Two Rational Approaches to Decision Making

Oh, I just love this exercise!” Lauren enthused as her class divided into two sections.

I love it, too, because the exercise we were about to do is a real eye-opener—to the point of being transformational. Simply put, it helps us realize our differences without assigning blame, and that\’s regularly life-changing.

It\’s part of a day-long training on Psychological Type, which I have run for Leadership Northwest multiple times—and that\’s why Lauren, Vice President Programs and Events, knows the agenda well.

Leadership Northwest is designed to develop resourceful, motivated business leaders committed to making their community a better place to work and live. One essential part of leadership is appreciating that we all have our differences, and that\’s a good thing.

Where Do You Go FIRST in Decision Making?

•  Describe conflict and your relationship to it.
•  Describe how you like to be recognized and appreciated.
•  Describe how you like to be criticized or critiqued.

The participants were asked to identify where they first go when making decisions. Do they stand back and objectively weigh the pros and cons of a situation? Or do they first put themselves in someone else’s shoes—according to their own values—to assess the situation?

Of course, we all do both dozens of times a day to be successful. But for most of us, one is our most natural and preferred way of making a decision. The theory also suggests that this is the one we will do with greater skill and expertise.

If we think of this in terms of energy (not a trait, because it’s not), then the question becomes:

Or More Specifically, Where Do You FIRST Get Your Energy?

The question is one that asks us where we get our energy (not a trait, because it is not) FIRST? Both are rational. One, called a thinking preference (which I’ll shorten to Thinking), objectively assesses the situation. The other, called a feeling preference (Feeling), subjectively assess the situation. Using logical analysis and making tough decisions is essential for business success. Motivating and developing people are equally important aspects of leadership.

People, Harmony, Personal Values First

The Feeling group nearly always answers: We don’t like conflict! We don’t like to be criticized! Please build a relationship first. Be gentle. Tell us what we’re doing right – then wrong. We value harmony and give a lot of positive reinforcement and compliments to others. Please give it to us.

Pros and Cons, Principles First

The Thinking group nearly always answers: Conflict? Criticize? Critique? Bring it on! We love it – it improves our expertise. Lets us know what to fix and do better. We love to debate. In fact, we will reward your success with criticism so you can do it even better. We want recognition for our competence. Otherwise, your compliments are just a waste to us.

After the two groups report out to one another, their differences often provoke silence, staring, and genuine surprise. Do you have questions for one another, I ask?

The Haiku Summary

From the Feeling Folks the questions are often: Arguments don’t upset you? When you criticize me it’s actually a compliment????

And from the Thinking Folks: I hurt your feelings with my critiquing and love of debate?

It’s true that stuff generally rolls off the backs of Thinking Folks. You’d have a hard time insulting them, unless you’re judging their competence. You can be really direct—and they don’t take it personally.

On the other hand, the Feeling Folks generally pick up more readily on emotions and how people are engaging with them and together. Personalize first, detach second.

In Practical Translation

Debbie, an adviser with the program with a doctorate in education and a feeling preference, shared a story about collaborating with a colleague on a national initiative. The woman made what Debbie perceived as a critical comment in response to her suggestion. Debbie kept saying to herself: Don’t personalize this, it\’s just how she thinks and talks. She’s direct. But two weeks later, she is still working to shake it off.

If we’re honest, most of us readily judge our opposite: Thinking types have no feelings. And Feeling types have no brains. We, Westerners, like to chunk people into categories, but we\’re way more complicated than that. To state the obvious: Feeling types have brains and Thinking types have hearts.

And when we possess self-awareness of our decision-making preferences, as Debbie demonstrated, then we’re even better at solving problems and collaborating.

Or even better still, when we actually appreciate our differences—which seems to be in terribly short supply—we will transform a group into a team where everyone is invited to be who they are.

And on this count, both Thinking and Feeling types will readily agree.

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