Thinking vs Feeling: Is Your Preference Holding You Back?

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on May 10, 2022

Each personality trait has its own strong points. No type is “better” than the other. We’re just each better at certain things. And, we should value our own strengths and rightly expect others to respect us as we are, too.

Our preferences usually are our strengths. However, there are times when even our strengths can hold us back in certain situations, or when we’d just benefit from trying out the opposite way of doing things for a more balanced approach.

Take the case of Thinkers vs. Feelers. Both traits have benefits, and both tendencies are valuable.

But there are times when we might hold ourselves back when we lean too heavily on our dominant trait. All “Thinking” or all “Feeling” can be too much of a good thing, and not enough of its balancing trait. 

So, how can you tell when leaning too heavily on your preference isn’t serving you well, and it may be time to step out of your comfort zone? Let’s examine a few scenarios. 

But first, what are Thinkers and Feelers?

Understanding Thinkers

Thinking/Feeling is one of the four basic sets of opposite traits in the Myers-Briggs personality types. Though we are all on a continuum, we tend to have a bias for either Thinking or Feeling. But what does that mean?

If you are classed as a Thinker, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an intellectual (just as being a Feeler doesn’t mean you don’t have a highly developed intellect). It also doesn’t mean you don’t have Feelings or care about other people.

Basically, it means that your preference, especially when it comes to decision making, is for objective facts – things such as numbers, statistics, and other pure data. It also means you value logical Thinking over the messiness of emotion and the human element.

Your ability to see, evaluate, and act on the facts can be a great strength and give you an edge when your job or other life situation requires this data-driven approach.

Understanding Feelers

Feelers tend to base their life and decisions on their personal values, and deeply consider the Feelings and needs of other people.

They are less interested in the raw data and more interested in how acting on it affects other people, and how it fits into their personal idea of right and wrong. 

They can be a real asset when the human element is important. They can foster cooperation and understanding, and take into consideration the needs and feelings of all involved in a decision, as well as conveying information with tact and empathy.

So, now that we know the preferences, and strengths, of each type, let’s look at where those strengths may actually be holding you back.

When dominant Thinking gets in the way

Some areas where your dominant trait may get in your way:

At work

Your tendency to focus on “just the facts” may become a problem in two situations.

  • Sometimes the project requires not just finding and evaluating data, but also coming to a creative, balanced solution based on the facts as well as other important factors, such as the impact on a community, the image your company presents, and so on. 
  • Though your co-workers may turn to you for your research ability and logical conclusions, they may not appreciate it when you tread heavily over their Feelings when you present the facts, or when you seem to discount their different kinds of contributions. They want a co-worker, not a computer.
In your relationships

There is a time for following the facts and leading with logic, but – especially in personal relationships – considering the feelings, needs, and values of the other person is vital. 

As a Thinker, you could be perceived as lacking in that area, especially when the facts seem, to your way of Thinking, to lead to only one reasonable course of action. And not only what you conclude, but how you communicate it can really get in your way of making the other person feel valued and happy to be in your company. 

They may even think that because of your logic-first approach you don’t really respect them or care about their feelings.

In your personal development

You may find that without realizing it, you’ve been suffering because of your “just the facts” way of looking at things. Not only does it affect how others see you, but you may have been ignoring, even stifling, your own emotional needs.

Since you’re not experienced with tuning into your feelings and softer side, you may not even realize why you’re starting to feel like something is missing.

What you can do about it

In all these situations, it may help to remember that you are a human being dealing with other human beings. This means that the Feelings and needs of everyone involved matter. You could work on developing your “soft” skills, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. 

And when you’re making your case, learning to speak with tact, kindness, and consideration will go a long way.

If you need help understanding, considering, and expressing feelings and other human factors, ask a Feeler to help you. And if the person you’re having trouble with is a Feeler, ask them what about your approach rubs them the wrong way. You may be amazed at what you learn.

When it comes to your own personal development, you may not realize that you’ve tended to discount the importance of your own emotions and need for balance in your life. 

Ask yourself: What do I want from life? What makes me happy? What feels like it’s missing when I focus on the data alone? This kind of Thinking may take practice, but it could also lead to more satisfaction in your work, relationships, and life.

When dominant Feeling gets in the way 

Some areas where your dominant trait may get in your way:

At work

Maybe your coworkers think you focus too much on the abstract and not enough on the facts. Your big ideas and compassionate ideals might be considered impractical, or even sometimes cause you to go over budget or keep you from meeting deadlines.

Don’t throw out your Feeling strengths or your values, but it might be time, once in a while, to take a closer look at the objective details, at least as a starting point. 

In relationships

The Thinkers in your life sometimes find your Feeling approach to be just too much. If you have a close friend or loved one who’s a Thinker, they may often be frustrated because you can’t, or won’t, see the value in their love of data.

In your personal development

Have you sometimes gotten so caught up in your own emotions and values, or even with compassion for the Feelings of others, that you find yourself unable to move forward to meet your goals? 

Once you know what’s important to you, and what you want to do about it, you could recruit a Thinker to help you form a plan for putting it into action in a feasible way. 

What you can do about it

When you want to convince your Thinking co-workers or friends of the importance of your ideas, try meeting them in the middle by starting with the facts. Show them how the solution you propose can stay on time, on budget, and in sync with the facts. 

Try listening to them about how their preferences make sense to them, and about how your heavy emphasis on emotion and values can make them feel judged, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Sometimes it's just about how you communicate your point of view.

When it comes to your personal development, considering the data can help you live your ideals. Say you want to run a marathon in order to gain confidence and earn funds for a charitable cause that’s important to you. Your values-based reasons are the motivation behind your goal.

But to make that goal a reality, you have to gather some data too. You need to know how long a marathon is (26.2 miles); plan a daily training strategy; know the terrain of the course; and get there the right day and time.

Conclusion

Though our preferences are usually also our strengths, even our strengths can hold us back if we lean too heavily on one side.

You could benefit by taking a cue from your opposite type now and then.

Even if you want to take a hot bath, you’ll likely need to add a little cold water to get the temperature just right. Similarly, whatever your preference or dominant trait, adding a little of the opposite can make things even better.

Diane Fanucchi

Diane Fanucchi is a freelance writer and Smart-Blogger certified content marketing writer. She lives on California’s central coast in a purple apartment. She reads, writes, walks, and eats dark chocolate whenever she can. A true INFP, she spends more time thinking about the way things should be than what others call the “real” world. You can visit her at www.dianefanucchi.naiwe.com or https://writer.me/diane-fanucchi/.

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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.

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