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How to Think Better as an INTJ

Thursday August 11, 2016

Maybe you’ve had people tell you you’re smart. Maybe you’ve even received awards or accolades for being a smart person! In general, we INTJs tend to think we are pretty good thinkers.

(Personally I have found it helps to be dumb sometimes, but it’s also healthy to use and improve those Thinking skills.)

So it’s kind of funny, but one of our biggest blind spots is found in the area of thinking, even though we are considered a powerful bunch of Thinkers in general.

Is a Conflicting Mental Process Causing Blind Spots in Your Thinking?

The standard INTJ thinking process, known as extraverted thinking, or “Te”, can be extremely shallow and brittle. When we use Te, we reference measurements, look for hard, outside evidence, and rely on outside thinking and “objective proof” that things are completely “true” or “false”.

Relying on outside thinking! That sounds like a dependency, right? (Do I hear the sound of millions of INTJs cringing at the thought of being dependent on someone else’s thinking? First, don’t worry too much about it—but second: Let’s improve a bit in this area.)

An Embarrassing Problem when it comes to Original Thinking

When the time comes to be original thinkers then, to develop new thought, we can run into big problems.

For example—let’s say you are confronted with a huge problem that seems specific to you alone, and it can completely overpower you. In order to solve that, as a normal, Te-style INTJ Thinker, you’d go out and look for labels for that problem so you can find others who have already solved it.

Then you buy their books, or bookmark their website, or subscribe to their mailing list.

But what if it’s more efficient just to solve the problem on your own?

What if the key to your specific situation is to be subjectively creative and start from square one, analyzing your particular situation and developing your original theories and solutions?

This is where other personality types like INTPs, ENTPs, ISTPs, and ESTPs can really teach us hard lessons. They tend to use Ti, also known as introverted thinking, or analytical logic, to solve problems with their own brains.

My Professor Doesn’t Get It: He Wants Me to Use MY Brain

If you’ve ever studied under an INTP professor, perhaps you’ve heard this criticism of your research-based thinking: “You’re using other peoples’ brains to do your thinking for you!”

(Let’s get meta: You are on this blog why again? See? I’m doing all of your thinking for you. Well, again—all these thinking tools are useful, so we don’t want to throw out a perfectly good blog; I get that. And thanks for being here…but let’s balance things out a bit and you’ll enjoy the new skills!)

Ah, the painful takedown of Ti versus Te. Introverted Thinking versus Extraverted Thinking. Subjective original thought vs. Objective, unoriginal thought. Creating your own really cool wheel versus Not Reinventing Wheels, because someone else already did that!

Analyzing things yourself…vs. Googling The Answers in Order to be Efficient.

Well, I completely agree that if we’re not using Ti at all, or very much, we’re not really using the best of our brain, at least not in the ideal way.

What’s this Ti Process?

Ti, or Introverted Thinking, is a cognitive process or cognitive function, one of a set of eight. For convenience, here are some links for information on the whole set of cognitive functions:

These functions, and your preferences for some of them in particular, play really important roles in your development and values. The functions that annoy you, or frustrate you, are more likely to create blind spots which can harm your personal or professional development.

Your preference for some of these functions, and not others, is what determines your personality type. For example, a typical INTJ is a Ni-Te personality type, an INFJ is a Ni-Fe personality type, and so on.

The nice thing is, you can learn to be flexible, and use gifts from every function to help yourself develop into a better problem-solver. You’ll be able to work better with others. You’ll also be better at convincing, or negotiating with, people who prefer different functions. If you’ve ever heard of the “win-win” negotiation, Ti can be a crucial ingredient in creating that outcome.

Giving conscious attention to the Ti function will help you learn to create and execute. It will help you to find leverage points in whatever area of interest you wish to pursue. And people of other personality types who really think Ti is cool, or rare, or special, will tend to recognize well-developed Ti. They’ll want your help in solving problems.

How is Ti Used?

When we use Ti, according to Dario Nardi, we “refer to, apply, align, and refine a framework.” Dario is a personality type professional who suggests that INTJs study and learn how to apply Ti.

What’s a framework? Think of a set of rules. For example:

  • Rules for Having a Good Day
  • How to Be More Productive at Work
  • How to Work on My House on the Weekend without Losing my Temper

In fact, don’t just think about it, start on it right now. It will involve using your brain.

Also, perhaps painfully, it will involve lots of subjective thought. You’ve got to spend energy on asking: What would help? What might work? What would I do differently tomorrow, or next time?

I admit this is only painful if you were tightly tied to your objectivity-as-ego. Please drop that guard just a little bit, just make more room for the subjective you and your powerful brain to help yourself.

Ti as compared to Te

Applying your Te (extraverted thinking) should indeed be much more natural for you. When you use Te, you typically refer to, align, and refine a measuring device. For example, the scientific method. Or some other standard for measuring thought, results, whatever. Maybe you measure others’ thoughts on the matter by googling for answered questions on a given topic, at a site like Quora.

Te is super helpful, so it’s not that we’re trying to get rid of it. Very often INTJs will need to drone on and on about their problems, not in an emotional way, but in a very informational way in which we review our “status”. It’s like we’re reporting our measurements!

Typically what this is doing is creating a “safe intellectual space” in which we INTJs can measure the extent of our problems and begin to work in a solution-minded way. It’s helpful. It’s healthy. (And don’t tell me you don’t need a safe space —it stays!)

Going back to Ti, I think most INTJs don’t really use it much in creative situations. But I also think they enjoy it when they do. And I know for a fact that they enjoy it more, the more experience they gain with it.

A Deeper Exercise to Try

Here is a slightly deeper Ti exercise:

First, list some problems in your life:

  • I am doing terrible at my job
  • I need to negotiate with a person, or a group of people
  • I love my hobby, and I want to figure out how to share my progress with other people
  • I am doing terrible in my relationship with so-and-so
  • I hate myself for doing unhealthy activity X when I’m stressed out
  • I want to be a better friend

Now, for each of those problems:

  1. Refer to a framework or set of rules relating to the problem (do some research OR create your own draft framework, including leverage points that come to mind. I encourage trying the latter because Te will bias you toward the former)
  2. Apply the framework. Put it into practice next time the problem comes up.
    1. To develop a framework, look for points of leverage. You might isolate specific activities, for example, that really give you a boost in overcoming this specific types of problem.
  3. Refine the framework. Make the framework more elegant over time.
    1. This is super important. If you let the framework stagnate, you cannot benefit from the compounding energy that results from its continual application and refinement.
    2. Ask yourself: When did I last try something new?
    3. Yes, a lot of INTJs get stuck here. They don’t always like altering things, and they worry that their new framework is so much worse than something that already exists out there!
  4. Embrace the details! Allow the framework to deepen over time, and become its own familiar story, saga, or favorite recipe.

If you persist in this activity I think you’ll find an amazing thing happens: You’ll feel like you have a lot more leverage in your life.

Do you see how hands-on it is? You get to build something really powerful, over time. It’s great.

So dive in! Get more subjective. And think twice before you go right for Google to apply your Google-fu to find the world’s best pre-existing framework, tucked inside a PDF on some website employing weak file download obfuscation.

And it’s OK to make guesses! (Scientists may call your guesses “hypotheses”) Modify your approach until you gain leverage.

Then scale it into a world-class framework with its own PDF later on, if you’d like.

My Own Experience

I share a lot of my own frameworks here on the blog, and in other areas of my life as well. It’s been fun. And I plan to keep going!

Personally, I keep a bunch of text files in a folder called “Frameworks.” Under that folder I keep a Work folder, a Family folder, and so on. In “Work” there’s a text file with my own framework for having a great day at work. And another one for dealing with stressful meetings.

In my Finance folder, I’ve got a file for investing. It has a table of contents, a to-do list, a log of experiences, and some links to resources I appreciate (I integrate Te in this way, referring to others’ resources, research, measurements, and creations as well).

In Conclusion

Do you see how that might help you? Try it out. You could google up the answers, but don’t, this time. This is better. Refine your own framework, by yourself.

We INTJs will need to leverage both Te and Ti in order to become our best selves.

(If this article helped you, you know what to do. Or if not—your Ti can help you figure it out!)

Filed in: Therapeutic Practice /144/ | Te /36/ | Ti /29/ | Essays /52/ | Productivity /119/ | Control /110/ | Publications /44/ | Thinking /70/

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