Personality preferences in your 4-H club: Thinking and feeling

Got thinkers? Got feelers? Of course! Strategies to ensure they’re all valued in your 4-H club.

In the previous article, “Thinking and feeling: What’s your preference?,” we explored ways personality preferences impact decision-making. Because young people often make group decisions, it’s important for 4-H club leaders to ensure both decision-making preferences are equally valued. Try these strategies to keep everyone engaged in the conversation:

  • Talk about personality preferences with young people so they know their definition of fairness is just as correct as anyone else’s, and that the concerns they raise during a decision-making discussion will be valued by the group. For some examples of kid-friendly language to describe the differences between thinking and feeling, check out this video based on the Murphy Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children.
  • Be very clear about the objective of the discussion, which will appeal to the thinker’s preference for logic, and will help keep the conversation on topic. Write the objective on the agenda and ask group members if they agree that’s the purpose of the discussion before it starts. If they don’t agree, encourage them to edit the objective.
  • Moderate the discussion when an important decision needs to be made by the group. Use a flip chart or white board to write down all of the issues and concerns that are expressed. This will demonstrate that everyone’s ideas are equally important.
  • If the discussion becomes focused on the thinker’s preference for logical consequences, ask a question that invites the feelers to express their concerns too. “Will everyone be able to participate in this solution?” or “Do the ideas we’ve brainstormed so far seem fair to you?” are questions that may encourage diverse opinions from the feelers in your group.
  • Similarly, if the discussion becomes feeler-focused on the impact on people, ask a question that invites the thinkers to do a bit of logical analysis. Say something like, “Now that we’ve brainstormed some ideas, let’s create a list of pros and cons for each one.” If the decision-making is intended to solve a problem, ask “Could someone give an explanation of how option A would be a logical solution?” Then repeat the process with the remaining options.
  • Be aware that young people with a preference for feeling tend to value harmony in groups, and are often willing to compromise in order to maintain it. If a decision-making discussion is likely to become contentious, start by having the group establish some ground rules to keep the conversation productive. If the energy in the room starts to become negative, try to infuse a bit of age-appropriate humor to lighten the mood.
  • Take some time to reflect on your own decision-making preferences so you can eliminate any inadvertent biases or blind spots. The list of thinking and feeling characteristics provided by the Myers and Briggs Foundation may be helpful, and some online surveys give useful examples. For the most comprehensive approach, participate in a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator workshop where you’ll complete the full Myers-Briggs Type Indicator survey and learn about the applications of personality type. Your local Michigan State University Extension office can help you find a certified interpreter of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

This is Part 6 in a Michigan State University Extension series on personality preferences and youth development. For more, see:

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