Today, my focus is on the third division of the Myers/Briggs: Thinking v. Feeling. This particular division reflects primarily how people judge things: is judgment primarily a reflection of a sense of absolute justice, or are judgment calls more personal? (NB: this isn’t a difference of reason v. emotion–both methods have logic to them, just the method of reasoning differs).
For me, personally, this third division is a tricky one, only because I fall so close to the middle on this spectrum (when I take the test, it usually comes down to the mood I’m in that day).
I’m going to go over the general characteristics of each type, then talk about how those characteristics affect writing (so you can skip down to the relevant section if you’re already familiar with the type).
Those who tend toward the thinking end of the spectrum rely heavily on justice, ethics, and a sense of fairplay to make decisions. They ask “What’s fair?”
Thinking types also tend to be analytical and logical, and they weigh evidence in a detached manner. Because they’re interested in how things work and in causal relationships, they often have a good sense of narrative structure and sequence in writing.
The primary distinction of feeling types is their tendency to value people and personal values in judgment. When making decisions, feeling types ask “what matters to me and the people I care about?”*
- Motivated to write by tasks with clear objectives (may be bored if evaluation criteria is unclear)
- Uses structure to help develop and clarify ideas
- May ignore audience needs in favor of content clarity
- First drafts may be dry and rely heavily on lists of points
- Consider audience needs.
- Make the writing more personal, by adding personal experiences to academic writing or more emotion-rich scenes to fiction
- May need to work on flow and aesthetics.
- Because thinking types value logic and analysis, they value feedback that points to these aspects of their work
- Thinking types may need help with audience awareness, so try to model potential audience responses to critical passages
- Thinking types tend to be more thick-skinned about their work and can handle detailed criticism
- Feeling types are motivated to write by personal connection to the material. They may struggle to write about topics they don’t care about (in academic writing). In fiction, they may need a strong connection to characters or story arc.
- Tend to focus on needs of audience over story structure; may get bogged down by too much focus on reader’s response
- Follow “flow” over structure
- May need to clarify structure
- May need to flesh out explanations
- May need to delay exploring personal response until the structure is in better order
- Feeling types appreciate feedback that emphasizes the reader’s connection to the material or their attention to stylistic features
- Writers may need help identifying and excavating the structure of their story or essay.
What about you? Where do you fall in the thinking/feeling divide? What effect do you find this has on your writing (or your feedback for other writers).
*Sidenote: Kohlberg’s stages of moral development argued that the thinking model was the highest level of ethical/moral development (this is a model that favors “masculine” reasoning). However, feminist Carol Gilligan argued that an ethical system grounded in the type of personal questions favored by feeling types was just as advanced–if not more so.