Problem-Solving Tips for Thinkers and Feelers

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on June 16, 2015

In the personality typing system developed by Myers and Briggs, the Thinking/Feeling pairing describes how a person makes decisions. A Thinking type uses objectivity to solve a problem, even when considering a moral or aesthetic puzzle. Feelers, on the other hand, make decisions based on their internal belief system. Feelers also solve problems using a system guided by their internal values and motivations rather than extrinsic facts. Because of these opposing styles, Thinkers and Feelers face challenges when tasked with solving problems as a team.

Thinkers: The Lure of Logic

Thinkers apply facts and logic to solve problems and typically seek hard solutions like a yes or no answer. As a result, Thinking personality types may come across as:

  • analytical and skeptical
  • impersonal, even though they do not mean to be
  • argumentative and opinionated
  • tactless and prone to exposing flaws in other people and systems
  • insensitive to the feelings of others

Ideally, Thinkers should provide rational analysis and consistency to the ideas generated by the team. Problems occur when the detached Thinker irritates someone and thus, endangers the team spirit.

Feelers: The Seduction of Subjectivity

Feelers apply their innermost values and beliefs to reach conclusions. This typically involves agreeing or disagreeing with a hypothesis based on subjective feelings rather than formulating a solution backed up by fact. To Thinkers, the Feeling personality type comes across as: 

  • passive and overly accepting
  • fearful of challenging the status quo
  • emotional
  • irrational
  • too concerned with other people's opinions, choosing tact over the truth 

In a team setting, Feelers should be the ones who sensitively persuade others towards the team's point of view. Problems occur when Feelers avoid confrontation to the point where the group cannot achieve consensus.

Tools for Achieving Thinker/Feeler peace

Despite their differences, getting Thinkers and Feelers to work together is not as difficult as it might appear. When communicating with a Feeler, a Thinker might:

  • Make small talk, instead of diving straight into the argument
  • Separate the "rational" and the "emotional" sides of an argument and ask the Feeler to tackle the emotional side
  • Praise the Feeler for the contributions they are making to the discussion instead of remaining detached from the emotional side of the process.

When communicating with a Thinker, a Feeler might:

  • Prepare an argument in advance so that their ideas aren't overruled during a disagreement
  • Get to the point quickly
  • Identify the solutions that the team needs and assign other problems to a Thinker
  • Be patient, and remind the Thinker that few solutions are rarely perfect.

The key takeaway is that both Thinkers and Feelers provide valuable insight to business decisions. The trick is to encourage them both to freely express their views so that business processes are undertaken from both a task-oriented and an empathetic point of view. 

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Robyn (not verified) says...

I may be able to work with Thinkers, have them as friends, and be able to find ways of dealing with the challenges. But I realise with hindsight how this was a challenge far to far when in relationship with a Thinker. Her intense attempts to get answers, to get to the bottom of things, to find solutions - they were experienced by me as persecutory, as torture. And she experienced my distress, frustration, stress, anger and withdrawal as put on, avoidance, chaotic.... Not a good experience for either of us, and one I will never repeat.

Chad.TN (not verified) says...

The longer I live the more I'm convinced that if both thinkers and feelers do not bring their gifts under the control and subjection of the spirit of God, these two simply cannot get along no matter how hard they try.

The feeler will always believe they are persecuted by The Thinker and The Thinker will always believe that the feeler is insane.

These two simply just don't make sense to each other under normal circumstances. I think I must relinquish their pride and recognize that others have valuable insight while a feeler must also really wish their pride and realize that gaining the approval of others is simply not always possible.


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