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Understanding Type Dynamics: Dominant Functions

Understanding Type Dynamics: Dominant Functions

By Donna Dunning

Those who know personality type well tend to communicate using jargon. They talk about dominant introverted intuition or extraverted thinking. To a person new to type, these terms are confusing.

My goal in this post is to simplify these ideas so that people can understand more about type dynamics. Type dynamics are about how you prefer to use the two middle letters of your four-letter code and how your four preferences interact to form one of 16 unique personality type combinations.

Knowledge of dynamics is important because personality type is not just about your four preferences; it is about understanding how you use these preferences together.

The Building Blocks

The two middle letters of your personality type, ST, SF, NT, or NF describe how you prefer to take in and evaluate information.

S and N (Sensing and Intuition) are called the Perceiving functions. One of these letters describes the kind of information you prefer to pay attention to first and most often. See the What’s Your Preference-Sensing or Intuition? post for more information on this pair of preferences.

T and F (Thinking and Feeling) are called the Judging functions. One of these letters describes how you prefer to evaluate information and make choices. See the What’s Your Preference-Thinking or Feeling? post for more information on this pair of preferences.

We use our functions in the inner or outer world

You show the world (you extravert) one of your middle type code letters and use the other middle letter privately (it is introverted). This provides balance when you are taking in information and deciding.

Isabel Myers cleverly created the fourth letter of the code (J or P) as a signpost pointing to which function you show to the world. Those who prefer J show the world their decisive side or Judging function (T or F). Those who prefer P show the world their open-ended information gathering or Perceiving function (S or N).

Personality type uses a small letter e or i beside the function to show if it is extraverted or introverted. It doesn’t matter if the first letter of your personality type code is Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I), everyone extraverts (e) and introverts (i) one of their functions.

If you prefer Judging (J)

If the last letter of your code is J, you tend to show the world (extravert) Thinking (Te) or Feeling (Fe).

If you extravert T (Te) or F (Fe) you introvert S (Si) or N (Ni).

If you prefer Perceiving (P)

If the last letter of your code is P, you tend to show the world (extravert) Sensing (Se) or Intuition (Ne).

If you extravert S (Se) or N (Ne), you introvert T (Ti) or F (Fi).

So which one is my dominant function?

One of the two middle letters in your code will represent your most preferred approach to situations. You can think of this letter as standing for what is a core, or key, component of who you are and how you prefer to approach situations. Usually people trust and rely on this preferred approach. Type theory calls this letter your dominant function.

If you have a preference for Extraversion (E is the first letter of your code), what you extravert is your dominant function. When you extravert your dominant function, others see you use it.

If you prefer Introversion (I is the first letter of your code), what you introvert is your dominant function. When you use your dominant function in the inner world, it will be mainly your private guide. Others won’t usually see you use it.

There are 8 possible dominant functions. To avoid using personality type jargon, I have developed a system to refer to and describe type dynamics using names for these 8 patterns.

The 8 Dominant Functions

Extraverted Sensing (Se): Responders (ESTP and ESFP)

Extraverted Intuition (Ne): Explorers (ENTP and ENFP)

Extraverted Thinking (Te): Expeditors (ESTJ and ENTJ)

Extraverted Feeling (Fe): Contributors (ESFJ and ENFJ)

Introverted Sensing (Si): Assimilators (ISTJ and ISFJ)

Introverted Intuition (Ni): Visionaries (INTJ and INFJ)

Introverted Thinking (Ti): Analyzers (ISTP and INTP)

Introverted Feeling (Fi): Enhancers (ISFP and INFP)

To continue reading this blog series on type dynamics, please go to Understanding Type Dynamics: Auxiliary Functions.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 at 1:04 pm 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.

6 Responses to “Understanding Type Dynamics: Dominant Functions”

  1. Melissa says:

    THANKS! That’s a very helpful way of explaining the finer details of type.

  2. human mental processes…

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  3. My preferences are ENTJ, and there are a few examples of that.
    First, my family will tell you even though I am the youngest child, I was always trying to boss around my older siblings and cousins at a very young age. I would get very annoyed with them when they didn’t listen. (In fact, I still do.)
    Second, I teach college success skills classes at community colleges. My preferences are clearly demonstrated in my teaching: I love the long-range planning and strategizing that teaching requires. I also tend to decide and direct. In the beginning of the semester, I that “I am the boss: Respect me enough to know there is a point to everything I expect you to do; cooperate with the process; and in time you will understand the point.” As the students learn the principles needed, I slowly turn over control to them. By the end of the semester, I am still directing the direction of curriculum, but they are in charge of how to apply the principles to their lives, learning styles, and their life goals. When the semester is over, I am perfectly happy to “kick them out of the nest” so they can fly on their own. While we do prefer to be in charge of the big picture, we are not micro-managers. We are perfectly happy to let those under us decide how to do what we tell them to do. It is very satisfying for me to watch my students apply what I give them to their lives.

    Another interesting note for other ENTJ’s: I teach the MBTI to my students and group them together by Keirsian temperaments. I often tell my students that I have learned there is no such thing as common sense: There is talent, training, and experience. One common response I get from my ENTJ students is the most significant thing they get out of my class is to realize how much they realize they assumed their giftedness was just common sense – not talent. They learn this as they sit there and listen to the other types talk about struggling with things that come naturally to individuals with ENTJ preferences.
    Another thing I have seen with my ENTJs, is they often don’t register how much they value learning and education. By the end of the class, several have changed their career plans and decided they want to become teachers as a result.

  4. vanessa says:

    Thank you so much for this excellent explanation!

  5. Whitney says:

    Thanks for this explanation. It’s becoming a lot clearer to me. I took the official MBTI after taking a few unofficial free tests online and much to my surprise, I got ENFP after getting INFJ and ENFJ with the other tests. I always thought I was introverted, but turns out I’m extremely extraverted. Explains all the talking I do and my magnetic draw toward being with others all the time. I just thought I was an introverted extrovert since I don’t do a lot of extraneous socializing, but just because I don’t do it doesn’t mean I don’t prefer it. In fact, the main difference I noticed between the official MBTI and the other unofficial ones I took is that the official one asked questions about my preference, and the other ones asked what I have a tendency to do. Big difference! I prefer to “fly by the seat of my pants” and live in a world where I have all the time I want to do anything, but I’m loyal to my responsibilities so much so that I make decisions and seek closure regularly, which I understand to be J. In other words, I’ve been a very stressed out individual, because my preferences and tendencies have not sought compromise. I had to reevaluate the way I was living and relinquish some control over all the irons in the fire I have, and I’m feeling a lot less stress. I feel more like my authentic self that I remember as being when I was a kid, but yet I’m still committed to my responsibilities — I just had to slow down a bit! The official MBTI results have helped me achieve balance and be cognizant of my tendency to look outward too much so that I will slow down and look inward when I need to take stock of stress and tension I’m feeling and make appropriate changes. I would strongly suggest to anyone who is serious about taking the MBTI to make sure it’s an official version of the test and not an unofficial knock-off. Thanks!

  6. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi Whitney,

    Thanks for your comment and for highlighting the importance of separating what you naturally prefer to do from what you feel obligated to do. Sounds like you have taken the time to carefully figure this out and are benefiting from your insights.

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