Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types

Because INFJs and INTJs both use Introverted Intuition as their favorite mental process, the two types can appear very similar. Quite a few people who take a Myers-Briggs test and get either of these results (or both on different tests) are left wondering, how can I tell whether I’m an INFJ and INTJ?

My personality type is INFJ and my sister’s is INTJ. It would be well-nigh impossible to assume we share a personality type, but if you don’t have that contrast living with you (or if you’re a little less extreme on your T/F preference) I can see how deciding which type is your best fit could be a challenge. INFJs and INTJs lead with the same mental process and they react in very similar ways when stressed out. The main differences between the two types have to do with how they handle their Thinking/Feeling preference.

INFJs use auxiliary Extroverted Feeling as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Thinking. INTJs use auxiliary Extroverted Thinking as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Feeling. The auxiliary process is how they prefer to make decisions and interact with the outer world, but they can slip into their tertiary quite easily. It’s not as well developed or as reliable, but it can seem comfortable since it’s introverted (just like their dominant intuitive function).

How comfortable each INFJ/INTJ is with their thinking and feeling processes depends on a number of factors, including age, environment, and past experiences. You can find INFJs who are very people-oriented and social, or INFJs that seem distant and logical. Similarly, you’ll meet INTJs who are stereotypical blunt and calculating, and INTJs who are comfortable experiencing their own emotions. Even so, the way these functions shows up looks different for each type.

My Cup of T

An INTJ’s Thinking side is focused on the outer world. It’s also the function they’re most comfortable using when making decisions. While mature, well-balanced INTJs will take the human side of a question into consideration, it’s typically secondary to finding the most logical, fact-based solution. Personality Hacker calls this mental process “Effectiveness” and says it “focuses on impersonal criteria for making decisions” and prioritizes efficient problem solving.

INFJs, on the other hand, use an inward-focused Thinking process and they’re not usually as comfortable with it as they are with their Feeling side. Personality Hacker calls Introverted Thinking “Accuracy” and says this function gives users “the ability to reason through a subject or concept within one own’s understanding, even if it doesn’t match ‘outer world’ data.” Basically, this process is trying to work through things until they make sense.

INTJs are much more likely to express their Thinking judgements externally than an INFJ. They’ll often seem more blunt and direct because efficient communication is more important to them than worrying another person’s feelings. INTJs are also more likely to draw on objective, external facts to support their ideas. They want their ideas to work and they want outer world validation for their problem solving. That’s not nearly as important to INFJs, who need things to make sense personally more than to the people around them.

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types" |

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Feeling The Feels

An INFJ’s Feeling side, like INTJ Thinking, is the function they use most comfortably when making decisions. It’s also outward focused, but it’s primarily people-oriented. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Harmony” because it “makes decisions based on how things are impacting people on an emotional level.” The key thing to remember about this function is that it’s outward focused. INFJs are more in touch with other people’s feelings than they are their own.

INTJs use a Feeling process that’s introverted, which Personality Hacker calls “Authenticity.” While it’s also concerned with how decisions impact on an emotional level, it’s focused on one’s own emotions rather than other people’s. To again quote Personality Hacker, “Introverted Feeling is about checking in with all those inner parts and voices to determine what feels the most in alignment with oneself.” Somewhat ironically, the stereotypically cold and logical INTJs are often much more in-tune with their own feelings than the stereotypically emotional INFJs.

INFJs are more comfortable expressing feelings in the outer world and also more likely to pick-up on what other people are feeling. They’ll typically seem much more empathic and expressive than an INTJ. An INFJ who’s comfortable with their Extroverted Feeling side will also appear more social and “extroverted” than a typical INTJ. But INTJs are far more in-tune with their own emotions than most people (and many type descriptions) will give them credit for.

INxJs In Real Life

Even after you know about the technical differences between the ways INFJs and INTJs use thinking and feeling, you might still wonder they show up in real life. Let me give you some quick examples.

  • When making an everyday decision — an INFJ’s first impulse will be finding what makes as many people as possible happy, while an INTJ’s first impulse will be quickly finding the most logical answer. For me and my sister at least, the INTJ has a much easier time making simple decisions without overthinking them than the INFJ does.
  • In a stressful/emergency situation — I’m the one who’s in logic mode and my INTJ sister is the one indecisive and unsure. We’re talking something that calls for quick action and is stressful enough to push you out of your most comfortable mental processes (such as deciding to take someone to the hospital), Might not hold true for every INFJ or INTJ, but it’s an interesting observation I’ve made.
  • If asked to change their minds — an INTJ is most likely going to stick with what they’ve already decided because they know their idea is based on logic and that it feels right to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present a fact-based counterargument that matches their deeply held beliefs about what’s right. An confronted INFJ will second-guess themselves because now they know someone isn’t happy with what they chose but they’ll also be reluctant to abandon something that makes sense to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present an argument that hits emotion as well as logic.

I hope this helps you with telling the difference between these two types If you can’t tell if you’re an INFJ or and INTJ, looking at the differences in Thinking and Feeling functions is a good place to start figuring out your type. You’re not going to be a perfect 100% fit for every description of any one personality type, but there should be one that’s a “best fit” for your personality.

Your Turn: What are some differences and similarities you’ve noticed between INFJ and INTJ types?


The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs Functions Ever

The most complicated aspect of Myers-Briggs personality types is also one of the things that makes it a useful theory. It’s the answer to criticisms like “But people aren’t 100% introverts or extroverts” and “Sometimes I use thinking and sometimes feeling, so the test must be wrong.”

Myers-Briggs theory describes complex, nuanced, dynamic personalities using something called “function stacks.” That term refers to mental processes (functions) that people use in a certain order (stack) of preference. But when you start trying to study function stacks and people are throwing around phrases like “Extroverted Intuition” and “Introverted Thinking” it starts getting confusing, especially after you learn ENxJs don’t even use Extroverted Intuition and IxTJ types don’t use Introverted Thinking. What on earth is going on?

I’ve written about cognitive functions before, but I feel like I’ve always fallen short of explaining the concept both simply and concisely. I’ll link to those more in-depth posts at the end of this article, but right now let’s try and break this topic down for the simplest function stack guide on the Internet. The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs Functions Ever |

What J and P Really Mean

Contrary to popular opinion, Judging and Perceiving aren’t a sliding scale. They aren’t even meant to stand on their own as an aspect of your personality — they’re just in your four-letter type to describe how you use the other letters. Thinking and Feeling are both Judging functions because they’re involved in how you make decisions. Sensing and Intuition are both Perceiving functions because they’re about how you learn information. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About How Our Personalities Develop

Traditionally, Myers-Briggs theorists have taught that people develop their primary function first, followed by their secondary function up until their 20s, then their tertiary function in their 30s and 40s, and sometimes they’ll go on to start using their inferior function later in life. It’s a neat, orderly formula. Too neat for my tastes. (If you felt lost when I started talking about functions, click here to read a post explaining that aspect of Myers-Briggs personality types.)

When you start talking about type development in more depth, though, Myers-Briggs experts will add that environment and an individual’s commitment to personal growth does influence when our functions develop and how well we learn to use them. They’ll also talk about life-long type development and offer tips for dealing with your less developed functions before the age you’re “supposed” to develop them. And I’ve also talked with people who feel like they developed their tertiary before their secondary function, or had to go back later in life and become comfortable with their dominant function because they’d been suppressing it. Clearly, there’s more going on than a neat developmental progression from one function to another.

Personality Hacker proposes a different look at how we develop functions, or “mental processes.” I’ve not seen them directly address the question of type development from childhood on, but they do see our secondary function as our growth position. We’re most comfortable using our dominant function and (baring some kind of trauma) it’s typically also the one you’ve spent the most time developing. This function is either introverted (i.e. focused on our inner world) or extroverted (i.e. focused on the outer world). Your secondary function is focused in the other direction — if you’re a dominant introvert, your secondary mental process it extroverted (and vice versa). But your tertiary function matches your primary one in terms of introvert-extrovert, so it can be more comfortable (though not as healthy) for us to spend time in that one rather than cultivate our secondary function.

What About Culture and Family?

I think our early experiences and upbringing have quite a bit to do with which mental processes we develop and when. For example, an introverted child leads with an inward-focused mental process. How their society and family treats their introversion will have a huge impact on their development. They might develop their extroverted side more quickly as a defense mechanism for fitting into an extroverted world. On the other hand, the same thing (developing their secondary extroverted function early) could also happen if given support for their introverted development as well as encouragement to stretch themselves in the outer world.

Alternately, our hypothetical introvert might reject the push to be more extroverted and end up developing their tertiary process more quickly than their secondary process. That could be a reaction against the external push to be something they’re not, or in response to a particular subculture that values their introverted traits. If no one’s telling you to cultivate a less comfortable aspect of your personality, then why bother?

The same can hold true for extroverts. Many cultures, including the United States, have historically held extroverted traits up as more desirable. If you’re constantly being admired for your outgoing personality, social skills, and ability to navigate the outer world, why focus on developing your un-cool introvert side in high school? Or maybe you’re an extrovert growing up in a family of introverts who constantly ask you to give them alone time or be quiet, and you suppress your dominant function’s development until you’re older. I’ve seen both happen.

There are other factors in play as well. An ExTJ guy would typically find encouragement for his dominant function, where a woman with the same personality type could face criticism for not “acting like a girl.” An ExFJ girl would fit more easily into what society expects from young women, while a guy with the same type might be told to “man up.”

Messy, Beautiful Variations In Type

Personally, I feel I developed my dominant function first (as an INFJ, that’s Introverted Intuition/Ni), stunted my own secondary function’s growth by being incredibly shy (Extroverted Feeling/Fe), ended up using my tertiary function trying to make sense of things (Introverted Thinking/Ti), and was completely blind to my inferior function (Extroverted Sensing/Se). That described me pretty much until age 19 or 20. At that point, I’d been in college for about a year and started working to overcome my shyness. That finally gave my secondary Fe a chance to develop into a healthy version of that function. At the same time, I started using Ni in a healthier way, too, while still occasionally tapping into Ti. As I started learning more about my personality type, I’ve also started trying to develop my Se (though I’ll admit it’s with little success so far). But since I’m not even 30 yet, I “shouldn’t” be consciously using either my tertiary or inferior function yet.

I’m certainly not trying to argue that Myers-Briggs gets everything (or even most things) wrong about type development. The MBTI is a fantastic tool for describing how people’s mind’s work, how we typically learn information, and the ways we interact with our worlds. And the typical type development model has lots of truth in it, including the fact that our primary and secondary functions are the ones we develop most fully. It’s just that there’s more influencing the nuances of type development than how old we are.

These variations are one reason why no two people who share a personality type will be exactly the same. We all have different circumstances that shape our type development, different levels of comfort with our type’s functions, and different ways of expressing how our minds work. If you feel like you didn’t follow the standard model of type development, don’t worry — you haven’t missed out on your chance to grow and there isn’t anything wrong with you. Our personality types aren’t boxes we fit in neatly or hoops of development we jump through. They’re a way of describing how your mind works and a tool we can use to accelerate personal growth, including developing all facets of our personality type more fully.





The Problem of Being Too Agreeable

INFJs place a high value on interpersonal harmony. Often, that manifests (especially in less mature/confident INFJs) as an unwillingness to just flat-out turn someone down. We’d much rather use “maybe,” “someday,” and “that might be nice” rather than “no,” “never,” and “I don’t think so.”

But that can back-fire on us and create discord in friendships. Other types can interpret our “maybes” as commitments, then get upset at us for breaking our word. Or they might recognize that we’re brushing them off and become frustrated by our refusal to give them a direct answer. Our attempts to avoid conflict can actually make things worse.

click to read article, "The Problem of Being Too Agreeable" |

Photo credit: “Smile Harder” by Kevin Galens, CC BY-SA via Flickr

Last week, we talked about one problem that can plague INFJ friendships — the fact that we have a tendency drop out of contact with our friends. It’s fairly easily explained from the INFJ’s perspective, but it can have an unintentional affect of hurting the people around us. Another similar (and in some ways related) problem is our temptation to noncommittally agree with what we think people want to hear, then ignore them and hope they forget about it. Continue reading

The Vanishing INFJ

I’ve written before about how other types can be friends with an INFJ. But there’s another side to that dynamic: what INFJs are like as friends. We can be fantastic friends — fun, engaging, good listeners, intensely loyal. But sometimes we’re not the best sort of friends and often, that’s the INFJ’s fault.

There are some things I love about being an INFJ personality type. And then there are other aspects which aren’t so nice, and some of those can negatively impact our friendships if we’re not careful. Today, I’m speaking of our tendency to drop out of contact with people.

Unique Mental Wiring

INFJs are a curious mix of mental processes. We’re most comfortable using Introverted Intuition (also called “Perspectives”). This is focused on collecting information about how the world works, processing it internally, and making speculative leaps about what it means. Basically, it’s advanced pattern recognition.

That’s paired with Extroverted Feeling (aka “Harmony”). This mental process is in-tune with other people’s feelings and wants to make sure their needs get met. It’s generally the first mental place INFJs go when trying to make a decision, asking, “How will this affect other people and my relationship with them?” When well-developed in an INFJ, they can be so outgoing and social that they seem like extroverts.

But we might also skip this process and spend more time in our tertiary Introverted Thinking (aka “Accuracy”). That one’s more about analyzing of facts, trying to make things “make sense to me.” It’s also impersonal. When INFJs spend more time inside their heads than on developing our extroverted side, we can stay in an introverted Intuition-Thinking loop.

Distracted By The Inner World

Using our Intuitive and Thinking process together isn’t always a bad thing for the INFJ. Our Extroverted Feeling side is important to develop so we can make decisions more easily, maintain friendships, and experience personal growth. But we to also need alone time to re-charge and it can be a good way to process data. It only becomes a problem sometimes when we get “stuck” in our introverted side. Continue reading

Religion and the INFJ

I’ve often seen INFJs described as an intensely spiritual type. Yet a little while ago, in an online INFJ group, someone posted that most INFJs are atheist or agnostic. Being a type that appreciates truth, someone else set up a poll trying to see if that was really the case.

It’s a small, volunteer sample group, but the results were interesting. 36% identified as atheist, agnostic or non-religious. That’s the same percentage that identified with a Christian religious sect. The remaining 28% identified as “spiritual” or with a non-Christian religion.

INFJs approach religion much like we approach everything else: with an open, inquisitive mind looking for patterns, especially those relating to people. Our relationship with spirituality largely depends on how we were raised and the direction our lives took from there. But it also depends on our journeys of personal growth, how the religions we encounter line-up with our convictions, and whether or not faith “makes sense” to us.

The Hypocrisy Factor

Many INFJs I’ve seen talking about being non-religious started out in a church of some sort and then left. As with many people who leave churches, hypocrisy is often cited as the reason. INFJs are exceptionally good at detecting deception. We can read people well and pick up on inconsistencies in their patterns of behavior very quickly. At the same time, we want to believe the best of people and it can take a long time for us to admit someone who we value would betray us. Continue reading