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Communicating with INTPs, What to Know Beyond the Basics: Critical Parent Loops

Wednesday April 24, 2019

Looking back at my university years, there was no one quite like an INTP professor to get me participating in a class. And on top of that, I automatically seemed to become the challenging voice in those classes. The “critical parent” model of communications, which compares the subject’s 6th (non-Socionics) cognitive function to the subject’s dominant function, does a great job of showing why.

As the theory goes, if you receive feedback which speaks to the role of your 6th cognitive function (this is Ti for INTJs), you instinctively feel like you are being criticized or ignored (thus the “critical parent” voice), and a pressure arises within you to push back, to react sharply.

Within a two-way, mirrored-functions communication like the INTP (Ti & Ni) and INTJ (Ni & Ti), what’s going on is that the person you’re talking to metabolizes information in a different order than do you. Their subconscious mind is attempting to block the information you’d prefer to metabolize, and it demands more readily-metabolized information instead. This often feels frustrating for both parties.

As a student, I felt my INTP professors’ viewpoints were overly details-focused, nose in the weeds, and practically blinded to the big picture.

For INTJs, the INTP’s dominant Ti message, “be precise and logical, show your work, make sure to communicate WHY the pieces fit together” often sounds like, “you should get mired in all the details rather than relying on what you know will be the outcome!”

For INTPs, the INTJ’s dominant Ni message, “use your intuition, think of the big picture, see the outcome” in the critical parent mode often sounds like “you should make assumptions rather than using all that precise logic! Anyone can see how this will turn out! What are you thinking?”

Note that I said that’s what those voices sound like. Ni and Ti are both extremely beneficial in their own ways.

As a personal observation, the INTP will sometimes refer to “history shows that…” or “if you do this you will know the system in detail and thus improve your memory” outcomes (Si – recall) to justify the use of more Ti.

The INTJ will sometimes refer to “if you do this you will improve the overall values / quality” outcomes (Fi – valuing) to justify the use of more Ni.

A Personal Example

Discussing philosophy with an INTP recently, I had this exact discussion:

  • Me: So I am encountering this precisely-detailed problem with this [specific philosophy], and I have this idea for an intervention.
  • Him: What’s your idea?
  • Me: Well, I think that with the right focus on principles like X and Y, the outcome of Z could be accomplished, rather than the previously undesired outcome B.
  • Him: Okayyyy…but in all of history we’ve never had that happen. It sounds like you are just assuming you can change that.
  • Me: (Remembers he’s talking to an INTP precision-guy) Well, that’s the problem with such deep work—I don’t have time to get into all the details with you right now unfortunately, but I’m looking forward to diving in.
  • Him: …but you don’t even know what you’ll do?

You see how the INTP was craving details? INTPs metabolize those details extremely well. They’d like the details to come first. Not as much the sensory details, as the theoretical details—the chain of thought. For an INTJ, the outcome comes first, with details kept vague—all that Ti work will come later.

So What?

The main benefits to knowing this are:

  • Being able to properly contextualize the results of communications with INTPs, including criticism or push-back
  • Understanding why you might act differently in certain academic settings, and even perform worse, depending on the professor’s preferred methods of information metabolism
  • …and even learning to recognize a Ti-emphatic third-party process, one which can instantly subvert an INTJ’s learning or other goals.

There are other helpful things to know about communicating with INTPs. For example, when feeling social stress, they often quickly identify people who seem to want to feel big and important (a trait which can accompany the INTJ approach to social stress), and they generally feel a strong dislike for those people. So if they see a bit of that within you, the INTJ, they might magnify that, dwell on it, and begin to feel inferior, triggering their ESFJ processes in an unhealthy way. This is also a good reminder to INTJs to stay humble, or to recognize times when we might inadvertently act less humble due to personal or social circumstances.

Going beyond just the INTP (they’re swell people of course—no criticism of INTPs as a type is meant here), additional aspects of this Ti-Ni tension can be observed in all kinds of intertype relations.

Personally, just knowing about this has helped me maintain my sanity and make better decisions about when to smirk at the group and start making other plans, as compared to resigning myself to becoming the “voice crying in the wilderness.”

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