The “N” in INFJ and INTJ stands for iNtuition. This means that these two rare personality types gather and process information primarily using an Intuitive style rather than a Sensing style. Specially, these personalities use a form of Intuition called Introverted Intuition (Ni). In this article, I’ll explain the differences between Intuition and Sensing and explore how INFJs and INTJs use Ni.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
Intuition vs. Sensing
Intuitives pay attention to the patterns and possibilities they see in the information they receive. They’re always looking for the meaning behind information, beyond just the concrete facts. They enjoy learning new things and pondering what might be possible, so they think more about the future than the past. They like to work with symbols and abstract theories, even before they know how they will use them. Intuitives may remember an event more as an impression of what it was like rather than the actual details of what happened.
According to Charles R. Martin, author of Looking at Type: The Fundamentals, you are likely an Intuitive if the following statements generally apply to you:
- I remember events by what I read “between the lines” about their meaning.
- I solve problems by leaping between different ideas and possibilities.
- I am interested in doing things that are new and different.
- I like to see the big picture, then to find out the facts.
- I trust impressions, symbols, and metaphors more than what I actually experienced.
- Sometimes I think so much about new possibilities that I never look at how to make them a reality.
Sensors, on the other hand, are personality types that have an “S” as their second letter, such as the ISFJ, ESTP, etc. Sensors pay more attention to information they gather using their five senses—what they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. They’re more concerned with what is present, current, and real. Sensors notice facts and details that are important to them. For example, your Sensing friend may accurately remember what you ordered at a restaurant the last time the two of you were there, over 6 months ago. Sensors see the practical use of things and learn best when they see how to use what they’ve learned. Their motto is, “Experience speaks louder than words.”
Again according to Charles R. Martin, you are likely a Sensor if these statements generally apply to you:
- I remember events as snapshots of what actually happened.
- I solve problems by working through facts until I understand the problem.
- I am pragmatic and look to the “bottom line.”
- I start with facts and then form a big picture.
- I trust experience first and trust words and symbols less.
- Sometimes I pay so much attention to facts, either present or past, that I miss new possibilities.
Of course, every personality type spends some time Sensing and some time using Intuition. If we purely did one or the other, we wouldn’t be able to function in the world.
The ‘Magic’ of Ni
As the first function in the INJ’s cognitive stack, Ni is the main lens through which INFJs and INTJs view the world. Ni is always working in the background of the INJ’s mind, noticing patterns and analyzing their meanings. It often results in “eureka!” moments, in which ideas pop into the INJ’s mind seemingly out of the blue.
As an INFJ, I’ve had plenty of “eureka!” moments. While doing the dishes or taking a walk, a truth about human nature will suddenly dawn on me. These realizations feel extremely profound. Other times, I’ve suddenly “heard” in my mind the next line of a poem or story I’m writing.
Because of moments like these, Ni seems almost magical. INJs may feel like they know things without knowing how or why. However, Ni can be understood in a rational way, as Dr. A.J. Drenth of Personality Junkie explains:
“What seems to be occurring is that many INJs have a highly sensitive inferior function, Extraverted Sensation (Se), which gathers copious amounts of sensory information from the outside world, including subtleties that other personality types tend to miss. Their Ni then subconsciously processes this data in order to make sense of it, like assembling pieces of a puzzle. Once finished, Ni generates an impression that seems to come out of ‘nowhere.’”
A Vision of the Future
At times, INJs may feel like psychics or prophets. At the very least, they’re often biting their tongues to avoid telling others, “I told you so.” This is because Ni is the most forward-looking of all the cognitive functions. It is wholistic in its approach and sees the big picture. Ni does an incredible job observing patterns on a large scale. INFJs keenly observe patterns related to human behavior while INTJs observe patterns related to systems. As a result, INJs often feel like they are getting a sneak peak of what’s to come, or at least a vision of a possible future.
But it’s not enough for INJs to just entertain their hunches and visions. Once they have received their “eureka!” moment, INJs work to make it a reality. According to Dr. Drenth, this is when their auxiliary function (Extroverted Feeling for INFJs and Extroverted Thinking for INTJs) enters the picture. INTJs might create a detailed framework of their proposed solution, including its parts and processes. INFJs may choose a more metaphorical or narrative approach, using analogies, word pictures, or stories to illustrate their insights.
The Visual Nature of Ni
Ni tends to have a strong visual element to it. Many INJs think in images rather than in words. Their Intuition may manifest in the form of symbols, dreams, or patterns. For this reason, Carl Jung characterized INJs as dreamers and seers. And indeed, Ni types are often lauded for their insight and vision.
The visual nature of Ni makes INJs highly sensitive to beauty, whether it’s aesthetic, metaphorical, linguistic, or otherwise. French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre is believed to have been an INTJ. He once confessed, “I’m only a desire for beauty.”
Interestingly, many INJs value aesthetics just as much as their typological opposites, ESFPs and ESTPs. This is because INJs and ESPs both use Se. The difference is that INJs use Se unconsciously, whereas ESPs use it consciously. For this reason, INJs often feel the need to ensconce themselves in beautiful surroundings. For example, they may relish staying in a 5-star hotel, decorating their home exquisitely, or dining in a sophisticated restaurant. Likewise, they have very refined tastes, and may be avid collectors of art or patrons of high culture.
This can present a problem for INJs, who see themselves as otherworldly or highly spiritual. They may feel like they should be living a simple life, unencumbered by the trappings of a materialistic society. In an attempt to reconcile their opposing desires, INJs may go to extremes. They may give themselves completely over to Se, trying to attain aesthetic perfection in their surroundings, in they way they look/dress, etc. Or they may completely shun worldly goods, like one INTJ I know, who sold almost everything he owned and now lives out of a suitcase.
Ni can be a powerful tool. It can create elegantly simple solutions to complex problems, or can be the catalyst of incredible creativity. It’s no wonder INJs earn the reputation for being wise, profound, and insightful.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an INFJ
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