INTJ

INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of the sixteen personality types. INTJs are one of the rarest of the sixteen personality types, and account for about 1–4% of the population.

The MBTI assessment was developed from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book ‘Psychological Types.’ Jung proposed a psychological typology based on the theories of cognitive functions that he developed through his clinical observations. From Jung’s work, others developed psychological typologies.

Jungian personality assessments include the MBTI instrument, developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, developed by psychologist David Keirsey. Keirsey referred to INTJs as ‘Masterminds,’ one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the ‘Rationals.’ The MBTI preferences indicate the differences in people based on: How they focus their attention or get their energy (extraversion or introversion); How they perceive or take in information (sensing or intuition); How they prefer to make decisions (thinking or feeling); How they orient themselves to the external world (judgment or perception).

INTJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy). INTJs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus their attention on the big picture rather than the details and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities. INTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference. When making decisions they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations. INTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability, which to perceptive types may seem limiting.

According to librarian and self-reported INTJ, Marina Margaret Heiss, ‘INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion ‘Does it work?’ to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms. This in turn produces an unusual independence of mind, freeing the INTJ from the constraints of authority, convention, or sentiment for its own sake … INTJs are known as the ‘Systems Builders’ of the types, perhaps in part because they possess the unusual trait of combining imagination and reliability. Whatever system an INTJ happens to be working on is for them the equivalent of a moral cause; both perfectionism and disregard for authority come into play. Personal relationships, particularly romantic ones, can be the INTJ’s Achilles heel … This happens in part because many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals … Perhaps the most fundamental problem, however, is that INTJs really want people to make sense.’

INTJs are analytical. Like INTPs (introversion, intuition, thinking, perception), they are most comfortable working alone and tend to be less sociable than other types. Nevertheless, INTJs are prepared to lead if no one else seems up to the task, or if they see a major weakness in the current leadership. They tend to be pragmatic, logical, and creative. They have a low tolerance for spin or rampant emotionalism. They are not generally susceptible to catchphrases and do not readily accept authority based on tradition, rank, or title. According to career consultant Sandra Krebs Hirsch, ‘INTJs are strong individualists who seek new angles or novel ways of looking at things. They enjoy coming to new understandings. They tend to be insightful and mentally quick; however, this mental quickness may not always be outwardly apparent to others since they keep a great deal to themselves. They are very determined people who trust their vision of the possibilities, regardless of what others think. They may even be considered the most independent of all of the sixteen personality types. INTJs are at their best in quietly and firmly developing their ideas, theories, and principles.’

Hallmarks of the INTJ include independence of thought and a desire for efficiency. They work best when given autonomy and creative freedom. They harbor an innate desire to express themselves by conceptualizing their own intellectual designs. They have a talent for analyzing and formulating complex theories. INTJs are generally well-suited for occupations within academia, research, consulting, management, science, engineering, and law. They are often acutely aware of their own knowledge and abilities—as well as their limitations and what they don’t know (a quality that tends to distinguish them from INTPs). INTJs thus develop a strong confidence in their ability and talents, making them natural leaders.

In forming relationships, INTJs tend to seek out others with similar character traits and ideologies. Agreement on theoretical concepts is an important aspect of their relationships. By nature INTJs can be demanding in their expectations, and approach relationships in a rational manner. As a result, INTJs may not always respond to a spontaneous infatuation but wait for a mate who better fits their set criteria. They tend to be stable, reliable, and dedicated. Harmony in relationships and home life tends to be extremely important to them. They generally withhold strong emotion and do not like to waste time with what they consider irrational social rituals. This may cause non-INTJs to perceive them as distant and reserved; nevertheless, INTJs are usually very loyal partners who are prepared to commit substantial energy and time into a relationship to make it work.

As mates, INTJs want harmony and order in the home and in relationships. The most independent of all types, INTJs trust their intuition when choosing friends and mates—even in spite of contradictory evidence or pressure from others. The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJs are apt to express emotional reactions. At times, INTJs seem cold, reserved, and unresponsive, while in fact they are almost hypersensitive to signals of rejection from those they care for. In social situations, INTJs may also be unresponsive and may neglect small rituals designed to put others at ease. For example, INTJs may communicate that idle dialogue such as small talk is a waste of time. This may create the impression that the INTJ is in a hurry—an impression that is not always intended. In their interpersonal relationships, INTJs are usually better in a working situation than in a recreational situation.

Drawing upon Jungian theory, Isabel Myers proposed that for each personality type, the cognitive functions (sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling) form a hierarchy. This hierarchy represents the person’s so-called default pattern of behavior. The Dominant function is the personality type’s preferred role, the one they feel most comfortable with. The secondary Auxiliary function serves to support and expand on the Dominant function. If the Dominant is an information gathering function (sensing or intuition), the Auxiliary is a decision making function (thinking or feeling), and vice versa.

The Tertiary function is less developed than the Dominant and Auxiliary, but it matures over time, rounding out the person’s abilities. The Inferior function is the personality type’s Achilles’ heel. This is the function they are least comfortable with. Like the Tertiary, the Inferior function strengthens with maturity. Jung and Myers considered the attitude of the Auxiliary, Tertiary, and Inferior functions to be the opposite of the Dominant. In this interpretation, if the Dominant function is extraverted, then the other three are introverted, and vice versa. However, many modern practitioners hold that the attitude of the Tertiary function is the same as the Dominant.

Using the more modern interpretation, the cognitive functions of the INTJ are Dominant: Introverted intuition (Ni); Auxiliary: Extraverted thinking (Te); Tertiary: Introverted feeling (Fi); and Inferior: Extraverted sensing (Se). Ni is attracted to symbolic actions or devices, Ni synthesizes seeming paradoxes to create the previously unimagined. These realizations come with a certainty that demands action to fulfill a new vision of the future, solutions that may include complex systems or universal truths. Te organizes and schedules ideas and the environment to ensure the efficient, productive pursuit of objectives. Te seeks logical explanations for actions, events, and conclusions, looking for faulty reasoning and lapses in sequence.

Fi filters information based on interpretations of worth, forming judgments according to criteria that are often intangible. Fi constantly balances an internal set of values such as harmony and authenticity. Attuned to subtle distinctions, Fi innately senses what is true and what is false in a situation. Se focuses on the experiences and sensations of the immediate, physical world. With an acute awareness of the present surroundings, it brings relevant facts and details to the forefront and may lead to spontaneous action.

Later personality researchers (notably Linda V. Berens) added four additional functions to the descending hierarchy, the so-called ‘shadow’ functions to which the individual is not naturally inclined but which can emerge when the person is under stress. For INTJ these shadow functions are (in order): Extraverted intuition (Ne), Introverted thinking (Ti), Extraverted feeling (Fe), and Introverted sensing (Si). Ne finds and interprets hidden meanings, using ‘what if’ questions to explore alternatives and allowing multiple possibilities to coexist. This imaginative play weaves together insights and experiences from various sources to form a new whole, which can then become a catalyst to action.

Ti seeks precision, such as the exact word to express an idea. Ti notices the minute distinctions that define the essence of things, then analyzes and classifies them. Ti examines all sides of an issue, looking to solve problems while minimizing effort and risk. Ti uses models to root out logical inconsistency. Fe seeks social connections and creates harmonious interactions through polite, considerate, and appropriate behavior. Fe responds to the explicit (and implicit) wants of others, and may even create an internal conflict between the subject’s own needs and the desire to meet the needs of others. Si collects data in the present moment and compares it with past experiences. This process sometimes evokes the feelings associated with memory as if the subject were reliving it. Seeking to protect what is familiar, Si draws upon history to form goals and expectations about what will happen in the future.

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