Are You Aware of Your Thinking Preferences?


Coaching has taught me so much: how to be a more effective listener, how to draw the best out of people, and how people can accomplish more than they ever imagined with a little support. Coaching has also reinforced an idea Dr. Phil made popular: “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” I would switch it up and say you can’t change what you aren’t aware of.

Awareness is big! Recently, while coaching a seasoned manager, she mentioned how some recent training had made her realize something important. She was more focused on plugging people into holes than finding the opportunities that utilized someone’s strengths, personality, thinking, etc. in a way that would enable them to thrive in their roles. This discovery completely changed how she was now going about filling a few holes on her team. The happy by-product of this realization and change in the way she was managing is that her people have come to trust her at a much deeper level. That’s priceless.

Making fresh discoveries is one of the things I love the most about working with my own coach. In a recent coaching session, I realized that I tend to view things as permanent, no matter what they are. The truth is that some things are temporary. That small shift has had a huge impact in how I approach things.

There is truly a never-ending list of ways you can become more aware. I’ve talked a lot about being aware of your values, your strengths, your priorities, your purpose, or your personality (DiSC). It also certainly helps to be aware of your attitudes, feelings, and beliefs. If you are fuzzy in any of these areas, working with a coach is fabulous way to increase your awareness.

When it comes to leading, managing, or relationships, perhaps my favorite tools for increasing awareness is The Herman Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI®) which assesses your thinking preferences.

Prior to taking the HBDI assessment, I can’t say that I had given much thought to the way that I processed information or how anyone else did for that matter. Turns out, awareness in this area is remarkably powerful!

Having an awareness of my own thinking preferences, as well as the thinking preferences of my husband, has explained so much about why certain conversations have been tricky for us. For example, when we were newlyweds, my husband casually mentioned while reading the newspaper that he might like to move to the Middle East to work. Up to this point, such a big move had never been a topic of conversation before so the sudden introduction to this concept was earth shattering to me! I immediately begin thinking through all the many details that would have to happen to make such a move happen and the prospect was incredibly daunting.

Now, had I been more aware of our thinking preferences, I would have quickly tapped into the fact that this was probably my husband being his natural visionary/dreaming self. And he would have realized that I was naturally responding in my preference for process and how things get done. However, at that point in life, we were completely unaware of thinking preferences and instead enjoyed a bit of a tense moment.

Now that my husband and I are aware of our thinking preferences, it allows us to approach delicate topic much differently.

When you are aware of your own thinking preferences, you can make adjustments so that you can better communicate with those who prefer to think in other ways. That skill not only makes a difference in your relationships, but it will also make you a better leader, manager, salesperson, and communicator. And if you are a part of a team – that awareness is invaluable!

HBDI® was developed by Ned Herrmann based on his research and study of the brain. Through his research he was able to develop the four quadrant Whole Brain® model which is a metaphor for how we think.

Whole Brain Model

While we all have access to each of the four areas, you also have a preference and are in the habit of using some styles of thinking more than others just like you prefer doing things with your right or left hand. That doesn’t mean you can’t do things with the opposite hand, it just means you would have to apply yourself much more to do so. The same is true with your non-preferred thinking styles.

As you increase your awareness of the four thinking styles, you will be able to more easily apply Whole Brain thinking in ways that will increase your effectiveness in whatever you do.

The HBDI® assessment will show you:

  1. A ranking of your thinking preferences from very strong to low.
  2. How you prefer to think under normal circumstances, and how you tend to think under stress. Yes! Stress can have a powerful impact on some people’s thinking and knowing this – that’s powerful!
  3. The thinking styles you have the strongest preference for. It will also show you the specific “clusters” you prefer within a style. Two people who have similar thinking preferences can still have differences depending on the clusters they prefer in a quadrant.

The applications are endless. Here are just a few ways you can apply Whole Brain Thinking:

  1. Resolve conflict
  2. Plan better meetings
  3. Communicate more effectively
  4. Create better teams
  5. Sell more effectively
  6. Market more successfully
  7. Make better decisions

A few extras:

  1. Your individual HBDI profile is packed with additional information that you will find invaluable!
  2. Beyond the individual profile, you can also have a profile created for two people (or a couple) as well as a team. These profiles also provide additional information not found in the individual profile.
  3. Working with a certified HBDI® Practitioner and coach like myself will help you apply Whole Brain® Thinking so that you can thrive in whatever you do.

Is it time to take your awareness to the next level? How would learning more about your thinking preferences make a difference in your work, leadership, or relationships?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.


  1. Michele on September 2, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    After 30 years of marriage I have finally learned, if Randy says he wants to move to the Middle East, all I have to say is, “that would be interesting.” No plan of action necessary. All he is doing is talking out loud. Let the visionary talk. The idea is fleeting and I don’t need to be involved in any way. No more sleepless nights worrying about something that is not going to happen.

    • Marvae on September 2, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      Exactly! Enjoy your restful nights!

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