Disagreement is inevitable when you work with others; people have diverse opinions, contexts and viewpoints that can sometimes escalate to full-blown conflict. How you handle that conflict determines whether you get a productive outcome or the conflict destroys your team.
One common source of workplace conflict is the clash between thinking-judging (TJ) and feeling-perceiving (FP) types on the MBTI scale. Fortunately, it's possible to cut through the dissonance by understanding what makes these dichotomous personalities tick.
Why TJ and FP Personality Types Lock Horns
Thinking-Judging and Feeling-Perceiving types stand at opposite ends of the conflict pairing of the Myers-Briggs Indicator. When challenged, a thinking-judging oriented person wants to quickly and efficiently fix the problem. He or she will focus on:
- what the problem is about — the facts.
- addressing conflict unemotionally, using objectivity and data.
- sorting the problem out.
- resolving the conflict decisively — "sticking to their guns."
Feeling-perceiving personality types, on the other hand, are more concerned about the impact the problem has on other people's thoughts and feelings. An FP will focus on:
- who is affected — the people.
- hearing all sides of the story to understand the values at stake.
- working the problem through.
- resolving the conflict sensitively — "softening the blow."
TJs want fast, rational closure and are easily irritated by the FP's "bleeding heart" approach. FPs are quite happy with a lack of resolution, as long as the problem is openly explored. They also consider TJs to be blunt and critical. These differences are accentuated under the stress of confrontation, creating a classic battle situation.
So, how do you address these issues?
Step #1: Active Listening
Active listening means bringing the facts, realities, opinions and feelings of all interested parties into the dialogue. Suspending judgment and without drawing conclusions, Judgers and Perceivers must clarify their position and articulate their own needs going forward. This clearly aligns with a Perceiver's need to explore all the angles.
Step #2: See the Other Side
Thinking-oriented people do well to see matters from a feeling perspective and vice versa. For TJ-types, this means not brushing aside important matters for the sake of moving on, and recognizing the emotional impact of the problem. FPs, on the other hand, should not interpret succinct responses as brusque or disrespectful, and recognize a TJs need for absolute closure.
Step #3: Draw a Line
The final stage is agreeing on a course of action that resolves the problem. If further analysis is needed, agree what needs to be done, by whom and by when, to align with a TJ's need for closure.
Constructive conflict is an ingredient of high-functioning teams. By respecting the differences between people, and heading off a potentially harmful conflict, you will be able to maintain a positive team atmosphere. The key is to remain open to other people's value systems and see issues from all sides. This, in turn, opens up new ways of thinking, which can lead to truly innovative team performances.