First I’ll Look at Ne

Ne is divergent. It looks objectively at physical reality or any other context (such as historical happenings or fantasy worlds) as a springboard for possibilities. One thing, like a carrot, could be used in many different ways. It sees the possibilities latent in sensory reality, as primary to sensory reality itself. It also tends to be experimental in nature.

Ben Franklin once said something like, “I didn’t make a mistake, I just found 100 ways it doesn’t work.” That’s Ne.

Ne is focused more on idea generation and less on follow through. People who have Ne as their first or second function can seem a bit flakey to others who aren’t clued in to what they’re doing. Ne users are always asking, “What if this, what if that?” Meanwhile the people around them often interpret their possibilities as plans and feel let down when there is little or no follow through. This is good for INFPs (like me), INTPs, ENFPs and ENTPs to remember! Let people know explicitly when you’re engaged in possibility-making. Say, “These are possibilities, not plans.” It can clear up a lot of confusion.

Since Ne is so experimental in nature, it tends to upset routine. Ne is stimulated by new and novel ways of doing things. Thus, simple things like putting the car keys in the same place every time might seem impossible for Ne users.

If you’re working with XNXP types such as INFP, ENFP, INTP, and ENTP that use Ne try doing the following:

  1. Allow an iterative rather than linear process.
  2. Honor that it is helpful to let the imagination roam, even if initial ideas may seem disconnected or unhelpful. Treat it as a warm up phase.
  3. Assign or do tasks in a way that entertain new ideas and concepts, otherwise, distractions will occur.
  4. Encourage exploration of better ways to do things. Allow that the present routine might benefit from improvement.
  5. If you’re working with an Extraverted Intuition user (the XNXP types), find someone else to do routine maintenance or detailed tasks.
  6. Allow variety in ways of working, even if it doesn’t seem to have purpose.

Now, Let’s Look at Ni

Ni looks at the latent inner connections between objects, occurrences, and happenings. It tends to be more convergent, looking for a singular solution, while Ne strives to identify many different potentials. Ni sees the symbolic and archetypal world as primary to the physical. Rather than being a springboard, Ni is a submarine of consciousness. It goes deep, inquiring into the connections that already exist. Rather than looking objectively, it looks subjectively. What Ni discovers is assumed to be mostly pre-existent but might need unfolding, illustrating or proving. As Lewis Caroll once said, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” Even as Ni might predict the future, it does so by divining into existing patterns. Ni knows. Ne guesses. Ni excavates. Ne innovates.

Ni users (XNXJ types such as INFJ, INTJ, ENFJ, and ENTJ) get strong hunches that might be inexplicable but also exist as strong knowings. Most of the time the hunches can’t be explained because they arise from an unconscious place. If you’re not an INTJ or an INFJ, imagine that your “most conscious” function has an invisible source. You don’t control Ni. It gives you what it does, but you can cultivate your relationship with it to get more out of it. Ni users specialize in knowing the unknown.

Whereas Ne users like to ponder and entertain solutions, Ni users tend to be a bit more focused on productivity. They like to make decisions and move forward rather than entertain an un-ending stream of possibilities. In general, Ni users will feel a bit more uneasy before the decision is made and relieved afterwards, while Ne users will postpone the decision point for longer as they entertain more information. It’s the standard J/P difference.

If you’re working with Ni users it’s important to give them space to work with their intuition. Don’t ever dismiss a hunch outright because it lacks objective data. There may be an important insight being born that is not yet objectively verifiable but may be very soon. A strong hunch that they can’t shake probably has something to it. It’s like the universe is speaking to them and they’re in the midst of translating the message.

Salvador once said, “I don’t do drugs, I am drugs.” The way Ni initially speaks to the Ni user may seem strange and superfluous. It may also be culturally inappropriate or even culturally dangerous, and prone to harsh judgment if exposed too early. .

As an example there’s the story of George Ellery Hale (1868-1938), the founder of Caltech University. According to his biographer Helen Wright, Hale took instructions for building the world’s largest telescope from a little elf that would appear on his windowsill. Was the elf real? Who cares! Hale frequently intuited, quite accurately, the way things were to be done, and set about making them happen. (Incidentally I heard this story from a friend of mine who is a well known astronomer. I tend to believe him on this one although defenders of Caltech will say the elf story was a misunderstanding between Hale and his biographer Helen Wright. You can judge for yourself.)