Skip to content →

Differentiating the Types via the Tertiary Function: ESFJ and ISFJ

 By John Barnes

When a type has conscious use of Ne, the type often has an ease of expressing multiple ideas; hence, the abundance of NTP and NFP poets, playwrights, and authors. And the obverse is true. When a type represses Ne, the type will have difficulty expressing multiple ideas and the type will have conscious use of Si. When Si is dominant the type will place value and pay attention to sense-impressions. These sense-impressions are infamously difficult to articulate, one of the reasons ISJs can appear very stoic to those who don’t know them well. So ISFJs and ISTJs both have difficulty expressing multiple ideas on the fly and converting their sense-impressions into expressible ideas, but the ISFJ type has especial trouble (not necessarily in expressing) but in being satisfied with its thoughts. This is due to the ISFJ type’s tertiary Ti. Ti strives to align its thoughts with an idea itself, as opposed to Te, which seeks to align with more and more facts. To demonstrate, George Marshall ending his Nobel Lecture: “I fear, in fact I am rather certain, that due to my inability to express myself with the power and penetration of the great Churchill, I have not made clear the points that assume such prominence and importance in my mind.”

The ESFJ type, on the other hand, does not repress Ne. Ne is tertiary in the ESFJ type and because it’s tertiary there’s a tension between repressing and valuing Ne. For example, Jason Segal (ESFJ) seems to have a good acquaintance with his Ne. Researcing this essay, I watched a lot of his interviews about the making of the End of the Tour and he certainly doesn’t have the ISFJs intellectual reticence, instead he jumps right into the discussion and joins in on all the armchair philosophizing. Of course, that’s only one side of the ESFJ type’s relationship with Ne. When it comes down to it, ESFJs prefer Si to Ne. This means that they don’t typically share the ENTP type’s frustration with the status quo or its demand for large-scale revolution. E.g., Gerald Ford’s (ESFJ) criticism of critics: “Too often critics seem more intent on seeking new ways to alter Congress than to truly learn how it functions.” Here, he’s expressing a wish that critics would acquaint themselves with the facts instead of rushing in and trying to reinvent the wheel.

Ti has often been called the system-building function. I posit that it’s not Ti alone that encourages system building. Instead, I think it’s a combination of Ti and Si. Ti seeks the idea, the principle, and Si acquaints itself with the facts, codifies for future reference, and organizes. This, in conjunction with the INTP’s ease amidst abstract ideas, has made the INTP the philosophical architect nec plus ultra, e.g., Kant, Descartes, and Parmenides. Likewise, the ISFJ is a system builder. Typically, ISFJs don’t enjoy the stark logic and conjecturing of philosophy. They, as far as I’ve seen, prefer something more full-bodied and meaningful. This sometimes manifests as an interest in religion, psychology, or a more practical philosophy such as created by Marcus Aurellius. Aurellius’s philosophy does not leave the plain facts behind like Kant, Descartes, and Parmenides. Instead, it’s a practical guide to finding peace of mind in the midst of confusion, but it is a philosophical system nonetheless and the INTP and ISFJ both are thorough in analyzing their systems.

Since the ESFJs repress Ti, they are not system builders who cling to subjective ideas, making them more similar to ENTPs. Therefore, the ESFJ type’s strengths stand in contrast to the ISFJ type’s in much the same way that ENTPs stand in contrast to INTPs. I.e. ENTPs aren’t system builders (because of their repressed Si), they’re explorers and this gives them a creative freedom; ESFJs aren’t system builders (because of their repressed Ti), they’re explorers as well, but instead of a creative freedom they possess a unitive freedom. This unitive freedom is evident in Pope Francis and John Boehner. Both have the ability to see past what splinters and divides, be it party lines or sexual orientation, and truly connect with people. Which brings me back to the ESFJ’s tertiary Ne and ENTPs. ENTPs are famous (or infamous) for their enthusiasm for debate. Debate stimulates their Ne’s drive for exploration and Ti’s capacity for thoughtful analysis, but what often gets left out (perhaps because ENTPs don’t always realize themselves) is the ENTPs drive for unity in debate. In an ENTP with appreciated Fe, the goal of debate isn’t the demolition of one’s opponent; it’s the honest pursuit of truth and even a communion with one’s opponent that brings the two together. This is relevant to the ESFJ because they too have this impulse but the process is reversed. ESFJs place more importance on the communion than the exploration. The thinking is that one has to have connection before one can share a new truth.

Published in John Barnes