What’s in a Name? Introverted vs. Extraverted Thinking

Personality type affects how we communicate, sometimes in unexpected ways. When talking about the MBTI personality types, people generally think in terms of the preferences. But everyone uses all four cognitive functions, including the nonpreferred ones. And personality type is affected by whether the function is introverted or extraverted.

My husband is an INTJ, while I’m and INFJ. He communicates with the world through extraverted thinking, while my thinking function is introverted. Here’s a typical conversation we might have on a weekend.

Hubby: Want to go with me to the hardware store?
Me: Which one?
Hubby: The blue one.
Me: You mean Lowe’s?
Hubby: I guess so.

I used to find it incredibly frustrating that he seemed to pay little attention to the names of things. After all, isn’t it possible that there’s more than one blue hardware store? How could I be sure which one he meant without knowing the name?

He, on the other hand, considers names extraneous, and often difficult to remember. Names, he says, get in the way. They create barriers between ideas. For instance, it’s clear what the relationship is between “the blue hardware store” and “the orange hardware store.” Calling them “Lowe’s” and “Home Depot” obscures that connection.

Introverted thinking is all about classifying things. It likes to give them names and put them in little boxes. Extraverted thinking is more conceptual. It looks at how things relate to one another. So while introverted thinking focuses on separating things into their unique parts, extraverted thinking focuses on organizing things into a unified whole.

Given my introverted thinking function, I can’t understand something until I put a name on it. Until I could articulate that my husband thinks in terms of “concepts,” while I think in terms of “names,” I had a devil of a time comprehending his aversion to calling things by the same words everyone else uses. Now, I can enjoy his innovative use of language—for instance, calling the wisteria bush “the hysterical bush” because it grows out of control. The name fits the concept.

Wondering whether your thinking function is introverted or extraverted? FJ and TP types have introverted thinking, while FP and TJ and types have extraverted thinking.

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8 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? Introverted vs. Extraverted Thinking

  1. INTJ and INFJ? You two must have quite a relationship! 🙂

    I wouldn’t say introverted thinking is about putting things in boxes – it’s more about criteria for classification. It worries about the way that a classification impacts other classifications. For example, if you say Lowe’s is a ‘lumber store’ does that mean Home Depot is, too? What about Walmart? They sell some of the same stuff. As Jung says, introverted thinking is all ‘I think therefore I think,’ whereas extraverted thinking is more ‘It is therefore it is.’


    1. Thanks for the comment. Love the Jung quote!

      I think what you’re saying is true for types with introverted thinking in the dominant or auxiliary position. As an INFJ, with introverted thinking in the tertiary position, I’m happy to put things in boxes so I don’t have to think about them anymore. I’d rather spend my time using my dominant introverted intuition and my auxiliary extraverted feeling. So while thinking types with introverted thinking may be preoccupied with criteria for classification and how one classification affects another, I don’t think that’s true of feeling types. We’ll revisit the classifications in response to new information, but it’s not our favorite thing to do.

  2. Andrea, this was a great example of distinguishing Ti from Te. It also should be noted that your Ti is an auxiliary no different than your Fe, and vice versa for hubby. Contrary to the Myers & Briggs theory, ones introverting auxiliary can be developed equally to the extraverting auxiliary.

    What I would like to mention is that based on my experience and understanding, your hubby does not miss information because of his Te. He misses it because of his Ni dominance. Although you both use Ni to dominate, it appears you have developed your Ti as well. In this case, neither your Fe or his Te played a part in this dialogue.

  3. As an INFJ female myself, I am just like your husband and don’t remember names either! I can imagine myself saying the exact same thing your husband did in this quote. Perhaps Funtiananalyst is right that you have a more developed Ti.

    1. It’s true that dominant Ni plays a strong role in this anecdote, and Ni inherently doesn’t care about details like names. The key concept for Ti is classification—that is, what makes things the same, and what makes them different. A name is one way of articulating uniqueness, and thereby understanding it. That’s what Ti feels driven toward. You could say that Te is a top-down approach (as intuition is), while Ti is a bottom-up approach (as sensing is). So my husband’s Te reinforces his Ni in this case, while my Ti tempers my Ni.

  4. This is fascinating. Thank you for sharing! Until I read this, I hadn’t truly realised the emphasise I put on names of things, rather than their intial concepts.

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