When someone’s looking for their Myers-Briggs® type I usually suggest they take several different tests and compare results. But what happens when you get different results, say, INTJ in one test and ENTJ on another? Or maybe you take the tests a couple months apart and get different answers, or start reading about the different types and discover more than one that sounds a lot like you.
If you’re trying to decide whether you’re an INTJ or an ENTJ, I hope this article will help. Just looking at the names of these personality types, we might think the only difference is that one is more extroverted than the other. That’s only party true, though. When we dive deeper into the cognitive functions that describe the mental processes each Myers-Briggs® type uses, it gets easier to see the differences and similarities between these two types more clearly.
If you’re not familiar with cognitive functions, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.” INTJ and ENTJs both use the same cognitive functions. They just use them in a different order of preference, as shown in this graphic:
The way these cognitive functions work together makes ENTJs and INTJs very different in certain ways and very similar in others. Thankfully for those wanting to figure out which of these two types they are, several key differences in how INTJs and ENTJs learn information and approach the world make it possible for us to tell these types apart.
How you see your world
INTJs and ENTJs lead with different functions and those functions have different orientations. INTJs, who lead with an introverted function, are oriented to the inner world as the one that’s most real. For ENTJs, who lead with an extroverted function, it’s the outer world that captures the bulk of their attention.
- If you’re an INTJ, you find spending time in the inner world energizing. You tend to approach life from a thoughtful, introspective place. In the words of Isabel Myers, introverts, “Cannot live life until they understand it.” You make sense of the outer world by first looking inside yourself.
- If you’re an ENTJ, you find energy from spending time in the outer world. You tend to approach life from a more open, experience-focused place. As Isabel Myers said, extroverts, “Cannot understand life until they have lived it.” You make sense of the inner world by first looking outside yourself. (Note that ENTJs are considered one of the most “introverted” extroverts, so even if you don’t see very strong extroverted tendencies in yourself you might still be an ENTJ.)
How you use Judging and Perceiving
The J/P preference in Myers-Briggs describes how someone relates to the outer world. This means your introvert-extrovert preference influences whether you lead with your Judging function (in this case Thinking) or your Perceiving function (in this case Intuition). Because both INTJ and ENTJ are J-types, they prefer order in their outer world. However, since INTJs lead with Introverted Intuition and it is a perceiving function, INTJs are actually a dominant perceiving type. ENTJs lead with Extroverted Thinking and are a dominant judging type.
- If you’re an INTJ, you’ll typically find that your Intuitive side is the one that feels most comfortable. Pattern-recognition, big-picture thinking, and seeing things from multiple perspectives come naturally to you. You probably place a higher value on experiencing and understanding life than on controlling it. This will mostly take place inside your head and you might not feel comfortable sharing intuitive insights.
- If you’re an ENTJ, you’ll typically find that your Thinking side is the one that is most comfortable. Impersonal criteria matter the most when you’re making decisions and you prefer dealing with things that can be measured, managed, and improved. You probably place a higher value on having things settled and decided than on experiencing life as it happens.
Your co-pilot’s influence
INTJs and ENTJs share the two functions they use most comfortably. The only difference is which function is your preferred process and which one you use as the co-pilot. We’ve already looked at dominant functions, so now it’s time for the co-pilot.
- If you’re an INTJ, you support your Intuition with a Thinking side that helps you relate to the outer world and made decisions. You probably notice it most when weighing impersonal criteria for decision-making, working with facts and data, or finding ways to explain your thought processes to other people. It’s not your most comfortable process, but you can get really good at using Extroverted Thinking if you take the time to grow and develop it.
- If you’re an ENTJ, you support your Thinking with an Intuitive side that helps you understand the inner world. You probably notice it most when you’re learning and processing information, because it helps you put patterns together and look at something from a new perspective. It’s not your most comfortable process, but you can get really good at using Introverted Intuition if you take the time to grow and develop it.
What happens when you “loop”
Our co-pilot process is not oriented the same way as our primary process (i.e. it’s extroverted for introverts and introverted for extroverts). Because we tend to be more comfortable with processes that work in our preferred world we often bypass our co-pilot process and try to use our tertiary process instead. This is called a “loop.” Here’s what it looks like for INTJs and ENTJs:
- If you’re an INTJ, you have Introverted Intuition as your primary function and Introverted Feeling as your tertiary. When you get into a “loop,” you become more preoccupied with your personal values system. You might even find yourself making decisions based on your emotions. If you spend too much time in this loop you may loose touch with your more logical side. This can lead to becoming withdrawn, self-righteous, and hypercritical of other’s values and beliefs.
- If you’re an ENTJ, you have Extroverted Thinking as your primary function and Extroverted Sensing as your tertiary. When you get into a “loop,”you may find yourself caught-up in outer world experiences and easily distracted by irrelevant details in the outer world. If you spend too much time in the loop, you might become impulsive, overly self-indulgent, and distracted from your long-term goals. You might also grow more preoccupied with how other people see you.
How you are under stress
When people are trying to find their best-fit personality type, they often focus on figuring out which cognitive function they’re most comfortable with. But the functions that you don’t use as well can also give us clues about what personality type we are. The inferior function (the lowest on a four-function stack) typically shows up when we’re stressed. You might also use it to take a break and relax, and it often shows up in our favorite hobbies.
- If you’re an INTJ, stress can bring out your inferior Extroverted Sensing. When stressed-out, you can become obsessively focused on external data, overindulge in sensory pleasures (food, drink, shopping, etc), and develop a suspicious, hostile attitude toward the outer world. You can also use this function in a healthy way, and you might find that you enjoy activities that require sensory engagement (like cooking, hiking, or painting).
- If you’re an ENTJ, stress can bring out your inferior Introverted Feeling. When stressed-out, you can become hypersensitivity to inner states, find yourself prone to outbursts of emotion, and at the same time be afraid of feeling. You can also use this function in a healthy way, and you might find that you enjoy activities that let you connect with a community of people and contribute in ways that express your authentic values.
One last thing …
As a final note, I want to point out that there is plenty of room for individual variation within a type. Myers-Briggs® simply describes how your mind works. It doesn’t tell you everything about yourself. You’ll often find elements of yourself in several type descriptions. Similarly, not every description for a specific type will fit you exactly. You’re looking for your “best fit” personality type rather than one that’s exactly perfect.
What do you think? Did this article help you narrow-down which personality type you are? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Featured image credit: Robin Higgins via Pixabay