By Brent Meredith
In a general sense, we can say that extroverted functions and introverted functions can be both good and bad for each other. On the positive side of things, extroverted functions can help introverted functions to see life more objectively. When we see a crazy new invention on television that appears to be a really cool idea, but “wouldn’t really work in the real world”, it’s usually going to be a Ti invention – a highly personalized idea that doesn’t truly “fit” into the lives of most people (segue way, anybody? Pay-to-use toilets?). Thomas Edison, likely an ENTP, probably had the objective idea (Ne) to find a better way to utilize light, and tried to work out the details of how to do that with an introverted, personalized form of logic (Ti). As we all know, he failed many times, until he finally got it. That’s a good representation of how Ti works – it formulates a theory, and then has to keep refining the idea – going back to the drawing board – sometimes tirelessly, until it finally comes up with the “perfect” solution that actually works in the outside world. Einstein, likely an INTP, is another good example. While working as a patent clerk, he continued to tweak and refine his theories until they reached a point of significant relevance to the outside world. This is all to say that extroverted functions can help introverted functions by bringing a sense of objectivity to the table; the extroverted function can objectively evaluate and say, “Hey, that’s a great idea in theory, but it won’t work in the real world. You’ll probably have to tweak it a bit, and here are some ideas for you.”
I’ve also seen instances where my Ne has been able to “talk some sense” into Ni users. Recently and INTJ said to me, “Do you think those two people really love each other? I get the sense that they don’t have a very strong love for each other.” I responded with, “Actually I’ve observed quite the opposite. To me it seems very obvious that they love each other very much, I think they might just be having some problems right now that they are working through. Those problems have created some distance between them, and I think that’s the thing that is forming your impression. It’s not that they lack love, because I see that they’re still fighting to make things work. It’s simply the distance that you’re interpreting as a lack of love or affection.” The Ni observation came with some deep insight that something was amiss, but my objective Ne helped put the finishing touches on it in order to “round it out” in the real world.
On the negative side, extroverted functions can grate on, severely disrupt, or sort of “hijack” introverted functions. I have an ISTJ friend who had some very serious issues in his former workplace because the culture was a very extroverted one. His peers and supervisor were putting pressure on him to be more outgoing and to participate more in mingling and workplace discussions (both work-related and non-work-related in nature). He felt pressured to be someone who he was not and it came to a point where he felt blackballed, like he was fighting an uphill battle just to gain the approval of his colleagues. He is a superb CPA when he is given space, time, and solitude to dive into the details of his work. When he is pressured to extrovert more than he is comfortable with, he feels that both the quality and quantity of his work suffers. The implicit and explicit pressure to “extrovert” more grated on him to a point where he left a very good position and took a position that pays much less, just as a way to stay sane and to have the freedom to be the introvert that he is.
Likewise, I have had discussions with NFPs (Fi) who say that EFJs (Fe) sort of place unwanted pressure on them to “perform”, to express their feelings, or to otherwise comply with the sharing, expressive nature of extroverted feeling. I (Ti) have felt similar in the presence of ETJs (Te). I get the sense that they want me to be more forthcoming, explicit, or explanatory with my inner thoughts. I’m not against communication and constructive discussion, but I do suggest here that introverted functions are not necessarily designed to be expressed in the same way that extroverted functions are. As mentioned earlier, they are more about understanding something than they are about discussing it explicitly.
Without even trying, extroverted functions can place undue pressure on introverted functions because the extroverted functions want (demand?) more explicitness; they want to “play” on the playground that is the real world, while the introverted functions are busy digging underground. When I experience this perceived pressure, I often find myself thinking, “I don’t want to be part of your ‘above ground’ system. I want to be here by myself and examine the roots in order to come to an understanding of the inner workings of the current project. How can I be focused, studious, and totally immersed with the few things I’m truly interested in if you keep demanding that I come out of the office and mingle?” On a similar note, as an auxiliary Ne user, I often find myself wanting Ni users to “come out and play” more with me. I know they have that intriguing Ni laying beneath the surface, and I want them to explore ideas and concepts with me, but I have to respect the fact that this is a much more internal process for them. They release, or share, their Ni perspectives when (and if) they are good and ready.
Benefits and Hindrances for “E” That Come From Interacting With “I”
On the positive side, introverted functions can help extroverted functions to understand what is going on underneath the surface. For instance, I once heard an ENTJ (Te) thanking an INTP (Ti) for helping him to see when (and how) he had made a bad decisions as a business owner. The ENTJ is so good at “doing” and “building” that sometimes it helps to have the input from an outside observer who is not so focused on productivity, but more on understanding the underlying processes and how they affect the whole. I also remember instances where I would tell my step-father, “I don’t know if you realize it, but in the process of being super productive and tenacious at work, you’re rubbing one of your employees the wrong way. He’s thinking about leaving and going somewhere else because you’re being a little bit too strict and forceful. Maybe if you afford him a little more freedom and responsibility, he’ll be happier and more productive in the long run.” Instead of just focusing on building the house, I was able to use my Ti to peer a little deeper into the business and see why some things were going haywire and I could see that my step-father appreciated my input. Similarly, I know that Ni users offer some very deep, unique, and beneficial perspectives to me as an Ne user. I suspect that Fi users offer similar benefits to Fe users, and Si to Se. Fi can also come to the aid of Te decision making, and Ti can aid Fe decision making.
On the negative side, extroverted functions can see introverted functions as “lollygagging”, unproductive, subjective, operating as a “lone wolf” or in a vacuum, and can even see their subjective insights as unimportant to the overall picture. Sometimes an extrovert might say, “Yeah, that person had a decent point, but what they’re talking about may only happen in 1% of cases, so I can’t really worry about it. I have to focus on the 99% of normal cases. I’m not going to adjust my entire system to appease the 1% of people who want special treatment.” That’s what introverted functions do – they readily see all of the inconsistencies and the instances that don’t quite fit into the system. As a result, extroverted functions can see them as nitpicking functions that hinder productivity. Introverts can learn to be more selective in pointing out rare exceptions or flaws and it’s helpful for them to realize that “right now” might not be the best time to shut down the entire machine to point out a fairly insignificant flaw. Sometimes for the sake of productivity, the machine has to keep moving and the flaw can be worked on during the next cycle of productivity. Extroverts do well to hear the introvert out and to really consider if the system could be improved, even if slightly.
At the end of the day, introverted functions and extroverted functions (and people in general), can assist and complement each other in the areas of work and relationships. Those same functions, and people, can also rub each other the wrong way – so much so that relationships break down completely and cease to exist. This can cause considerable pain and strife in our lives, so it’s a move in the right direction for us to attempt to understand the way other people function in the world.
Let me use an example to illustrate this point. There was a time in my life where I consistently bumped heads with my ESFJ mother. During holidays or family get-togethers, she would plan everything out in a very structured way and if people were late to the event, she would lose her cool. When it came time for family photos, she would round everybody up, try to position people in a certain way, and even ask people to pose a certain way. Only through the study of typology was I able to understand that she was simply “being herself” – using her Fe to bring order, harmony, and fun (hopefully) to the group. She had a very real and genuine desire for everyone to enjoy themselves and for everything to be “just perfect”. Her methods would really grate on my Ti. Things felt forced and I would unconsciously rebel against her structured and imposing approach. As a Ti-dominant person, I need to feel that I have room to be an individual and to make my own decisions – how I pose for a picture, which food I try, or even if I want to show up to the event at all.
Through deeper understanding of typology, I have learned that my mother is not consciously “trying” to be bossy, controlling, imposing, or overbearing. She is simply using the tools that she has at her disposal to create the effect that she is looking for (group harmony). And I was never consciously “trying” to be indignant or to disrupt family harmony. Instead, I was simply using the tools at my disposal to create the effect that I was looking for (individual choice). We can reasonably reach the conclusion that people are “doing the best with what they’ve got”. And knowing that we can’t really change people, our only option is to look in the mirror and ask how we can understand ourselves and others better. On that journey, we hopefully gain more insight into the souls of others – who they are, what they desire, what angers them, what makes them laugh, what makes them feel loved. If we can achieve that, we should be well on our way to more fruitful relationships.