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No. 16 – Why Health Physicists are Uncomfortable with Feelings

February 9, 2011

Last week I suggested that many health physicists object to use of feelings in communications on radon because they are uncomfortable with feelings. The different reactions to emotional appeals between health physicists and the general public can be partly understood in terms of their different ways of gathering information and making decisions. These differences were evaluated with over 1200 health physicists who participated in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) studies conducted by Larry Petcovic and myself in the 1980s.

Thinking and Feeling Preferences for Deciding

Dr. Carl Jung defined two ways of making decisions using Thinking (T) or Feeling (F). The Thinking approach, favored by over 60% of health physicists, uses logical analysis based on fundamental principles to arrive at the truth as a basis for decisions. Truth is the determining factor for decisions, even if it hurts. In contrast, at least 50% of the general public prefers to decide on the basis of personal values, empathy, circumstances, and caring to determine the best answer for each situation. For Feeling types, the well being of people is more important than absolute scientific truth. For the majority of us as health physicists, Thinking is the most natural, skillful, and comfortable approach for decisions and for communication. For us, communications by any approach other than logical, analytical, thinking is unthinkable. Communications that cannot be logically understood are considered illogical and irrational. The Feeling language falls into this category.

The Feeling language is the least preferred means of communication by 92% of health physicists. This is the language that we have tried to avoid all of our lives. For most of us, the Feeling language is awkward, foolish, slow, illogical, uncomfortable, and impossible to understand. Consequently we have not developed any skills in this language. When we are confronted by the Feeling language, we want to retreat (run in a panic) back to our comfortable and trustworthy Thinking language. Feelings cause us to revert to a primal instinct for fight or flight for survival. Our reactions to Feelings will often be cynical, touchy, confused, unsure, critical, and emotionally immature, because we have had no practice communicating in the Feeling language. The Feeling language hooks our worst fears and we feel threatened and vulnerable. For most of us, the Feeling language (emotional appeals) is unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, we will usually be suspicious, uncomfortable, and critical with anyone who uses the Feeling language. Is there any hope for us? Stay tuned.

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