Potential for conflict between each preference  – The Functions

Today I’m going to finish exploring the potential for conflict from the four separate preference pairs by looking at the functions. The ‘functions’ are the aspects of our type that actually do the information processing.

[As before, I’m not going to repeat the caveats and context of my approach to this – see earlier articles for that – but remember this is about typical expression of our preferences and based on the most commonly occurring criticisms that I have come across in over 20 years of working with Type]

Sensing and iNtuition (note the N) are concerned with how we perceive; the type of information we find most engaging, are most drawn to, and trust.  Thinking and Feeling are concerned with how we make judgements; how we make decisions, evaluate and draw conclusions.
Each of these functions is valuable and we need all of them to make well informed decisions; however, when dealing with people who have the opposite preference, the potential for conflict comes from the fact that our own preference often results in:

  • filtering the content or meaning of information
  • devaluing the opposite style
  • misunderstanding or mistrusting the other person
  • not really listening to the concerns or needs of the other person

Understanding what is motivating the behaviour of the opposite can go a long way towards reducing the potential for conflict.  So let’s see what the typical and common criticisms, misunderstandings and biases are, the types of conflict they can create, and then what is actually motivating each type.

Sensing types are realists who live in the present, trust the experiences of the past, and generally like to be certain about things (although some differences between the J and P types of Sensors).  Therefore they like information to be factual, specific, verifiable and precise.  They are not change resistant, but prefer to keep what works and only change if there is a clear need to do so, and if the change is based on some solid ground and not a ‘pie in the sky’.  So all good stuff, yes?

Intuitive types are conceptual thinkers who quickly jump out of the present and into the future.  They enjoy change, originality, new ideas and are comfortable with ambiguity (again, some differences between J and P types of iNtuitives here).  They need big picture information, contextual information to understand where things fit and how they connect, and will be quick to spot possibilities or connections.  Again, all good stuff.

Many people will use some aspects of the other preference when gathering information, but it is difficult to turn off our natural bias or not to distort the information from the other person as we filter it through our preferences.  We may also fail to really listen to what the other person is saying or asking us.  We may see their questions as irrelevant and give answers to a question that we think is more important to ask.  For example, a sensing person asking “how many miles is it to the shopping centre?” may get a response from their intuitive friend, “don’t worry about that, just keep going and you’ll see it”.  This does not meet the needs of the sensing person.

So, listen to what the other person is actually saying or asking, understand what their needs and perspectives are, and if you are not getting the information you need then ask more specific questions.

Thinking types take a detached position to enable them to make objective, dispassionate and impartial judgements in order to achieve the desired result.  This does not mean that they are uncaring, not capable of empathy, or have no values; it is simply where they place themselves in a situation.  They will tend to make decisions and evaluations based on logic, pros and cons, criteria and their principles.  Although they may include good relationships and mutual support as criteria for success, they will be comfortable giving critique and noticing flaws as they will be motivated to help a person to improve their performance or competence and get better outcomes.  They will not consider their critique to be about the person, but about the task or object.  Their wish to be truthful can, therefore, make their delivery of feedback both critical and blunt.  (e.g, “I’m just going to tell you straight because it’s true and you need to know …”)

Feeling types take a relational position, giving them an awareness of how they are connecting to others, and of the connection between themselves and their actions.  They will feel a sense of connection to their actions because this will be an expression of who they are and an expression of their values; what they consider to be important for their sense of integrity or for others. In making decisions or judgements, they will use their values and sense of the potential impact on the relationship with the other to guide them.  Although they will be interested in getting good outcomes and results, they are more concerned with the process of getting there; what they and others are personally bringing to the situation.  They may be uncomfortable both giving and receiving criticism as it will be difficult for them to separate this from the personal, and they will be concerned about the impact it may have on their relationship with the other, or with their wish to be seen as a caring person.

As you can see, both perspectives are valuable and both are needed in order to make well rounded decisions. So, try to understand the motivation behind the behaviour of the other.  Remember, few people intentionally want to upset others, so don’t take what you experience of the other at face value.  Take a pause and consider their motivations.  And if you can’t get there yourself, ask the other person to explain.  Thinking and feeling are where so many unnecessary misunderstandings occur, simply because the two opposite types take different views on what is most important and/or how to get to the desired result.

The next article will look at the potential for conflict from our Opposing Function (same function but done in the opposite E or I way).  Followed by the other 4 Typological Perspectives on  Conflict –

4) from our Inferior Function
5) between Same Types
6) how different types may try to Resolve Conflict
7) the potential for conflict as  result of our Stage of Personal Development.

Earlier articles in this series of Different Perceptions of Conflict:

  1. The difference in conflict definition from the Thinking and Feeling perspective
  2. Extraversion – Introversion explores common misunderstandings between these styles.
  3. Judging – Perceiving explores common misunderstandings between these styles

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