If you find yourself here on Truity reading articles and dipping your toes into the wonderful world of personality theory, chances are you have at least a cursory understanding of the Myers-Briggs® personality model. I sometimes find myself reading social situations and attempting to understand others through the tenets of personality theory. I doubt I’m alone in this activity!

Imagine my surprise when I, in a family chock full of Feelers, find significant differences in how some “feel their feelings.”

A Quick Education

An explanation in subtle personality differences comes from understanding cognitive stacking, which looks at the order in which you engage your cognitive functions. Everyone uses a stack of four cognitive functions (out of a potential eight). Two are considered “introverted” while the other two are “extraverted”. When discussing cognitive stacking, the terms “introverted” and “extraverted” refer to whether the function is oriented towards the outer world (extraverted) or the inner realm of introspection (introverted). Regardless of whether you rank as an extravert or an introvert on the Myers-Briggs scale, you have two extraverted functions that deal with the outward, physical world, and two introverted functions that turn inward.

Now, back to the Feelers. Taking our quick education on cognitive stacking into account, this means that Feelers are split into two camps. Extraverted Feelers (Fe) and introverted Feelers (Fi). Here’s the basic difference: Fi weighs inner life and feeling before considering the outward repercussions, whereas Fe tends to make decisions based the outward environment and how their feelings will affect their physical world.

It is important to note that each Feeler will consider their inner feelings as well as their physical world. The difference between the two types of Feelers is merely which orientation is considered first and holds more weight when making decisions.

Which One Takes the Cake?

There are a few differences between the Fe and the Fi. But the major one is who puts the most emphasis on harmony.

Extraverted Feelers are more concerned with keeping connection and harmony in their environment. The Fe will take into account what is good for their family, their co-workers or whatever group they find themselves in before considering what is good for them personally. If the group is happy, the Fe is happy. Wanting to keep more connection with their environment and the people that surround them, extraverted Feelers are more likely to swallow their feelings on a matter to maintain peace. They will be the ones who agree to take on too much or endure an uncomfortable situation given it provides peace for everyone else.

Introverted Feelers focus first on being true to their authentic selves, thus maintaining inner harmony. The Fi categorizes new experiences into an internal framework of their moral principles. They are more likely to make a controversial choice given they are being true to themselves. It often does not matter who stands in their way. The Fi feels they must first be happy in order to contribute to a happier whole.

Story Time!

From the angle of personality typing, I married someone who is my opposite in almost every way. He is an ISFJ, I am an ENFP. When we started dating I figured, “well, at least we have one letter in common. We are both Feelers!” What I didn’t realize was that my dear, sweet husband prefers the extraverted Feeling trait while I am a hardcore introverted Feeler. Imagine my surprise when a disagreement would arise and I would appeal to our common ground of Feeling only to find that we considered completely opposite aspects of the situation.

In recent years, this manifested in the course of a career change. We both saw a need for Husband Dear to find a new path. I was ecstatic. Self-exploration mode is my jam! I busted out the personality theory and began conversations to cross-reference his internal principles with potential jobs. There was just one hitch -- how he processes information. Husband Dear began by considering what our family, his group, needed before jumping into my end of the introspection pool. In the end, he found something that satisfied both the good of our group (the preference of extraverted Feeling) and following his heart and passions (the preference of introverted Feeling).

As Feelers, we often consider both. It’s just about where you start.

What’s the Point?

Why is this distinction important to understand? It provides further understanding for yourself and others you interact with.

When your Feeler child indignantly insists on wearing that ridiculous outfit, what’s their angle? If you know their personality type and cognitive stack, you can clue in to whether or not they are motivated by their peer group or if they have some strong internal reason for questionable fashion. When your in-laws are visiting for the holidays and that inevitable, irksome comment is made, take a step back and consider whether personality theory and cognitive stacking can help bridge the gap. When you are at a personal crossroad, understanding whether or not you are an Fi or Fe can inform you where to begin to make your best decision.

Keep in mind this distinction is specifically for those who identify as a Feeler. Learning more about the approach of cognitive stacking opens new avenues of understanding into personality theory. This one distinction between introverted feeling and extraverted feeling is the honest tip of a monstrous - and exciting! - iceberg.

What other subtle personality differences have you noticed in your interactions with others?

Kim Jacobson
Kim spends her time as a freelance content marketing writer and indie author. Her focus is on empowering others to make healthy choices, and personality theory plays a large role in that calling. What else would you expect from an ENFP? She lives in the mountains with her ISFJ husband and two incredible kiddos.