Team Discussion around table

Cognitive diversity can create discomfort. Have you ever noticed the intense stare you might give to someone who isn’t coming to your conclusions or agreeing with your approach? You work to hold your tongue because you might burst out with obvious disdain something like, “How much clearer can I be?!” In your opinion, they “don’t get it”? What they don’t get is likely your thinking approach. Therein lies the beauty of the awareness that comes from an instrument like Emergenetics to understand cognitive diversity. It helps to explain some of the anxiety you might feel when you’re communicating with someone whose thinking preferences are dissimilar to yours. There is some cool science to it, too.

If you put your finger in the middle of your forehead between your eyes, you’ll be pointing at what neuroscientist call your third eye. It’s the place in your brain that activates when you think about yourself AND people who are like you or who agree with you. Conversely, in the back of the brain is the place where we register disgust. It is the same place that switches on when we are met with someone who is unlike us or who disagrees with us. Now you can understand how the person who “doesn’t get it” is likely activating some anxiety and maybe even a little disgust in your head, and you in theirs.

So, what do you do with this little gem of brain science in dealing with cognitive diversity? I think you use it as a sentinel; something that warns you to switch on your emotional intelligence. To me, that alarm says, “Slow down. Ask questions. Seek to understand. Explore other possibilities to the issue we’re discussing.” When we work only to convince someone of our viewpoint, we are literally setting up conditions like the US Congress, and we know how well that goes. It’s a win-lose mindset.

The more adaptive approach would be to adopt the mindset that says, “I’m not looking to get my idea validated. I’m looking for the idea that works. It could be mine, theirs, a combination or something neither of us considered before our exploration together.”

Differences might never feel entirely comfortable. However, in blending more cognitive diversity into your life, work to reset your barometer to label a little discomfort from different perspectives as a good sign; one that says you are making progress toward something that could be more stunning by working with all of the genius in the room. Not just your own.



Scott Halford, CSP, CPAE is a certified Emergenetics Associate. He is also a Certified Speaking Professional and a member of the National Speakers Hall of Fame. He is the author of three books. His latest, Activate Your Brain, is directed at creating a more successful, effective and fulfilling workplace experience through the lens of the brain. He can be reached at

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