MBTI: Thinkers and Feelers During Conflict

Have you ever been so frustrated with someone that you don’t even know how to express what’s going on in your head?  I think a lot of us have experienced these types of situations that either lead to hurtful comments or unresolved confrontations.  When it comes to conflict resolution, it can often be worthwhile to find external tools or to help us frame our thoughts and our view of others.  The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is just that, a tool for effective communication, especially during conflict. Learning about your personality type isn’t just a cool parlor trick or conversation starter.  Once you’re conversant in the terms and concepts, you can use constructive language to resolve disputes and differences, rather than suffer through frustrating arguments.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator provides four aspects of personality, each with a continuum between two different preferences.  Where we land on the continue of each preference pair can be used to describe how we communicate with others. One of the most important personality distinctions during conflict is that of Thinkers and Feelers; basically, whether we prefer logic or emotion during decision making.

Three things Thinkers and Feelers can do during conflict resolution.

Thinking - Primarily use logic based decision making

  1. Empathy - Take a moment to try and understand what others are experiencing from their point of view.  To others, “it feels right” might be more important than “it makes sense”.

  2. Give Praise - Thinking types have a tendency to point out what’s wrong rather than what’s right.  This often won’t well with Feelers, who are doing the exact opposite.  Be sure to mix in some good with the bad.

  3. People are important - Yes, T’s think that people are important, but they have a tendency to view them as a line item along with other important items.  Instead, consider that others view people as the most important factor in any conflict equation.

Feeling - Primarily use emotion based decision making

  1. Stay engaged - At times, those with a Feeling preference will avoid conflict resolution because it can be uncomfortable to address differences, however, some issues need to be resolved.  Work towards a resolution by acknowledging differences and suggesting compromises, and hopefully the other person is open to that sort of respectful communication.

  2. Use an objective viewpoint - Feelers have a tendency to make themselves the object of the criticism of others, when in fact the disagreement may stem from situational or environmental factors. Make sure it is about you before taking it personally.

  3. Analyze - It can be difficult for feelers to make critical decisions when more than one option feels right, which can be frustrating for others.  Find decision making tools that can help quantify different options, or seek input some someone you trust who has an analytical mind.

As usual when talking about personality type, the most important takeaway here is that both Thinkers and Feelers are important and provide valuable input during disagreements.  You wouldn't want a situation with purely logical decisions without considering the emotional consequences, nor would you want the opposite, a situation with only empathy and no critical analysis.  Especially in business where both profits and people are of utmost importance, it's good to recognize the benefits of each and bring together the best of both types.

The Difference Between Extroverts and Introverts in the Workplace

Understanding how personality type affects everyday communication can provide huge benefits, especially when applied in the workplace. Insight into things like how we prefer to give and receive directions and feedback or the way we want to structure a meeting can go a long way towards avoiding unnecessary frustration and stress. Examining the difference between extroverts and introverts gives us a lens to this experience!

Most people are familiar with extroversion and introversion, one of the four preference pairs in the Myers-Briggs system, but many people are not aware of it's application beyond knowing that it generally makes some of us louder and some of us quieter. By definition, our preference for extroversion or introversion is how we tend to focus our energy and attention, outward or inwards.  However, our preferences can create many differences in our go-to methods of communicating, that when acknowledged, leave employees happier and more productive. Here are some of the most common ways it can be addressed in the workplace.

Meetings & Brainstorming

Extroverts will generally prefer to have meetings be a lively place for discussion, where new ideas are being generated and vetted, with lots of verbal banter. In a meeting dominated by extroverts, usually the loudest prevail and only a limited number of people will have an opportunity to talk.

Introverts will usually rather have a quieter and more structured discussion with fewer people, if there is even a meeting at all. There is usually a preference for written notes rather than a group discussion. A raucous and fast-paced meeting will often leave the introverts without a chance to contribute, which creates a perception by others that they are not paying attention and/or don't have anything to contribute.

What to do: For the best outcome, structure meetings to include free-flowing brainstorming as well as designated time for everyone to talk. Provide a written agenda in advance that includes questions and issues that will be addressed during the meeting. Remember that everyone has something valuable to contribute, including those who do more listening than talking.

Personal Work Space & Small Talk

Extroverts will tend to want an open-office/open-door setting that allows for more socializing and small talk. Up to a certain amount, extroverts will get energized from social interaction, so having a workspace that facilitates connections with others can be very helpful. Extroverts will welcome distractions and enrich their ideas during pop-in meetings and water cooler discussions.

Introverts will usually prefer the exact opposite; more isolated work settings with less drop-ins and distractions. Interruptions to their concentrated work time can really get things off track. Brainstorming for an introvert usually means working and thinking alone.

What to do: Organizations can allow employees to design and structure their own workspace to match their preferences, such as getting to select low vs high walled cubicles. Although most workplaces need to facilitate some collaboration between employees, everyone can be given designated "quiet times" where they are not to be interrupted, or conversely "office hours" can be assigned where it is appropriate to pop in.

Feedback & Directions

Extroverts will usually prefer to be given feedback and or instructions verbally because they are better at working through ideas externally with others. For example, a performance review of an extrovert will go better if the majority of the feedback happens during a discussion, even through evaluating on a form is almost always a part of the process.

Introverts will tend to prefer that the majority of feedback and direction occur in a written format. They would rather have the time to read and process on their own, rather than have to relay their ideas on the spot to someone else or a group.

What to do: Organizations can proactively engage with employees to learn their preferences and then tailor communication to match. Both verbal and written communication will be a part of any workplace, but discussions, performance reviews, job/task assignment, and more can all have an emphasis on the style that works best for each employee.

Whenever applying type preferences in the workplace it's always important to not use the labels to put people in a box. Employees are much more than just extroverts and introverts, so it's not okay to use any designation as a definitive measure for someone's work style. However, understanding the real and applicable differences in personality type does give employees, managers, and teams a set of words and language they can use for discussions that lead to engaging and productive workplaces!

Does Corporate America Have a Personality Type?

Most people are familiar with personality type using the Myers-Briggs personality type.  It assigns people four letters which represent preferences for where we focus our attention, what information we value, how we make decisions, and how we structure our lives.  The introvert and extrovert classifications are probably the most well known aspects of the system and most people think they know which one of these they are.  Hint: it’s not just about how loud or quiet you are, but that will be a topic for another day.  

What many people don’t know is that Myers-Briggs personality type can be use to describe other entities in addition to people, such as pets, movie characters, and companies.  Oddly enough, it can even be used to describe groups as large as entire nations, but right now I am going to focus on the business world in the United States.  

Corporate America has an ESTJ personality type.  Those of us that interact with businesses should understand what that means and how it affects us every day.

E - Extroversion

People and organizations with a preference for Extraversion focus their energy outward and are energized by group interactions, rather than isolated settings. Most business want their employees to be outgoing and interactive. Collaboration is valued and encouraged, and employees are often pressured to be representatives of their company 24 hours a day.  Introverts may be talked over during meetings and often viewed as not having valuable contributions, even though it is actually the setting that is not setup to receive their manner of input.

S - Sensing

Those with a Sensing preference pay the most attention to information that is real and tangible.  They value details and specifics and usually like to see tasks completed in a sequential order.  Although their counterparts, future-focused visionaries, are celebrated at the CEO level, most organizations want their staff to have a keen attention to detail.  Projects and everyday tasks get boiled down to the numbers and facts, which can be great for people who love managing large amounts of data and information. Those with an iNtuition preference who think more about the next big idea rather than the numbers for the daily report may be viewed as meandering and rebellious.

T - Thinking

People and organizations with a preference for Thinking typically value logical decisions rather than decisions based primarily on emotion.  Considering makes sense ends up trumping what feels good.  When empathy is not given the same weight as logical analytics, employees become just another line item on a budget rather than an invaluable and irreplaceable asset.  With a few notable exceptions such as Southwest and Trader Joes, organizations want employees that will make decisions that put the need for profit above than the needs of the staff.  People with a Feeling preference who give precedent to emotion and values may be viewed as too soft or sensitive for dog-eat-dog corporate environments.

J - Judging

A preference for Judging doesn’t mean the person or organization is judgemental, rather, it indicates a desire to process the world in a planned and organized manner.  This manifests itself in ways such as calculated schedules, project due dates and midway check-in points, clean and categorized work areas, and a strong desire to stick to plans once they are established.  Corporations want both short and long term plans for the work of their employees as well as the company’s growth.  Obviously this is a necessary and important aspect of the business world, however, a constant implementation of deadlines may actually decrease the productivity of people with a perceiving preference.  

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The main takeaway here, as it almost always is in matters of personality type, is that all the types are important, there is no bad or wrong combination of type.  Corporate America is an ESTJ for good reason, it’s a type that will likely produce valuable results and output. What we need to keep in mind is that every day at every organizations there are moments where financial value is not the most important result.  At those times other type preferences should not only be recognized but utilized for the value they will add to the organization.  Give the introverts a chance to talk and let the perceivers challenge the upcoming deadline; the results will be a more robust and effective work space with satisfied employees.

Contact me to set up a Myers-Briggs session for you and your team!