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Thinkers and Feelers: Bridging the Personality Divide

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 10:44

Were you brought up on the philosophy to “treat others the way you want to be treated”?

The positive intention is definitely there, but according to best-selling author and renowned leadership consultant Devora Zack, it’s this sort of thinking that actually contributes to conflict and tension in the workplace.

Why? Because we are all unique and inherently different. We have different personalities, values, wants, needs, perceptions and expectations. When you meet somebody who you find difficult to manage, more often than not, you’ll find that they’re simply very different from you.

This was the main topic of discussion when Devora presented at AIM in 2013. Based on her best-selling book Managing for People Who Hate Managing, Devora explained how most people are either a ‘thinker’ or a ‘feeler’ and that this makes all the difference when managing.

Thinkers vs feelers

According to Devora, most people can be classified as either a feeler or a thinker. Feelers are generally more emotive, empathetic and lead with their hearts, while thinkers are often more logical, practical and lead with their heads.

As you can imagine, these two very different personality types interact, react and behave very differently in the workplace. Not only this, but they can be motivated differently, use different decision making processes and will respond differently in various situations.

Alter the way you manage thinkers and feelers

By taking the notion of feelers and thinkers into account when evaluating performance, assigning tasks, providing feedback and giving praise we can tailor the way our interactions are received and connect on a deeper level.

To put it simply, treat others the way they want to be treated and you may find your job as a manager a whole lot easier and certainly more effective. It’s all about being willing to adapt your leadership style to suit the unique needs of your team, while staying true to yourself and your job.

How to recognise thinkers

According to Myers-Briggs, thinkers can appear more emotionally detached, analytical and objective when it comes to decision making processes. They usually seek logical explanations, predominantly make decisions with their heads and can come across as tough-minded.

How to recognise feelers

According to Myers-Briggs, feelers value harmony, compassion and tact. They are very people-oriented and will make decisions based on emotions. They can sometimes come across as being too idealistic or lacking the ability to handle conflict.

By identifying your own feeling or thinking preferences, and those of your team, you can better understand the reasons behind people’s behaviour at work. Plus, you can tailor the way you manage them and the way you react, respond and engage with your colleagues.


Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting, is an expert speaker, strategy consultant and executive coach. She is the author of Managing for People Who Hate Managing.