Thinking vs. Feeling—The Conflict
Thinking and Feeling are a set of opposite traits on the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. They are called the decision-making traits. The other three sets are Extraversion vs. Introversion (energy), Sensing vs. Intuition (how information is processed), and Perceiving vs. Judging (attitude).
Everyone exercises their Thinking-Feeling function based on information they’ve gathered, one way or another. This decision-making function—unlike the information-gathering function, which is the process of taking in data before doing anything about it—is all about closure. It is focused. Its purpose is to make judgments and determine what action to take.
When a couple is buying a car, they look at its appearance, determine the price, and then test-drive it. During this time, they’re gathering information. If all the qualities of the car are right, they may decide to buy it. The buyer who is a Thinker—analytical, detached, and logical—is driven by objective information. He or she is likely to be swayed by price, mechanical characteristics of the car, and resale value. The Feeling person—flexible and more emotional—is likely to be influenced by comfort, eye appeal, and what others will think of the car.
If the Thinker and Feeler arrive at the same conclusion, that doesn’t mean that they’ve taken the same route to the decision. If, for example, the car were a distasteful color in the eyes of the Feeler, that alone could be sufficient reason for him to reject it as a choice. On the other hand, the Thinker might find the color of minor importance, outweighed by other factors. In this case, the two will disagree on the decision.
Too often, in the intimate areas of life, Thinkers and Feelers pass like ships in the night. Because they so easily misunderstand each other, their dialogue is often laced with negative feelings and unresolved issues. Much interpersonal dissatisfaction can be the result on both sides.
It should be clear that Thinkers do more than just think. They feel, too. And the opposite is true. Feelers think. At best, the Thinking person can bring objectivity to the table in any decision-making situation involving the partners. The Feeling person brings an awareness of how their decision can influence others, or the subjective outcome of their proposed action. Together, they can complement each other, listening carefully to the arguments put forth by the other party. In this way, they can reach a decision that meets both their needs.
Thinkers Feel, Too
Because a Thinking person tends to be objective, it doesn’t mean that he’s always decisive. What’s at stake is the process by which the decisions are reached. The thinker tends to be objective and removed, while the Feeler is totally involved. Both care, think, and feel, but the routes by which they arrive at their decisions are very different. When they fail to understand each other, they can fall into the trap of mutual put-downs.
While more American men are Thinkers rather than Feelers and more American women are Feelers, it doesn’t mean that the trait is gender-specific. It’s estimated that about twenty-five percent of men are Feelers, and the same percentage of women are Thinkers. On first impression, this might be viewed as a natural and appealing split. Some women are charmed by a manly decision-maker, while many men may find feminine flexibility attractive. Over time, however, their differences can become a source of interpersonal problems. This is particularly true when women are thinking types and men are Feeling types. These women don’t follow the feminine stereotype of soft, malleable creatures. The men who show feelings too readily aren’t considered macho enough.
For the Feeling and Thinker to be compatible, they should understand the advantages of their different points of view and profit by them, not criticize each other.
Traits of Thinkers vs. Feelers
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