by Carol Anderson, Featured Contributor
I am a fan of Myers Briggs Type Indicator, above all the other instruments available to spark insight into differences within a team. One of the reasons I like the MBTI is because you can break down where the conflict might be occurring to more granular, more understandable differences. Unlike DiSC or others where you “are a letter,” MBTI provides insight into four very specific areas where differences can occur, and when you are aware of the origin of the difference, you stand a better chance of resolving it.
I have come to the conclusion that the one area that is most difficult to identify, and possibly resolve is the “Thinking” vs “Feeling” dichotomy.
An individual who prefers “thinking” comes at things from a basic sense of logic, typically removed from emotion and as objective as possible, depending upon the topic. An individual who prefers “feeling” comes at things personally, based upon their personal values.
Both approaches have a great deal of strength, and emotion flows on both sides when they are not understood. My “T” says that if someone breaks the law, there is a price they must pay, and I am pretty solidly wedded to that outcome. Others’ “F” may have a personal value based on a mitigating circumstance, and thus argues against stiff penalties. As a “T”, I appreciate and have compassion for the mitigating factors, but the logic is sound in my mind – break the law, pay a price.
So we have a little “T” and “F” collision going on in our media today. The patriarch of Duck Dynasty made a comment based on his own personal values. Now the “T” and the “F” take sides. The “T” can follow a trail of logic back to the basics of free speech, while and “F” is focused on the values that were espoused by the patriarch, vehemently agreeing or not.
Mike Myatt, a blogger with Forbes Online, wrote a compelling piece about basic freedom of speech in relation to the Duck Dynasty debacle. He traced the logic of each participant’s actions back to our Constitution. Logically, the patriarch had the freedom to express his opinion. Logically, the network had the freedom to suspend him. After tracing the logic back, Myatt concludes:
“The bottom line is this; when society reaches a place where people are afraid to share their personal beliefs for fear of public excoriation, we have devolved not evolved. As a general rule, our society is too easily offended, too easily bullied, and too easily lulled into a sense [of] malaise.”
He goes on to say,
“It is quite possible to have compassion for someone while disagreeing with him or her. The sad truth is the ability to disagree without being disagreeable is quickly becoming a lost art.”
I liked his article, and can’t do the article justice without quoting more of it, so I encourage you to read it. Going back to my original premise, however, this is a really good example of “T” and “F” in conflict. There is logic, and there are personal values, and when they collide, Boom!
I say that this is the most difficult MBTI dichotomy to identify and resolve because it is often the most emotionally charged. Pitting logic against personal values is a prescription for conflict, if there is not a fundamental alignment to the issue. Given the difficulties presented when the “T” and “F” collide, how can we best work to resolve? I think we can start here:
Work to understand differences
By simply being aware of different thinking and feeling preferences, we have a jump start on understanding. As a “T”, if I know you are coming at an issue as an “F,” I start to understand. Instead of wondering, “what the heck is he/she thinking,” I can start with, “okay, he/she has a personal value that we’re up against, and I need to respect that.”
Respect others’ differences
As much as I would like to say that because I approach things logically I am always right, (hey, it’s logical, right?) it just doesn’t work that way. Logic can be flawed, and a conflict can help to identify the flaw. But I have to be open to the possibility of a different resolution, or I risk implementing a flawed solution.
Find a trusted colleague who thinks differently than you do, or create a team intentionally with diversity of perspective. You’ll have lively dialogue, but that’s a good thing. Getting all perspectives on the table and respecting diversity of thought leads to better solutions. Make sure the diversity is balance – I once found myself as a lone “T” in a sea of adamant “Fs” and it was not pleasant.
Keep an open mind
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re not always right, logically or not. Collective thinking leads to better outcomes, but those involved have to be open to differences.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a powerful tool to create respect and appreciation for the power of diversity. But you don’t necessarily need to know your type if you commit to being open to and respecting the perspective of others.