We’ve been discussing the MBTI. We talked about the history and overview of the instrument and then the important considerations of the Extrovert-Introvert scale. Last week, we talked about the Sensing-Intuitive scale, which describes how we perceive the world. Now, let’s discuss the Thinking-Feeling scale, which describes the values that we use to judge the world.
Thinking types (T’s) are rational and logical. In their minds, fair decisions are consistent and take the circumstances into account. T’s will maintain principles of fairness, even if it means losing a relationship. T’s believe that it’s important to be honest and aren’t always tactful.
T’s are logical and fair-minded. They value consistency and consider it more important to be truthful than tactful. T’s tend to discount someone’s feelings if they can’t back them up with logic. They like to be known for their accomplishments.
Feeling types (F’s) place emphasis on harmony and relationships. A person’s individual situation must be taken into account when making a decision. F’s feel that harmony and relationships are more important than arbitrary judgments of what is “right.”
F’s always consider the effect of an action on others. They are empathetic and value harmony. They like to please others, and they show their appreciation easily. F’s believe that feelings are valid; it doesn’t matter if they make sense or not. Relationships are more important than rules.
F’s can bring some important insights to a decision. It is okay to sometimes bend the rules for someone. Showing mercy and humanity can go a long way to create efficient working relationships.
Differences in the T-F scale can lead to serious disagreements. T’s and F’s use completely different criteria to make decisions.
F’s sometimes see T’s as heartless freight trains roaring down on them. A T’s blunt style can seem rude and hurtful to an F. An F can see a T as insensitive and uncaring. It’s important for leaders with a Thinking preference to remember how their actions and decisions might look from an F perspective. Although it will feel uncomfortable for them, T’s also need to address the feeling part of the situations that they face with others.
T’s sometimes see F’s as overemotional and illogical. The fact that F’s take everyone’s needs into account can make them look weak to a T. T’s feel strongly that being fair and following the rules is the best way for them to help people. It’s important for leaders with a Feeling preference to remember that T’s aren’t callously ignoring individual needs.
F’s also need to maintain some consistency around rules. I had a boss once who could not take any sort of discord. As a result, he told each person exactly what they wanted to hear, even if the requests conflicted. It made for a very confusing work environment because the way we did things was constantly changing.
Neither preference is right or wrong. They are just different. Good leaders can use both Thinking and Feeling skills.
In workshops, I split the group into T’s and F’s. I give them the following challenge and ask them to come up with solutions: Your child is on a Little League baseball team. They’ve won the championship and are going to Japan for the next level of competition. The problem is that there are 15 kids on the team and only 12 can go.
The T’s generally come up with very objective, measurable criteria. They list things like highest earned run average, fewest errors, least number of missed practices. They set fair criteria and are ready to let the three who come out on the bottom of the list stay at home.
The F’s, on the other hand, cannot stand to leave anyone out. I haven’t had a group yet that didn’t decide to have fundraisers to ensure that everyone gets to go. Harmony and relationships are what is important to most Feeling types.
The T-F scale is the only one that can be predicted by gender. There are more female F’s and more male T’s. We are socialized that way. Females are brought up to be nurturing and to maintain harmony. I am one of the minority. I am a female T, and that often results in me being labeled a big “B,” if you know what I mean.
Here is a good place to point out that it isn’t always easy to decide on someone’s type by watching their actions. I am a Thinking type, and I was a volunteer leader in the military community for about 20 years. My first inclination, as a T, is to go into a meeting, state what needs to be done, and dismiss everyone. My mostly female volunteer cohorts didn’t take kindly to that kind of behavior. If Feeling type volunteers don’t get the relationships and harmony that they crave, they tend to leave.
So I learned to leave some time at the beginning and end of the meeting for some chatting. I would introduce a topic and then ask each person how they felt about it. After that, we would compromise our way to a decision. Everyone bought into the end result because they were a part of the process. It was a way better way to interact with the group that required me to move away from my Thinking preference and toward a more Feeling approach.
Great leaders can move up and down the scale as needed to bring out the best in their team or organization.
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