When we think about making decisions, we tend to think in terms of the situation or problem we need to address, information we need to process the decisions and how we implement that decision. Very rarely do we consider the process we naturally utilize to make that decision – such as are we more inclined to be subjective or objective in our process, are we task or people focused and is our approach “tough minded” or “tender hearted”. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – one of the most widely used personality assessments in the world – there are two ways in which we make decisions – as a Thinker or a Feeler. When most of us hear Thinker or Feeler we might generally think of the common following definitions:
- Thinkers – think a lot, in our “head”
- Feelers – lots of feelings, proceed with a “heart” approach
According to the MBTI, when it comes to our personality we have a slightly different definition of Thinkers and Feelers. Individuals who make decisions looking at the logical consequences of a choice or action and objectively examine the pros and cons of a situation are likely to be Thinkers. Feeler’s, on the other hand, are definedby considering what is important to them and others involved and mentally place themselves in the situations and make decisions based on their values and honoring others.
Thinkers and Feelers both want the same general outcome – the difference is what they focus on as they make their decision. For Thinkers, key words are logic, objectivity and fairness. When working to solve a problem involving others they will look at from an overall objective manner and take in account what is fair. For instance, as a Thinker parent, when considering curfews for their children they will view the decision they make as one where all the children are treated equally – which likely means all children will have the same curfew at the same age. To a Thinker this is fair, objective and logical. They do not place an emphasis on the individual strengths or experience of each child. For Feelers, the key word is empathetic, harmony and compassion – a curfew for their children might be different for each child based on the needs, strengths and experiences of each child. For them being fair means treating everyone and their needs individually. When working with a group to make a decision their focus will be on the impact to the individuals versus the impact to the task.
Thinkers generally show up in the following manner:
- Logical problem solvers
- Tough minded
- Standard of fairness based on treating everyone equally
- When giving feedback lead out with a critique
- Consistently apply principles
- Want respect and fairness when dealing with others
- Task focus
- Focus on consequences and implications
Feelers generally show up in the following manner:
- Focus on personal values
- Consider impact of decisions on people
- Tender hearted
- Standard of fairness based on treating everyone as an individual
- Focus on people
- Guided by values
- Want positivity and support from others
- Consensus oriented
- Consistently apply values
- Focus on reactions and feelings
When we understand decision-making preferences of others, we can work together in a way that supports and utilizes the strength of others and ourselves. This understanding helps individuals to remove stereotypes and assumptions about others regarding their decisions. When individuals are working together and fail to understand the decision making preferences of others assumptions are made about the level of caring or logic one possesses, their level of fairness, validity in one’s feedback and the role emotions play in decision making. For instance, Thinkers believe when giving feedback you lead out with what needs to be changed and move to praise while Feelers believe you lead out with praise and end with what needs to be changed. Thinkers believe when asked to provide feedback they are helping the other person become better by telling them what to correct/change while Feelers believe the best way to support the other person is to let them know what they are doing well so they can replicate it. As you can see if you are a parent or manager giving feedback as a Thinker to a child or direct report who is a Feeler your feedback may not resonate with the other person, thus causing stress, hard feelers and demotivation.
Neither approach is better, but rather we need to understand our preference and consider the preferences of those around us so we can “flex” our approach as needed. Or, at a minimum, appreciate the benefit of the other approach when making decisions. Strong decisions are built from an ability to see both the Thinking and Feeling perspective on the Thinking/Feeling continuum. This difference in approach can cause miscommunication and misperceptions between individuals working toward a common goal or outcome. How we make decisions impacts our parenting and our marriages as well as personal and professional relationships.
When working with Thinkers, be prepared for them to question first, show up with a cool and impersonal demeanor and remain detached when making decisions. They will likely overlook people in favor of tasks and will want to take a logical approach to problem solving and decision-making. They will be controlled in their expression of feelings, seek justice in situations and will use cause and effect reasoning as they work through issues. Feelers, on the other hand, are accepting and have a warm and personal demeanor and remain personally involved when making decisions. They will focus first on people and then on tasks and express their feelings with enthusiasm. They are empathetic, compassionate and appreciative of differences. They seek to engage others and are comfortable with give and take in conflict situations.
Tips for communicating effectively with Thinkers and Feelers:
- Look for ways to provide analytical data
- Be prepared to look objectively at situations from a pro/con approach
- Be fair and consistent in your approach
- Be prepared to solve problems with logic
- Understand Thinkers can work effectively without harmony
- Will lead out with criticism when giving feedback
- May hurt other’s feelings unknowingly
- Feel rewarded with a job is done well
- Will make individual exceptions as needed
- Will want to have harmony with both people and tasks
- Appreciate and accept differences
- Work to avoid telling people unpleasant things
- When making decisions can be influenced by their own and other’s likes and dislikes
- Enjoy pleasing people, even in the small things
- Use values to reach conclusions
- Feel rewarded when people’s needs are met
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