Communicating across the “Thinker – Feeler” Divide
As you likely know, there are four scales in the MBTI.
Because the T and the F dimension in Jungian psychology tends to be the most volatile and difficult for most people, we will address it in greater detail than the other preferences.
Research indicates that 96% of the time people with either the T or the F conversational style want different language than the other because their fundamental decision-making process and goal are so different.
As you will see, the words and language they need from each other must be formatted differently and accordingly.
Before we talk about the specific language that each type needs, let’s take a deeper look at the disparity between the Thinker and the Feeler.
Facilitating Thinkers and Feelers When You Hit a Speed Bump
The following chart describes the precise language needed by the “Thinker” in the left hand column and the precise language needed by the “Feeler” in the right hand column.
We will expand on how and why in this newsletter/article and because it is such a crucial concept we will likely discuss it more fully in future newsletters as well.
Mastering the Interactional Language in each T – F Communication
Style is Paramount to Effective Interaction
When people do not use language that makes sense to the intrinsic filter others use to make up their mind about an issue, they end up having a “duologue” which is just two monologues that go on at the same time without either party ever connecting.
Seegmiller et al. (1987), in Distinguishing Thinking-Feeling Preferences through the Content Analysis of Natural Language, found that Thinkers and Feelers use significantly different linguistic content.
Thinking and feeling words do not simply occur randomly in speech but are used by individuals in patterns that are relatively consistent over short periods of time.
In other words, a person’s speech patterns may reveal significant information about the individual’s personality characteristics (type).
Seegmiller’s research suggested that Thinkers and Feelers 94% of the time, prefer a specific conversational style, direct for Thinkers and indirect for Feelers.
This has a profound impact on the conflict resolution issue.
In a moment we will analyze how Thinkers can best speak with Feelers but let’s start with how Feelers can speak the specific language that is comfortable and compelling for Thinking Deciders.
The best way to “connect’ with a Thinker is to ask open ended, solution oriented questions.
In doing so, the Feeling Decider can better communicate with the Thinker, i.e., diffuse and resolve overt conflict, without compromising or jeopardizing his/her Feeling perspective.
Surprisingly, this “giving a problem to the Thinker top solve” process enables and promotes in the Thinker a more open and naturally empathic response.
This In Spite of the Fact that it is not in the “Thinker’s” Nature to First Choose Empathy
Thinkers are inclined to first fix the problem then tend to emotional concerns after having dealt with the task at hand.
Once this has been done, Thinkers find themselves (going to the other side of their brain, the emotional, connective limbic system) responding more empathically and positively than if the Feeler would have started with a relational focus as opposed to a task focus.
On the other hand, for Thinkers to meaningfully communicate with Feelers, the Thinking Decider by first using more considerate, empathetic and understanding language toward the Feeling Decider, acknowledging their feelings, he/she will be able to create in the Feeler, a sense of being understood.
This, of course is precisely what the Feeling Decider wanted in the first place.
This communication experience tends to incline the Feeler (to the other side of their brain) toward a more objective discussion.
It is important to note that Thinkers feel and Feelers think; it is a matter of which neurological sequence occurs first.
To use language that connects to each conversational style and thereby elevates the conversation, advances the relationship and creates a transcendent resolution, one that has the best of what each party thinks but a solution that is even better; this is facilitation.
Do Not Change Who You Are but be Different, Change What You Do
In other words, do not change; just be different in the moment.
A very important distinction at this point is to emphasize that neither type, the Thinker or the Feeler, should try to be what they are not.
Rather, to attain agreement, the Thinker should treat the Feeler with understanding; to show understanding, not to try to be understanding.
There is a big difference between trying to be something you are not, and doing behaviors that show it.
In other words, do understanding, don’t be understanding.
By using special Feeling language, foreign to the Thinker to be sure, the Thinker will more readily connect with the Feeler.
Over time, the Thinker will see and experience the power of empathy to and for the Feeler and will become, as in all skill development, more naturally empathetic as it is needed in the relationship.
Feelers Should not try to Be Logical and Detached
Similarly, Feelers should not try to be logical and detached when they do not feel so.
It is not in their nature to first be detached, so this would be contrived and inauthentic.
Feelers of course are more naturally inclined to first show understanding and then fix the problem.
This often the right thing to do except not with Thinkers.
Rather, the Feeler should treat the Thinker with respect by doing something respectful.
In other words, ask questions and treating the Thinker with behaviors that show solution oriented detachment, their preferred mode of interaction.
Over time, the Feeler will see and experience the power of sheer logic with the Thinker and will be motivated, as in all skill development, to be more naturally objective when it is needed in the relationship with the Thinker.
In both cases, the maxim is, do not change who you are; change what you do.
I will argue later, that when we change what we do, the other party, for that moment and the relationship over time, gets changed, unconsciously, truly and deeply.
You are communicating with them how they wish to be spoken to; in the manner that is aligned with their innate style.
Positive effect reciprocity replaces negative effect reciprocity.
Other Differences between Thinkers and Feelers
Feelers tend to be significantly less assertive, more giving, accommodating and cooperative.
Thinkers tend toward competition and assertiveness.
The Thinker’s license sticker says, “The more I get to know people, the more I like my dog.”
Both types make a movie.
The movie the Thinker directs is a documentary, detached, dispassionate and objective.
The movie the Feeler directs is a soap opera, a Hollywood production, infused with emotion, feeling, and subjectivity.
So there is a general overview and strategy to cross the Thinker – Feeler divide.
Every leader needs to understand the chasm between the two and know how to bridge that gap, when necessary.
I am sure in future newsletters that we will analyze how to more specifically communicate with Thinkers and Feelers.
In the mean time I do trust this will help you to cross the Thinker – Feeler divide.
For more on this topic, we recommend the following
Execute Your Communication