In previous posts, I’ve talked about various preferences on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. One of the dichotomies that I find most difficult to explain, is the Thinking-Feeling preference. I find it difficult more so because although you can explain the differences in the preferences, my trouble arises when I try to markedly help someone uncover which is their preference. I’ve gotten better at it, and quite enjoy the challenge.
Let’s recap on some important things to understand with the MBTI. It’s a self-assessed questionnaire, so there is no right or wrong answer. If you think you’re one preference over another, you are the best judge of this. A facilitator can only help to describe the preferences and do nothing more. Preferences are the key to understanding how the MBTI should be understood. We can learn a range of behaviours over time and this can cause confusion over which preferences you have. Finally, the MBTI is not a recruitment tool and should never be used as such. It is only for raising self-awareness and understanding how to interact with others more effectively.
The thinking/feeling dichotomy then is focused on how someone makes a decision. Essentially, are they guided by logical, objective thought, or guided by their values and relationships with others? There are some interesting exercises I’ve done to help facilitate this discussion, and I’d like to share the scenario for one of these:
You are the captain of a team who have progressed to the next round in a tournament. You have 12 people to choose to be part of the team from a potential 20. a) how do you make the decision to choose the 12? b) how do you communicate this to the team?
In order for this exercise to be effective, a group of people need to be split according to where they think their preference lies. That is, have those who think they have a thinking preference work together, and those who think they have a feeling preference work together. Those who are unsure should float between the two groups.
There are a number of things to observe in this exercise which inform and confirm which preference each group is likely to have. From the thinking group they are likely to start drawing up a list of criteria almost immediately. They will consider factors such as individual performance, ability, success in competitions, attendance at training, and overall performance. They will be quite clear in their language when discussing these factors, and pretty much be in agreement that this is the way to decide who the 12 should be. In communicating with the team, they may choose to do this either individually or as a team, but will be quite clear that the decision was made according to the criteria. Again the language will be quite direct, and to the point, supported by justification of the reasoning.
From the feeling group, there will be a lot of discussion around the topic, and this may seem to go on for more than is necessary. For this group, the decision will rack them with concern over how people will feel about getting picked, about not getting picked, about morale, about team performance as a result of the decision. They will want the team to be fully engaged in the decision making process. As a result, they may decide that the decision be made by being open with the team about the task ahead of them and that 12 out of the 20 need to be chosen. This will feel to them to be inclusive, meaningful, and provide input from the players themselves. An alternative to this approach may be a set of criteria that focuses on team ethic, individual attitude, collegiate nature, willingness to help others. In either case, the language used to describe and communicate will be focused on the team, feedback will be an integral part of it all, inclusive language, and reasoning will be supported through benefits to the team and potential success in the next round.
I find this exercise really brings out the preferences quite clearly and people can decide quite quickly, after having done this, which preference they have. The challenge I have with this dichotomy in particular is how it can easily be confused that having a feeling preference means you are more emotional than if you have a thinking preference. And this confusion only arises because of the terminology used. In fact, emotions play just as important a role in both preferences. We are all intelligent enough to understand that emotions are manifest through many forms when communicating – body language, actual language, actions taken or not, facial expressions, laughter, tears, anger. And when having to communicate a message, from either preference, you can be equally passionate and enthusiastic about your point of view. The key difference is that one preference will use direct, clear, unambiguous, objective language (thinking), and the other will use language that focuses on relationships, creating harmony, is values based, and inclusive. (feeling).