When at a crossroads, one may turn to confidants, religious texts, philosophy, or even the dubious self-help book section in search for answers to the problems of life’s minutiae. Along this vein, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has become my latest interest in popular psychology. Its dichotomies based on Jungian theories can be read as mindlessly as a daily horoscope prediction and yet, the test is reportedly used by 80 per cent of Fortune100 companies when recruiting. For this reason, some professionals even take pride in their assigned label and include their personality type on their LinkedIn profiles.
According to the MBTI, one dimension of someone’s personality can be characterized by contrasting two styles of managing one’s emotions: Thinking and feeling.
In competitive, result-oriented academic environments like McGill, students who possess ‘feeling’ type traits are often undervalued. From a young age, one is taught to keep emotions in check in the public sphere. Later in life, this defence mechanism is given a less provocative name: Professionalism. Those who don’t conform to the mold of a stoic leader are automatically viewed as erratic and unfit to manage others, since they apparently aren’t in control of themselves. ‘Hot-headed,’ ‘irrational,’ and ‘fragile’ are all terms peers may throw at those who let slip their humanity. Feeling types’ sensitive dispositions are associated with weakness and they can be quickly written off as being too ‘soft’ to undertake leadership positions. However, individuals prone to taking the wellness of others around them as seriously as a ‘thinker’ would evaluate data are equally capable of navigating the turmoil of a workplace.
In the face of conflict, thinking types will rationalize when approaching a dispute. To them, establishing the absolute truth takes precedence over emotional casualties; logic drives their decision-making in an attempt to keep outside influences and internal biases at bay. Still, not everyone systematically uses pro-con lists or empirical facts to make up their mind. Others have the natural ability to assess the impact of actions on group dynamics. Enter the feeling types: the emotionally expressive peacemakers of the world, those who favour diplomacy over delivering harsh truths.
Whereas thinking types excel at spotting logical inconsistencies, feeling types are more concerned with the nuances of human thought. They attribute more weight to the values, perspectives, and overall well-being of others, when reaching a decision.
Because emotion is often presented in opposition to rationality, it can seem foolish to value others’ momentary reactions. Make no mistake, feeling types can be rational beings. The key difference between them and ‘thinkers’ is where they base their logic. It just so happens that others’ sentiments are the fundamental premise of feeling types’ reasoning. Their behaviour isn’t intended to be a form of manipulation; rather, it is what they consider the most effective and, hence, most logical way of achieving their goals.
Naturally, university presents students with a series of scholastic and personal challenges to overcome. The stakes are higher, emotions are amplified, and briefly losing sight of the utility of one’s Liberal Arts–or dare I write–STEM degree, is very likely after threading through the nth wave of midterms. There is pressure to consistently perform outstandingly in a setting where classmates can just as easily be seen as competition. And yet, students should not feel that their propensity for one pattern of thinking over another makes them any less suited for any academic or professional challenges that lie ahead. Being in tune with one’s emotion and with those of others alleviates the periods of self-doubt that may arise throughout one’s studies.
Since college can’t be experienced in a vacuum, exercising empathy is vital for effectively communicating our thoughts in a manner that others will understand. Whether one participates in a Political Science conference or collaborates on a marketing project, engaging with peers and professors is inevitable. In these circumstances, those who are more aware of their emotions and with those of others have an edge over empirical purists.