The four letters of each Myers-Briggs personality type only scratch the surface of fully understanding how each type’s mind works. These letters carry with them a set of eight cognitive functions which exist in a particular order. The cognitive functions are the blueprint of what makes each Myers-Briggs personality type. Every person has eight functions divided into four primary functions and four shadow functions. The order of the functions can tell you a lot about how a type’s brain works, particularly how they receive, process and deliver information.
Let us first look at the four primary functions of an INFJ. The first, or dominant, function of an INFJ is introverted iNtuition (Ni). The Ni function is the biggest part of what makes INFJs so unique. It essentially means that they have an amazing ability to think more abstractly, globally, thoroughly and complexly. This allows the INFJ to easily see and understand things in the past, present and future that others may struggle to comprehend.
Being the dominant function, an INFJ’s Ni process comes naturally to their line of thinking, often used consciously and thoroughly, an almost always in a positive way. The aspects of their lives that seem to come easily or in which they excel are usually rooted in their dominant function.
The secondary, or auxiliary, function of an INFJ is extroverted Feeling (Fe). The Fe function is what makes INFJs eager to please those around them. While their sense of self is wrapped up in their intuition, their sense of others runs mainly on a desire to connect with them through feelings. Extroverted Feelers tend to act in ways that make others feel comfortable and pleased, mainly through warmth, graces and good manners.
The auxiliary function is usually well-developed early on in life and works strongly in conjunction with the dominant function. These combined processes lead the INFJ to be people-oriented on a global level, causing them to take on quite a bit of personal responsibility for those around them.
The third function of an INFJ is introverted Thinking (Ti). This process is rooted an analyzing, internal reasoning and categorizing. While the dominant and auxiliary functions come naturally, the third function usually remains poorly developed until later on in life, exhibiting itself as a weak or negative point in one’s thinking. Because of this, younger INFJs are more likely to struggle with internal logic, leaving them more controlled by their Ni and Fe functions.
The fourth INFJ function is extroverted Sensing (Se). There is some debate on how personalities use their fourth functions. Some think, just as the third function, that it remains poorly developed until one ages. Others believe that it is fully develop and accessed on a subconscious level from a ripe age, leaving it working in pristine fashion without conscious knowledge.
While we cannot be sure which theory is accurate, one thing that most agree on is that consciously, the fourth function seems to be very weak and exhibits more negative traits of our behavior. Because of this, the INFJ is less apt be actively aware of or interested in the physical world around them.
These four primary functions make up the majority of who each individual is on a day to day basis. With the knowledge of one’s primary functions, it becomes easier to understand and, in some cases even predict, one’s actions in any given situation.
The shadow functions are the weakest cognitive processes, usually working subconsciously without much thought from the individual. Due to the lack of development of the shadow functions, when they do become conscious, they tend to exhibit negative characteristics or “dark sides” of our personality. To try to use these functions on a conscious level can be mentally taxing, just like working out a weak muscle.
The fifth through eight functions of an INFJ, in order, are:
• extroverted iNtuition (Ne) – interpreting hidden meanings, brainstorming ideas and interweaving small details to form a larger picture.
• introverted Feeling (Fi) – weighing information against a core belief system and assigning value and significance to all things.
• extroverted Thinking (Te) – organizing, sequencing and planning ideas and environments based on logic and facts.
• introverted Sensing (Si) – Storing and retrieving detailed facts and weighing them against current situations.
Knowing the full functional stack of any personality type can begin to tell you quite a bit about how they think and act. It is the first and most important step in understanding yourself. Once you know about the functions, you can better look at your behaviors, strengths and weaknesses and understand how to achieve a healthier balance and way of thinking.