Thinking and feeling: What’s your preference?

Do you have a preference for thinking or feeling? How might it impact your decision-making process?

“It’s not fair!” You’ve probably heard that sentence quite a few times, in various contexts. It seems like a simple statement, in which the speaker expresses their frustration with the outcome of a game, decision or situation. We all know what “fair” means, and can therefore identify an “unfair” situation easily. Or can we?

Researchers who explore personality preferences have demonstrated that fair doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. For some, “everyone being treated equally” defines fairness. Others believe there are variables to be considered, so their definition of fairness is one in which “everyone is treated as an individual.” The significant difference in those definitions can make it difficult for some groups to make decisions. For example, some members of a scholarship committee may believe the submission deadline of Friday at 5 p.m. is non-negotiable and that it’s a fair policy because everyone is held to the same expectation. But other committee members may point out that not all students have computers and Internet access at home, and therefore should be allowed to submit their applications over the weekend when they’ll be able to complete them at the public library.

In terms of personality preferences, the committee members who believe individual circumstances should be taken into account are most likely feelers, while those who are less flexible about the deadline are probably thinkers. This personality dichotomy is all about how we make decisions. Individuals with a preference for thinking tend to focus on logic and analysis when making decisions; those who prefer feeling tend to be concerned about the impact a decision will have on the people involved. Read these brief descriptions by the Myers and Briggs Foundation to learn more.

Groups who pay attention to the perspectives of thinkers and feelers tend to make better decisions because they’ve considered a wider range of potential consequences. Being aware of your own decision-making preference is the first step in that process. Your local Michigan State University Extension county office can help you find a certified interpreter of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a very effective tool to explore your personality preferences.

If you work with young people in a 4-H club, classroom or other group setting, you can play an important role in helping them understand their decision-making preferences and strategies to work together effectively. That’s the topic of the next article in this series, “Personality preferences in your 4-H club: Thinking and feeling.”

This is Part 5 in a Michigan State University Extension series on personality preferences and youth development. For more, see:

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