The Thinker and the Feeler

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Understanding how your employees, team and project members think is one of the key success drivers of managing resources and creating a strong team that work efficiently together to achieve strategic objectives. It takes more than dolling out a couple of high-fives at a team building event to produce a well-oiled team. Clashing opinions and egos can spark off internal politics, create despondence and lower morale. Understanding how someone approaches their day-to-day tasks, communicates with others and deals with pressure and conflict is key to a managing an effective team, especially on executive level.

The cognitive processes we deal with every day are vast and each individual may approach decision-making differently. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) distinguishes between two main facets that influence the decision-making preferences: The Thinking preference and the Feeling preference. According to the MBTI we all have inherent preferred behaviours closely linked to our personalities. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that in the current workforce profile of today, made up of various generations, ethnicities and cultures may create the room for misunderstanding between one another if awareness of this concept is lacking.

Quenk and Kummerow (2011) identified the Thinking individual as logical, reasonable, questioning, critical and tough. Whereas the Feeling individual would be empathetic, compassionate, accommodating, accepting and tender. The Thinker would ideally make decisions and judgments on what they “think” would be the best course of action and what would deliver the best objective result. The Feeler would make decisions and judgements on how these will make other people “feel” or what the subjective consequences would be.

When considering your own work environment it may now be possible to start to distinguish between these two kinds of decision-makers based on what drives their decisions. The Thinker, for example, would focus on the reason and logic behind a conflict situation and would be able to separate the person from the situation. The Feeler would find it difficult to keep the conflict separate from the person involved and may take such conflict personal.

It is however important to know that we each have a degree of one or the other decision-making preference. You can be an extreme Thinker or a moderate Thinker – it’s all based on the level of intensity connected to your preference. Just the same you can be overly empathetic or slightly empathic. It is also possible that with time and experience you can learn to behave both as a Thinker and a Feeler, although you would still have your natural preference for either the one or the other. A Feeler, for example, can learn to look at a decision objectively and a Thinker can learn to be accommodating when the situation arises.

Although this insight may help to understand other people’s motives better, we must be vigilant to not place each other in a box. As humans we are complex in the ways we function and we must continue to treat each other with respect, even though our manners of decision-making may differ.


Quenk, N. L. & Kummerow, J. M. (2011). MBTI Step II User’s Guide: Practitioner’s tool for making the most of Step II interpretations, (1sted.) (pp. 16-18) CPP, Mountain View: California.


About the Author:

Marilize De Witt is a registered Industrial Psychologist at Africorp Solutions and Advisory who specialises in placements, selection assessments, employee development assessments and team cohesion workshops.
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