What does “INTJ” mean? INTJs are one of the sixteen personality types based on the Myers-Briggs typology. Each letter for “INTJ” correspond to one of the four dichotomies, which means that INTJs are introverted (I), intuitive (N), thinking (T), and judging (J) types. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. This article will explain the letter meaning in more detail.
In the Myers-Briggs personality model (based on Carl Jung’s theory), there are four main personality dichotomies, and each dichotomy is represented by a letter:
- Introvert (I) or Extrovert (E)
- Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S)
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
When you combine each possible letter combination, you get a total of sixteen different personality types:
- INTJ, INFJ, INFP, INTP, ISFJ, ISTJ, ISFP, ISTP, ENTP, ENTJ, ESFP, ESTJ, ESFJ, ENFP, ENFJ, ESTP
These four “dichotomies” represent different “preferences” for attitudes and functions for each individual. While we all experience those functions or attitudes mentioned above (introversion and extroversion, etc.), we all have a dominant preference for each dichotomy. Therefore, we may use both thinking and feeling when making judgments, but one will dominate our thinking process.
Below is a brief overview of each main letter dichotomy (and the video gives examples for INTJs).
Introverts vs. Extroverts
“Introversion vs. extroversion” refers to the way individuals gain, spend, or focus their energy. Introverts direct their energy inwardly, whereas extroverts direct their energy to their external surroundings. INTJs are introverts, and they prefer a lot of solitude. INTJs dislike too much social interaction because it drains them and prevents them from being able to think deeply about their interests or ideas.
Generally speaking, introverts tend to exhibit these traits:
- Most introverts dislike small talk, chit-chat, or talking on the phone, and this is especially true for INTJs. As one INTJ joked: ‘ “I love to have small talk with strangers,” said no INTJ ever!’
- Introverts have a smaller circle of “true” friends (or even no friends), but they have a very deep relationship with those friends. INTJs often have few “real” friends outside of family or work (perhaps 0-2 friends whom they fully trust and see regularly). However, they are often loyal to their friends.
- Some introverts may be shy, but some can be the life of the party. I’m an INTJ, and in high school, I was often the class clown. I could joke, mimic people, and get up in front of the class to be silly. However, whenever I was in a “one-on-one” setting with someone I didn’t know well, I was very awkward.
- Introverts are drawn to solitary activities. INTJs often like walking in nature, reading books, surfing the web, writing, playing video games, and more.
- Introverts spend the majority of their time thinking, analyzing, and pondering things in their own minds. INTJs are constantly thinking about ideas, strategies, and even having imaginary conversations or debates in their heads.
Extroverts, on the other hand, often exhibit these traits (generally speaking):
- Many extroverts are energized and stimulated by their environments. They like to hang out with friends, meet new people, etc.
- Many extroverts are comfortable in social situations and prefer them to long periods of solitude.
- Many extroverts create a large network of acquaintances and friends.
- Many extroverts spend time interacting with people, and they sometimes even “think” better while talking or interacting. They may be the first to go up and introduce themselves to a new church member or employee.
Intuitive vs. Sensing
“Intuition vs. sensing” refers to the way individuals perceive their environment. INTJs are intuitive, which means they are often detached from the details of objects and their surroundings, and they rely more on their intuition to perceive things. This can give INTJs the appearance of being somewhat “oblivious” to their environments.
Individuals with the dominant sensing function, however, tend to be very connected with their environments. They notice subtle details of objects: colors, smells, textures, etc.
Generally speaking, intuitives tend to exhibit these characteristics:
- Intuitives can often think of “outside-of-the-box” ideas. They take bits of abstract information, process that internally, and come up with unique solutions. Due to their intuition, INTJs are naturals at solving complex problems or foreseeing how events may transpire. Sometimes, it just pops into their minds with little or no effort.
- Intuitives can become oblivious to the details in their surroundings. An INTJ may walk in a room and not even notice a new decoration. For example, when I print out a shipping label to mail an item I sold on eBay, I rarely even notice the state in which the buyer lives. I disregard that as an irrelevant fact. My wife, an ISFJ (sensing), immediately notices those trivial details.
- Intuitives think of the “what ifs.” INTJs think of possibilities and ideas. INTJs want to know if there is a better way to do some task. They don’t care about how something has always worked, they want to see if the process can be improved.
- Intuitives want to know the “why” behind some theory or task. Intuitives don’t like to do something without understanding how their task will ultimately fulfill some greater objective.
Individuals with the dominant “sensing” preference, however, generally exhibits these characteristics:
- Sensors notice trivial details of things, such as the eye color of a person they just met. When driving down the road, my ISFJ wife often notices the license plate on the car in front of us, and will often say, “Wow, that person’s from New York!” In contrast, I never even notice the license plate (or even the car)!
- Sensors think in terms of the “here and now.” Sensors are so consumed with their environments that they often fail to think of possibilities for new ideas or concepts. Therefore, they tend to honor traditions and rarely think of the “what ifs” or consequences of a certain idea or plan. They may fail to see how a child may go and grab a knife that they left on the edge of a table, whereas an intuitive may immediately see that possibility.
- Sensors are good at looking at data. ISTJs, for example, make great accountants, especially since they also have the thinking function and judging attitude.
- Sensors are good at doing tasks without questioning the deeper meaning or theory behind it.
Thinking vs. Feeling
“Thinking vs. feeling” refers to the way we make decisions about things. INTJs prefer the thinking function, which means that they make decisions based more on logic and less on emotional considerations, although emotions are always involved with every decision to some extent. For this reason, INTJs are often considered “heartless” or “cold,” but in reality, they can be very warm and loving.
Generally speaking, people with the thinking function tend to do the following:
- Approach everything from a very logical or rational mindset. INTJs hate discrepancies, inconsistencies, hypocritical statements, or decisions based on mushy-gushy “feel-good” ideas rather than rational thought.
- Thinkers prioritize logic and reason when making decisions. INTJs can be very blunt in their answers or statements, sometimes even brutally honest. They often have the reputation of having “sharp tongues.” If someone needs to be fired, the thinking individual (or INTJ) won’t stress about it as much as the feeler. Although any thinking individual may hate for someone to lose his or her job, they know it has to be done.
- Tend not to make good counselors because dominant thinkers will offer you solutions rather than empathizing with you, which is what most people want. For example, if someone in my family had their engine blow up, I’m likely to say something like, ‘Well, I’m sorry but your car is 12 years old, leaks oil, and you’ve failed to change the oil regularly. Call around and get some quotes on an engine rebuild, and check your oil in the future.” A feeler will probably empathize and say something like, “Oh, I hate that for you. It can be so hard when things like that happen. Bless your heart. Let me help you find someone.”
Generally speaking, people with the feeling function tend to the following:
- Approach things from a caring perspective.
- Tend to empathize well with people. Thus, they’re often good at counseling.
- Have difficulty make a decision that can negatively impact another person.
- May have a greater concern for the welfare of animals or suffering humans than thinking types.
Judging vs. Perceiving
“Judging vs. perceiving” has to do with the attitude of how you structure or approach your life. As judging types, INTJs tend to do the following:
- Exhaustively plan every detail of their lives. INTJs plan further into the future than any other personality type. They are natural planners and strategists.
- Make lists for everything: grocery store list, vacation packing list, things to do for the week, career goals, etc.
- Tend to be punctual and organized. Many INTJs are very responsible individuals who can be trusted to show up for work on time.
- Dislike “surprises” or unannounced visits. It throws off the INTJ’s plans and that’s never a good thing.
- Hate getting behind on something. INTJs feel a sense of control by staying on top of tasks and making decisions. When INTJs don’t have that sense of control, they become anxious or stressed, or feel as if they won’t achieve their objective.
- May become frustrated when working in a chaotic environment or when faced with changing circumstances. Many judgers like order and structure and predictability, not chaos.
Perceivers, on the other hand, generally tend to do the following:
- Feel a sense of frustration or lack of control when held to rigid deadlines. Perceivers feel more of a sense of control by keeping their options open, “just in case.” They fly by the seat of their pants.
- Often aren’t bothered by “surprise visits.” In fact, they may welcome them.
- Can often remain calm or function well in chaotic or changing situations.
- Often like to approach life with a carefree attitude. They don’t stress as much about the future as other types.
A Quick Note about Cognitive Functions
While the descriptions above will help you better understand the four letter dichotomies (dominant attitudes and functional preferences), there is also another consideration in the MBTI (or Jungian) theory: cognitive functions.
Cognitive functions explain how your functions and attitudes work together in a dynamic way to create dominant behaviors. While the above letters are generally true, cognitive functions can affect how your actual type dynamic works. Thus, there can be some variation among the sixteen types with regards to the dominance of each function.
For the INTJ personality type, the cognitive functions are stacked in this way:
- Dominant: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Auxiliary: Extroverted Thinking (Te)
- Tertiary: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Inferior: Extroverted Sensing (Se)