Written by: Bob Fogal, PhD, ACFRE, CAP
In a previous column on personality styles, I wrote (and it’s still a good introduction to the theme!):
A challenge that all fundraising professionals face is how to engage donors and volunteers—and colleagues—whose personalities differ from our own.
Observing that “people differ” is a mundane statement. Such statements commonly show up, though, in discussions about others whom we consider a source of difficulty for us—those we might call “problem people.” When we elevate such observations to include social or demographic groups, all kinds of biases and prejudices can surface that are not positive attributes in our profession.
Self-awareness is essential for the self-management required to manage ourselves professionally. As we each become clearer about what “makes me tick,” we can identify much more easily how others differ from us in personality and style. I have found that a theory called personality type, as defined and developed by Carl Jung a century ago, is still a good tool for enhancing our interpersonal communication and reducing unconscious characteristics of our personalities.
One key component of psychological type is how we perceive the world and take in information. (This is what the previous column addressed.)
Another key component involves our priorities in making decisions and how we interact with the outer world—in other words, how we use what we have learned. Jung called these mental functions “thinking” and “feeling.” The terms aren’t the best, since we all think and we all have feelings. But in 100 years no one has come up with any better terminology, so we’ll stick with it for now.
Those who prefer to use the thinking function enjoy abstract analysis and objective truth. A favorite analytical tool is exploring data-driven pros and cons. They believe the best decisions remove personal concerns from the process—and getting on with the work. Well-organized information and projects appeal. And it’s not unusual that they have a high level of confidence in their logic.
In contrast, people who prefer using the feeling function will usually consider how ideas, information and opinions impact people. They make decisions based on how they understand the needs and emotions of the persons involved. Personal values have priority—both their own and others’. If it’s necessary to slow down a task to establish or maintain interpersonal harmony, they will.
Interacting with someone whose decision-making function differs from our own is challenging. Most of us need a lot of practice to do so. We’re unlikely to encounter overt challenges from donors or prospects when their preference differs from ours—especially from the feeling preference folks! (The thinking preference people will just consider your conversation a waste of time, keeping them from other tasks.) Their default position will simply be lack of interest because we aren’t communicating in their dialect.
A staff colleague, however, might be different, since we are more likely to deal with positions and decisions that others may want to defend. Extreme defensiveness usually correlates with rigid decision-making, which makes success less likely for everyone.
So, the data- and task-driven, analytical gift officers need to learn how to relate to people’s personal values and needs. And the interpersonally- and values-oriented gift officers will benefit from learning how to connect with analytically- and task-oriented individuals.
The observations in these columns barely scratch the surface in applying psychological type to philanthropic management. Let me know (email@example.com) if you have questions or comments.