Any Myers-Briggs type can overuse or abuse one or more traits.
Source: Your Secret Self
Any Myers-Briggs type can overuse or abuse one or more traits.
Any Myers-Briggs type can overuse or abuse one or more traits.
Source: Your Secret Self
Sometimes it’s hard to tell an extravert from an introvert. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Many introverts have a public persona that seems to say, “I’m a people person!” Yet being sociable is something the introvert can’t maintain for long. After an hour or two in a group, the introvert is ready to head home. Extraverts, on the other hand, are just getting started. They are energized by social contacts. It’s too much solitude that wears them down.
Introverts are private by nature. They may have one or two close friends but don’t enjoy doing things in crowds. They require time alone. They’re also independent thinkers who don’t need others to help them make decisions. They dislike conflicts but they’ll stand up for what they believe in. If the issue is important, they can be surprisingly forceful.
Extraverts recharge their batteries by relaxing with other people. They’re outspoken most of the time, not just when they have strong feelings. They often prefer talking to listening. When the phone rings, the extravert is likely to jump up to answer. The introvert is glad to let him or her do it. If left on their own for long, extraverts get jumpy and start looking for people to talk to.
If you’re wondering where you and your partner stand on the extravert-introvert scale, take these two quizzes. When an answer seems neither totally true nor totally false, pick the more correct of the two answers. Using the scoring key below, figure out the total points for both of you. A score of 8-10 indicates pronounced introversion. The introvert may have a couple of close friends but generally dislikes being in crowds. A score of 4-7 means the person enjoys spending some time alone but likes to socialize, too. The person who scores 1-3 needs to be around people a lot of the time and may get uneasy if without company for a long period.
INFJs are generally attracted to energetic, friendly ENFPs. ENFPs understand people and connect with them easily. They read the motives and behaviors of others with almost psychic accuracy.
Life is fun with ENFPs, who never tire of developing new interests. They’re at their best in situations that are fluid and changing. Even in their day-to-day activities they look for new ways of doing things.
INFJs and ENFPs are similar in their curiosity and enthusiasm, but the INFJ is less demonstrative. If the two spend much time together, the INFJ may weary of the ENFP’s inexhaustible sociability and want some solitude. Even away from crowds, INFJs can find the energy of ENFPs demanding. Once ENFPs get excited about something, it’s all they can talk about. INFJs aren’t big on extended conversations.
Another difference between them concerns punctuality. The INFJ is rarely tardy and gets things done when promised. ENFPs have a tendency to be late. They lose track of time, because they underestimate how long it will take to finish what they’re doing. They miss deadlines or are slow in meeting their commitments. This happy-go-lucky attitude often annoys INFJs, who consider it irresponsible. ENFPs, on the other hand, may consider INFJs clock-watchers.
Whether male or female, ENFPs can be seductive. They know how to appeal to the opposite sex and make themselves desirable. Sometimes they go too far in their quest for affection, making the INFJ feel pressured. When this causes the INFJ to back off, the ENFP is likely to get anxious and become even more needy.
A discussion about the need for boundaries may help ease the ENFP’s jittery response to a partner’s withdrawal. They both need to understand that extraverts are energized by connection with others while introverts get tired of it and seek solitude. It’s nothing personal.
INFJs who marry ENFPs find that they’re enjoyable to live with. They also make good parents. They know how to turn family chores into enjoyable activities. If there’s a task that’s boring, they’ll find a way to make it interesting. They infuse family life with creativity and avoid letting their home get too structured, with no room for imagination. When the free-wheeling goes too far, however, the INFJ may complain that things are getting out of control.
ENFPs may consider themselves organized in their home life, but INFJ partners can take issue with this. The ENFPs’ desire to be open to new possibilities is usually stronger than their need to keep things neat and tidy. When they fix meals, the kitchen is likely to be a mess. Their offices or dens are cluttered. There’s always something more interesting to do than clean up.
ENFPs need work that offers more than a paycheck. They must feel fulfilled and know they’re making a worthwhile contribution. Because of their wide-ranging interests, it’s common for them to change career tracks more than once. Partly this is due to their success at landing jobs for which they’re not fully qualified. If the family needs the income, INFJs married to ENFPs may get frustrated by their partners’ tendency to quit jobs or get fired.
The need to look after the welfare of others is shared by the INFJ and ENFP. They’re champions of causes. They promote services that help people, animals, and the environment. When they’re given a leadership role, they ask for advice from people around them. They’re generous with their praise to friends and co-workers who have helped them. They make good partners.
Mark Twain was an ENFP, famous for his engaging stories. Andrew Carnegie said of him, “The public knows only one side of Mark Twain: the amusing part. Little do they suspect that he was a man of strong convictions on political and social questions and a moralist of no mean order.”
Like many ENFPs, Mark Twain had insights that were almost clairvoyant. He once said, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year and I expect to go out with it.” Indeed, he died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, one day after the comet’s closest pass by the Earth.
Like most INFJs, Mother Teresa was a risk taker, able to enter dangerous situations with courage and insight. She was independent and spirited, willing to explore new roles and ideas. True to her type, Mother Teresa was articulate in expressing her beliefs and putting them into action. She had visions of a world without poverty and took steps to make that a reality.
INFP (introverted-intuitive-feeling-perceiving) and INFJ (introverted-intuitive-feeling-judging) types are a lot alike. They have rich inner lives and treasure their solitude. Also, their intuition is highly developed, giving them the ability to see what’s going on under the surface. They understand why people do the things they do. Because they see through facades and games, deceivers and players can seldom fool them for long. INFPs and INFJs examine every piece of evidence for its fundamental truth and then seek the wider context into which it fits.
As idealists, both types drive themselves to achieve their goals, which are frequently humanitarian. If they don’t have the luxury of choosing careers that meet their needs, they spend much of their spare time helping others. Their values are strong and their principles firm—unless they find a valid reason to change them. Their biggest question is, “What’s my purpose?”
INFPs and INFJs set such high standards for themselves that they’re often disappointed in the results of their work. Because they don’t give themselves enough credit, they make good partners. Each supports and encourages the other.
They protect their privacy. When they’re not allowed enough time alone, they feel drained. They need solitude to recharge their batteries and get their energy back. As friends and partners, they understand this and are usually generous about giving each other space.
Both are somewhat prone to depression. Their introversion inclines them to be loners, giving them the tendency to brood over problems without checking the facts with others. Their feeling preference inclines them to exaggerate the importance of conflicts or hurt feelings.
Both types are generally well liked due to their warmth and sincerity. They make good listeners, put others at ease, and are valued as friends and confidantes.
The intuitive skills shared by the INFP and INFJ form their strongest bond. They usually agree on important matters. Due to differences in their perceiving and judging functions, however, they don’t always carry out practical tasks in the same way. The INFP may start a painting project, then leave it half-finished—intending to finish at a more convenient time. INFJs aren’t happy until the job is complete.
As intuitive individuals, they sift through their experiences to discover their meaning. How does the evidence fit into the big picture? People with a sensing preference, whose intuition is less developed, tend to accept things at surface value. They see no point in overthinking matters. As a result, they may fail to appreciate the insights and predictions of INFPs and INFJs—sometimes at their peril.
INFPs and INFJs frequently find careers in fields requiring verbal skills. They cooperate and communicate effectively with others. Often they hold medical or social service jobs. Their sharp intuition helps them solve problems, their feeling function encourages people to trust them, and their introversion gives them time to contemplate the complex factors in situations. They prefer careers that don’t emphasize details but focus on patterns.
Counseling and mental health therapy are common careers among INFPs. INFJs do this work, too, but they can be less patient with clients’ progress. Because of their judging function, they often make the best writers. They use their verbal skills to build constructs, put them on paper, and get them published.
While both types get along with others, group projects frustrate them. They get annoyed by co-workers who don’t live up to their standards or fail to see the big picture. They generally remain polite, but inside they may be seething. When an INFP and INFJ collaborate on projects, they may have conflicts over deadlines as the former dawdles and the latter pushes to finish on time.
Taking on too much to please others is a problem they have in common. Also, they may give colleagues the impression that they agree on the details of a project when in fact they do not. They need to assert themselves more and learn to be honest, giving negative feedback when it’s important. They need to make sure their own needs are met, too—asking for a raise, for example, when it’s deserved.
INFPs make effective mediators in the workplace—especially in situations where they have no self-interest. They are less likely to take sides than INFJs. They want to hear everything. INFJs can draw conclusions too quickly.
When INFPs fall in love with INFJs, the natural reserve of the former makes it hard for them to express their affection in words. It’s a little easier for the INFJ, who can also be shy but is better at taking action. Both can be eloquent in their physical expressions of love. As lovers, they are tender and creative. This helps keep the relationship anchored.
The two types are sensitive and easily hurt. One or the other can easily misinterpret a casual statement, offhand action, or forgotten promise and feel rejected. When one says, “I’ll be late tonight” as he or she leaves the house and means nothing more than that, the other may give the statement a sinister interpretation. To avoid bruised egos, they need to remember the importance of frequent reality checks.
Both tend to overdramatize situations and ignore the simple facts. When a disagreement comes up, they can get out of touch with each other. They have to release their ego investment and back-pedal in order to find common ground.
They tend to be absent-minded, too, which can be annoying for everyone. Where are the house keys? Did anyone let the cat in this morning? What time were we supposed to be there? Both are likely to shrug and say they don’t know.
Fortunately, they’re tolerant of each other because they share the inability to recall the concrete details of life. Such mundane matters don’t hold their attention.
As parents, both types listen attentively to each other and their children, although INFJs are slightly less patient because of their judging function. They’re more likely to interrupt a conversation to see where it’s going. The INFP is content to listen without closure. INFPs wait to think about what’s been said before deciding what to do.
They avoid conflicts. Under normal conditions, they’re courteous and respectful, seldom raising their voices. When a problem comes up, they talk it over. The difference is that INFJs have a stronger need to decide who’s right and who’s wrong, while the INFP’s main goal is to preserve good will in the family. Both get rattled by conflict, but the INFJ is more likely to stand his or her ground on critical issues.
When it’s time for a vacation, INFJ parents are generally the chief planners. Their inclination to arrange details before checking them out with the family can cause problems, but after they’ve set off, the parents have no problem giving everyone time alone. After all, they want that, too. When the family re-gathers, they relax and have fun.
Nurturing their children comes naturally to INFPs and INFJs. They are patient, devoted, and protective parents. However, when friction arises over, say, a child’s behavior, they tend to keep their objections to themselves longer than they should. Eventually the INFJ in particular is likely to blow up.
Abraham Lincoln was an INFP—moody, quiet, gentle, witty and determined. As his law partner described him: “He cared little for simple facts. He cared for the underlying principle of truth and justice.” Other famous INFPs include J.R.R. Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, Vincent van Gogh, and John Lennon.
Thomas Jefferson was an INFJ. A historian described Jefferson’s character as having “a too-good-for-this-world streak that showed itself in many ways, from his mountaintop house, to his dislike of face-to-face argument.” Other famous INFJs include Carl Jung, Mahatma Gandhi, Agatha Christy, Leonard Trotsky, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Since posting “It’s Hard To Be an INFJ” on this blog, I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from other INFJs. Their main theme has been how disconnected they’ve felt surrounded by extraverts and more sensible, earthbound types. Their posts and my responses appear after that blog.
This is my personal account of what it feels like to be an INFJ.
As a child, I felt like an outsider. I’ve felt this way most of my life. Even though all evidence suggests that I was successful and respected by my peers in school, I knew that I was an odd duck. I never liked large groups of kids. I preferred being alone or in the company of one friend—a typical preference of INFJs. Most introverts tend to feel insecure about their preference for privacy because of the high value our culture places on extraversion. People who enjoy being alone are considered odd.
As a student in elementary and high school, I did well academically and had two close friends. For an INFJ, I was surprisingly active in extracurricular activities: acting in community theatre, studying the piano accordion and sometimes performing publicly, editing the school paper, and so on. I was like two people—one who appeared successful and the other who always felt a little lost.
When I left home for college at the age of 17 and began to date, my relationships with boys were fragile. If I fell in love, I couldn’t figure out how to hang onto the boy. He usually tired of my neediness and left. If a boy I didn’t care for kept pursuing me, I couldn’t figure out how to escape without hurting him. With my overactive feeling function, relationships with boyfriends put me on emotional rollercoaster rides.
Like most judging types, I’ve always been highly focused. I’ll stay up all night working on a project, never miss a deadline, and be punctual for appointments. I like closure, not uncertainty. I make decisions quickly. Thanks to my highly developed intuition, they tend to turn out well.
My opinions on social and political issues are pretty unshakeable, without shades of gray. I recognize the problems my inflexible positions can cause, however, and try to open my mind to other perspectives. When I have strong feelings about an issue, I share them with only one or two trusted friends. I am generally not a leader of causes in public. I write about them passionately, though.
My intuitive, feeling, and judging functions, acting in concert, make me quick to respond to emergencies, especially those involving injury or danger to people or animals. Even at age 82, I still rush into threatening situations. I always emerge unharmed because my intuitive function steers me away from personal danger while my emotions give me the courage and force to act.
Like me, many INFJs are writers. We make good investigative journalists, science editors, and nonfiction writers. The social sciences interest us more than physics, mathematics, electronics and other theoretical and physical sciences. The social sciences engage our feeling function. On aptitude tests, we excel on the verbal portions. However, our thoughts usually have a strong visual component. What we describe in words we see in pictures. We’re more concrete than abstract. Highly creative INFJs are drawn to careers like acting, painting, designing, and so on. However, they are more concerned with pursuing truth than creating art.
Because of their creativity, many INFJs are successful entrepreneurs. They’re good at coming up with fresh ideas, taking risks, introducing new products, marketing to the public, and trouble-shooting. All the while, they maintain their idealism and desire to make life better for those around them. If they get too caught up in the profit motive and are seduced by materialistic goals, they end up demoralized. They suffer from stagnation, burnout, and loss of creativity.
In my early 60s, I earned over $250,000 a year for three years in a row. (I saved most of it and am now enjoying the fruits of my intuitively guided investments.) The problem with all that money was that I became too attached to it. It made me feel very important. Ultimately, my confidence and self-esteem relied on my six-figure income. Approaching retirement, I realized that money could be a trap. I needed to release this attachment and start volunteering. I began to give more money to causes I believed in—mostly animal welfare, education of children in developing countries, and women’s rights. Now, at 82, I have all the money I need to feel safe and enjoy myself. When I work, I don’t accept money for my professional services. Charging money would spoil my pleasure.
Life can be difficult for those of us who share INFJ traits. First, we’re often misunderstood—perhaps because we make up only one percent of the population. There aren’t enough of us around. Although we often don’t recognize a fellow INFJ when we meet, we’re likely to become fast friends once we recognize the common ground we stand on. Here’s how each of the four traits challenges us:
Introversion: Our preference for privacy can isolate us. We retreat into our thoughts too much and can find ourselves in a cycle of brooding.
Intuition: While well-developed intuition is a gift, it seldom makes us popular. Because the intuitive individual can seem almost clairvoyant, he or she can make others feel uncomfortable. Our forecasts usually turn out to be true, but in the passage of time they’re usually forgotten so we go without credit. We may become so confident of our insights as the years pass that we’re shaken by the rare occasions when they’ve led us down the wrong path.
Feeling: The truths that underlie our accurate insights can wound us. For example, if I have a hunch a friend is lying to me, the chances are I’m right. Knowing this and having it confirmed can be more painful than it is for people whose dominant function is thinking. Although our feelings often bring us joy, when they’re negative we suffer, particularly when rejection is involved. Many of us are prone to depression.
Judging: Our judging function can lead us into premature decisions with uncomfortable consequences, especially in relationships. Many a marriage has foundered because an INFJ didn’t take enough time to understand his or her partner fully before the wedding. (I’m an example of this—more than once.) As the saying goes, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.” In groups of people, INFJs may appear aloof, even arrogant, because they’re concentrating on sizing up others before they can relax.
INFJs are in good company. Famous INFJs of the past and present are Mahatma Gandhi, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Carl Jung, Simone de Beauvoir, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Noah Chomsky, and Oprah Winfrey.
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INFJs are idealists and INTPs are rationalists.