In Part 1, we introduced the Myers–Briggs Personality Indicator® and the first pair of characteristics, Introversion and Extroversion. In Part 2 we explored the second pair, Intuition and Sensation, and here in Part 3, we take a look at the third pair, Thinking and Feeling. Remember that everyone has, to varying degrees, both of the characteristics described in each of the pairs of attributes. The descriptions here are of extremes that rarely apply to real individuals, but rather indicate tendencies we all can recognize in ourselves and in others.
The third pair: Thinking versus Feeling
Here we have another instance where Jung chose fairly imprecise words to describe the types he’d identified: in MBTI, thinking doesn’t mean thinking, and feeling doesn’t mean feeling! Instead, MBTI Thinker types tend to evaluate situations based on a set of rules. This rule-based view means that, to a Thinker, there are established rights and wrongs, norms, and hierarchies that are true and that determine the correct and best way to behave and proceed in a given situation. To a Thinker, these rules can lend structure to areas of life that might otherwise seem chaotic and difficult to navigate. The Thinker’s rules could be, but aren’t always, moral or religious; they could simply be “the way things should be done”—at least, from their perspective.
Feeling types, on the other hand, are more likely to view relationships as the essential guiding factor in evaluating a situation. In other words, how will this situation impact the people involved, and the relationships of the people involved? You can imagine that this might be a much more fluid and “hard to nail down” approach to life’s situations. People and relationships are constantly shifting and evolving, each individual is in relationships with many others, and every relationship holds a web-like connection to innumerable factors such as family, work, religion, culture, and so forth. Naturally, a Feeling type cannot possibly consider every permutation of these relationships; the main point is that Feeling is an entirely different way of relating to the world, and navigating life, than that of the rule-based Thinker.
At its best, the Thinking modality can be a great asset to organizations and to making life’s inevitable chaos manageable. At the extreme end, Thinkers can seem somewhat heartless, always sticking to a predetermined set of rules that they consider right and true, while appearing to ignore the impact of decisions and actions on people and relationships. Feelers would say—and from a certain perspective it’s hard to dispute the point—that any given situation is nothing more than the people and relationships that comprise it. Feelers, at their best, bring “heart” to their evaluations, and realize that fostering the best in people and relationships very often brings out the best in any situation. At the extreme end, Feeling types can end up making organizational and procedural objectives more difficult to attain than they might otherwise be. An F-type’s focus on people and relationships could interfere with important and necessary goals that might best be served by some degree of adherence to the rules, procedures, and established norms that a T takes to naturally.
Visit the website of the Myers–Briggs Foundation »
Of the many excellent books and articles that explore MBTI to varying degree, What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are does a great job of simplifying the Myers-Briggs tool, making it easy to understand and apply to your own life »