Myers-Briggs Under Pressure: How MBTI Works

by Ron

How did we get to this point where one’s behavior looks like being a jerk to another person when we’re all trying to do our best?

(If you didn’t start with the introduction to the “Myers-Briggs Under Pressure” series, I suggest you make a quick review because it will help you better understand these subsequent blog posts.)

Order of Use

The two middle functions of Myers-Briggs (Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking and Feeling) are considered the decision making functions and each temperament type uses them in a different order.

Dominant Function

For instance, my temperament type of ENTJ (Extraverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging) starts with the Thinking function being dominant. This means that I’m at my most natural using my Thinking function and will turn to it the most often when making a decision. Because it is my dominant function, I must have it satisfied if I’m to make a decision or support a decision.

Auxiliary or Supporting Function

Once my dominant function is satisfied (is it logical?) I will than turn to my auxiliary function to add balance and support to my dominant function. For my ENTJ preference, iNtuition will be my balancing function. So, once the decision seems to be logical or can be defended from a logical stand-point, my next question will be “Does it support or align with my conceptual view of the world of how things should be. This is my iNtuitive side.


First, notice that I have used my middle two functions of my Myers-Briggs type ENTJ. These are my dominant and auxiliary functions and must be satisfied for me to make and be comfortable with a decision. When I’m in balance and doing my best to solve problems and be in alignment with team decisions, I’m relying on these top two functions to be working in harmony.

Tertiary and Inferior Functions

The order of my last two functions, Sensing and Feeling happen with the Tertiary function (Sensing for the ENTJ) being 3rd and Feeling being the last function in my decision making process. These two functions (notice they are not visible in my Type Indicator of ENTJ) will be used positively for getting outside the box of my normal thinking but will also show up when I finally “break” under the pressure and do or say something that I will likely regret later.

The role of Pressure and Stress

Under normal or healthy conditions, we all tend to function well in our dominant and auxiliary space. Our dominant function takes the lead but is open to and listens to our auxiliary functions for balance. We will likely pay attention to our 3rd and 4th function (Sensing and Feeling for the ENTJ) just to make sure we’re covering all the bases but they’ll tend to confirm decisions already made buy our first two functions. It’s important to note that I’ve always observed that the best of leaders seem to cycle through all four functions with equal emphasis so that the outside observer would have a difficult time determining which of the four functions is actually their dominant function. Balance, balance, balance.

But, under pressure or stress interesting things begin to happen. We immediately lose our ability to deal with our 3rd and 4th functions in a healthy, balanced way and in fact, we begin to lose our ability to balance our dominant function with our auxiliary function. We become stuck in our dominant function!

In fact, this is what begins to make us look like a jerk under pressure. Our normal balance begins to recede and we find ourselves working from our single dominant function which can get harsh and unyielding in many ways. In fact, if the pressure finally gets to the breaking point, we actually revert back to our inferior function. And unless we’ve worked at improving our behavior under pressure, we’re just not very good at expressing or dealing with our inferior function. That’s when we look and behave like a jerk!

We’ll begin to explore some of these issues in coming posts as we look at various types and how they might look like a jerk.

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