Thinker-Feeler Differences

In the spirit of John Gray's book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (which I have not read, the title says it all), I am offering some insights on the differences between MBTI Thinkers and Feelers, which I have observed over the years. This is not about men and women, because many of the men I meet are Feelers or Feeler-wannabes; and I suspect there are a comparable number of Thinker women, although I don't meet very many of them.

Although item 6 quotes from a humorous list, this analysis is not intended to be understood as a joke.

1. The labels "Thinker" and "Feeler" are not descriptive of what those people do. Thinkers are not smarter than Feelers, nor are Feelers more sensitive. Thinkers have feelings, and Feelers are able to reason logically. The fundamental difference is the values they hold in highest esteem: Thinkers give priority to Truth and Justice; Feelers give priority to Relationships and affirmation. That's the only difference, and it only applies when truth and affirmation are at odds, which tends to be more often than some people would like to admit. I would consider the labels unfortunate, except that any labels would soon develop the same or similar problems (see #5 below).

2. Thinkers are able to honestly recognize Feeler values in other people and adjust their actions accordingly. Given sufficient motivation (such as preserving a relationship that depends on it, or keeping one's job), Feelers are willing to put aside their distaste for disaffirmation to deal with uncomfortable truths. In neither case is that their respective preference.

3. Science and technology require an absolutely honest understanding of nature and physics, for which Thinker values work best. Educational institutions and the arts are more successful using Feeler values. Competitive activities like sports are more successful with an honest assessment of the competition and the factors that lead to excellence, which again favors Thinker values. Modern business is highly competitive, which dominates any relationship issues they might have with their employees and customers. Some customers will favor good business relationships (Feeler values), but most of them favor quality and price (driven by Thinker values). Democratic governments are sustained by good relationships with other politicians and voters; while the election process is often highly competitive, the relationship issues (Feeler values) tend to dominate political activity. This may not be the case in autocratic regimes, but I don't live under one, so I can't tell.

4. The global and American economy is driven by science and technology and modern business methods -- in other words, by Thinker values. Political and artistic considerations are not as significant as financial and technological issues for achieving wealth and power. This tends to give Thinkers a higher prestige status than Feelers in the public perception.

5. To describe a Thinker as a Thinker is both honest and affirming (because of #4 above), but to describe a Feeler as a Feeler is often felt to be disaffirming or demeaning, for the same reason. Feelers therefore wish to imagine themselves Thinkers, regardless of the facts. Just as there is only one answer to the question, "Are you lying?" (No), regardless of whether the respondent is telling the truth or lying, so also everybody wants to tell you they are a Thinker: the actual Thinkers follow their own values by telling the truth, and the Feelers also affirm their own values in lying about it -- but in doing so they violate the values they falsely claim of themselves.

6. Feelers tend to see an insult in every remark except those that are clearly complimentary -- and in some of those too. Thinkers tend to find truth in every remark except those that are clearly lies -- and in some of those too. There is a half-serious anonymous list of "The Guy's Rules" going around, one of which reads

If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of them makes you sad or angry, then we meant the other one.
This is a good insight.

7. The American church (including the churches under its influence worldwide) is run by and for the exclusive benefit of Feelers. Thinkers are invited, but only if they agree to pretend to be Feelers. Some Thinkers succeed at the charade, most just stay away. Truth is, after all, their highest value. The Bible is more balanced, giving a slight preference to Thinker values, but an overwhelming preference to Truth over "relationship". The church power structure mostly ignores the Bible when promoting their Feeler values as "Christian".

8. Feelers believe it is important to say they love you, and to hear you say it to them, because that is affirming; Thinkers prefer to do loving things, and to see correspondence between the words and the deeds, because correspondence to reality is the test of truth.

Tom Pittman
1st draft 2007 March 24
Rev. 08 Feb 9, 09 Apr 30

Additional discussion, and some links