Hitting the nail on the head
One of the differences we often talk about between Thinking types and Feeling types is their approach to a 'problem'. Usually Thinking types want to fix or solve the problem, and Feeling types prefer first that someone just listen and offer empathy. They are both showing how they 'care', but do so in very different ways.
This came home to me years ago when my daughter, a Feeling type, asked me to download pictures of a trip with her boyfriend onto a laptop, and then erase them from her camera. I am technologically challenged, but did the best I could; at least I knew enough not to delete the pictures from her camera.
I then promptly left town to visit an elderly aunt. When I arrived, I got a desperate, tear-filled voice message from my daughter: “Where are those pictures?!”.
As a Thinking type, I rushed into problem-solving mode (even with my limited technological expertise). Did she try this, that, and the other thing? (See, I am limited!) I had actually only downloaded one. But I had not deleted the pictures so I was somewhat saved (literally and figuratively).
Her boyfriend (a Feeling type), on the other hand, sent her flowers with the message, “I’m so sorry. We’ll make more memories together. Love, S.” Keep in mind that he lived six time zones away and did this in the middle of the night. The flowers arrived before I returned the phone call.
Guess which one she preferred!
So I now monitor myself, some of the time anyway – it’s hard to suspend using a natural preference! Is it the 'empathy thing' or the 'fix it thing' that works the best for that other person in that particular moment?
I also pay attention to how others are dealing with me – do I just want someone to listen, or do I want help and advice on moving forward to rectify the problem? And sometimes I find myself annoyed when the other person is using the 'wrong' approach. Ahhh, that’s how it feels – I know how to fix the darned problem, but I just want some TLC (tender loving care)!!
I also know that not everything can be fixed or solved, but at least I can listen to the person and empathise.
So why the title of this article? Check out this video about a woman who has a nail stuck in her forehead complaining about headaches, snagged sweaters, etc. Her partner is trying to get her to simply remove the nail. She just wants him to simply listen!
Ah yes, two different approaches… which one is appropriate and when? Thinking or Feeling?
Jean Kummerow, Ph.D. (ESTJ) is a licensed psychologist and trains professionals internationally in the use of psychological instruments, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) Step I, the MBTI Step II and the Strong Interest Inventory® instruments. She is an author of numerous MBTI-related publications including the MBTI Step II Interpretive Report, the MBTI Step II User’s Guide, Understanding Your MBTI Step II Results, and Working with MBTI Step II Results. Her B.A. is from Grinnell College in Iowa and her M.A. and Ph.D. are in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology from the University of Minnesota.