By A.J. Drenth
Extraverted Thinking (Te) is one of eight functions first outlined by Carl Jung in his classic work, Psychological Types. It serves as either the dominant or auxiliary function for INTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ and ESTJ (i.e., “TJ”) types, as well as the tertiary or inferior for “FP” types (i.e., ENFP, INFP, ESFP, ISFP).
As an extraverted function, Te is readily identifiable in the presentation and expressions of TJ types. It is characteristically impersonal, focused more on things and systems than people or feelings. TJs readily express their rational judgments; they literally think (i.e., make logical judgments, conclusions, and decisions) aloud. Their direct, “to the point” style is sometimes perceived by others as harsh, blunt, or tactless. Physicians with poor bedside manner, such as Dr. House of the acclaimed television show, House, are notorious for their Te brusqueness.
Te strives to make the external world and its operations more rational, employing precise definitions, policies, plans, and procedures. From the Te perspective, nothing can be optimized unless we work to objectively understand and control it with standard operating procedures. Such standards should always be clearly explicated to minimize ambiguity and the potential for interpretative error. Toward this end, TJ types often end up managing businesses or organizations. ENTJs, in particular, are highly represented among CEOs, with ESTJs and ISTJs gobbling up the middle-level management positions. While INTJs may also float to the top of organizations, as Ni dominants, they typically prefer the role of senior advisor to that of manager or decision-maker.
TJs may also be drawn to various teaching and training roles. I have personally encountered numerous ISTJ elementary school teachers, and research has shown INTJs commonplace among college professors. Generally speaking, TJs enjoy work that allows them to order, organize, and manage information or operations.
Defining & Measuring
Te approaches and structures things in explicitly rational ways. It may do so for the sake of understanding (e.g., science), utility (e.g., technology), or maintaining external order (e.g., instating laws and rules). Unlike Ti, whose logic holistically consults both sides of the brain, Te hails squarely from the left hemisphere. The “left brain” is characteristically logical, analytical, systematic, and explicit in its workings. It takes the perceived world, carves it up into pieces, then proceeds to name and analyze each piece on its own terms.
TJs (especially NTJs) view the world as comprised of myriad systems, each of which can be analyzed and explicated in terms of rational hierarchies. The better each system is understood and rationally delineated, the more amenable it becomes to prediction, control, and manipulation. Since modern science is founded on these Te ideals, its methods and practices are readily embraced and defended by TJ types.
The workings of Te are highly systematic and methodical, even perfectionistic. TJs are known to pay close attention to the way things are ordered, ensuring that they comport with the appropriate linear sequence or hierarchical structure. TJs also work to incorporate relevant facts, empirical data, and other measures. Through the objective lens of Te, the world is effectively a giant machine, a system of interrelated parts operating according to the laws of cause and effect.
Quantification is another hallmark feature of the Te approach. This may involve employing any number of objective measurements, benchmarks, statistics, and the like. The increasingly popular notion of “evidenced-based” practice is a good example, which in most cases is synonymous with quantitative research. For TJs, more than other types, the “numbers don’t lie.” They believe that formal quantitative research should serve as the bedrock of human knowledge and decision-making.
The Te-Fi Function Pair
Te and Fi always occur together in TJs and FPs, constituting the Te-Fi function pair. For TJs, Te is the more conscious and Fi the less conscious function, while the reverse is true for FP types. Although Te and Fi are in some respects functional opposites, they are also complementary.
Fi evaluates and refines personal tastes, feelings, and values. It champions individuality, emphasizing and defending the unique qualities of the individual. It shows particular concern for life’s “underdogs”—children, animals, the elderly, the underserved, and so on.
Because of the highly rational presentation of Te and the introverted nature of Fi, it can be easy to assume that TJs are devoid of emotion. But the truth is TJs can experience deep feelings and develop strong attachments via their Fi. Like IFPs, some TJs are sensitive to instances of injustice, inequity, and victimization. Both TJs and FPs may to turn to legislation (Te) for redressing perceived injustices or victimization (Fi). We see this all the time, for instance, when Fi tragedies (e.g., school shootings, child abductions) prompt the passing of new laws or the formation of new organizations (Te) intended to prevent future recurrences. From this we learn of the typological connection between deep personal feelings (Fi) and collective rules and policies (Te). The notion of a “fair and just” system or workplace aptly illustrates this Fi-Te connection.
Extraverted Thinking (Te) vs. Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Introverted Thinking (Ti) is a more implicit and subjective form of logic. Rather than looking outward and referencing objective standards, it reasons and operates according to its own inner criteria. It spends ample time questioning underlying premises and assumptions, desperately seeking, but struggling to find, firm epistemological footing. It therefore tends to be more critical and reductive in its workings.
Te, by contrast, tends to be more confident and forward-moving (especially in ETJs), quick to make changes and reforms in response to the latest data. Indeed, we see this sort of optimism and eagerness with all the extraverted functions. The extraverted functions are constantly adding and broadening, while the introverted functions tend to reduce and deepen. So while Te goes about expanding the number of T facts or policies, Ti earns its keep by criticizing or circumventing them.
One can find this Te-Ti tension in nearly any organization. Those on the Te side are always looking for ways to improve operations, which often involves implementing new policies and procedures. Meanwhile, those in the Ti corner are pushing to keep things open-ended in the name of individual autonomy. We see similar tensions in political discourse, such as debates over limited government (Ti) versus government expansion (Te).
Te, as we’ve seen, also aligns itself with the scientific method or with objective methods in general. Indeed, many TJs put science on a pedestal, seeing it as humanity’s primary hope for ultimate knowledge or salvation. While obtaining knowledge and solving problems are also of interest to TPs, they prefer to approach these matters less formally and on the individual level. They are more sympathetic to the notion that individuals can discover truth and wisdom through their own minds, methods, and experiences (i.e., through subjective methods). This of course exemplifies the age-old distinction between the scientist (Te) and the philosopher (Ti).
To learn more about Te and the other functions, be sure to explore our latest eBook, My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences & Functions, which takes an in-depth look at each of the 8 functions and preferences: