Why Don’t You Get Me? The Science Behind Logic and Emotion

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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“How did you guys write a book together? Didn’t you just end up fighting all the time?”

This is a question our friends have asked us often because we’ve had a few successful passion projects under our belt, but when we get together with them and ask how their joint projects/businesses are going this usually happens:

Person A: “Can you please tell Person B that you think we should build a mailing list? That’s how you get customers.”

Person B: “Yes, I hear you, but I just think it’s too impersonal! We should go out and talk to people, face to face. People need a personal touch.”

Person A: “But that doesn’t scale. You can’t fly around the country, go to each person’s house and talk to them. That’s insane.”

Person B: “Are you calling me insane? ”

Person A: “No. I’m saying the idea is insane and not feasible.”

Person B: “You’re such a jerk! And how dare you use the word ‘insane’? Don’t you know that’s offensive to metally-ill people? Blah blah blah—”

This is usually when Wanderer pretends to trip on the carpet so everyone forgets what they were arguing about. We’re fun at parties.

Now, from first glance, if you’re a logical person reading this, person B just seems oversensitive and INSANE (yeah, I used that word. Suck it, Snowflakes).

But hear me out. Person B is not crazy. They’re just wired differently from Person A.

What do I mean by that?

Well, to understand this, let’s take a look at the right and left halves of our brains. The right side of our brain is responsible for our emotions and creativity. The left side is responsible for numbers and logic.

So when people say they are right-brained, it doesn’t mean they don’t use their left-hemisphere, it just means the right-side is more dominant. They tend to care more about relationships, feelings, and make decisions based on emotions rather than logic. They also tend to be better at dealing with people, empathizing, and being creative.

People who are left-brained tend to care more about logic and reason. As a result, they tend to make decisions based on logic rather than emotions. They tend to have a harder time empathizing with people, but are better at accomplishing goals.

Now, that’s an over-simplification, because on top of that, there’s extroversion, introversion, long-term thinking versus short-term thinking, traumatic events, etc, and a whole slew of other factors that determine who we are and how we make decisions.

But if we were to use this concept and break down why some people focus on “talking” and others focus on “action” (like how person A above just wants to DO something—like build a mailing list, while person B is focused on how person A’s words has hurt their feelings), it does shed some light on the whole thing.

Since right-brained people are ruled by emotion and creativity, they tend to focus on what they say, and how it made them feel. Whereas logical people can parse out all that, and focus on results /end goal/what people DO.

Relying on logical people to ignore your words and parse out the action is easy, but not so for emotional people. Throwing hard facts and numbers in their face doesn’t help. They need a different motivator. They like to talk about their feelings and will be moved to do something ONLY if they believe it’ll help their relationships or someone they care about.

That doesn’t mean logical people are better than emotional people or vice versa. I clearly prefer an emotional person to talk to if I’m sad, but a logical person if I’m figuring out finances or writing a piece of code. But by understanding how people think, this will go a LONG way in helping us understand why people react in ways we don’t expect.

Now, that’s not to say that just because you’re born right-brained or left-brained, you’re stuck that way. It just means “feeling” or “reasoning” comes naturally to you, and it will be more challenging to rewire your brain to do the opposite. But believe me, the brain is very malleable. This is why people who’d had strokes that completely shut down entire areas of their brain, can in fact, re-grow those connections.

Don’t believe me? Read this book.

And this is also why I used to be an emotional (right-brained) person— a flower child who wrote sappy poetry, drew hearts all over her textbooks, and daydreamed of becoming an author one day. But since my parents didn’t have the money to support me if I couldn’t make money as an author, I had to rewire some parts of my brain out of necessity.

I’m not saying that it made me a better person. I’m simply saying that if you want to GET SHIT DONE, you need to rewire some parts of the brain to become more balanced. As great as it would’ve been to sit on the grass all day and write poetry, I needed food and a place to sleep to stay alive. Which meant I had to earn money for groceries and rent. As much as I would’ve loved to not care about money or do something as tedious as programming, that wasn’t an option.

So I forced myself to study math and programming, even though it didn’t come naturally. I didn’t get it at first and thought I was going to flunk out (and there have been some close calls) but eventually, new pathways for math started forming in my brain and calculating things became more natural. And now when I make decisions, I’m able to let the left-brain dominate and reason things out, rather than revert to my basic instinct of using my feelings.

Now that I no longer have to worry about money and have my basic needs taken care of by the portfolio, I’m rewiring my brain to use to tap into my creative side as well as strengthen my emotions and empathy. By writing everyday and meeting people from different walks of life (even the ones who disagree with me), I’m becoming more in tune with my right-brain.

So now that I’m able to see things both from a right-brain and left-brain perspective, I’ve noticed this. When a logical person is telling an emotional person what to do, all the emotional person can do is talk about how the words are “making them feel”. This causes the logical person to throw up their hands and say “forget it”. Then the emotional person feels hurt because their feeling aren’t being acknowledged and they find it impossible to take action, because they don’t have the logical connections to reason out why they need to DO that thing in the first place.

So in order for both people to work together, it’s important to see things both from a logical perspective and an emotional perspective.

The logical person needs to understand that the emotional person is not going to DO things because it’s the logical thing to do. They need to feel heard, acknowledged, and will only take action if they believe the action will benefit their relationships. So the best bet is to motivate them by tapping into what they value most. NOT math or logic, but PEOPLE.

The emotional person’s take away from this is to see all the good things the logical person has done to help, rather than feel attacked by their words. The logical person is simply not thinking about feelings because they just want to GET SHIT DONE. That’s how their brain works. So cut them a break and try to understand where they are coming from.

When it comes to working together, we could all use a little brain re-wiring to understand the other person’s perspective.

What do you guys think? Are you emotional (right-brained) or logical (left-brained) or both? Do you find it hard to work with someone with the opposite brain?

24 thoughts on “Why Don’t You Get Me? The Science Behind Logic and Emotion”

  1. That was what was so great about being a chemical engineer in an engineering dominated corporation. There weren’t many left brainer’s around so we could just deal with facts and not worry about hurting each other’s feelings. However while equating emotion to the right brain has scientific support equating creativity to the right brain does not. Modern theory supports that both left and right hemispheres of the brain are involved in creativity which helps explain why left brained engineers have invented more than their share of the useful things that make modern life livable.

    1. It’s definitely easier to hang out like-minded people, but I was pretty happy to get out of that engineering bubble and meet other type of people (like my writing circle) who taught so much more.

      I agree that creativity doesn’t just mean in arts, music, etc. There’s creativity in engineering as well.

  2. What are these “feelings” you speak of? I’ve never heard of them before. 😉

    As I was reading through this post, I was kind of expecting you to wrap this back into the topic of personal finance or possibly investing. But you didn’t.

    Most of us left-brained folks would have expected that, but perhaps this was more of a right-brained post for you.

    1. Very insightful comment, Mr. Tako. Yes, for once I didn’t wrap it back to personal finance or investing because this was more of a balanced post for me. I guess when you develop empathy (Blegh. Gag. Cough) over time, it’s easier to write posts that AREN’T always about logic and finance. But don’t worry, there will be plenty of posts for left-brained folks in the future.

  3. This is a great explanation of something that I learned from one of my mentors “You can’t use a logical argument with an emotional person.” Easy to say and hard to do.

    1. So true, but insanely hard NOT to do. I still do it ALL the time…like a dog barking at a white wall to stop being white. So futile.

  4. That’s the thing..I’d never be able to work w/ my wife. She is too irrational. That’s my fear as well when I think about financial independence. I’ll have to come up with some very good thing to spend my time with or I’ll fight my wife everyday until the end ! 🙁

  5. I am both….highly intuitive woman in general contracting. GETTING SHIT DONE (and by that I mean actual shit, like buildings and developments) while designing at the same time. That said, I have a tendency to argue with myself. Just sayin’.

    1. You can be both. People tend to lean more towards one side or the other, but there are balanced people who are both.

      I tend to argue with myself in my head all the time. I think that’s just my way of working things out. Sometimes I do it in my mother’s voice. That’s when the argument goes on forever…

  6. I think I lean mostly towards right-brained. I’m creative, I tend to take certain criticisms personally, and tend to rationalize decisions/hypothetical events/other things often without making the changes necessary to get things done. I “feel” like certain outcomes should be different, therefore they are. And naturally, as someone who is working towards financial freedom, I love the idea of not working for a living anymore rather than the more logical approach of working full time even when you have a passive income stream that fully supports you.

    That said, I have a lot of left-brained-traits as well. My stances on a lot of political issues, bank policies, and other things are based on logic, and my biggest peeve with a lot of people is that they care too much about the stupidest things (the logical side of my wants to tell people to stop giving a s*** about these damn “offensive” flags and monuments). I also can’t stand dealing with people, despite the fact that I am good at it.

    You know, I wonder if the buy vs rent debate that keeps happening on this blog can be partially attributed to this. Building on what I said before, mos of us here would rather rent or buy small and invest the rest of our money on income-producing assets. But so many come here and extoll the virtues of buying as much house as you can afford, citing tax breaks and equity building and seemingly deaf to the lifestyle choices of those who don’t go full real estate. I wonder if we are using the right halves of our brains (“I want to no longer have to work anymore. I don’t care about my net worth or tax burden!”) and the “home boners” are using the left halves (“Homeownership and active employment will yield $XYZ more dollars over X amount of years. If you choose to go the illogical index investing route you’re going, it clearly means I haven’t thrown enough charts and graphs at you.”).

    Just a thought.

    Sincerely,
    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    1. “I also can’t stand dealing with people, despite the fact that I am good at it.”…hm…that’s interesting. Well, that discredits the belief that you can’t be good at something unlike you like it.

      As for the buy versus rent, it is possible that right-brained people are thinking more about the family/community aspect rather than the numbers, so that could be it. And if they can afford it, then it’s not a bad idea. Problem comes when you can’t afford it, or it’s making you miserable and you do it anyway. That goes for both sides, regardless of whether you’re left or right-brained.

      But yes, that’s interesting and thanks for bringing up that point.

  7. So I’m very very left side dominant. While the Mrs is right side dominant. But being married were converging toward the middle. Which is good. But I think that’s part of what makes a relationship healthy and strong. You’ve gotta fill the others gaps. So you’re stronger together.

    Sappy.

    1. Well said. That’s exactly what happened with us too. We ended up gravitating towards the other side and filling in the gaps.

  8. When it comes to decision making I tend to be very left brained, the only time I let my feelings make the decisions is when I procrastinate and decide not to do something because I don’t “feel” like doing it. I also tend to be quite robotic when dealing with people and don’t know how to deal with their feelings even if I am able to see things from their perspective.

    With that being said I tend to be in the middle when it comes to the right brain-left brain idea that left brained people are good at math and logic while right brained people are good at things like art and writing. I have always been good at logic and problem solving and skipped a grade of math and took math honors classes in high school. At the same time I also was good at drawing and creative projects (always one of the best in my class when I was young), also took advanced placement English in grade 12 and as an adult have always been very articulate when it comes to expressing my own feelings and incorporate that into the songs that I write.

  9. My Wife is too much of a perfectionist, everything has to be done her way, and her way is the proper way. No way can we work together. The secret to our marriage is complete partitioning. She is not allowed in the Kitchen when I cook… ( except she tends to break that rule a lot…) In fact, she has no idea what I do, even though i try to explain it to her, all she knows is I bring home money for her to spend.

    Jill Bolte Taylor is fasinating, also read The Road Less Traveled, a classic by M Scott Peck

    1. “The secret to our marriage is complete partitioning.”

      That’s smart! I’m glad you figured out a way to make it work.

      And I haven’t read The Road Less Traveled, but I’ll add it to my list!

  10. “The right side of our brain is responsible for our emotions and creativity. The left side is responsible for numbers and logic.”

    It is interesting as a metaphor for different personality traits, but scientific research does not support the left brain as logic, right brain as creative distinction.

    Habits and motivation do have a lot to do with shaping personality, which might be more your point. The brain has an amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells, allowing us to continually learn new things and modify our behavior.

    http://scienceoflearning.jhu.edu/science-to-practice/resources/debunking-the-myth-about-left-brain-right-brain-learning-styles

    1. Yes, it’s not all cut and dry and only related to sides of your brain (which is why I mentioned other factors contribute as well). But yes, my point is that the brain has the ability to form new connections and change over time. So no one is “stuck” being one way or the other. People can change…but it’s not easy.

  11. I’m a very logical person and find it UNBELIEVABLY difficult to understand the decisions that emotional people make. The way I see it, the decisions they make usually make absolutely no sense, especially in the long-term. They seem to live in the short-term, and make terribly short-sighted decisions based on how they are currently feeling. They often live to regret these decisions shortly after (like, within a week).

    I have an emotionally inclined friend who was going through a “rough” patch at work. A logical person would look at the big picture, how they’re earning $90,000, with great benefits and share options in a senior position. This person wants to quit and pursue a freelance business with zero customers lined up because they’re bored at work right now and not feeling valued.

    Paint it however you want, I don’t see how emotions are ever a good thing when it comes to decision making, especially financial decision making.

    1. I do think that emotions cloud your judgement when it comes to financial decision making. However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad for ALL decision making. For example, in situations where you are dealing with people-based problems, the emotional person is better off, because they understand people better and can empathize. Sometimes a problem cannot be fixed with reasoning and logic (eg, if your friend loses their mother, you can’t just logically tell them to get over it. There’s nothing they can do, but have empathetic friends around who listen and spend time with them)

      But you are right. In order to function in a capitalistic society, a logical person will have an easier time than an emotional person…unless that person’s bills are paid or their finances are taken care of by someone else.

      1. Emotions certainly have a value, don’t get me wrong, but not when it comes to decision making. Your example is more like emotional support, not really a decision that needs to be made. Emotions are great for managing relationships and for things like motivating yourself to do something.

        I wish sometimes I was more emotional in certain regards as I often feel robotic, almost as if I don’t care about anything, but not when it comes to making a decision, for that I think emotions are a major hindrance.

  12. Love this topic. I truly believed that upbringing plays a very important role in a person’s logic, emotions, and perceptions. Now that doesn’t mean that a person cannot change. I once considered myself an emotional person until I started reading psychology books and listened to personal development audios. The key is learning how to handle yours and other people’s emotions more intelligently. When it comes to partnerships and friendships, compatibility for me plays a very important role. Compatibility is real.

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