Extraverted Intuition – Imagining the Possibilities
In a previous post for Life Reaction, I wrote about Introverted Intuition as my preferred cognitive function as an INTJ personality type. Given my orientation, it’s no surprise I tend to see intuition as an internally driven and applied function. So I’ve been interested to find out more about what it’s like for those who rely more on Extraverted Intuition (abbreviated as Ne) as a dominant way of operating. I share my learning and insights on intuition as an extraverted perceiving process to guide your own journey whatever your personality type.
Extraverted Intuition and your type
If you identify as an ENTP or ENFP Jung/Myers-Briggs personality type, Extraverted Intuition is typically your dominant function; if you identify as an INTP or INFP, it’s your auxiliary function; for ESFJ and ESTJ types, it’s the tertiary function and for ISTJ and ISFJ types, it’s the inferior function. It plays out in a lesser way for other types. You can read more here. And if you don’t know your type, it’s not a huge issue; if the words ‘Extraverted Intuition’ speak to you, chances are they are natural preferences for you or areas on your radar for development.
For example, you might be someone who perceives via a preference for Introverted Intuition, but might be keen to mix this up with more external influences. There is much to be gained from learning about our less preferred cognitive processes so we can be well-rounded and operate in new and different ways.
Extraversion and Intuition
With an increased focus on introversion in recent times as a counterbalance to what Susan Cain calls ‘The Extrovert Ideal’, it’s possible that intuition has also become more synonymous with internal processes. But intuition can be driven just as much by external data as internal data.
Extraverted Intuition as a function specializes in drawing information across a range of contexts. It might be people, conversations, ideas, facts, history, perceptions or theories. Everything in the external environment is grist for the mill for this mode of intuitive processing.
In a recent conversation with a friend whose dominant function is Extraverted Intuition, he commented, “I love brainstorming”. As an INTJ, whose dominant function is Introverted Intuition, I responded, “I do too, but only by myself.” It was quite a funny exchange and we both laughed. This highlights how we are both intuitive souls but that our modus operandi is completely different. The Extraverted Intuitive focus is more expansive about possibilities and patterns in the external world and welcomes diverse inputs. An Introverted Intuitive’s focus is much more intensive, interested in deep, internal and symbolic connections, often generated when in solitude.
What Carl Jung says
It’s important to return to Dr. Carl Jung for insights as the source, given he conceptualized the eight functions based on his work with patients. In his 1921 book, Psychological Types, Jung explains the main characteristics of the Extraverted Intuitive function as:
…always present where possibilities exist. He has a keen nose for things in the bud pregnant with future promise. He can never exist in stable, long-established conditions of generally acknowledged though limited value: because his eye is constantly ranging for new possibilities, stable conditions have an air of impending suffocation.
The Extraverted Intuitive does not like stability and tires of objects or ideas when they become more clearly pinned down. It’s almost as if ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ and once this happens, a search is on for something new with potential that is not as yet defined.
But Jung explains of the Extraverted Intuitive: “As long as a possibility exists, the intuitive is bound to it with thongs of fate.”
So what is Extraverted Intuition?
So how does this play out in the real world? Extraverted Intuition works primarily by scanning the external landscape for input. There is a focus on possibilities that can be gathered and then applied to find solutions to impact the external world. There’s also an emphasis on patterns and linkages in a constant search for making things better.
The similarity with Introverted Intuition is an ability to see connections and associations but the filter is different. For the Introverted type, they work intensively through their rich inner world. For the Extraverted type, the input device and filter is people, multi-tasking, and the external world. Both types might not always know how they got from A to B as they both rely on an intuitive, wide, scope of patterned input over time. They only know the end result of the sequence.
The Extraverted Intuitive function has been described as ‘Exploring Possibilities’, by Mary McGuiness in ‘You’ve Got Personality’ and as ‘The Brainstormer’, in Gary Hartzler and Margaret Hartzler’s ‘Functions of Type: Activities to Develop the Eight Jungian Functions’.
The neuroscience of Extraverted Intuition
Dario Nardi has applied neuroscience to see how the neocortex of the brain works for different personality type preferences. In his book, Neuroscience of Personality, he describes Extraverted Intuiting as a tendency to “perceive and play with patterns of relationships across contexts”. People with this dominant function often show a ‘Christmas tree’ pattern as the neocortex is active all over. Each region does its own work with the brain responding to stimuli across multiple regions, even ones that seem unrelated.
The excitement for this type comes from forming opportunities across multiple areas in ‘trans-contextual thinking’. Nardi explains that Extraverted Intuiting types “often experience creative highs. The Christmas tree pattern is a creative engine.” Given all this energy and responsiveness, this type can also experience ‘creative hangovers’. It’s like a huge ideas party with so many shiny, bouncing parts which can take its toll. But all those lights represent rich inputs to the imagination. Extraverted Intuiting has the potential to ignite some truly revolutionary and entrepreneurial thoughts through this cognitive process.
Ways Extraverted Intuition manifests:
A love of brainstorming
The act of generating possibilities is a lifeblood for personalities where the Extraverted Intuitive dominates. Ideally, the input is via a broad range of angles such as a group of people to maximise the environmental scan. Mind-mapping is also a valuable tool, enabling the visual capture of patterns and relationships.
Brainstorming enables new solutions and options through the ability to see interrelationships. A search for gaps and ways to address them are tools the Extraverted Intuitive will use as part of the process or outcome of brainstorming. Seeking positive change is a focus.
Comfortable with change
The types which feature Extraverted Intuition as a dominant function, ENTP and ENFP, are very comfortable with change. They make excellent entrepreneurs, facilitators and change managers as they thrive on multiple options in an environment of possibility. People who prefer Extraverted Intuiting excel at working with scenarios of what ‘could be’ and envisioning the most positive state and how to get there. They are change agents, able to motivate and mentor others to see change as a positive. Their ability to tolerate ambiguity and focus on options means they can be very good at facilitating teams to resolve issues.
Motivated by learning across diverse areas
People with a preference for Extraverted Intuiting love to have a constant flow of fresh ideas. They are motivated by what the external world influences in the imagination. Avid lifelong learners, they seek the new and integrate it, reworking concepts in useful ways. Learning across diverse areas, depending on their auxiliary and other functions, they love to explore connections. They value learning that is intellectually challenging and interactive to maximise the external input.
The challenges and balancing of Extraverted Intuition
Just as with all of the functions, there are challenges in being extraverted and intuitive. You can easily become bored if there is not enough new information coming through. You might jump from one new idea to another to keep the novelty factor high and increase the enthusiasm. Starting things off is easy; being a finisher and completer is less satisfying.
A fascinating comment by Dario Nardi in ‘Neuroscience of Personality’ is that:
Ne types can find zen, but only after practicing and internalising an activity over weeks, months, or years….The irony is that Ne types, who have some the shortest attention spans, require laborious practice in order to find inner peace.
So this balance is likely to take some learning and practice in persistence, especially in being aware of what to do when the newness of an activity wears off.
To balance the extremes, it’s useful to bring in some of the opposite functions, especially Introverted Sensing (Si), Extraverted Sensing (Se) and Introverted Intuition (Ni). This includes:
- accepting that some things won’t change;
- doing maintenance or routine work;
- extending visionary timeframes; and
- being in the sensory here and now and not the imagination.
Ways to work with Extraverted Intuition
Whatever your type and dominant function, you can learn to integrate Extraverted Intuiting approaches into your life. This can help with seeing possibilities and facilitating change.
Here are some practices for developing and applying Extraverted Intuition based on my perceptions, fleshed out with concepts from ‘Functions of Type: Activities to Develop the Eight Jungian Functions’ by Gary Hartzler and Margaret Hartzler. This book has excellent practical examples of activities to develop all the eight Jungian functions.
Ideas for developing Extraverted Intuition include:
Value external input for generating options:
- Learn from the Extraverted Intuitive about the value of scanning the external landscape to ignite innovative solutions.
- Brainstorm with other people, testing your own mind-mapping or brain-storming with others.
- Stretch yourself by seeing how many solutions you can generate for a problem in the external world. This promotes a possibility mindset.
Practice looking for gaps:
- In problem-solving situations, practice looking for the gaps to generate new perspectives.
- Imagine different states such as ‘My Ideal Day’ to work out what might be missing. This can be a way of identifying desired situations so you can work towards them.
Focus on creating practical possibilities:
- Identify opportunities for new products and services. Think of innovative ways to offer them that might provide new income. If you feel resistant, identify what’s stopping you.
- Work in an accountability group for external support as you try new ways of working and creating.
Look for the positive and improved:
- Think of how you could do things differently if something didn’t go as planned.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “For everything you have missed in life, you have gained something else.” Identify where this has applied for positive perspectives.
- Try to do what has become routine in a different way and reflect on this.
Extraversion and intuition working together can bring new patterns in connections and relationships that provide real-world change. Maximising potential, openness, and entrepreneurial spirit are among its gifts. It is powerful to learn to work with its possibilities whether it is a strong preference or a less natural one.
I hope these insights are valuable for exercising your Extraverted Intuiting muscle to bridge options and generate opportunities. This includes innovative ways of solving challenging problems, even those on a global dimension. Certainly, the cognitive processes that the Extraverted Intuitive type excels in have the potential to do exactly that.