The Thinker

Do other people constantly hurt your feelings when communicating with you? Are you told your communication style upsets and offends others? Do people claim you're too hard and rational? Or maybe too emotional and irrational? If so, there’s a very good reason! As humans, we have two rational processes for making decisions: thinking and feeling. Although we can all use both processes, we each prefer one over the other.

Thinking is a logic-based thought process. Feeling is a values-based thought process. These different approaches often result in miscommunication because we don't know how to identify and understand the other person's decision-making process, values, and communication style. If you are in (or have been in) a relationship, then you'll probably relate.

In this article, we’ll focus on the third set of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This preference pair describes how you prefer to make decisions. In MBTI, thinking types have the letter T as the third letter of their type code (ISTJ, for example). Feeling types have the letter F as the third letter of their type code (ISFJ, for example).

Where do you land? If you like to put more weight on objective principles and impersonal facts, there’s a good chance you’re a thinking type. If you prefer to put more weight on personal concerns and the people involved, you’re likely more of a feeling type. But let's not confuse 'feeling' with ‘emotions’. Everyone has emotions. Emotion is a strong feeling, such as love, anger, joy, hate, or fear. Someone who's highly emotional is just as likely to be a thinking type as a feeling type. Emotions are part of life for nearly everyone, regardless of their type.

Also, do not confuse ‘thinking’ with ‘intelligence’. I'm a feeling type yet I like to think that I'm fairly intelligent! My family are all thinking types, yet they're empathetic and kind. Everyone uses thinking for some decisions and feeling for others. What we're talking about here is the MBTI decision-making process. A person can make a decision using his or her preferred or non-preferred decision-making process. In fact, if you practice, you can use your non-preferred type almost as effectively as your preferred.

I’d like you to try something. Fold your arms. Now try to fold them in reverse. How does it feel? Uncomfortable? Does it take more time? More effort? More thought? Try it again. Fold your arms three times in your non-preferred style. Does it get easier with practice? Yes, it does. And if you keep it up for even longer, it’ll become even easier. The same is true for type. When you practice using your non- preference, you can become very good at it. Healthy feeling types will usually be compassionate and empathetic and will have a balanced sense of reason. Healthy thinking types will usually be logical and reasonable and will have a balanced sense of empathy.

Read through the following descriptions of the thinking types and feeling types and consider which applies most to you and those close to you.

Thinking types

More often than not, thinking types:

  • Like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied when deciding.
  • Make decisions with their head, trying to be as impersonal as possible so the decision is fair and just.
  • Focus on 'why' when questioning, looking for logical reasons or solutions.
  • Like to analyze the pros and cons of a situation and be consistent and logical in decision-making.
  • Tend to notice inconsistencies and faults and can be quick to point them out.
  • Can appear to be critical and negative in their need to find out why.
  • Believe truth is more important than tact.
  • Are frequently seen as straightforward, even brutal and confrontational at times, even though they may not see this themselves.
  • Sometimes miss or don't value the people moment of a situation.
  • Can be seen as too task oriented, uncaring, or indifferent in their need to be competent.

Feeling types

By contrast, feeling types most often:

  • Use personal values to make decisions.
  • Focus is on 'who' when questioning, wanting what is best for those involved.
  • Are persuasive, warmhearted, and compassionate (and are seen by others as such).
  • Like to do whatever it takes to establish or maintain harmony between people.
  • Believe being tactful is more important than telling the cold, hard truth.
  • Consider the impact of their words and decisions on people.
  • Sometimes they miss seeing or communicating the hard truth of situations.
  • Seek personal approval and need to be appreciated.
  • Are sometimes seen by others as idealistic, mushy, indirect, and needy.

Which do you relate most closely to: thinking or feeling? Remember, you can use both, but one will be your stronger preference. Now let's look at the impact these two different preferences can have on your views on life, your communication and understanding of others.

Sensitivity to feedback: Feeling types versus thinking types

When looking at these preference descriptions, are feeling types more sensitive to constructive feedback than thinkers? Yes, they are. Why? Well, feeling types are more focused on the perceived intentions and motives of others. They tend to take things more personally and be more effected by straight-talk (or 'criticism', as they may perceive it).

The feeler looks for true motivations, relationships, and the meanings behind words. They're looking for a personal, value-based truth. Who is this person? What is their motive? And what did they really mean when they said what they said?

Feeling types might hear words like, "You made a mistake" and interpret it as "I'm disappointed in you, you're a failure, I don't like you". Feeling people talk about feelings and give positive (although, according to some thinker types, almost sickening) words of affirmation.

They also need personal and positive confirmation around the actions and thoughts that they say and do for others.

The thinking type has a totally different thought process when it comes to feedback. The thinker looks for facts and accuracy behind an argument or a problem. They're looking for logical, functional truth. The thinking type isn't looking for underlying motive or meaning, or emotion, and they're able to accept "you made a mistake" as separate from a personal criticism.

However, thinking types can also be sensitive, but for them it’s different. Thinkers can have their feelings hurt when someone insults their logic, their plans, or their competence. They might be able to accept constructive criticism like champs, but they can react strongly when someone teases them or makes them feel like a failure. Thinking people like logical praise for their efforts – nothing too flashy – just enough to commend them on a job well done.

The thinking type can also be the last to admit they're wrong, particularly during emotive situations where they see the other person as irrational and emotional. This helps them alleviate feeling of being incorrect.

I'm a feeling type and my husband Paul is a thinking type. We initially had no idea about personality differences and saw the world through our own lenses, with no awareness that there were differences, just the thought that the other was either too emotional (me) or too uncaring (him). There were many instances where Paul's logical conversation upset me. One Saturday night I was cooking dinner and started to feel really unwell.

“I feel really sick right now,” I said. “I think I need to lie down.”

“No worries,” he responded. “Just finish cooking the dinner first though.”

"Seriously, how thoughtless!" I thought.

When I challenged this on him later, he said to me very logically, "Well, there was no point in leaving the dinner half cooked if you were able to finish cooking it before you decided to lie down."

Ok. True. But not very empathetic!

Thinkers so often upset feeling types (and thinking types too!) with unwitting, sometimes brutal language.

Logical? Or uncaring?

Paul and I run swimming schools and one of our managers Trevor, who's a hemophilia, had been bleeding internally and was in intensive care in hospital. We went in to visit him.

As we walked in, my first question was, "How are you, Trevor?"

He gave us a rundown on his poor health, and then Paul spoke, "When will you be back at work?"

I looked at him in horror. How unfeeling and rude! This reaction to Trevor's illness stuck in my head and it wasn't until many years later, when we were discussing personalities, that I mentioned this incident to Paul and how I felt about it.

He got very upset and said, "I knew how ill he was. I needed to know how long he'd be off work so I could back-fill his work. That way, I could let him know that he didn't need to concern himself about work and instead just focus on getting better.”

Wow – what a revelation! What a misunderstanding on my behalf. Here I was thinking Paul was being uncaring and insensitive. Yet, he was the exact opposite, using his thinking logic to care for and help Trevor.

This occurs between thinking and feeling types all the time. I have met many wounded feeling types who are either feeling unloved, uncared for, rejected, bullied, or just plain unhappy because they misunderstand the logical (apparently uncaring) language their thinking partners brings to the relationship. Without any knowledge about their differences and without tools to help fix their problems, they are unable to see a way forward. The feeling type uses their empathy and desire for harmony to make their decisions, and so the thinker's logical approach hits none of these buttons.

The thinker thinks all people make logical decisions as they do. They question the validity of the feeling person's decision-making pattern and dismiss it as too sentimental and sensitive. But the thinker gets very stressed when the feeling type gets hurt and sad. The feeler's use of emotive language, tears, and words of expression, unhappiness, or annoyance can create stress for the thinker. They feel threatened by the overwhelm of sentiment and their first reaction is to try and fix it.

We know thinkers can use their feeling side as we all can use our less preferred sides. However, if they're not used to using emotions and language of feelings, this can be difficult. When confronted with non-logical, emotional situations, the thinker may feel overwhelmed and come up with phrases that sound trite, insensitive, or cold to the feeling type:

  • “You'll be alright.”
  • “Stop those tears.”
  • “Why do you always have to cry?”
  • “Just talk to me.”
  • “You're just doing this to make me feel bad.”
  • “I can't deal with this. I'm leaving.”
  • “Pull yourself together.”

Sometimes you just need to talk it out

With Paul as a thinking type and me a feeling type, we used to have these issues too. He’d get angry when I cried and I would cry more because I wasn't getting the warm, nurturing response I needed. We’d end up fighting more because we misunderstood each other's emotional EQ.

Then, one day, we sat down and discussed how we felt. Paul said he felt out of control. He didn't know how to comfort me and that made him feel uncomfortable and useless. Even if the sadness and tears weren’t his fault, he felt he was to blame in some way. When he tried to reason using logic and facts, and I didn't feel any better or stop crying, he felt frustrated. And this frustration led to anger and annoyance. In turn, I told him that I felt like my emotions weren't being recognized and that he was just pushing me away and not listening.

Hearing each other's thought processes was such an eye opener. After all, neither of us had any idea what was going on in the other person's head. We were just making assumptions based on our own perceptions.

With this knowledge, we worked out what to do in future situations when this happened. I told him he just needed to hug me, listen and not to solve. He agreed, but then said he needed to have a logical discussion about the problem after the tears had stopped so he could sort it all out in his own head. We're much more aware of our emotions these days and these situations do not come up nearly as often now.

Validation preferences: Feeling Types versus thinking types

Let's talk about validation and the thinker and feeler. We all like to be recognized and appreciated. However, the language styles of the thinking and feeling types can be very different when it comes to getting validation.

Feeling type people like praise along the lines of personal appreciation:

  • "You're a star!”
  • “I really appreciate your help.”
  • “What would we do without you?”
  • “We just love having you on the job.”
  • “I love hanging out with you.”

Validation preferences: Thinking types

The thinking type also enjoys praise and recognition, but the words above are often too sweet and sickening for them. They prefer words like:

  • "Well done.”
  • “This job went really smoothly.”
  • “You worked really hard, and this is a product of your success.”
  • “Congratulations on finishing the project on time.”
  • “You’re a great provider for our family.”
  • “You manage everything so well."

Communication approach: Feeling types versus thinking types

How do feeling types communicate? Feeling types are warm, supportive, expressive, and affirming. When they meet people, they enjoy sharing personal situations, ideas, and stories. They see the strengths and positive attributes of people and enjoy giving encouragement and positive feedback. They like collaboration and want to cooperate. Their communication is focused on people and harmony.

When I'm sick, my family tells me: “Man up! You'll be okay. Just take some Panadol. You think you’re sick? I had such a bad headache last week." But when they're sick? I ask if they're okay. If they can get to school or work okay? Do they need me to ring up anyone to let people know that they're unwell? Would they like any medication or food? Is there anything that I can do for them? Such a difference!

If I want of sympathy and attention, I go to my feeling-type friends, because really, why seek something from someone that they can’t give you? Enjoy them for who they are and understand they cannot fulfill all of your personality needs. When you let go of your expectations. You'll love them so much more!

How do thinking types communicate? They're problem solvers. They need to know 'why'. They ask questions – sometimes lots of them – until they're satisfied with the answer. They use logic and analysis to spot flaws and weaknesses and love to debate and challenge information, particularly if there's no evidence to back it up. They prefer information that's presented objectively. They trust competence and expertise. They are task and goal focused. They use logical straightforward, often critiquing language.

Paul, Cassie (both thinkers) and I all work Saturday mornings in our family business. Cassie woke up with a migraine one Saturday morning and was feeling very sick. I told Paul how unwell she was and pleaded with him to let her stay home.

He was annoyed, muttering, "She'll be okay. She can't miss any more time off work. Just give us some food and some Paracetamol and she'll be fine."

I told Cassie what he said. She was furious and yelled back from her bedroom, "I've worked 13 of 15 Saturdays… I'm staying home!"

Paul loved that answer. It appealed to his logic.

"Sure," he said, "I understand – just stay in bed."

And off we went to work. A great learning experience for us feeling types about how thinking types communicate. Give the thinker objective logical, concise information, and you might just get what you want!

Personality types: A tool for all

No matter what age you are, start learning about personality types and preferences. If you've got children who are in their teens, it's a really valuable instrument to introduce them to then as well as love languages, which I'll be talking about in future articles.

Once most couples realize that natural differences are at play and neither is intentionally responding the way they do just to get their own way, they can then accommodate and compromise in areas that had not been possible before.

Communicating successfully with thinking types

  1. Be calm and objective.
  2. Show your competence.
  3. Offer honest, frank feedback, as well as positive comments.
  4. Accept critical feedback without personalizing it.
  5. Avoid becoming overly emotional when discussing issues.
  6. Be logical, reasonable, clear, precise, and concise.
  7. Focus on tasks and objectives, as well as the individuals involved in the situation.
  8. Note the language. Is it different to yours? Unless the language is spiteful, abusive, or personally offensive, hear it, acknowledge it, accept it. Remember that most people are not out to hurt your feelings.

Communication successfully with feeling types

  1. Take the time to get to know them and develop a rapport.
  2. Be friendly, approachable, and offer encouragement and support.
  3. Focus on people and their feelings.
  4. Be patient and respectful and avoid blunt communication, unless the situation absolutely requires it.
  5. Connect first.
  6. Express the positives before the negatives.
  7. Know when to provide feedback gently.
  8. Critique behaviors, not people.
  9. Be careful to acknowledge and not to analyze the other person's feelings and value.
  10. And above all, if you are a thinking type talking to a feeling type, don't dismiss the need for handling feeling people in their preferred style. After all, do you want to be the blunt tool in the shed or the sharpest when it comes to relationships?

Are thinking and feeling types compatible?

Yes, they are. Logic and emotions are equally important for a balanced, healthy, and happy relationship. It's essential to maintain a balance between mind and heart in relationships. Consider each other's communication styles. Practice them. Talk about your differences and understand the relationship benefits they confer. This will build trust, reduce misunderstandings, and create a great sense of teamwork. No one is right or wrong, just different and different is okay.


If you are interested in discovering more about you and your family's personality types, check out my newly launched book, Who Is This Monster (or Treasure) in My House? and download your free sample at

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