Welcome back to Adopted, Now What?
In this episode, Becky Walker provides an overview of one of the basic concepts that she finds very helpful as an adoptive parent, which is the four quadrants that represent four human selfs. The importance of this in the adopted parent and child relationship is that there is often a thinking disconnect. Understanding these quadrants allows for you as the parent to communicate better with your adopted child.
Listen to the Episode here:
Communicate Better By Understanding the Four Quadrants of Human Selfs
I feel extremely grateful for the moment I first became aware of thinking preferences as it provided me with insights that were pivotal in improving my relationship with my adopted daughter. My main activity, professionally, day to day is to provide coaching and support for adoptive parents after they’ve adopted and their dealing with disruptive behaviors of their adopted child. Or when they just need assistance in improving the quality of the connection they have with their adopted child. In today’s podcast I want to share briefly what I mean when I use the terms coaching and support. Also, I’m going to provide an overview of one of the basic concepts that I find very helpful as an adoptive parent myself.
First, when I say I provide coaching, what am I talking about? In my practice, coaching is a one on one relationship between an adoptive parent and a trained coach who is also an adoptive parent. The purpose of the coaching is to assist the parent in achieving his or her goals as a parent. The famous Dallas Cowboy’s football coach, Tom Landry, described a coach as follows, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”
I think of coaching the same way I do people’s desires to be more physically fit or to eat in a healthy way. The person is not broken or incapable. They can sometimes just move toward their goals more quickly if they work with a personal trainer or a nutritionist to help them become aware of, understand, and very importantly, put into practice specific things they can do to get to their goals. Their coach provides them with techniques and strategies and helps them practice them properly and provides them encouragement by being their cheerleader when the going gets tough.
I also mentioned that I provide adoptive parents with support. What do I mean by that? How many times have you, as an adoptive parent, said something to yourself like, “I just wish I had someone to talk to that really understands what I’m going through.” Or, “My family and friends must be sick and tired of me sounding like a broken record, but I really do need someone that can just let me talk about how I feel or that will let me talk about what my child does and how it impacts me without judging me or criticizing me.”
When I talk about providing support, I’m again talking about a one on one interaction where a coach provides a safe, non-judgmental place where adoptive parents can share their feelings, even feelings about which they might be ashamed. A place where they can receive empathy for those feelings. Because a difficult relationship with an adopted child can negatively impact other relationships, it’s not unusual for my support to include the exploration of a parent’s feelings and needs beyond the adoptive relationship itself. Such as the marital relationship, relationships with members of one’s extended family and even with friends or our children’s teachers and other persons in our lives. That’s what I’m talking about when I refer to coaching and support.
With that understanding, let’s move on to one of the basic ideas that I find helpful in navigating any relationship and that I find can be almost magical when considering the interactions between an adoptive parent and their adopted child. In relationships, there is often what can be referred to as a thinking disconnect. We all, as humans, have natural personal styles. These styles influence the way that we think and in turn the way we communicate. Including the way we hear or don’t hear communications from other people. Our natural preferences directly impact all of our relationships, be those family relationships, business ones, even just casual interactions with people that we don’t know well or that we don’t know at all. Today, we’re focusing on the potential impact on the adoptive parent and child relationship.
I invite you to visualize some things in your imagination as I describe them. Please don’t be concerned if you’re not great at that visualizing in your head thing. I know some of you will just receive this information by feeling it. Others of you are going to want to see it on paper. For you, I’ve attached some graphic representations to this podcast so you can open those and more easily take in this information.
I invite you now to imagine a circle. This circle represents the human brain. The circle is divided into four equal quadrants or parts. Imagine two parts on the right representing the right side of the brain and the two parts on the left are the left side of the brain. Now, just to let you know, I’m basing this visualization on the Herrmann Whole Brain Model which is trademarked and belongs to Herrmann International. Their website is www.HerrmannInternational.com. Please visit their website for full information about this model.
Back to our visualization. The four quadrants or parts represent four human selfs. In the Herrmann model, these four quadrants are color coded. Visualize the upper left quadrant in our circle. The color for this one is blue. It represents the Rational Self. Under it, the lower left quadrant is green. This is the Safekeeping Self. Let’s continue around to the lower right quadrant. This one is red and represents the Feeling Self. Finally, the upper right quadrant is yellow. It is the Experimental Self. Do you see the four parts of the circle in your mind? Upper left, blue. Lower left, green. Lower right, red. Upper right, yellow.
These colors will become the shorthand for how we refer to the four different selfs and their thinking styles. There are characteristics associated with each of these selfs. I’m going to provide some example characteristics for each. As I do, pick out the two quadrants that you think describe you the most or that remind you or yourself the most of you.
We’ll start once again in the upper left quadrant. Remember, it’s blue and represents what is called the Rational Self. Characteristics of people who find themselves in this blue brain quadrant include those that like to analyze things. They like being logical. They are critical thinkers. They are realistic. These people may know about money and they know how things work. This person easily quantifies and really likes numbers. Some professions that are associated with blue brain thinking include, the IT professional, doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers and research scientists can be found in this quadrant.
In the lower left, this is the green quadrant and represents the Safekeeping Self. Here we find people that like to establish procedures to get things done. They are planners and organizers. They take preventative actions. They are thought of as being reliable. They’re neat. They like to be on time. They often are rule followers. Did you recognize yourself as a green person? I did, because this is a very dominant quadrant for me. Some professions that are associated with this green brain include, accountants, operations managers, producers, police officers, event coordinators and administrative personnel. I spent over 30 years doing regulatory compliance work, which is all about following rules and making sure other people follow the rules also. I find myself easily in this quadrant.
Let’s keep moving around to the right, to the next quadrant where the red brain lives, on the lower right. This represents the Feeling Self. Here we find persons that are sensitive to others. They like to teach. They may like to touch a lot. They are supportive and expressive. They often talk a lot. As the quadrant name suggests, they are feelers. They care about feelings, their own and the feelings of others. Some professions in the red brain area are teachers, coaches, counselors, nurses, waiters, customer service professionals and sales person. These professions are feeling people.
Now, the final quadrant, which is that yellow brain, the Experimental Self in the upper right position in the circle. Characteristics of people with yellow brain thinking are that they often may be impetuous. They tend to take risks and sometimes they are rule breakers. They often like surprises. They are curious. They like to play. They often speculate. They have great imaginations. You can guess what these yellow brains may be professionally because this is where we find the artists, actors, inventors, architects, entertainers, product managers, fashion designers and photographers.
We’ve reviewed all four colors. What two colors felt the most familiar to you? As I mentioned earlier, I find myself in the green brain. I like doing things step by step. I’m very orderly and neat. My other main quadrant is the red quadrant. That shows up in my love for helping other people and for teaching, exactly what I’m doing today.
I collaborate with a wonderful consultant named Bill. He is mostly a yellow. In the yellow quadrant, he’s a big picture person. He’s very imaginative. But he’s also a red. He’s very interested in the feelings of other people. He and I are primarily opposites. I’m green in the lower left and I like to approach things in a very ordered manner. He is definitely yellow in that upper right quadrant. He’s very creative. He and I meet in the red feeling place and we get things done. I bring the order, he brings the creativity and magic can happen. Because we understand the styles of each other, we figure out how we can collaborate and cooperate.
The importance of this in the adopted parent and child relationship is, as I mentioned earlier, that there is often a thinking disconnect. In other words, the parent will likely speak and hear in terms that reflect the preferences of their dominant thinking styles, while their child is speaking and hearing in the terms of their own thinking styles. Let me pause here a second because I can sense some of you are having some urgent and logical thoughts at this moment. There’s something like this. “Does a person only have two thinking styles? Does anyone have all four? If a parent and child are related biologically, will their thinking styles be the same?” etc.
These are all great questions. I won’t have time to get into the details today. I’ll just say this. Sometimes, in families created through biological birth, some of the siblings will be very close in their styles and other siblings will be quite different. Sometimes children are very much like their biological parents and sometimes they’re not. Some individuals are almost all one thinking style. This is apparently pretty rare. Other individuals will appear to have almost an equal amount of each thinking style. For instance, Thomas Jefferson’s characteristics and actions were such that he is thought to have been a person that had almost equal amounts of each style. A majority of people falls somewhere else in the spectrum and usually have two styles that are most dominant.
Back to our parent and child relationship. There are often thinking differences between parents and their children, which can result in miscommunication, in no communication, in confusion, and in dismay such as, “Why doesn’t the kid just do what I say to do? It makes so much sense to just do it that way I said to. Why doesn’t he just do it?” A parent’s thinking style might be very different from their child’s thinking style. There are certain limitations that come into play. You think the child is listening to you. They’re certainly looking at you, so they must be hearing you, right? But because of their thinking style and the words that you, as the parent, are using that are based on your own thinking style, there may actually be no communication occurring. The parent is trying. The child is trying. But they are each in a different place from a communication standpoint.
An example in my life is with my adopted daughter in my attempt years ago to assure she got her homework done. Remember, I’ve told you that I do a lot of green thinking, so a very ordered, get-it-done way of thinking. There’s a clue. Getting things done and having the assurance that I know something is done. That I’ve checked off that box. That can feel very important to me. I’m a green brained mom. Knowing that homework has been completed is high on my list.
Years ago, this ran up against my daughter’s yellow brain style. Remember yellow? This is creative and imaginative, sort of free flowing and independent. It’s not overly happy with being hemmed in by boundaries and rules. My daughter also has a lot of red brain thinking, and therefore, she wants support. Her yellow need for independence and her red need for support caused her to hear my second and third inquiries about the status of her homework as unnecessary, unhelpful and pretty much critical statements. I, as the parent, had to step up my way of communicating with her because I had the better ability at that time to interact in a way that didn’t push us both into this trap of misunderstanding. There was nothing wrong with either one of our styles. They’re just different.
How can an understanding of this be helpful in the adopted child and parents space? It’s this. When we understand the preferences of the person that we’re relating with, it can go a long way to helping us understand some of the behaviors, reactions and responses that we get or don’t get.
Let’s bring our children into that visual brain circle now. Go back in your mind to the circle. In that upper left corner, the blue brain where we saw adults as lawyers, doctors, researchers etc. There we find the kid that is a math whiz in school. They often love science. This will be the computer kid, the debater, the kid that likes facts about things. Sometimes they are direct. Oftentimes, they seem to just naturally know how things work. We refer to this blue style as the Rational Self. Proceed to the lower left, the green brain or the Safekeeping Self. These children have characteristics such as being neat. They’re often very organized. They can be very dominant in play because they like to tell the other kids how they’re supposed to do things. They often care about and have perfect attendance at school. They read. They can be very focused. They notice details and they like to control things. Do you recognize any of those characteristics in your child?
Move to the lower right, the red brain, the Feeling Self. The kids in this area tend to be musical. They often like PE class or physical education. They tend to be very expressive. They often read. They write. This kid can be the kid that talks a lot in class because they’re very social. Sometimes they are very emotional. They have a tendency to be sensitive to others and they are often naturally empathetic toward others. To the final quadrant on the upper right, the lovely yellow brain, the Experimental Self. The children that we find here are those that have a natural artistic talent. They may like to be in drama. They are often risk takers. They are curious. They like surprises. A lot of times they are rule breakers and they have a tendency to be very, very creative.
My objective in this podcast has been to stimulate our thinking as adoptive parents about the fact that our natural thinking styles influence the way we speak, hear and perceive. The natural thinking styles of our children influence the way that they see the world. They influence the way that they perceive what we’re saying to them. I can tell you that in my experience, it is very powerful when a child understands their own natural thinking styles and learns to recognize the styles of other people with whom they interact, such as their teachers at school. A yellow and red brained child that understands that their teacher is communicating from a blue and green brain perspective has a leg up on navigating that school environment. Yes, children can understand this information.
Teenagers can certainly understand and utilize this information. In fact, I have witnessed some almost magical moments when a teenager becomes aware of the differences between their thinking styles and those of their parents. It opens an opportunity for understanding and especially for being understood that may not have seemed possible to them before. It’s great stuff.
In future podcasts, we will explore this concept some more and provide others that we find helpful at Beyond Adoptions and navigating our own relationships with our adopted children. In helping our clients navigate their relationships with their adopted children. I’ll end now with a statement of gratitude. I am grateful for the willingness of my adopted daughter to embrace these concepts in our communication with and understanding of each other. Thank you, sweetie. I look forward to being with you next time.
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