T vs. F: Handling Critique

For some people, the very term “constructive criticism” sounds more like an oxymoron than a supposedly helpful feedback mechanism. For others, the idea of giving critical feedback on ideas or performance is more like a fun game of jousting to see if they can find ways to make improvements. Find out why in our latest post on the T vs. F personality type mini-series!

T vs. F: Handling Critique

In our first post about the Thinker vs. Feeler personality preference set, we introduced the fundamental differences in the way Thinkers and Feelers make decisions. Therefore, while all people display elements of the Thinker and Feeler tendencies, the dichotomy breaks down along the lines of the criteria that ultimately determine decisions.

For Thinkers, they may feel relational pressure or discomfort around a particular decision, but in the end, their determining factors revolve around the objective logic, reasoning, stated goals, and hard facts or numbers. If they feel their decision is supported by these criteria, then they will usually stay the course, regardless of relational discord, and move on to the next decision/situation and consider themselves justified.

Feelers, on the other hand, understand these objective justifications, but ultimately tend to come down on the side of decisions that seek to maintain relational harmony. Their final determinant will always prioritize the impact that a decision will have on the people involved over the goal- or data-driven decisions that objective analysis alone might support.

The fact that Thinkers and Feelers adopt different criteria for decision-making also comes into play when we analyze how each type deals with critique.

How Thinkers Handle Critique

When it comes to critique, most Thinkers tend to critique an idea as soon as they hear it. If you say to a group of people, “How would you like to receive constructive criticism?” most thinkers will look at you and say, “I’ve got three criteria, if I’m really being honest. First, you better be more competent than I am, because if I don’t think you’re more competent than me, I’m not listening. Second, I need permission to critique your critique if I disagree with you. And lastly, don’t go soft on me. I want to get better, so if there are things we need to deal with, let’s speak it out loud and make it true. There’s no improvement without calling out weakness.”

For most Thinkers, their favorite sport in the whole wide world is logical, rational, analytical critique of other people’s ideas and plans. There is nothing more fun for the Thinker than when someone asks them to pick apart their strategy and business plan to help make it better. An invitation like that gets every Thinker jumping with joy on the inside, thinking they’ve died and gone to heaven.

How Feelers Handle Critique

Feelers, on the other hand, cringe at such a response. When it comes to critique, if Feelers were to really speak their heart, they would react to the same question by saying, “Do we have to get constructive criticism? That feels like an oxymoron to me…Can we opt out of it?” The key point to understand here is that, while a Thinker generally separates themselves from their tasks and relationships (“Work may be going badly, but if I know it’s not my fault, I’m fine”), Feelers live a completely integrated life. For the Feeler, relationships, work, recreation, friendships, dreams – all of those things are interconnected. Their self-concept is one-and-the-same with their work.

If relationships are going poorly, or if things are not going well at work, then, to the Feeler, that usually means they as a person are failing. That’s why critique (“constructive criticism”) and challenge always feels more personal to the Feeler than the Thinker. So, if they’re going to get feedback or critique, Feelers are best positioned to receive it when they hear it from somebody they trust. Someone whom they know and truly believe cares about them, values them, and who has their best interest at heart. At that point, the Feeler will say, “As long as I know that I’m valued as a person and not just a unit of production in your great vision, I don’t mind you bringing constructive feedback. I just need you to know that this isn’t always easy for me to hear without feeling like I’ve failed people. But I trust you and I believe you are for me.”

Thinkers, Feelers, and Critique: An Illustration

If we were to illustrate how a Thinker approaches the critique process, it would begin with the Thinker giving a bit of direction, “Okay, here comes my logical, rational, analytical machine gun. Stand over there with your idea, and we’ll see if it stands up to scrutiny.” After five or ten minutes of logical, rational, analytical critique aimed at the target idea, they look at their handiwork and find nothing has knocked down the idea – it’s bullet proof. In the end, the person walks away with the Thinker’s stamp of approval, “That’s really good. Brilliant. Great idea, well done.”

The problem usually occurs when the person asking for critique and feedback happens to be a Feeler, because when the Feeler says, “Here’s my idea. I’d love you to critique it, because I’d love your wisdom,” the Thinker immediately lights up, ready to go.  Then they lock and load and let the analytical bullets fly to see if the idea has merit. Unfortunately, because the Feeler’s self-concept is so integrated with their work, it’s as if they place the target of the Thinker’s critique right over their heart instead of standing off to the side or joining in with their own analytical target practice. For the Feeler, their ideas and work are an expression of who they are.

So what happens? The Thinker unloads on the idea and five minutes later they’re looking at the ground wondering why the Feeler’s on the floor. For the feeler, it’s as if every bullet of criticism and “constructive feedback,” while meant to be helpful, has struck a blow to the heart.

So What?

While a bit ridiculous, the imaginary scenario above is quite accurate in regards to the effect that calls for critique often have on Thinkers vs. Feelers. Thinkers tend to enjoy the intellectual jousting and debate more so than Feelers due to how closely (or not) each one ties their self-concept to their work. Every Feeler out there knows exactly how it feels to end up on the floor, wounded by some well-meaning constructive criticism. By the same token, every Thinker can relate to the confusing aftermath of a feedback or brainstorming session in which they’re left wondering why someone would be so upset at hearing the critique they asked for when they know that such critique will ultimately make the person or idea better.

So, leaders, whether you’re a Thinker or Feeler, be aware of how you deliver feedback. Take time to learn how to most clearly and effectively communicate constructive criticism to both Thinkers and Feelers. Then be sure to invest in understanding your own tendencies on both the giving and receiving ends of critique. Feedback is important for the healthy growth of any person or idea, but expectations and delivery will always be the key to making that feedback constructive or destructive.

If you’re interested in learning more about how your personality type affects your leadership, we’re happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let us know!