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Taking Personality Type Beyond Your Preferences

Taking Personality Type Beyond Your Preferences

By Donna Dunning

Preferred Personality Type Functions

Knowing your four-letter personality type code helps you understand how you prefer to approach life and work. The two middle letters of your code, called functions, work together when you process information and make decisions. The way your preferences work together is called type dynamics.

If you want to know more about how your preferred functions work together, I discuss this in blogs on dominant and auxiliary functions.

It is helpful to understand how you do your best work, but you can’t use your preferred approaches all of the time.

Non-Preferred Personality Type Functions

A well-developed person uses all four of the personality type functions to deal with their circumstances. For example, if your preferences are NF, it is valuable to attend to facts and details (S) in order to make a realistic appraisal of how you can implement your many ideas (N). Analyzing situations by processing the logical implications and consequences of decisions (T) as well as the personal implications for the people involved (F) will help you make better choices.

Type dynamics describes how you tend to use your non-preferred functions, the two middle letters not in your four-letter type code. For example, if you prefer Intuition and Feeling (NF), your non-preferred functions are Sensing and Thinking (ST). Paying attention to and developing the non-preferred parts of your personality type helps you adapt to and thrive in a variety of situations.

Inferior function

Of your two non-preferred functions, one tends to be least developed. Personality type theory calls this the Inferior Function. This is the function opposite to your core, or dominant approach. For example, if your dominant function is Introverted Feeling (Fi) your inferior function is Extraverted Thinking (Te). The inferior function can appear as a blind spot, developmental opportunity, or may appear in a childlike, immature form during times of stress. With effort, you can learn to use your inferior function when you need it.

Tertiary function

The other non-preferred function is called the tertiary (being in third place) and is in the same preference pair as your auxiliary. For example, if your auxiliary is Intuition (either Ne or Ni), your tertiary is Sensing.

The tertiary function is usually the third function to develop. Like the inferior function, it can also be a source of blind spots and developmental opportunities. The tertiary function can also play a role in recreation and leisure activities as using it provides an opportunity to move outside of your typical way of approaching situations.

Good Type Development

A well-developed person will have a trusted, well-used core approach they prefer to use (dominant function). This core way of living and working is supported with a secondary approach (auxiliary function). Together these approaches provide a preferred strategy for taking in information and making decisions.

As a person matures they begin to recognize the importance of using non-preferred aspects of their personality. They learn to use these non-preferred sides (tertiary and inferior functions) of the preference pairs consciously to help them see situations from multiple perspectives.

Use of these non-preferred preferences is not meant to replace or equal the core way of living and working; rather these non-preferred aspects of personality are used to expand an individual’s repertoire of considerations and responses.

How do you use the non-preferred parts of your personality?

As you continue to learn and adapt to your circumstances it is beneficial to consider how you are using and developing your personality type. Understanding these aspects of personality type help you see how preferences interact (type dynamics) and how preferences typically are used and developed (type development).

Everyone has a unique life story and experiences different pressures and circumstances affecting how they use and develop preferred and non-preferred parts of their personality.

Food for Thought

Have you developed a trusted core and balancing approach to work and life? Are you using these in the work you do?

Think about how people have responded to you and the feedback you have been given. Can you start to see blind spots or developmental opportunities that link to your overuse of preferred functions or lack of use of non-preferred functions?

Are the non-preferred aspects of your personality getting in your way? Do you need to learn to use these functions more?

My next blogs will discuss developmental pathways for different types.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 at 9:51 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Taking Personality Type Beyond Your Preferences”

  1. Paul says:

    When I read the sentence about the tertiary function being involved in recreation and leisure activities I realized that this is why I have found hiking in the woods so interesting. Without other distractions I can focus on the sensing and enjoy a different kind of experience. (INFP)

  2. JeniRae says:

    Wonderful article, Donna. I was waiting for this one!

    Excellent point about the non-preferred functions and the roles they play in the stress-response. I enjoy the application of Type in Stress Management, and I actually attended a workshop a few months ago about Type and Stress presented by Michael Segovia. He presented the Stress Response in a very interesting manner. While the initial stress-response results in a caricatured over-use of the Dominant cognitive process (to the exclusion of a balancing Auxiliary process), if the stress becomes prolonged, the Inferior function takes over AS THOUGHT IN AN “EMERGENCY” EFFORT TO RESTORE A SENSE OF BALANCE TO THE PSYCHE. The results are behaviour that is out-of-character.

    Naomi Quenk coined the term “In the Grip” in her popular book “Beside Ourselves.” She also states that many of us have experienced this “other” side of our personalities when under stress,. The question is, now that we recognize and have experienced this “grip” of our Inferior process, how to we manage it? In his presentation, Segovia suggested embracing and engaging this inferior process in a constructive manner in order to guide us back to our Dominant.

    Perhaps this explains why, when I become stressed by my over-active mind, I find it quite relaxing to go through old photo-albums, or look at other mementos of the past. These are things that would exercise my Si in a positive manner. Sometimes, I even find inspiration in the exploration of these past experiences, and discover that they help me “hatch” a fantastic new idea!

    ~~ J.R. // Ne Ti

  3. CT says:

    I learned something new from this article. Hi Donna, how did you realise that “tertiary function can also play a role in recreation and leisure activities “?
    I think this is accurate. My wife and I have each other’s Dominant function as Tertiary function. Now I know why we are good travelling partner to each other despite we argue on almost anything outside leisure time. 🙂

  4. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi CT, Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure exactly where I learned about the tertiary and recreation. Jean Kummerow mentioned it over a decade ago when she was training me to run the MBTI (R) certifying workshops. An older book I read years ago by Judith Provost called Work, Play, and Type does talk about how it is easier to develop the tertiary in play. Anyone out there have more recent references on this?

  5. Arlene Richter says:

    Hi Donna, I recently discovered your blog, and like it very much. I’m wondering if you could address the following topic. I’m preparing a workshop on this, and though there is much to read about the functions, and about their development, I can’t find a good group exercise that illustrates, or discussion about – how the auxiliary function can be more helpful, i.e. as a servant, not a slave to, the dominant function. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  6. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi Arlene,

    Sounds like an interesting workshop. After describing the dominant and auxiliary, I sometimes simply get people to work in pairs discussing how their dominant and auxiliary work together. Isabel Myers talked about having a dominant Perceiving function without a developed Judging auxiliary as a boat without a rudder and a dominant Judging function without a developed Perceiving function as all form and no substance. I do have a post on how the dominant and auxiliary work together for people who prefer Introversion. People also use metaphors.. a general and aide, a captain and first mate… to show the complementary relationships. Good luck with your workshop.

  7. Prescilla says:

    Hello, Donna! Thank you so much for all the articles you have made available for us. It was only through them that I could understand about dominant and auxiliary functions. If it isn’t too much trouble I would like to know, please, how do one uses feeling in the activities on the down time? I am an ISTJ and am having trouble figuring out myself. Thank you!

  8. Donna Dunning says:

    Hello Prescilla, Thanks for your comment. You used your Feeling function when you posted… thanking me for my work, asking me politely for some information, and then thanking me again. These words build appreciation and connections. Often women are encouraged early in life to use their Feeling function. Actions such as inquiring about how people are doing or feeling, offering appreciation, looking for win/win solutions to problems, or being thoughtful about what others want or need are all ways to exhibit Feeling. Down time use of Feeling, for someone who prefers ISTJ, would likely be spending time sharing experiences or personal thoughts and feelings with a close friend or reflecting about who is important to you and how to best connect with them.

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