Many smart people think with their brains. They perceive, analyze, compare, join disparate ideas, theorize, and experiment. They often reach quick conclusions that sound reasonable as the information falls into place inside their head.
Thinking – depending on how careful the thinker is – can have weak spots, too. Thinkers can get sloppy. Like reaching conclusions too quickly and then clinging to them rather than continually seeking new information and adjusting opinions accordingly. Just because something sounds reasonable doesn’t make it correct, and opinions may gravitate toward previous experience and perceptions, which may have little or nothing to do with new information and situations.
Another common thinking weakness is emotional thinking. Even intelligent people can let all sorts of emotions create perceptions and preferences whose gravity skews all other perceptions. If you’re having a bad day, for example, then everyone else seems like a bit more of a jerk (unless they happen to be exceptionally nice, in which case they may overcome the gravitational pull and escape the orbit of emotional judgments).
But I don’t want to lecture about critical thinking, I just want to make this point:
Try thinking with your heart.
Here’s how – it’s quite simple. Simply increase your awareness of your heart before you think. Place your hand over your chest, or visualize yourself there, or perhaps visualize your space-shipesque bridge or command center inside or near your heart. One source I read recently suggests looking at yourself from behind and scanning along your vertebrae until you “see” (or imagine) a cave-like opening about level with your heart, and to imagine going through it until you come out the other side (which is inside your chest).
Now think again and observe what happens.
Here’s what you can expect: wider views. Things can make sense on a heart level that don’t work rationally. Forgiveness is one example. The source I mentioned (the book I blogged about last month) claims that the brain seeks justice, and so forgiveness can’t occur without evening the score. Forgiveness for its own sake will never make sense to the mind. But to the heart, however you may have been wronged may appear as a mere drop in the bucket. The heart may not see a reason to hold a grudge.
Another limitation of the brain (again, according to the book) is that it pretty much only works with the information it possesses or takes in, while the heart can reach far beyond. This is especially important when understanding people, because people rarely fit tidily into snap judgments about what makes them tick. People are far more complex than any single theory. Thus by using the heart, you will find yourself more flexible and compassionate, and the people you interact with will probably appreciate this. No one likes to be diminished to a single category (with the exception, perhaps, of “totally awesome person”).
Your brain can still do its thing, but now you have more options working for you.
Anyway, I’ve already gotten much more long winded about this whole thing than I planned, so there ya go. I’d be interested to hear about your experience if you try this, though.