“How can I be so outgoing one minute and private the next?”
I love being with my closest friends. I need them in my life. I can go for a couple weeks or even a month getting together fairly frequently, as long as I have enough alone time.
But when my schedule starts to fill up with long workdays, church commitments, family gatherings, and other responsibilities, the last thing I want to do on a Friday night is “hang out.”
Feeling overwhelmed, I hole up inside my house with a stack of books, my computer, and a guitar and introvert like it’s my only hope for survival. (And it sort of is…)
Can you relate?
What causes seemingly extroverted INFJs to change in an instant? And how can you balance relationships and downtime?
We aim to please.
INFJs relate to the world through a cognitive function, or mindset, called Extroverted Feeling (Fe). Fe strives to make others happy, so we naturally want to be the fun, encouraging, outgoing people that many of our friends expect us to be.
Fe also makes us crave close relationships. We need others to help us process our thoughts and emotions, but we also get a lot of satisfaction from helping others.
We enjoy being alone.
At the same time, our preferred cognitive function, introverted intuition (Ni), requires alone time and quiet. This is our favorite function – the strongest one we begin developing first as children. Ni is the most powerful force in any INFJ’s personality, like it or not.
This creative mindset is an information gathering machine. It makes us incredibly curious. Ni also fuels much of our creativity, depth, and insight and give us a future-orientation. It’s the reason we can research for 2-3 hours non-stop, pouring over a heap of information and identifying the main patterns and major takeaways.
But to work effectively, Ni must have prolonged periods of uninterrupted silence to do it’s fragile but oh-so-important processing.
Most of the world doesn’t get it.
Sadly, Ni is the rarest of the eight cognitive functions. Only about 8 percent of the population possess Ni as their first or second mindset. Compare this to about 45 percent for the most common cognitive function, introverted sensing (Si).
So, put simply, that means few people understand and appreciate the INFJ way of thinking. Because this is reality, INFJs learn to lean heavily on their Fe to keep others happy.
Everything’s fine until you run out of charge!
And this strategy works great – until you drain your batteries. An INFJ can show up as an extrovert for only so long before he or she needs to retreat to a quiet place. Because INFJs are introverts, they need along time to recharge. While they may enjoy connecting with others, they’ll never get enough energy from interpersonal connections to keep them going – at least not in the same way extroverts do.
What can you do about it?
So how do you “toe the line” and maintain your relationships while still honoring your introverted needs? Here are a few suggestions.
1) Appreciate your unique personality.
First, and perhaps most importantly, appreciate the unique way you were wired. You’re not messed up or broken. You’re just different. And even if other people don’t understand your personality, it’s okay. Your value as a person isn’t dependent on their approval.
2) Schedule regular alone time.
Your calendar is your friend. Go ahead and schedule downtime on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. If someone asks you to hang out and you know you need alone time, you can tell him or her you’ve already got a commitment – because you do. You put it on your calendar. He or she doesn’t have to know that the even is quiet time to yourself.
Taking care of your energy needs and setting aside the quiet time you need will make you a better, more pleasant friend. It will also enable you to hone your greatest gift – Ni. Any time you spend developing this part of your personality is time well spent, regardless of what others say.
3) Break the rules.
Just because the rest of the world goes out on Friday doesn’t mean you have to! And whatever they tell you, you’re not a loser.
Some people’s minds are wired for lights and music. Others prefer a stellar book. Give yourself permission to do what you enjoy, and try not to let other people who may not really be your friends make you feel bad about it.
4) Prioritize people.
Who are the people you want to invest in most?
Time and energy are limited commodities. Take a little time to write down the names of the top 5 people you want to invest in and get to know, and then consistently say “Yes” to these folks. You’ll, then, feel more free to say “No” to others.
5) Pay attention to your body.
Finally, try to pay attention to your body and give it what it needs.
This isn’t easy to do – especially when you’re an INFJ rapt in thought. We easily get caught up in projects and forget to eat breakfast or lunch.
Even though it’s difficult and takes time to master, we can learn to listen to our bodies and give them the rest and downtime they need. Go ahead and cancel plans or reschedule if you need to. Stay at home for the weekend. Or go to bed early.
If you’re wise, you can maintain and invest in relationships, while still getting the quiet time you need.