A Deeper Look at Personality Concepts.


Image by Ed Yourdon

Usually, when I'm meeting with a couple that's having trouble talking together, I'll ask each of them to identify whether they're a "head" person or a "feeling" person? They usually know already and that gets us off to a good start.

Why would I ask this question? I’ve found that if two people have conflicts in their relationship, this personality style piece is always one key reason why.

When one person is talking "head" talk and the other is using "feeling" talk, they might as well be speaking Spanish and Italian to each other. That's because their two approaches to talk are definitely not the same. It's sad that people who don't realize this often blame each other for the bad exchange.

So, how are head and feeling people different? Lisa and Joe are good examples.

As daily life happens or "comes in" to Lisa, she responds to it with her feelings first, and then "gets in her head" to sort the information and to solve the problem, if there is one. She experiences her feelings first; then her thoughts form.

Unlike Lisa, Joe is a head person. When life happens or "comes in" to him, he responds first from his thinking center to solve whatever situations present themselves. He doesn't access his feelings. Of course, he has them (all of us have feelings that are working all the time, even if we aren't aware of them). Sometimes the head person, in this case, Joe, will become aware of his feelings later and, maybe, talk about them. Or not.



The head person. How did Joe become a head person? Every very young child, usually by five, UNconsciously decides whether to keep his/her feelings open or closed. If he closes them, partially or all, he becomes a head person.

The child UNconsciously decides this for any number of reasons, some of them unknown. But, for quick understanding, the most common known reasons are:

  1. the child has a head parent and UNconsciously imitates that parent, or
  2. the child's feelings UNconsciously warn him that it isn't emotionally safe to expose his feelings. Why? Maybe in his family, feelings are made fun of. Maybe the child is labeled "weak" when he expresses feelings. Maybe one parent teases or mocks the other parent for expressing feelings. It could be anything like this; so, the child closes his feeling pot.

The head child grows up to be an adult who may:

  1. really think he doesn't have feelings, or
  2. is aware of his feelings but discounts them, or
  3. scorns feelings as a weakness. This adult can't talk about his feelings because he doesn't know them. Or, he knows them but doesn't think they're important. Or, he doesn't believe he'll be taken seriously as a guy if he says them. And, so on.

The feeling person. Another child, though, will respond like Lisa. In Lisa's home, there was probably a feeling parent, whom Lisa UNconsciously imitated. Or, maybe Lisa was encouraged to say her feelings, or maybe the family members were just more comfortable talking about their feelings. So, there was no reason for Lisa to close off her feelings or be afraid to express them.

The “life posture.” The two choices described above lead to an UNconscious life posture for that person; the difference between the two life postures is enormous. They can be opposite, in fact. Feeling and head people almost always have different belief systems, and often, different values. Feeling and head people not only experience life differently, but they also direct their lives differently.

If the people in your relationships don't understand this, you won't only misunderstand each other, but you'll also have negative feelings and thoughts about each other. Here's what I mean.


What’s Wrong Here?

Lisa wanted to take a family vacation. She had great feelings and memories about those she'd taken growing up. When she tried expressing her feelings to Joe, she didn't get very far. Joe jumped in talking about all the negative reasons family vacations could be bad. Kids argue all the time; there was nowhere he really wanted to go; it would cost too much and on and on.

She tried again at different times but she didn't get anywhere with it. Joe just wasn't willing to hear her feelings and understand how important they were to her. And worse, he wouldn’t talk any more about it.

Over time, Lisa grew resentful, angry and even bitter. This was just the latest subject they'd tried to talk about that ended in exactly the same way. Even though she knew Joe might be "right" about some things, like the expenses, she still wanted him to listen to her feelings and thoughts because they were important to her. If he listened, she would feel valued. Now, she just felt shut down and distant from him.



  1. Joe has to adopt the idea that Lisa's feelings are just as important as his thoughts.
  2. If he understands this, he'll listen. Lisa will feel that he not only understands her feelings but also values them. As she would value his if he'd share them. Their relationship will begin to heal.
  3. Lisa and Joe need negotiation and compromise skills. Joe should meet Lisa halfway with the vacation issue just as he expects her to meet him halfway about issues that are important to him.

Negative feelings, over time, can destroy any relationship. Even though we may love someone very much, constantly feeling ignored, controlled, judged, discounted, etc., etc. is no way for us to live our lives.

Think about how this head and feeling concept works in your relationships. Do you and your intimate partner have trouble talking? Or, maybe the breakdown is with your coworker or a friend? When we become aware of our differences, then decide to respect and accept them, our exchanges go much better.


Big Thoughts In This Article.

  1. The importance of the "head" and "feeling" idea can't be over-emphasized. As you talk with your friends, acquaintances and significant others, notice if they include feelings in their talk.
  2. Become aware of your own comfort level in telling feelings. With whom do you feel safe and understood when you disclose your feelings? With whom don't you?
  3. Become aware of your comfort level with head people. Who do you seek out more: head or feeling people? And, why?

All the best,


Thank you so much for reading. And, if you think anyone you know would like this article, please forward it.

Author's Bio: 

Joan Chamberlain is an author, therapist, and life coach with over 30 years of experience helping adults, couples, and teens. She has a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance, a Bachelor's in education, and a Masters in individuals, couples, and family counseling. Her book, Smart Relationships, has helped many people achieve the self-awareness needed to see themselves honestly. Its wisdom has helped them work toward improving their relationships with themselves, their friends, and their families.

To learn more about the ideas and concepts presented in her articles, please peruse her website: