MBTI Bite: 3 Tips for Working with Feelers (“F’s” in Myers-Briggs)

Work With Feelers When I was starting out in the business world as a Feeler, I thought I needed to “overcome” my sensitivity and emotional-side in order to make sound business decisions.

I tried hard to become like the Thinkers I admired (“T’s” in Myers-Briggs) and freeze my emotions to come up with “objective reality.”  That just did not work for me.  I felt empty when I did not embrace the emotions I felt and others were feeling in the room.

What I once thought was a weakness, I now see as a core wiring that helps me make effective decisions and bring good to the marketplace.

Having coached in the corporate world for years, I have heard Feeling clients say that they needed to develop: thick skin, the ability to make the “hard decisions” that people don’t like, and to work successfully with those who don’t give emotional cues.

If you are leading a team where some members are Feelers, remember:

  1. Feelers want harmony.

Feelers are sensitive to people’s emotions.  They want everyone to get along.  They want to be liked, believed in, and viewed as competent.

Thinkers often freeze their emotions in order to get to “objective reality.”  Feelers embrace emotions in order to have the emotional data pieces to make a sound decision that enhances harmony.

As a conversation moves impersonally, a Feeler can translate an attempt by Thinkers to be objective as Thinkers being cold or uncaring.  This can trigger a fear in the Feeler that those impacted will not be treated fairly or will be not be considered.  This fear can color how they view the logic the Thinker is presenting and can lead to strong resistance.

A great way to help a Feeler is to make them aware that you (if you are a Thinker) have a tendency to freeze your emotions in order to discern what is true.  This freezing of emotions is not done because you don’t care about people but rather it is because you are trying to arrive at truth.  Once you arrive at truth, you want to make sure that the truth is communicated in a way that brings harmony to the team and that is especially where you will love their insights and guidance.

  1. Pepper what you say with emotional terms so that they can connect to you.

Feelers use emotional cues to stay connected with those they communicate with.  If every once in awhile you include what you feel about the facts you are describing that helps the Feeler to track better with you and not to assume that you feel cold.

If you sense that they are feeling resistant or defensive or keep coming back to the impact on people before you are ready to discuss that piece, assure them that you are still looking for what is best for the overall team and you want to make sure everyone is treated well regardless of choice.  Then say what doing that feels like for you (i.e. you can say, “It would be gratifying to me to not only come up with the best solution, but also that the impact on all is received well.  You just want to handle it one part at a time.)"

  1. Separate out the behaviors from the person.

When offering criticism to a Feeler there is a danger that the Feeler may translate the criticism as an attack on who you believe they are.  So make sure to first stress how you see them and then go into the criticism.  Then come back to the how you see them as you attack the behaviors that need to be addressed.  Always be sincere in how you see them or else it could feel like you are buttering them up but only to cushion the blow.

So you could say something like, “I believe in you.  I value you.  I have seen you contribute in valuable ways like when you did XYZ.  I want to talk about something that will make things even better.  Are you ok with us diving in there?” Get buy-in and make sure that they sense that you are on their side.  Then go into whatever feedback you sense is appropriate and then go back to what you said before, “I am saying this to you because you are already valuable this will take you to the next level and I want to see you there.”

I have coached Feelers who are in fields that most people would not expect them to rise to like in areas of Strategy, Accounting, Engineering, Statistics, etc.  Bringing their ability to pick up what others feel has been a tremendous blessing to their businesses.

Chew On This: What benefits does your company gain from the Feeler personality types?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.