Linda put it, “LBI’s only look LBI’s when we’re doing it wrong.”

With LBI’s, we tend to get sucked into nagging; we often start above phase 1 and stay around phase 2/3 for a long time, both of which really annoy them (which means they go forward even less). Our goal with LBI’s is to be soft and clear, and you always have to start soft yourself if you want your horse to be soft. That’s true with all horses, but it’s particularly important to remember with LBI’s, who often cause us to get forget it.

The worst thing you can do is to try to prevent them from getting slow or micromanage them. (Linda’s definition of micromanaging is, in fact, preventing mistakes, because then you are also preventing them from learning.) The next worse thing you can do is push them when they slow down, or get out ahead of them. Don’t get into a fight: think in terms of allowing them to zig, and then zagging them back—don’t resist the zig.

Break the cycle of nagging by staying true to the progression of your aids. When riding, try not to use your leg. Start with your seat, tap on the shoulder, and then do whatever motivates them (maybe this is tickling them in the ear) and then release quickly. Then start again if you need to. Don’t hang in there, nag, or try to control.

If you ask for a trot and they trot, stop them and make a big fuss praising them (but don’t mess their mane all up rubbing them—you do that with extroverts). Then repeat. Pretty soon they want to trot because they get to stop. 

Same concepts apply if they’re veering off course. Don’t pull on the rein; instead, reset them quickly with the rein, then reward. Repeat as necessary. So rather than, “Gooooooooo theeeeeeeere,” it’s, “GO THERE! Good girl. GO THERE! Good girl.”

Your mantra with an LBI is, “Don’t get mad; get even-tempered.”


RIGHT BRAIN EXTROVERTS

We didn’t actually get to see Linda work with one of these. As with LBE’s, however, you want to avoid saying ‘no’ to them and correcting them a lot or trying to suppress them; instead, give them a direction in which to expend their energy.

If they’re on adrenaline, ideally you want to be able to encourage them to move around and burn it off: “you’d better go!” If you’re not in an environment where that’s possible, use constant and snappy disengages and changes of direction until the adrenaline’s gone.


At the end of the day, what’s true about each horsenality is this: “Horsemanship has to be about the horse’s needs. The perfect horse is there, right in front of you, and you’re either bringing out the best in them or the worst in them.”

I’ll close with a few audio clips of Linda and Patrick reprising their delightful Savvy Summit roles as horses and humans of different –analities paired together. The last video is of Linda speaking the part of a fellow student’s LBI horse. When Urszula asked a question about her horse, Linda asked if she’d like to come up and have a conversation with her horse (i.e., Linda). What ensued was hilarious in the way that only Linda impersonating an LBI horse can be. Enjoy!

video



video


video


video

(Video images once again courtesy of Becky Shewchuk.)

May 21, 2014

Horsenality/Humanality course notes (part 2): Triggers and reactions

I spent most of the last post talking about the different humanality types, and I think it's easy to see from the descriptions how each type has the potential to be both attractive and frustrating to others. In this post, I'm going to linger a bit on the frustrating part, because that's where we usually get all tripped up in our interactions with people and horses. 

One problem most of us have is that we allow ourselves to be triggered by others—often by others who are in different quadrants than our own. We don't understand or empathize with their priorities or modes of communication, and we take their behavior personally.

As Patrick defines it, a trigger is something that sends you into an emotionally reactive place. You don't even process the trigger: you just immediately get defensive or upset, judge, blame, attack, retreat, shut down, etc. In this state, it's very hard to have meaningful communication or make good choices. But it's very easy to alienate and hurt others, and to make things worse for yourself.

Some common triggers among humans:
—rolling eyes (read as lack of respect)
—walking away (read as rejection)
—staring/intense eye contact (read as creepy/predatory, or a power play)
—no eye contact/looking away (read as not caring)
—yelling or raising the voice (read as a sign of anger or emotional upset)
—finger-pointing (read as blaming)
—silence (read as coldness)
—smirking (read as mocking/laughing at the other person)
—blaming or saying "you're wrong" (read as a personal attack)
—putting words in your mouth (read as presumption or condescension)
—being left out (read as being intentionally excluded)
—not being acknowledged (read as dismissal) 

The problem, as this list shows, is not so much with the action itself as with the meaning we place on it . . . and the assumption that the other person did it on purpose. 

Yet while many of these actions could be rudely intended, many of them would be easy for certain humanality types to fall into without meaning anything negative by it. An LBE might tell someone they're wrong in the process of trying to fix a problem without any thought that the person might feel hurt. An RBI might look away, not because they don't care, but because they can't handle the intensity of the connection. An LBI might be silent because they are thinking about what to say. And an RBE might roll their eyes out of sheer over-expressiveness.

Understanding the behaviors of the different humanalities is a good starting place to help us avoid taking things personally in the first place. 

We can go a step further by becoming aware of the specific kinds of things that trigger us, so that we can begin to respond more consciously. If we also know the triggers of others, we can become more effective in communicating with them and working with them rather than against them. 

The following charts lay out some triggers and reactions that are typical for the different quadrants.


 Triggers for each quadrant


LBE
Being out of control.
Feeling minimized or
disrespected.



RBE
Feeling ignored,
unheard, or left out.



LBI
Having their system
or schedule messed up.




RBI
Not having their needs
understood or cared about.
Being pushed.







Go-to techniques for each quadrant:
what they will try first 
when under stress or dealing with adversity



 LBE
Lead/Take charge






RBE
Connect and
express themselves




LBI
Make a system




RBI
Be diplomatic







What they do when that doesn’t work


LBE
Fight!

(and then fight harder—
get even louder and bigger)



RBE
Flight!

(for humans, it’s a flight 
into out-of-control emotion)

LBI
Resist/Refuse

(become even more 
attached to doing it their way)




RBI
Freeze or Leave

   (hide, disengage, give up,
back off, avoid conflict)    





Under stress, we tend to over-use our strengths. When the pressure continues to build as a result of the fact that we're being ineffective with our go-to technique, then we often flip to the other side of the chart. As Billy Joel would put it, sometimes we go to extremes:


What they do when THAT doesn’t work


LBE
Shut down/Walk away

“Fine. Screw it.”



RBE
Go cold

“You don’t love me, 
I don’t love you.”


LBI
Have a tantrum

“I’m tearing up the system!”




RBI
Explode

“AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”





If we go on long enough with our unconscious reactiveness, at some point we kind of calcify into a not-so-fun-house mirror version of what used to be our personal strengths:


When it heads toward being pathological


LBE
Narcissistic

self-important & self-admiring
condescending & bullying
no empathy with or gratitude for
others
fantasize about unlimited
power, success, and love



RBE
Histrionic

rapidly shifting & extreme
emotions
Drama Queen, Princess, or
Victim
must be center of attention
believe that they are critical to
you & you are critical to them

LBI
Obsessive Compulsive

obsessed with rules, lists, order,
schedules, & cleanliness
perfectionistic & judgmental
reluctant to delegate
inflexible & overly conscientious
emotionally stiff & unadaptable

RBI
Withdrawn

       avoid intimacy & social situations
 because of a fear of being shamed, 
ridiculed, criticized, rejected, or embarrassed
vigilant, anxious, & isolated
feel inferior, inept, & unappealing




It is useful to be aware of the fact that people who are in extreme or moderately extreme emotional states will often try to induce us to join them. As Patrick noted, people who are angry or upset don’t have fun being that way by themselves, so they try (usually unconsciously) to hook us into an emotional state as well. 

Here are some common strategies they might use on us (or we may find ourselves using on others):

—blame (so that we defend)

—exaggerate/tell it wrong (so that we feel the need to set the record straight)

—guilt-trip: "You don't care!"

—name call: "You're just like ________!" [your mother, my ex-wife, your no-good Uncle Doug] or more general things like princess, slob, coward, etc.

—threaten (to leave, stop doing something, etc.): "If you don't do X, I'm going to do Y"

—order

—ask a question (so that we'll explain, which will give them an in to arguing)

—use the silent treatment/mope

—complain/go negative

However, rather than getting sucked into escalating the drama, we can opt to put our energy into helping others stay calmer instead. Here are some strategies my classmates came up with to put each quadrant at ease:

 Advice on how to treat each quadrant


LBE
Have fun. Be playful, competitive, and speak up. Say what you think and don't sugarcoat it.



RBE
Accept us, include us, 
and direct us.
Smile and be friendly.



LBI
Get to the point, be logical,
 and keep emotions in check. 
Keep voice low. 
Respect my bubble 
and my privacy.




RBI
See us, invite us in with 
eye contact, wait.       
Don't interrupt.      
Be gentle and sincere.      
Keep energy low.      
Ask permission.     




While it's not our job to manage or prevent other people's reactiveness, learning how to flex and meet them halfway (or sometimes more than halfway) is a gift that we can give to those we love. It's also a practical skill to have, for, as Patrick pointed out, "A lot of times your spouse will not sign up for the personal development program."

Indeed, family members are the most challenging for us. They know all of our buttons, and family dynamics are generally deeply rooted. Patrick, once again: "They throw us off more than the angry and upset people because they make us angry and upset, and we want to shake them and become normal." 

But, of course, it's ourselves that we need to shake into a less reactive state in order to feel normal again, even when it seems more satisfying to shake others. We can always attempt to change others, but we have a radically greater ability to change ourselves. And once we manage that apparently daunting task and let go of a little of our judgment/blame/resentment, we often see that there's a ripple effect in those around us.  

By then, however, we will care less about others being reactive, because we will have learned how to manage our own reactiveness better. And the world will seem, at that point, a much less stressful place.

I hope some of this information contributes to the understanding and awareness that will help on that journey. In the next post, I'll move into the horsenality side of things.

March 3, 2014

Horsenality/Humanality course notes (part 1): The four humanality types

As I mentioned in my last post, I just finished the Horsenality/
Humanality course with Linda Parelli and Patrick Handley a few weeks ago. In a way, I've been waiting for this course for years, ever since I tried to piece together a little more information—particularly on the humanality end of things—after my Fast Track. (Here is the blog post where I made some decent headway with that effort.)

I was even more inspired to keep learning about humanality and horsenality after Patrick and Linda's excellent savvy club DVD of April 2013. 

There are two things in particular I love about that DVD. First, the information in it has been huge in helping me to understand myself and others in a more positive and accepting way. And second, Linda and Patrick are uproariously funny and delightful together. When I heard they were teaching a course, I didn't so much make a decision to attend as just do the only obvious thing: sign up and go!

And the course did not disappoint. I soaked in information as fast as I could, and I thoroughly enjoyed the anecdotes and humor throughout. It feels greedy to keep so much wonderfulness to myself, so I'm going to do my best to share a lot of it here, including, as much as possible, the bits that really tickled me. 

But first I want to start with what Pat said. He was sitting on his horse and rambling on, as he does, joking and talking about nothing in particular, when he suddenly turned serious and said, as he does, something really amazing. And it was this: "Horsenality/Humanality is not an excuse: it's a strategy and a starting point."

I think we can all worry about being pigeon-holed or about having our depth and complexity minimized by schemata like the humanality types. Conversely, we can all be seduced by the possibility of establishing a clear identity and then never stretching ourselves beyond it.

Yet the horsenality and humanality types aren't intended to limit ourselves or others. Rather, they are meant to give us, as Pat said, a starting place—a springboard to greater understanding and compassion for both ourselves and others, be they human or equine. They give us as well the tools—the strategies—we need to be able to communicate effectively with those who are different from ourselves. And at their very best, they give us the opportunity to live more expansively by creating an understanding of our starting point and mapping out where we might want to go next in our quest to be our best selves—as well as how we might get there. 

Everyone has their own journey and their own maps to follow, and I'm a big believer in letting folks get on with their journeys in the way that suits them best. So I don't want to insist that studying things like humanality is the only way. 

But I'm also a big believer that awareness about things like the different humanality types can make a real difference—especially in the amount of human kindness out there—and it's to that end that I'm sharing this information. (And also because I just freaking love this stuff!).

I'm going to start with an overview on the humanality side of things in this post, and then in future posts move on to my notes about interactions, triggers, and strategies, as well as the horsenality stuff. 

Here's the basic humanality breakdown:




 Left Brain Extroverts
Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man
is like a double helping of LBE.

 
LBE's are motivated by achievement and focused on results: "Get to the point and do it now!" They are active ("When things are happening, we're having a good day!") and competitive ("You play to win! Who cares if the kid you're playing against in Monopoly is only 4?"). They are confident and assertive and have a great capacity to believe in themselves, and generally to convince others as well . . . even when they're wrong. Patrick described a trail ride with his wife where they got lost, except that she didn't believe she was lost: "She was lost and convinced that she knew the way home. That's a bad combination." Patrick, having been married to an LBE for a long time, did not, at least, fall into the trap of believing that, because she was confident, she was also right. This is a big danger for other people around LBE's, to whom the other types often defer.

Princess Leia gives fellow LBE Han
Solo a run for his money in Star Wars.

(notice the direct eye contact)
Because LBE's are so direct and assertive, it's easy to know where an LBE stands. But sometimes the rest of us have trouble responding in a big enough and direct enough way that the LBE knows where we stand.

In a debate this situation is even more obvious. LBE's love to debate because they know they're going to win—if only because they keep turning up the volume and getting more forceful the more you debate them. Whereas an RBI can't think of what to say in a conflict, an LBE thinks of several things they shouldn't say and says them anyway. An RBI isn't likely to get in a fight with an LBE, though, because an RBI could have two whiskeys and a massive amount of caffeine and still not be able to get big enough to keep up with an LBE. 

Beatrice in Much Ado:
"Her wit values itself so
highly that to her all
matter else seems weak."
(notice the confident body
posture and cocky smile)

LBE's, however, are not just willfully pugnacious; for them, engaging in a fight is a key part of connecting and if you fight with them, it means that you care. Patrick says of his wife: "So I engage in fights sometimes. It seems like a total waste of time to me, but it's meaningful to her. Though if she were here now, she'd say, 'What fight?' because what feels like a fight to an RBI isn't even on the radar screen of an LBE." Often this is because LBE's can appear angry when they're simply passionate about doing something:

         They're focused on results. 
         Sometimes there's roadkill.






Goldie Hawn in almost every
role: loved and in love with
others and with life.

Right Brain Extroverts

"Tell me what you want and give me a couple of hugs and smile!" RBE's are the golden retrievers of the human world. They are focused on relationships: they like people and they want people to like them. And they enjoy demonstrating their affection both physically and verbally. (If you receive an email with a whole string of smiley faces, it was probably sent by an RBE.) Given their great love for interacting, the most painful thing for these playful, engaging people is to be left out. 

Their energy is of a happy, bouncy, but somewhat scattered nature. It doesn't shoot out like a highly focused laser the way an LBE's does; rather, it tends to project out chaotically in multiple directions. 

Meryl Streep's character in Mamma Mía being enthusiastic & expressive.

An RBE's enthusiasm can make it difficult for them to settle down and stay focused and on-task. Their physical environment might reflect this internal state: while an LBI 
Nathan Lane's character
in The Birdcage is the
definitive RBE drama queen.

will have a very specific system for, say, hanging up their halter, an RBE won't even be able to find their halter.
 

RBE's see everything through an emotional lens. The saving grace for them on the emotional roller coaster that can ensue is that they tend to be optimists, sometimes to the point of being a bit Pollyannish. However, they can also veer toward the drama queen end of things under duress.

Whether RBE's feel high or low, they want to talk about it. They enjoy emoting, connecting, and expressing themselves, and conversation gives them an opportunity to do all of these things.

The donkey in Shrek is a perfect example of how
all that happy chattiness can drive an introvert berserk.



Left Brain Introverts

The opposite of the emotional RBE's, LBI's pick a few key emotions and then say, "That's enough. No reason to have all of these emotions. They are totally unnecessary and get in the way."
Showing the bare minimum
of emotion, Tommy Lee
Jones in Men in Black is
the quintessential LBI.
As Patrick put it, "These people are like Elvis—when too much emotion comes out, they have left the building."
  

Whereas RBE's like to give and receive constant
reaffirmations of affection, LBI's take the stance of "I told you I loved you when we got married twenty years ago. I'll tell you if something changes." 

The passion of an LBI (yes, they do have passion, though some might call it obsession) lies in systems. They are highly logical problem solvers and vastly prefer to solve their problems by inventing new systems. They also tend toward the perfectionistic end of things: they've never met a system that couldn't be improved on (unless, of course, it's one of their own).

LBI's make wonderful researchers because they like to have plenty of facts and numbers to support their systems. And in an argument, you
In the Harry Potter books,
Hermione can solve any problem
with a little more research.
cannot budge them off their data: "I've got the facts and numbers on my side and I'm not changing that just because someone's emotional." However, they won't make it personal while they're telling you how wrong you are; they'll just calmly reiterate in a detailed way for the 58th time why you are, in fact, incorrect.

But their favorite thing to do with their facts and numbers is to analyze them. And then analyze them some more. As much as they love systems, LBI's love perhaps even more the theories behind systems. These are the "why" people who want to understand every aspect of a project before they begin. 

The private Mr. Bates, who operates
by his own lights in Downton Abbey.
LBI's might talk animatedly about the ideas with which they're obsessed, but it's often a fairly one-way conversation. As Linda said of Pat, "If we have company, he'll talk non-stop, but he's really auditioning his ideas." Otherwise, LBI's can tend to be a little aloof. This is because LBI's are generally reserved and reluctant to share a lot of personal information. Nor do they have a great need for interaction: LBI's are usually happiest when left in peace to think about and perfect their systems.



Right Brain Introverts 

Frequently cast as an RBI, Hugh
Grant turns hesitancy into charm
every time.
RBI's are modest (sometimes to a fault), unassuming, and conflict-averse. For RBI's no conflict is a useful conflict, and it's amazing what RBI's will consider to be a conflict. Already a little muted by nature, RBI's tend to downplay their own feelings and needs in an effort to avoid that much-dreaded conflict. This often leaves them waiting for others to read their minds, although RBI's would say that you don't need to read their minds—just their subtle signals: 
"I think I've been perfectly clear: I was looking at the clock, and
      that clearly means it's time to go." 
"Well why didn't you just tell me it was time to go?" 
"Because I didn't want a conflict!"

In Pride & Prejudice, the only time Jane
Bennet argues is when she tries convince
her sister to take a kinder view of others.
The strength of RBI's lies in their ability to be diplomatic, a skill which most RBI's have honed in their efforts to avoid conflict. But when diplomacy doesn't work, they tend to get steamrolled by other people. Generally the only kind of fight they can win is a freeze out, but they're usually well gone before it reaches that point. While LBI's might leave because they don't want to deal with emotion, RBI's leave because they can't handle it. Patrick's father, for instance, tended to run for the hills when his mom was mad: "You could just barely see Dad out mowing the North 40 . . . if you used binoculars." Although given that Patrick's mom was also an RBI, she probably only showed her anger by raising an eyebrow or shutting a cabinet door a little more firmly than usual.

Although the situation in The King's Speech
  is an extreme one, George VI's literal
inability to speak up for himself is
emblematic of the struggles of many RBI's.
RBI's can get a bad rap for being passive aggressive, but this tendency generally stems from the fact that they don't feel they can assert their needs directly: first, because it might create conflict, and second, because it feels immodest to put their needs before those of others. RBI's tend to worry about what others need and put themselves out for everyone else, and are generally waiting (usually rather fruitlessly) for others to do the same for them. Their default response, therefore, is "I'm fine" or "That's fine," and you may have to repeat your question several times before they will admit, "Well, um, really, if you're very sure it's not too much trouble I might possibly rather do this—but not if it will put you out at all!"
Juno's Bleeker is the classic RBI nice
guy (I don't think you can have a nick-
name like 'Bleeker' if you're not an RBI).
They
may then feel a little guilt over the possibility that you were put out but, like them, were too nice to say so. 

Though challenging for others to read, RBI's are nonetheless some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. If you give them time and space and understanding, and if you're gentle and patient with them, they will share their very large hearts with you.


I'll close with a video we watched in class that purports to be about the different ways men and women communicate, but I think is more accurately a portrayal of two different humanality types trying to communicate (I'm thinking, in particular, LBI and RBE):   


 
Tune into the next post for more on how the different humanality types interact with and irk each other. . . .


**Special thanks to Patrick Handley for his excellent teaching, and to my H/H course mates, who contributed a lot to the descriptions and archetypes that I included of each humanality.