“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”
– Stephen Hawking, an INTJ
INTJs are one of the most intriguing of the 16 Myers-Briggs® personality types. On the one hand, they are extremely intellectual and pragmatic. On the other hand they are driven by an intense vision of the future that isn’t easily understood by most people. The INTJ is one of the rarest personality types, making up only 1.5% of the US population. Most people who get an INTJ result in a free online test are actually ISTJs or ISTPs. As a result, the true meaning of this type has become confusing and misunderstood. As a practitioner, I meet many self-proclaimed INTJs who show strong use of sensing over intuition and actually seem appalled by the concept of Introverted Intuition. The goal of this post is to paint a clear picture of how the INTJ thinks and makes decisions. I want to give you a look at how their minds work and how they process information. So let’s get started!
The Dominant Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Because the INTJ’s intuition is introverted in direction, it may not seem highly visible to the outer world. The INTJ uses Ni constantly in the background of their mind. It rapidly shifts perspectives and sorts through conscious and unconscious data to find one truth or prediction about what “will” be. He asks himself, as Carl Jung wrote, “What does this mean for me or the world? What emerges from this vision in the way of a duty or a task, for me or the world?”.
As a child, Ni will develop and progress faster than any of the other cognitive functions. The young INTJ might be preoccupied with existential questions, questions about reality, the nature of life, the significance of life. He might find himself absorbed in books on philosophy or science or even poetry. Anything that probes the depths of life’s meaning and questions it. The young INTJ often seems more grown-up than his years would imply, and he can find the normal playthings and concerns of his peers somewhat trivial or shallow.
As the INTJ grows and develops he will become more proficient at using Ni to make projections or strategies into the future. He will have flashes of insight that lead him, and he will often have a strong plan for how he (or she) wants his life to play out. The theoretical, the unknown, the “big picture” meaning of life is his ultimate interest.
The Auxiliary Function Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Extraverted Thinking (Te) supports Ni and promotes growth and development. While it’s not the #1 favorite function of the INTJ, it is still one that she wields with great mastery (unless she is unhealthy, imbalanced, or under stress).
Extraverted Thinking is concerned with organizing, creating systems, planning, and enforcing. It is highly logical and is focused on taking in enough information to make a decision or to create a plan. The INTJ’s combination of Te and Ni makes her a daunting foe when it comes to strategic plans or games. In fact, INTJs are often considered the perfect chess players because of their way of understanding how to direct to reach an end goal. Bobby Fischer himself is considered by most typologists to be an INTJ.
Te makes the INTJ extremely efficient, blunt, logical, and productive. He isn’t just content to learn “For the sake of learning” he wants to learn to do. To put things out there. To make change. To reach his vision. To the outer eye, the INTJ may at times seem more like an ENTJ because he can be very confident, directive, and outspoken in pursuit of his goals. He may not fit the stereotypical (and false) image of a hermit introvert who is quiet and prefers to be in the background.
“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.”
– Nikola Tesla
The Tertiary Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
The INTJ will always prefer the world of thinking over the world of feeling. That said, Fi gives the INTJ an unshakeable set of core values that he or she relies on and trusts. He will ask himself “does this align with what I believe is right? Am I being true to myself?”. Fi acts as a sort of conscience that guides the INTJ to question his actions and determine whether they are ethical. The INTJ can actually be very in touch with his own emotions and feelings, although private and reserved about sharing them.
Some INTJs use their Fi, Te Ni together to promote a vision that will help humanity in some way. They can be activists for change or great humanitarians. The stereotypical “cold, heartless” INTJ is actually a very far cry from the true INTJ. Though they may not express their emotions out loud, they usually have a deep set of values and care deeply for a select group of people.
When it comes to decision making, INTJs will almost always use Te over Fi. They will try to be as impersonal and unbiased as possible. They are concerned with what is logical and fair. They may have personal feelings about a decision, but they’ll try to keep those under wraps. To the outside world, the INTJ may seem especially blunt, directive, and straightforward. This doesn’t mean that they have no concern or empathy for the human component of a decision.
The Inferior Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
The inferior function is one that the INTJ may struggle within day-to-day life. He feels almost a push and pull between despising it and desiring it. Because INTJs have inferior Se, they can struggle with fully being present “in the moment”. They may focus so heavily on the future and the big picture that they lose sight of what’s happening now. They may miss sensory details or forget mundane tasks. They can feel on edge in over-stimulating environments or when navigating new, unfamiliar places.
At the same time, Se is somehow compelling to the INTJ. It’s a part of himself that is often repressed in favor of Ni. There are times when the INTJ will go from being “stuck in his head” to impulsively taking on a physical challenge. He (or she) may go from being a bookworm to a restless thrill-seeker. He may experience Se in healthy ways; by trying new foods, exercising, engaging in mindful awareness of the moment. Or he may experience Se in unhealthy ways; by over-eating, over-exercising, or making impulsive, risky decisions.
When INTJs repress Se for too long, they risk having a “grip” stress reaction. If they wear out their dominant function (Ni) and fall into Se, they can become suddenly impulsive, short-sighted, or focused on sensory pleasure. These episodes may be extremely short-lived or chronic. Usually, they are relatively short-lived and only appear during cases of extreme stress. You can find out more about that here.
What the Healthy INTJ Looks Like:
Balanced INTJs are visionary, strategic, and fair. Above all, they yearn to meet their vision and to see it become a reality. They are logical and straightforward in their decisions and honest and just in their relationships with people. They are true to their word and dependable, but they have a restless streak that can make them surprisingly daring and adventurous at times.
INTJs are far from the stereotypes you’ve probably heard about them. Yes, they are logical and ingenious. No, they don’t lack feelings or empathy. Yes, they are visionary and future-focused, yet they can have moments of extreme pleasure enjoying the moment in its fullness. Yes, they are introverts, but they can also talk for great lengths about subjects that interest them. Yes, they are often drawn to the fields of science, politics, and technology. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t philosophers (Nietzche), authors (Isaac Asimov), theologians (Martin Luther), or performers (Russell Crowe).
So what kind of INTJ are you? Let me know in the comments!
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type or The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
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