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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Incubating Your Fiction Ideas

Do introverted writers have an advantage over extraverts when it comes to developing story ideas?

In her classic book Becoming a Writer, author Dorothea Brande admonishes writers against discussing their story ideas with others:

Your unconscious self … will not care whether the words you use are written down or talked to the world at large. If you are for the moment fortunate enough to have a responsive audience you often suffer for it later. You will have created your story and … will find yourself disinclined to go on with the laborious process of writing that story at full length; unconsciously, you will consider it as already done.

Most introverts should have little trouble following this advice. During early drafts, they like to work in isolation. But extraverts prefer to develop their ideas through talking about them with others. So how can extraverts follow their preference without killing their passion for the story?


Neuroimaging studies suggest that introverts are more likely than extraverts to engage in self-talk. When developing a story, try talking to yourself, whether out loud or inside your head. Take notes of the conversation you have with yourself. Get your ideas on paper—don’t let them vanish into the ether.
Continue reading “Incubating Your Fiction Ideas”

Personality and Change Management

The recent Nova series “Becoming Human” on PBS showed that the species Homo sapiens is well adapted to environments that require change. This adaptability is a defining characteristic—it’s one reason we were able to out-compete other species of humans (such as Neanderthals) and drive them to extinction.

Given our evolutionary history, why do we find workplace change so difficult? Margaret Wheatley explains it this way: “People do not resist change – people change all the time. What people resist is having others impose change on them.”

In the webinar “Leveraging Personality Types in Agile Software Delivery,” Ravi Verma of SmoothApps explored how we can use knowledge of personality type to more successfully effect change (such as introducing the Agile software development process) in organizations. Using the book Introduction to Type and Change as a source, Verma offered the following insights:
Continue reading “Personality and Change Management”

What does your writing say about you?

magnifying glassI got a hit on my blog based on the search, “Do you think it is appropriate for people to be judged based on their writing?” It’s a great question from a philosophical standpoint. But it may be an even better question from a technical perspective. What does your writing say about you?

Magazines make it seem so simple. Tell them your favorite dessert or 90s rock band, and they’ll tell you what sort of person you are. Maybe there will be some science behind it. Maybe the descriptions will be just general enough to have a sliver of truth that applies to everyone. But writing is more complex and personal. It should be a better indicator of personality, right?

The short answer is, probably not. Students and beginning writers don’t have the skills to control their message. Their work lacks subtlety and nuance. As a result, their expressions may sound much stronger on the page than they intend—stronger, in fact, than the writer feels. Newbies also have little understanding of audience reaction, so their prose can elicit a negative response that they never expected. And by definition, they’re still learning grammar, usage, style, and form. Mistakes are natural, and not a good indicator of potential.

Intermediate writers have a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses. They understand audience reaction, but they haven’t yet mastered all the skills needed to create the desired effect. They may overcompensate—for instance, by adding too much sensory detail because they naturally tend toward the abstract. And in areas where they excel, their writing is polished to suit the purpose of their prose. It may sound natural, but chances are, they crafted it to sound that way.

Experienced writers may adopt a persona in their writing. They may appear to reveal private details about themselves or their mindset, when in fact they’re using practiced techniques to create an impression or to manipulate audience reaction. They may play devil’s advocate. They may use irony or satire. They may express an opinion that’s the opposite of their own because someone’s paying them to do it. (After all, writers have to eat.) They may be writing according to the requirements of a particular genre that doesn’t allow them to reveal their true self. Or maybe they’re private people who don’t want to reveal their true self.

Writing is controlled communication. It’s impossible to tell which elements of a written work express the writer’s personality; which are the product of craft; and which are artifacts of the writing process. To judge someone based on their writing is misguided at best. The purpose of writing isn’t self-revelation. The purpose is to transfer knowledge from the writer to the reader. And in that space between writer and reader are truths and falsehoods that neither could have imagined on their own.

Energy to Write: Extraversion vs. Introversion

cafeIn my last three posts, I examined how the Judging/Perceiving, Thinking/Feeling, and Sensing/Intuition dimensions of personality affect our mental energy when we approach a writing project. In this post, I look at the Extraversion/Introversion dimension. This scale measures whether we’re oriented inwardly or outwardly. In a writing project, it affects the environment we prefer to write in.

Extraverts gain energy from the outside world of people, objects, and events. They develop their ideas by talking with others. Extraverts tend to enjoy active and even noisy environments. They prefer to jump into the writing project and experiment with different approaches. They might use a conversational style during their first draft, which they may need to modify as appropriate for the subject matter. During revision, they require a quiet environment so they can focus on the task without distraction.

Introverts gain energy from the internal world of thoughts, concepts, and reactions. They prefer to begin a project by contemplating their ideas in a quiet environment. While conducting research, they may pause often to consider how the material relates to their project. They will likely jot down ideas and construct a rough outline in their head before they begin the first draft. Introverts are generally able to concentrate deeply and block out distractions. However, they don’t like interruptions when they’re lost in thought, so they work best in an isolated spot. During revision, introverts should seek feedback from a peer to ensure that what’s on paper (or the computer screen) accurately reflects what’s in their head.

Image courtesy of trublueboy.


The Art of Dialogue by Carolyn Zeisset
Writing and Personality by John K. DiTiberio and George H. Jensen

Related posts:

Energy to Write: Judgment vs. Perception
Energy to Write: Thinking vs. Feeling
Energy to Write: Sensing vs. Intuition

Energy to Write: Sensing vs. Intuition

jigsaw puzzle autumn treeIn my last two posts, I examined how the Judging/Perceiving and Thinking/Feeling dimensions of personality affect our mental energy when we approach a writing project. In this post, I look at the Sensation/Intuition dimension. This scale measures how we gather information. In a writing project, it affects what content we prefer to present.

Sensing types are motivated to write by a desire to report information that serves a practical purpose. They want a specific writing goal and a clear path to achieving it. They follow approaches that have worked well in the past, building on existing knowledge. They tend to move in a linear way from start to finish. They try to present details accurately and focus on the practical aspects of the topic. They’re straightforward and action-oriented. During revision, sensing types should ensure that they’ve provided context and a unifying theme to tie the details together.

Intuitive types are motivated to write by a desire to express new insights. They want a general idea of the project goals so they can plan their own approach. They try to bring a unique angle to each project. They tend to jump around as they write, letting one idea suggest another. They’re more interested in how the facts interrelate than they are in the facts themselves. They enjoy complexity and abstract theories. During revision, intuitive types should ensure that they give enough specific details to ground their work in reality.

In an upcoming post, I’ll explore how the Extraversion/Introversion dimension of personality affects our energy to write.

Image courtesy of chadou99.


The Art of Dialogue by Carolyn Zeisset
Writing and Personality by John K. DiTiberio and George H. Jensen

Related posts:

Energy to Write: Extraversion vs. Introversion 
Energy to Write: Judgment vs. Perception
Energy to Write: Thinking vs. Feeling

Energy to Write: Thinking vs. Feeling

contemplative loversIn a previous post, I examined how the Judging/Perceiving dimension of personality affects our mental energy when we approach a writing project. In this post, I look at the Thinking/Feeling dimension. This scale measures the criteria we use to make decisions. In a writing project, it affects how we prefer to present the content.

Thinking types are motivated by a desire for clarity. They excel at relating factual information. They take the role of dispassionate observer and make their points through a logical unfolding of ideas. Thinking types focus on content and organization. With a systematic approach, they use critical analysis to dispel misconceptions and present new material. During revision, thinking types should ensure that they provide enough background material and explain why the subject is relevant to the reader.

Feeling types are motivated by a desire to connect with others. They excel at using writing to forge relationships. Feeling types look for a way to personally invest themselves in their subject. They include anecdotes to illustrate their points. They focus on expression and a sense of flow. With audience needs foremost in their mind, feeling types soften their arguments to create a sense of unity. During revision, feeling types should ensure accuracy and add facts to support their perspective.


The Art of Dialogue by Carolyn Zeisset
Writing and Personality by John K. DiTiberio and George H. Jensen

Related posts:

Energy to Write: Extraversion vs. Introversion 
Energy to Write: Judgment vs. Perception
Energy to Write: Sensing vs. Intuition

Energy to Write: Judgment vs. Perception

black and whiteAs with all creative exercises, a writing project requires sustained mental energy to take it to conclusion. Different personality types derive their energy in different ways. The Judging/Perceiving dimension of personality measures whether a person prefers closure or open-endedness. This affects how we approach a project at all stages, and what factors drive us toward completion.

Judging types like to begin a new project right away. This helps them develop a feel for the scope of the project and how long it’s going to take. Judging types don’t like surprises, and they want to be sure they have enough time to finish a project before the deadline. They determine what resources are needed and what steps are involved. They develop a primary plan and a contingency plan. They pad the schedule to prepare for the unexpected. They set milestones—and completing each of those intermediate tasks gives them energy that propels them forward. As the deadline approaches, though, their enthusiasm for the project may wane. All of that preparation and scheduling is draining, and they just want the thing over with. So with focused determination, they tie up the loose ends, send the project off, and forget about it.

Perceiving types may wait to start a new project, focusing instead on more urgent work already in progress. They like to spend time mulling over the project before they begin, and they generally devise a schedule by working backward from the deadline. Since they enjoy improvising and tend to be good at it, they often don’t create backup plans. They trust that everything will work itself out. Energized by new ideas, they enjoy research and may delay writing until they feel they’ve thoroughly explored the possibilities. Once they’ve gathered enough information, they begin to see the pieces fall into place. The deadline gives them energy to push toward the finish line. Without a deadline, they may lack motivation to complete a project. Conversely, some may continue tinkering with a project even after they’ve turned it in.

Image courtesy of sue_r_b.


The Art of Dialogue by Carolyn Zeisset
Writing and Personality by John K. DiTiberio and George H. Jensen

Related posts:

Energy to Write: Extraversion vs. Introversion 
Energy to Write: Thinking vs. Feeling
Energy to Write: Sensing vs. Intuition

From Data to Knowledge: The Value of Psychological Type

BeakersAssessments of psychological type, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument, rely on self-reporting rather than clinical observation. Respondents answer a series of questions, and based on their answers, receive a report of what their likely personality type is. In fact, one of the MBTI ethical principles is that only the respondents are qualified to determine which type best fits them. The role of the MBTI practitioner is to guide them through the process.

What, then, is the value of psychological type? If you’re just relating things you already know about yourself, how are you learning anything?

To answer this question, it’s useful to consider the knowledge pyramid model. One version of this model proposes three different levels of understanding: data, information, and knowledge. The answers to the questions on the MBTI assessment are at the lowest level—data. But data, on its own, isn’t meaningful. It doesn’t contribute to knowledge until it’s combined and organized with other data, so that context and patterns emerge.
Continue reading “From Data to Knowledge: The Value of Psychological Type”

Navigating Your Blind Spots, Part 3: Introverts

In my last post, I discussed how the natural blind spots of extraverts can create conflict on teams. Here, I explore the blind spots of introverts based on the dominant function of their Myers-Briggs personality type.

Introverted thinking (INTP/ISTP) values knowledge. Dominant introverted thinking expects people to focus on objective data when making decisions. It views personal considerations as illogical and unpredictable, and therefore not a sound basis for reaching conclusions.

Introverted thinking types naturally assume
that logic-based insights can stand on their own, requiring no explanation or defense. By looking beyond this assumption, Continue reading “Navigating Your Blind Spots, Part 3: Introverts”