June 24, 2004
Celebrating Differences—Part IV Thinkers and Feelers By Kenneth A. Sprang
Find the person who will love you because of your differences and not in spite of them and you have found a lover for life.
In this series I have sought to explore the fascinating world of personality types as measured through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Previous columns have explored the introverted and extraverted function (which describe how we gain emotional or psychological energy) and the sensing and intuitive function. (which describes how we gather information).
The MBTI measures how we make decisions based upon our preference for Thinking (T) or Feeling(F). For those of us who are primarily Thinkers, we make decisions based upon objective data. A Thinking lawyer can detach herself emotionally from a particular client, for example, allowing her to defend hardened criminals or represent persons whose points of view are different than her own. She deals with the data and information her decisions are guided by her reason, not her feelings or personal values.
A Feeler, on the other hand, makes decisions primarily upon his values. He cannot separate his feelings and values from the decision and make it a decision based solely on facts and reason. Consequently, the Feeler has difficulty if his work environment or some other component of his life runs contrary to his values.
There is an old story of a man whose wife asks him whether he loves her. He responds by saying something like “I told you I love you 25 years ago. If I change my mind I’ll let you know.” In his view, that of a Thinker, there is no need to repeat what he may perceive as obvious. But in her world, one of thinking and values, periodic verbalization and demonstration of his love is important.
Feelers are likely to be romantics and will make a special occasion of first anniversaries and similar important life events. The feeling is looking for meaning in these life events. She may be quite devastated when her partner, a Thinker, forgets an anniversary or sees no reason to make a special occasion of it. She may experience her partner’s response as one of rejection.
Or consider the story which Otto Krueger and Janet Thuesen relate in their book TypeTalk. A husband and wife plan to buy a car. He goes to the Internet and does exhaustive research on gas mileage, resale value, comparison of features, and other data. He, a Thinker, reaches a logical conclusion that the best care for the couple to buy is a particular make and model because, based on all of his empirical work, the car is the rational choice for the couple. Imagine his surprise when his wife responded to the announcement of his conclusion with distress.
His wife was a Feeler. She wanted to be involved in the decision making process. For her part of the decision was about how the car felt. For example, her decision about color would not be based on what color was easiest to clean or had the highest resale value, but rather how the color felt and how it expressed or complemented her personality.
It is not that either partner was right or wrong—they just have very different ways of
The key to making their relationship work is to be conscious of the
differences and to address differences in a way that effectively uses their preferred function. For