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What it's like to try different psychological functions

Monday August 1, 2016

After working with Fe-doms for a while, I was looking for ways to better relate to them. I knew they might not make any particular effort in return, but for me, when I’m in a relationship, it’s important to know that I’m doing my best to improve my own health and understanding within that relationship at the very least.

This is one of the factors that got me interested in Fe, extraverted feeling. According to Socionics, we INTJs will tend to downplay the importance of Fe, even ridicule it.

Well, fine—after reading about it for a bit, I understand why it’s important.

But how do I develop some myself? Is it possible?

“No, it’s dangerous to develop functions outside of your function stack,” came one reply.

“I’m pretty sure that’s impossible,” came another.

“You wouldn’t be using real Fe though. It’d be your Te imitating Fe,” said someone else.

As far as I can tell, that’s all “just opinion,” which is putting it nicely.

In order to answer my questions, I finally turned to the most objective authority on the subject who has written a book that happens to sit on my bookshelf. And that person is Dario Nardi, the author of 8 Keys to Self-leadership, available on Amazon and also in PDF format from his Radiance House Publishing website.

Dr. Nardi knows a lot about personality type and is himself an INTJ, as he confirmed on Reddit some time ago. As I browsed further into the back of his book than I had in the past, I found his opinion on any dangers around learning the various functions. And, basically, his opinion seems to be this:

“It’s better to be your best you than to be a jack-of-all-trades. There is a tiny risk that you become someone who’s just mediocre at everything.”

Beyond that, my INTJ senses detect that he’s also saying, “SERIOUSLY GO FOR IT GUYS, THAT’S WHY I WROTE EVERY EXERCISE FOR EVERY FUNCTION IN THIS BOOK.”

At that point, clutching Dr. Nardi’s book to my heaving chest, I cried out with relief.

OK, not really. In the following weeks I did some Fe exercises and put myself in others’ shoes, found ways to empathize when I would have otherwise been pretty unaware. And you know what, Fe isn’t bad at all.

Getting more bold, I tried Fe on some of the people I work with. Not to be manipulative, just to give them some of what they need.

And BOOM. My first problems came up.

  1. Holy cow, I sound like a big cloying moron when I’m trying hard to be empathetic.
  2. This stuff is kind of exhausting. Like, remember that time you were out running in the middle of nowhere and thought it’d be fun to run backwards for a while? That kind of annoying.

Like a true INTJ, I had started on level “advanced”—attempting to test some brand new idea on people who were very important to me. These relationships were fragile in the first place, so in retrospect this was kind of a dumb idea.

I should have given myself more time to practice. By not doing so, I may have showed people a side of me that may in fact will only come out rarely. I mean, IF it was even a good side at all.

I’m definitely not a Fe native. I’m more like a Te barbarian squeezing out loud farts in the Fe Salon and shouting “EXCUSE ME.” to cover for it.

ARE MY EXCUSE-ME WORDS WORKING?” the barbarian wonders. Later with his barbarian friends, he digs himself deeper. “THIS NEW SIDE OF ME YOU ARE NOTICING, MY FRIENDS, IS CALLED EXTRAVERTED FEELING.” Idiot.

I mean, I’d be riding along in a car with a Fe dom, and they’d say, “When we got to the hotel, my wife and kids headed to the swimming pool, and she was so sweet—she told me I had a long day of driving and I should just relax and watch some TV. You know, I love watching TV in hotels, man.”

Oh my gosh. YES. I love watching TV in hotels too. Aww, man. That must have felt really nice. And with no kids around. That was super considerate of her. Watch anything good?”

batman-slap-meme.jpg <—- SERIOUSLY. Who the frick did I even think I was, talking like that? ROFL. “Super considerate.” Hahahahahahahaha.

I mean, I do love watching hotel TV. But I could have just kept it at, “Oh yeah, I love watching hotel TV too. Watch anything good?” But no. I had to go full feeler, or something. Man I sounded annoying.

So my advice to my future self here is to give yourself 20 years to get better at using Fe. Don’t pour it on like syrup and expect life to magically become pancakes.

You can certainly change your behavior in small increments though, and from what I can tell it does help. I mean, who wouldn’t appreciate that you revised your email a bit to be more empathetic, to mention a special word of thanks or congratulations?

“Dangerous” it isn’t.

The other point—the exhaustion: Well, I should have really been backing up Fe with Te, to be sure. I should have taken measurements on my progress and kept tabs on it. That would really be helpful in the future, because I’d be able to detect when I was running at way too many Fe RPMs for my little psychological engine to handle.

My Fe practice eventually culminated in a sleepless night in which I felt sorry for myself and pecked a mini-essay into my phone about how hard it is to work with Fe-doms. Pout, pout. (This writing activity is actually pretty helpful though; us INTJs can usually benefit from putting our thoughts down somewhere)

Later I shared some thoughts with my wife and I could feel her rolling her eyes. “You are way too hard on yourself.”

Yes, I am, I concluded, as I probably stuffed my mouth full of chocolate or something. Can’t remember. Won’t remember.

Would I do it all again? Yes, at a slower pace. I still catch myself looking for ways to show empathy and concern. And I believe in it—it’s an important practice to me, not anything fake at all. Fe, I am coming for you.

Slowly.

I notice I’m slow, too. With other functions like Ti, I look at Ti-doms and think, “holy smokes. They are good at this.” I’ve simply never had that practice before. Maybe that’s due to Linda Berens’ “Be Like Me” concept—we simply do not normally think of people as having a good reason not to be like ourselves, and in that frame of thinking, other people tend to look like they suck at being good at things.

So far, my favorite function to practice outside of my normal stack is definitely Ti, though. Maybe more on that later.

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