A Neuro Nugget to Increase Open-Mindedness

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As coaches, how do we support clients to be more open-minded?

In a word: curiosity.

First, a neuro-nugget on curiosity. The right hemisphere of our brain is responsible for taking in new information, connecting it to other things we know, and more. The left hemisphere organizes the information, distributes it into memory, and routinizes it (aka habit).

Like internal organs that are oxygenated after exercise, our right hemisphere is made more healthy with the blood flow and creation of new neural networks that comes from novelty. Without curiosity, we leave our right hemisphere to atrophy, while our left hemisphere works overtime, rigidifying our habits. We all know people who are “stuck in their ways”—studies show that these people die earlier!

A Quick Coaching Snippet

Here’s an excerpt from a leadership coaching conversation that describes how the coach can help increase curiosity:

Coach: As you describe this situation with your direct report, I hear you on the hamster wheel: “she should be able to do this without me holding her hand… I don’t want to fire her because she has some good qualities… she should be able to do this….” It’s as if your powers of reasoning are saying “this should be working” and yet it’s not.
[note: the use of metaphor with the hamster wheel]

Client: Yeah. She just isn’t coming through.

Coach: Out of curiosity, how might she be on the hamster wheel, too?
[note: this question broadens the conversation from just the client’s viewpoint, requiring the client to engage the right hemisphere to consider new information]

Client: Hmm. I don’t know. Let me think. Ok. [client describes situation]

Coach: And everyone’s hamster wheel spins faster. I hear the frustration.

Client: Yep.

Coach: So if the hamster wheel approach isn’t working, how else do you want to experiment with getting different results?

[note: coach cracks open the door of curiosity with the word “experiment”] [end of excerpt]

Here’s to your healthy right hemisphere as you experiment with the new and novel! As an …

  • Executive Coach, coaching executives to increase their EQ as they relate to their employees,
  • Job Search Coach, coaching job seekers to spend more time on informational interviews and less time on graffiti-ing their resumes to generic job postings, or
  • MBA Coach, coaching students to be more relational and less transactional in their networking

… how will you think differently, act differently, coach differently this week?


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