Understanding Sympathetic INTJs – Fi vs Fe

Understanding Sympathetic INTJs - Fi vs Fe |The Book Addict's Guide to MBTI

Foreword: this post applies equally to ISTJs, in regards to the Fi function)

All the INTJ stereotypes say that we’re cold and don’t care about other people. Yet, many of us defy this stereotype.

When I care about someone, I filter my words to avoid offense and understand people on a deeper level than they often understand themselves (which is another reason to filter my thoughts, because otherwise people freak out at how much I know about them).

Naturally, I started to wonder if my ability to understand people so well stemmed from an Fe function, but eventually I determined that I’m an INTJ with an extremely well developed Fi, and here’s why.

While I understand people on an extreme level, I don’t feel their emotions the way an Fe user would. My Ni lets me know intuitively what’s going on behind the lines and then I’m able to logically put together what someone is feeling by using Te. I can understand, but I cannot empathize unless I have shared experience.

I understand my own emotions on a level that allows me to both put a name to them and to pin point exactly what I’m feeling, whereas an Fe user doesn’t always recognize immediately what they are feeling (or why they are feeling it).

When watching a movie I rarely cry (I can name one movie that I’ve cried in), and if I do, it’s only out of shared experience. An Fe user is more likely to cry in a movie due to their connection with universal ethics and emotions, rather than because they can directly relate to something that happens in the movie.

The second question you have to ask yourself when determining whether you use Fi or Fe is: “how much of my moral code and world-view internally based vs. externally based?”

I’m constantly building and refining and extensive worldview inside my head, and for a long time I questioned this, thinking that it was Ti. Gradually, however, I came to realize that this was just me, using Fi to determine what I think is true/false/right/wrong. Fi typically relies on internal principles that are adopted by the individual because he/she feels that it is right or wrong, rather than because it is what they have been taught.

Fe users tend to be more accepting of societal morality. When they want to know if something is right or wrong, they might consult a friend, while Fi users typically ask themselves what is right or wrong. My parents have always taught me to do certain things, but I always questioned it in my mind. Just because my mother/society says this is the right thing to do never made anything seem authentically right to me.

An Fi is always less comfortable expressing his/her emotions than an Fe. An Fi caught crying will want to hide, while an Fe will want someone to confide in. Fi users usually like to work through their emotional struggles alone, but Fe users need to talk through them with others. Fe need to connect with people on an emotional level, while Fi want to connect with people on a thought based level.

Fe users are also more accepting of society’s norms and traditions than Fi users. In the INTJ this typically transforms to having an obsession with non-conformity and individualism. Fe users are more in tune with what is deemed “appropriate” in their society, while tertiary Fi has a more difficult time recognizing this. In an INFJ, this would translate to wanting to help people and make sure everyone is comfortable, while not necessarily worrying about staying true to the self.

So in answer to the question specifically, an INTJ with a well developed Fi will –yes– care deeply about how his/her actions and words affect other people (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be able to prevent their Te from offending others). They will have a strong awareness of their own emotions, but will need to determine what other people are feeling through a more logic-based approach.


INTJ with a well developed Fi: Ender Wiggin, Bruce Wayne

INTJ with poorly developed Fi: Coriolanus, Sherlock

Obviously there are more, but two’s good for now…


40 thoughts on “Understanding Sympathetic INTJs – Fi vs Fe

  1. Just out of curiosity, what type is Elsa fro Frozen? I’ve seen her be called an INTJ, INFJ and ISTJ which one is she?


  2. “While I understand people on an extreme level, I don’t feel their emotions the way an Fe user would.”

    Oh my god… this sentence totally blew me away. I’m an INFP, and since my early days of individual letter typing, I’ve been confused as to why INFPs are always described as “idealists who want nothing more than for everyone to get along.” This is because I’ve never been one to tell even a white lie just for the sake of getting along and making sure the other party hears what they want to hear. (Even the most polite INFP person I know would rather argue their point than concede to the other party.)

    Then I came across cognitive function typing, and suddenly it’s the Fe users who want everyone to be all happy and comfortable. I thought if Fi’s are so empathetic, why are Fe’s described as the ones who can relate to other people the most?

    And then I read your sentence and everything is clear now o)–( My FiNe allows me to analyze someone’s feelings and see why they would feel that way, but my Fi still ensures that my feelings and morals about the situation are totally independent of the other person’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Im trying to figure out what type of ISXJ a character is. He has a very practical code on killing (kill to remove people from the equation permanently) and goes way out of his way to convince others he’s in the right. However, once they think they agree with him, he warns that there’s no going back. He’s also quick to try to advise others on emotional decisions, but when it’s something that’s similar to what affected him in the past. How would I tell if he’s using Fe to share his morals/emotions or Te-Fi to impart his moral code on the world?


  4. I find that this post makes a lot of sense. As an INTJ myself, I find it difficult to sympathize with others- unless I have been through a similar experience. When it comes to people I care about, I criticize when I believe it’s most helpful, and choose my words carefully when I think they wouldn’t appreciate my criticism and sarcasm. I tear things up when it comes to telling the truth, however. I might have accidentally made someone cry when they asked me to tell them exactly what I think of them. I told the truth, because I’m a terrible liar.


  5. I always assumed that, from an analytical perspective (INTJ female), I have long since concluded that I have to carefully word responses and swallow many of them to maintain any relations at all. Once a relationship has been formed, though, our loyalty leads us to a desire to nourish rather than damage it. Especially if we know we are not dealing with a fellow analytical, we find we are phrasing ourselves specifically as to not be hurtful. I still always thought this derived from the thinking function.


  6. This is a very interesting article because my INTJ sister and I are always wondering about her well developed Fi function. She does not fit into the typical INTJ stereotype at all. She is quite kind, and thoughtful of how her words affect others. Same way with another brother and sister of mine who are both ISTJ. They are very sweet and unoffending towards people. All three of them still like using their thinking functions, but they make sure their actions based on those logical conclusions are in sync with their well developed Fi.


  7. I have to admit that reading this article has more befuddled me than helped shed light on anything. I of course knew that there are a lot of INTJs out in the world who are sympathetic and not robotic, although even an INTJ with an underdeveloped Fi cannot be robotic either since that defies human nature. What confused me the most was your definition of Fe vs Fi. As an ENFJ, Fe is at the core of my being. It’s the first in my Jungian Functional Preference ordering. But from my own personal observation, I tend to 1) always recognize what emotion I am feeling at the time I am feeling it, 2) only cry during movies if I connect to it on a personal level I can directly relate to, 3) decide what I see as right or wrong by personal thought and not societal morality, 4) not conform to what someone else might need if it threatens what I am at my core. I will not deny that I have an utter and complete need to talk about my feelings. I admit that as an ENFJ, my first reaction was offense, being a sensitive creature, but I was able to remove myself from those feelings and instead put myself into a position of looking at this from a logical stance. Which spurs me to ask you some questions to better understand your logical thought process behind your article and possibly obtain some insight into myself.
    Am I different than most Fe individuals because I have a more developed Fe, or is it because I am specifically an ENFJ and I rely on my Fe to be the strongest function in my life? Or, since I am a complete stranger and you cannot say truly based on a blog comment, is it possible that Fe individuals can differ from one another in certain aspects? Do Fe individuals differ from one another based on whether or not they are more developed or less developed? What are your thoughts on this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no idea if you’ll be able to find this comment now that it’s been a year since you made it, but I tend to feel that you’re probably just a healthy and balanced ENFJ in this regard. I have an extremely well-developed male ENFJ friend who I have found to defy all the stereotypes of ENFJ behavior as well – for example, he spent part of his youth (from age 17 to about 21) being abused by an ESTJ friend of his. When he suggested wanting to confront her, I countered with the idea of writing her a letter so that he could avoid her potentially uncomfortable reaction, and he declined, arguing “No, I want to talk to her about this in person. For my own peace of mind”. He also regularly debates with me (I’m INTJ) and is clearly comfortable with openly disagreeing with people.

      So, yeah. I think you’re just an exemplary example of ENFJ done right.


  8. Do you suppose it’s possible to be, say, an ISFJ who employs Ti more than Fe – in such a way that all the functions are being used, but Ti is being used and consulted more purposefully than Fe – and still be a healthy type?


    • No, not really. A healthy person uses all four of their functions in balance with one another, but typically still consults their two upper functions the most (purely because they are the dominant functions).

      Liked by 2 people

      • That makes sense.

        Sticking with the example ISFJ, what I was thinking of was an instance in which an ISFJ mindfully uses Ti where before he might have relied only on Fe. It makes sense, I suppose, that this doesn’t mean the ISFJ is using his Fe less but that it has become more natural for him and he is consciously trying to develop his Ti.

        Thanks for the response!


  9. I particularly like this post myself… I’m not sure what letter combo I am so this helps me to narrow down my functions. I know that’s part of NF temperament and such but do you think its possible to be the other way around and have the point of view from an Fe to a logically based form of feelings? I believe I relate closely to… Isfj, infj, infp, enfj, or enfp and in most of my tests I got a variety but never would any one type stand out that much overall


      • There was a time when I was a child that I was using more tertiary Ti than auxiliary Fe. My idea is that in this case applied to IxFJs, it is possible that there may be a loop or grip experience involved. When I was in my Si-Ti loop, my point of view could be overly logical and less attuned to others’ feelings. When my Fe developed, my personality became more balanced.


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  11. So Fe is more comfortable with talking about its own feelings but understands them less than Fi? Seems rather ironic.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve often experienced this, but it also appears that I fluctuate between Fi and Fe. In some instances I relate to what you said about Fi and in others, I relate more to Fe.


  13. You have shown how the Fi will show up in an INTJ and have mentioned that it works the same for ISTJs. Could you go a bit more in depth with explaining that, since I, as an ISTJ have found that many of the things I see as right or wrong correspond with what my parents (though not society) have taught me. This seems more like a Fe function. Could you please provide some clarification. Thank you.


    • People often assume that morality is only formed according to the Feeling function, but that’s actually not true. We decide what’s right and wrong based on our individual experiences, using a combination of all our functions.

      You have Fi, but you also have Si, Te and Ne that serve to help you form your moral code. Your Si tells you that your parents are experienced, that the moral code that they use has worked for them, so it ought to work for you. As a child, it’s not unlikely that you paid close attention to the details of rule systems. My xSTJ brother was the tattle-tell when we were little, so he got on just fine with my xSTJ mother.

      Your Fi function tells you that you have to always do what feels right to you, that you have to be true to your moral standards and to yourself. If you decide that what is right for you is the same as what’s right for your parents, that’s different than say, deciding that what’s true for most must be true for you.

      Fe says, if I can’t figure out what’s right within myself, I will look at what others are doing and accept what seems to be working. Fi says, I will figure out what’s right within myself, and if it happens to correspond to what’s right for other people, then all the better.

      It’s all quite confusing and unscientific, but…hopefully I answered your question.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely not. A well developed individual will be balanced in their functions.

      However, in cases where tertiary or inferior functions weaken upper functions, we call that “grip experience” or “loop functions.” Both signal an overall function devolvement.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I have lots of misspellings. People point them out on a constant basis and I fix them as they’re made evident to me.

          Anyone who tells you that just because they’re an English major they will never spell anything incorrectly is fooling both you and themselves.

          I initially started this site with the intent to write to a U.S. audience and tried adopting those spellings, but since my natural inclination is towards U.K. spellings it didn’t work out so well and I switched back.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh my goodness. This post. I’ve been wondering the same thing for such a long time now…I’m an ISTJ, and every site says the same thing: we’re cold and basically have no feelings. But I’ve had times where I get the feeling that I feel too MUCH. I also wondered if I was an ISFJ, but you explained the difference wonderfully! Thank you for this!!


  15. Yep, this is one of the areas where inexperienced MBTI enthusiasts (or I should say, people who type based off the four letters and type-descriptions) get confused. The truth is, no matter how many idiots on tumblr tell you so, NOBODY is a robot, nor is anyone compulsively fluttery and incapable of thinking logically.

    People like to simply assume that any character who expresses morality and emotion is automatically an F type. There are also stereotypes that go around for T types, such as the All-INTJs-are-souless-villians stereotype.


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