Thinking and Feeling in Conflict

If you are at all familiar with Myers-Briggs®, you are probably not surprised to hear that the clash of the Thinking and Feeling preferences have been known to lead to frustration and the occasional knock down drag out. With Thinking types prioritizing objectivity and logic in decision-making and Feeling types prioritizing making decisions that fit their values and maintain as much harmony as possible, it is easy to see how misunderstandings could happen.

Before talking about how these two preferences engage in conflict, it’s important to point out one thing. Both types think and both types feel, meaning that Thinking types care about people and have feelings, while Feeling types can think logically and understand objective data. This difference is all about what information, more objective or more subjective, is prioritized in decision-making.

Conflict Style

Thinking

  • Believe that fairness means rules and principles should be applied equally and evenly to all people involved
  • Tend to start by identifying problems in a situation
  • Want recognition to be based on the final product of a project or task

Feeling

  • Believe that fairness is subjective, taking extenuating and individual circumstances into account
  • Tend to start by providing encouragement in situations
  • Want recognition to be based on the final product of a project or task, as well as the process and effort put forth to get there

Conflict Catalysts

Showing Love

When it comes to the Thinking and Feeling preferences, a little education can go a long way in communicating warm and fuzzy feelings. Often, Thinking types will show love by making sure that needs are taken care of, whether that is taking out the trash, paying the bills, or changing the oil in a loved one’s car. On the other hand, Feeling types generally express love through kind words, the giving of personal gifts, doing something “special” for the person, and/or by saying, “I love you.”

Conflict arises when the languages of love don’t make it through to the loved one as intended. You’ve probably seen this before when a Thinking type presents a new refrigerator as a Christmas gift when the perfect and sought after gift is still sitting in the store. As far as the Thinking person is concerned, the refrigerator is needed, and it has a lot more space and will do a better job than the old one. That’s Thinking love!!

On the flip side, a Feeling type may be confused and worried over being the person most often saying, “I love you.” What if the Thinking person isn’t saying it because it is no longer felt? That validation is a beautiful thing to a Feeling type, but the Thinking type may be confused by the need for saying it more often. After all, the sentiment hasn’t been taken back with an, “I loved you yesterday, but not anymore!”, has it?

To avoid these conflicts, talk to your partner (or parent or friend or loved one) about what makes you feel loved and how you show it. Then, listen for that person’s language! You might find yourself happily replying to new tires on the car by saying, “I love you, too!”.

Listening to Problems

This may be the biggest conflict catalyst for these preferences. Let’s say a person has had a bad day and comes home to talk about it. If this crummy day is being relayed by a Thinking type, there is a good chance the individual is interested in hearing possible solutions to the problems of the day. While Thinking types will vent for the sake of blowing off steam on occasion, usually they do so in an effort to fix the issue, and they may see empathy without solutions as unproductive conversation.

On the other hand, if the no good, very bad day is being relayed by a Feeling type, until suggestions are requested, it is usually an understanding and empathetic ear that is longed for and desired. Often, the individual just needs to vent to blow off some steam and get some validation that the day really did suck. In these situations unwanted advice can sometimes lead to feelings of being thought of as incompetent, frustration, a sense of invalidation, and occasionally turning said frustration on the person attempting to fix the problem.

If you want to stay out of this conflict with someone you know well, talk about your venting habits outside of a venting session, when all involved are feeling good. It also doesn’t hurt to begin the vent by saying, “I really just need to vent right now” or, “I’d love to hear your opinion on how I should handle this.” It just might lead to better relationships.

Big Purchases

So, it’s time to buy something big. When making purchase decisions, Thinking types will be most interested in how much it costs, how useful it is, its level of quality, and whether it meets all needs. Feeling types want a product that meets needs, but they also want the item to meet some personal wants and/or desires.

Let’s say there are two cars of the same make, model, and year. Both are good, safe, reliable cars. One is $500 cheaper and has 1000 less miles with a boring color, while the other has heated seats and a blue color that is much desired by the Feeling type. Assuming that 1000 miles will not really extend the car’s life by much and that heated seats are not a necessity (which is debatable), the Thinking type will likely lobby for the better numbers of the first car, while the Feeling type may argue that the perfect color and desired options make the second car worth $500 more.

Discussing what is most important in the item before heading out to shop is a good way to avoid this conflict. It may help to determine how much a feature is worth to you and decide on parameters before leaving the house. Is blue worth $500 or just $250? Can you deal with another color as long as the seats are heated? Should each person be able to pick the car he or she is driving, as long as it fits in the budget? If all else fails, brushing up on sales negotiation techniques can never hurt!

Feedback

Thinking types are sometimes thought of by Feeling types as giving feedback that is too heavy on criticism and too light on praise and appreciation, while Feeling types may be seen by Thinking types as beating around the bush of feedback too much before getting to the point.

If you know your feedback is going to a Thinking type, your best bet is likely to be respectfully getting to the point of the conversation. If you know your feedback is going to a Feeling type, or you’re unsure of type, try the sandwich method. Start by saying something positive, respectfully provide the feedback/critique, then end with a positive. This looks like, “I appreciate all of the work you have put into this project. These three items need to be fixed by next Wednesday, to meet the specifications we discussed. Please let me know if you have further questions on what is needed, and I hope you have a great weekend.” This gets the point across, while keeping the overall tone positive.

Gender

Last but not least, this may seem like a funny conflict catalyst, but it is one that should be addressed. About 60% or men report a preference for Thinking, and about 60% of women report a preference for Feeling. If you stop to think about it, you may have pictured the Thinking preference as a male and the Feeling preference as a female in the descriptions above because so much of these descriptions line up with gender stereotypes in the United States and many other places. Women are largely expected to be warm and fuzzy, while men are to be tough and objective.

What does that mean for the other 40% of each gender, whose preference defies traditional gender roles? Feeling type men may sometimes be wrongly viewed as weak or emotional, while Thinking type females often deal with being labeled as aggressive or mean. These are stereotypes that can lead to conflict and pain, and they undermine the beauty and principle of all 16 types being equal. Next time you find yourself making one of these snap judgments, try taking off the gender goggles… and maybe even the lens of type… to get to know and accept the person for who she or he is.

I challenge you to identify conflicts in your life that are type related and use type to improve your life! If you are interested in learning more about Myers-Briggs and conflict, check out Sondra VanSant’s great book, Wired for Conflict: The Role of Personality in Resolving Differences, which was used as a reference for this article. You can also read the other articles in the series on conflict. As always, thanks for reading!

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  1. Pingback: Thinking and Feeling in Conflict | holistichealthhealerleicester

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