The INFJ personality type is the rarest, comprising only one-and-a-half percent of the population. INFJs may never meet another person like themselves in their lifetime, and as intuitives, they’re numbered among the outliers since sensors make up 70 percent of the population.
In America, the preferred personality type is the ESTJ – the polar opposite of the INFJ. With the INFJ personality type being so rare and the culture at large favoring your opposite, it can be easy to feel left out, broken, misunderstood, and unappreciated. Complicating matters, INFJs possess a powerful desire to make a difference with their lives, fulfill their potential, do meaningful work, and live a life congruent with their high personal standards. INFJs put a great deal of pressure on themselves and expect that the ideal futures they vividly envision will become reality, but most people have a hard time understanding this desire.
For these reasons and more, it’s vital that people with the INFJ personality type understand themselves. They need to grasp who they are, understand their strengths, gain an appreciation of what makes them different from other types, and realize that they are normal – just different. When an INFJ learns these things, he or she can be more confident and plan a better, more productive path into the future.
An Introduction to Preferences
The INFJ personality is one of 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, and one of 8 introvert types. As with all of the Myers-Briggs personality types, the INFJ is a combination of four preferences, or preferred ways of interacting with, taking in, interpreting, responding to, and approaching the world.
In the first section of this article, we will explore each of the INFJ’s preferences, discussing what they mean and, from time to time, contrasting them with their opposite preferences (e.g. Introvert vs. Extrovert, Intuitive vs. Sensor, etc.). The preferences are a good place to start when learning about the INFJ personality. They quickly give you a sense of what this type is like and how it tends to operate.
After we explore the preferences, we’ll go to the next level and look into the primary mindsets, or functions, that drive this one-of-a-kind personality type.
Introvert: Your Quiet Side
The first choice of preferences, in the Myers-Briggs personality system, is between introversion and extroversion. These two preferences reveal where different personality types focus their energy. Introverts focus inwardly on ideas, memories, and personal experiences. Extroverts, in contrast, focus outwardly on other people and action. The INFJ is an introvert.
This particular choice of preferences can be a confusing one for INFJs who don’t yet know they are INFJs. INFJs have a strong desire to relate to, help, and interact with other people. As a result, they’re prone to think of themselves as extroverts, since they do focus a significant portion of their energy on people. After reflecting for a while, however, an INFJ who truly is an INFJ would have to conclude that she is an introvert because she needs time to herself in order to recharge.
There are actually several other factors at play here that reveal an INFJ’s introverted nature, not the least of which is the functional stack, which we’ll get into in the second half of this article. For now, take a look at six factors that reveal an INFJ’s introverted nature.
As introverts, INFJs get their energy from being alone; however, there are times when INFJs engage with people heavily. Depending on the individual, some INFJs may have a high capacity for interaction with groups. This is especially true of single INFJs who may not be living with anyone else – or who have roommates who are frequently not in the house.
After college, when I moved into an apartment with friends, I craved time with other people. I regularly attended my church’s young adult ministry of 300 plus people. On weekdays I hung out with my three other roommates at almost every meal. Then, when the weekends rolled around, I almost always spent time with a small group of friends whom I valued highly.
Once I got married, I noticed that I had far less energy for interacting with other people. I still greatly appreciated my group of friends and my church, but I didn’t have nearly the desire for interacting with people that I did before. I was almost always with my wife, and she was meeting many of my relational needs.
Reflecting on my time living with roommates, I realize now that I had much more time to myself. Whenever I wanted, I could withdraw to my room to read, which I did almost every night for about an hour. During the roommate years, I often took long walks by myself to think. Some of my fondest memories are of driving to quiet spots at nearby parks, walking into the woods or by a stream and enjoying the calm and quiet of nature. I treasured and needed time alone to recharge.
As you think about your own introversion, consider how you recharge. Though you may like to be with people, what do you do when you’re tired and spent? Consider your stage of life and needs. Then, think about where you draw your energy. All of this information will give you insight into your introversion.
Another aspect of introversion has to do with the way a person thinks. Introverts tend to take their ideas and questions inward and work them out through mental investigation and reflection. Most introverts don’t talk in order to think.
Introverts talk far less than extroverts for this very reason. They want to know that they’re contributing a meaningful idea, one that they’ve had time to flesh out. If they have not thoroughly considered what they are thinking, they might not say anything at all. Of course, the setting makes a big difference when it comes to talking. If an INFJ is with a friend or two or three, she’ll probably share more than if she were in a meeting at work. It depends on how well she knows and trusts the other people and the formality, nature, and topic of the conversation.
For example, when I’m in a meeting at work, I seldom contribute as much as my colleagues. I’ll occasionally chime in so that the leader of the meeting knows that I’m engaged, and if I have an important idea, observation, or question, I’ll share it. For the most part, however, I keep quiet. When I’m with my family or my wife, it’s a different story. Sometimes, I don’t shut up long enough to allow others to share in the conversation. I’m so relaxed and comfortable and excited to be with people who actually care about what I have to say that I’ll occasionally say more than I should.
For the most part, however, as introverts, INFJs prefer to work their ideas out in their heads first. Then, once they’ve wrestled with them a while, they may share them with others, seeking feedback and input.
INFJs can be excellent communicators. They, after all, love to help people by suggesting innovative people solutions. INFJs serve with their words. While they’ll do chores when necessary, one of their gifts is language, so they tend to employ this strength most often.
As introverts, INFJs tend to do their best work when they’re writing. Most introverts prefer writing to speaking because it allows them time to work out their thoughts before they share them. When speaking extemporaneously with a friend or colleague, a person has to respond quickly on the spot. Behind a computer or at a desk with a pad and pen, time is on your side. There’s no rush, and you can wait as long as you need and take as much time as you need to share an idea in exactly the way you’d like to share it.
Marti Olsen Laney’s book The Introvert Advantage sheds some light on why this is the case. According to Laney, the pathway from an introvert’s brain to his mouth is longer than the pathway from an extrovert’s brain to his mouth. Consequently, he’ll never be as speedy a conversationalist as an extrovert will be – or at least the conversation won’t energize him in the same way because it’s not playing to his strengths.
Extroverts and introverts also differ in what they enjoy talking about. While an introvert can and will engage in small talk out of necessity, she’ll never enjoy it as much as an extrovert will. Introverts prefer to talk about a particular subject on a deeper level. More specifically, INFJs tend to want to hear about people’s lives, their interests, their problems, and their triumphs. They tire quickly of conversation revolving around topics such as sports and weather, though they’ll endure these to get to the good stuff.
As an introvert, the INFJ prefers to relate to fewer people at one time. This reality connects back to what we just discussed: in one-on-one and small group relationships, INFJs have a better opportunity to go deep and really get to know other people. They get to open up about their own problems (if they really know the other person or people and feel safe with them) and to hear about what their friends are going through. As I said before, most INFJs love to help people solve their problems, especially when they’re interpersonal and intrapersonal in nature.
INFJs do have the capacity to interact with and manage large groups. They will, however, only be able to engage in these kinds of settings for limited amounts of time. Eventually, they’ll tire of it. This is one of the biggest challenges of my job as a teacher. I have to manage a classroom of twenty plus students all day. I’m expected to talk frequently on the phone with parents, and I have to interact with colleagues. By the end of the day, I’m completely spent. I do much better working on projects that will help people in the quiet of my living room. Sometimes an INFJ who’s overwhelmed by too much interaction with people will sometimes “disappear” for a week or more at a time. This is true for me. Some weeks, I’m out and about with friends and involved at work and school. Then, out of nowhere, I’ll talk to no one for a string of days at a time. I won’t reply to phone calls, and I’ll put off replying to texts.
Because of their inward focus, INFJs have smaller networks than extroverts. They’re more concerned with gathering and processing information and working through their thoughts and feelings than they are with meeting new people. An INFJ can know a lot of people; however, he probably won’t ever know as many people as an ENFJ will. Again, this has to do with the focus of his energy. From my time in college to the start of my work life, I noticed a huge drop in the size of my network. When I was in college, I passed people all the time. Because I’m 6’8” and I was a member of the basketball team, a lot of people noticed me. People I’d never met before would come up and ask me how tall I was, and it was a natural way to start a conversation. Because of my height and my desire to be friendly, I met a lot of people.
As soon as I got back home and started working as a teacher, my network shrunk significantly. There were fewer people around and far fewer adults were coming up to me, asking how tall I was, so I met fewer people. My life was reflecting more of my INFJ personality than it had earlier when I was surrounded by people during college.
Returning to Laney’s book, The Introvert Advantage, Laney points out that another difference between introverts and extroverts is the amount of stimulation they need to reach arousal. By this, she’s referring to the kinds of stimulation you need to be at your best where you’re most alert and engaged.
Many INFJs are also highly sensitive people. They are particularly sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, graphic information, physical stimulants such as a coffee, and so on. As a result, to do their best thinking, INFJs prefer quiet places free from interruption. This is yet another reason why they prefer interacting with one, two, or a few people as opposed to large crowds. You probably won’t find INFJs at loud parties. You’ll, instead, find them in coffee shops, at parks, and in libraries.
In college, I learned how important it was for me to have quiet places where I could think. I loved going to the back of the book stacks where there were only two or three people a few desks away from me. There I could study for several hours in peace without interruption. Those were good days for me. It was just me and my textbooks.
Once or twice some of the guys from my basketball team invited me to a party, but I never went. One reason I didn’t want to go was that I feared they might be doing things that I didn’t approve of. INFJs tend to have high moral standards, at least compared to other personality types. The other reason I didn’t want to go was that I knew the party would be loud, and I had zero to no interest in getting myself in a room with a lot of people I didn’t know with the music blaring. That wouldn’t have been fun for me. It would have been punishment.
In the next section, we’ll discuss the kind of information INFJs prefer to gather and how they interpret it.
Intuitive: Your Futuristic Mind
The second preference revealed in the INFJs’ four letters – intuition – concerns the way they gather information and the kind of information they trust. INFJs fall into the thirty percent of the total population who are intuitives, as opposed to the seventy percent who are sensors.
Big Picture Thinkers
As intuitives, INFJs focus on the big picture. They can tend to lose the trees for the forest. When they’re learning a concept or taking in a problem in order to come up with a solution, they want to know the context and how all the details relate to the whole. This doesn’t mean that they’re not good with details. On the contrary, when engrossed in a pet project or a meaningful effort to help someone in need, an INFJ can be quite perfectionistic. (INFJs are at their cores idealists who have extremely high standards for themselves.) That said, an INFJ would easily become frustrated if she had to do detail work all day every day. Accounting and chemistry wouldn’t fit most people of this personality type.
Looking at the big picture has always been the way I’ve best understood books and courses. Whenever I read a new book, I first think about the title and the major subject. Then I go to the table of contents and try to organize the parts and chapters under the title and main subject. With this framework in my mind, I’m able to assimilate the details.
Anytime I try to learn something new or wrap my mind around a concept, I’m interested in details only after I have an overarching framework under which I can organize them. Apart from that framework and organization, I’m lost.
Patterns and Connections
INFJs have a knack for identifying patterns and seeing how things connect. This is true for most intuitives. Whereas sensors tend to look at each detail slowly and carefully, one at a time, intuitives look at all the data simultaneously, searching for how they all fit together.
Because they look for patterns and connections, INFJs tend to arrive at conclusions instantaneously and all-of-the-sudden. One moment they’re looking at a bunch of stray puzzle pieces. The next, they’ve put them all together. More often than not, they may have a hunch or a gut feeling about something. They get this when their mind has subconsciously pieced the puzzle together and come up with an answer, as Dr. AJ Drenth describes the process. Explaining how the subconscious put the pieces together is the hard part. Regardless of the fact this process is often inexplicable, it works. There’ll be more to come on this subject in the next part of this article.
INFJs have an amazing ability to predict what is likely to happen in the future. They can look at a set of data and determine the outcome. For example, tell them what your daily health habits are, and they’ll be able to project how healthy you’ll be in 15 to 20 years.
They enjoy brainstorming future possibilities. INFJs come up with creative and innovative ideas in an effort to make the world better for people. Martin Luther King, Jr. is said to have been an INFJ and so is the Dalai Lama. INFJs focus on what could be and are acutely aware of how what they’re doing in the present will affect them in the future. This is part of the reason they put so much pressure on themselves to invest their time wisely. They are, as Steven Covey put it, “begin with the end in mind” kind of people.
Just because INFJs tend to focus on the future doesn’t mean that they’re not able to or that they don’t look at the past. They do. It’s just that they take what they’ve learned from history and use it to predict the future and chart a more fruitful, beneficial course for themselves and others.
A Taste for Figurative Language
If you ever want to identify an intuitive, listen to the way she talks. Does she speak in metaphors? Is her language figurative and imaginative? If you can answer yes, chances are good she’s an intuitive.
As intuitives, INFJs tend to use comparisons to explain. Instead of telling you that the person had a red and white striped shirt, they’ll tell you he looked like “Where’s Waldo?” They also enjoy using words playfully and poetically. I make up new puns on a daily basis.
If you want to motivate and excite an INFJ, don’t tell him what’s worked in the past. While he’ll respect and honor established institutions, the system doesn’t fire him up like inspiration and change. INFJs want to make things better. Moving stories, possibilities, and life transformations pump them up.
This is partly why, I believe, INFJs enjoy personal development. They think about the possibilities for the future and enjoy hearing about how other people have been able to grow and change. Their brains naturally start thinking about what life could be for them and others so they set to work moving toward the goal with a jolt of energy at the start.
Theory and Practice
An INFJ’s intuitive focus also means that he’ll tend to have his head in the clouds as opposed to being a more down-to-earth personality type. Sensors tend to be grounded in the here and now and, as a result, are only interested in theories so far as they apply to the present and make life better. Intuitives, such as the INFJ, however, enjoy theories for their own sake. They’ll worry about getting around to the application later on.
INFJs also tend to think more abstractly. They can lose people in their theoretical, conceptual language. My wife gets mad at me when I go on about the functions – the primary mindsets, which we’ll talk about in the next section – and how I see them at work in people’s minds. She doesn’t want to hear about extroverted feeling or extroverted sensing. She’d far prefer that I say: “That person’s highly concerned with everyone getting along, or Lebron James has unparalleled court sense.”
I don’t want to investigate this subject too deeply because we’ll explore it in the next part of the article, but I do think it needs to be addressed briefly now. Because INFJs are intuitives who make connections, they have an amazing creative side to them. Creativity, after all, is seeing connections that no one else has ever seen before and putting two seemingly unconnected ideas together in a new way. INFJs are masters of this art.
Finally, as intuitives, INFJs prefer to be learning and acquiring new skills regularly. Sensing types tend to prefer to master a skill and then continue to use it. Put an intuitive in that kind of job, and he’ll go nuts.
I initially went into education because I love learning, enjoy communicating, and like helping people. I thought, “This’ll be the perfect job!” It has, as a matter of fact, been a good one in many ways, but one of the aspects that I wish I could change about it is the repetitive nature of the job.
I find my escape in learning new technology. I love how the field is always evolving and progressing and that, seemingly every day, there’s something new to learn.
In the following section, we’ll take a look at how INFJs make decisions.
Feeler: Your Caring Heart
The third preference that makes up the INFJ personality has to do with decision making. Personality types with a preference for thinking remove themselves from the equation when they make a decision. They value impartiality and logic, carefully evaluating cause and effect relationships, but can sometimes come across as cold and unfeeling.
INFJs employ feeling when making important decisions. They empathize, putting themselves in the shoes of other people. They consider the values of others and the impact their decisions have on the people around them. INFJs will go out of their way to make a decision that meets everyone’s needs.
As you think about your preference for feeling as an INFJ, consider the following.
INFJs strongly value harmony, which is an indicator of their preference for feeling. They want everyone to get along, to be accepted, and to be part of the group. They’ll step out of their comfort zone to make others feel comfortable and welcome.
In high school, from time to time, I’d sit with other students who were sitting by themselves in the cafeteria because I didn’t want them to feel left out. When I’m with friends or taking a class and I see someone on the outskirts who’s not gotten connected, I’ll step away from my introverted nature, pull the isolated person into the group I’m in, and start asking them questions so that they feel connected to the group.
When it comes to decisions, INFJs will often sacrifice what they want for the benefit of the group. If an INFJ’s dinner party is making a decision about where to eat, she may say that she wants to eat at Applebees if that’s what the majority wants when she really wants to eat at Ruby Tuesday’s. If an INFJ is working on a group project, he may get stuck with the hardest part – writing the research paper – because he didn’t want anyone else to be stuck doing the lion’s share of the work.
Empathy is one of the INFJs’ greatest gifts. INFJs can feel what other people feel and sense what those people are going through. It’s almost impossible, for an INFJ to make a cold, logical decision. INFJs have to consider what the other person’s needs are. It’s for this reason that they do well in the helping professions. INFJs make excellent counselors, psychologists, nurses, and teachers because they are wired to make life better for others.
INFJs may become impatient with types that don’t consider others’ feelings. They have a hard time understanding how anyone could not be sensitive because they’re so good at it. Fortunately, they’re also good at looking at the world through another person’s eyes so that strength can help them understand why other personality types make seemingly cold, unfeeling decisions.
INFJs’ preference for feeling also shows up in their strong values. They can come across as stubborn when their values are threatened. Most of the time they seem easy going, but whenever someone asks them to cheat, to gossip, or to be dishonest, for example, they may shut down altogether.
This has always caused the most friction for me in my personal relationships and friendships. In high school, on a field trip, my friends were texting back and forth on their cell phones on a bus. I knew that we weren’t supposed to have cells phones out on the bus, so I virtually shut down for the day. I had a hard time not judging them. This bent toward firm values gives an INFJ a very strong conscience.
INFJs, as a result of their feeling preference, have to work hard to communicate what they want and need. INFJs who are in the early stages of their type development will often bow to the interests of others around them, which can often be a good thing. Some types, however, are bulldozers: they’ll always pursue their own good without seeking the benefit of others, so an INFJ needs to learn to communicate the facts in a straightforward manner.
Many thinking types respond best to direct communication. An INFJ’s indirect, sensitive communication may not always get the point across to people who aren’t making an effort to “read their minds.” After I got married, I grew significantly in this area. My wife’s family has a number of strong thinkers who tell it how it is. When I first spent time with them, I got my feelings hurt a lot. I thought they were intentionally trying to step on my toes by saying exactly what they thought. Over time, I learned that they were just being direct and that that form of communication was also acceptable and even preferable at times.
Not Mutually Exclusive
The thinking and feeling preferences are NOT mutually exclusive. Just because INFJs have a preference for feeling doesn’t mean that they aren’t also very logical. In fact, that’s one of the most interesting secrets about this type: an INFJ can be extremely logical – so much so that some mistake him for a thinker. INFJs are first and foremost information gathering introverts, and that means their decision-making preferences are somewhat balanced; they use thinking and feeling almost equally well.
I learned from a PersonalityHacker.com video that some INFJs are coders. They think so logically that writing HTML and CSS is fun for them. The work INFJs choose to do and the hobbies they enjoy also reveal how balanced their decision-making preferences are. Almost every INFJ has at least a passing interest in psychology, and psychology is a science (logic) that is carried on for the benefit of people (empathy).
As I mentioned before, I’ve been interested in technology for quite some time now. Technology is very logic based and requires an understanding of systems and how they interact with one another. This appeals to my slightly less prominent thinking preference.
To wrap up the INFJ preferences, we’ll look at how judging affects your personality.
Judger: Your Bent for Order
The fourth and final preference in the INFJ personality has to do with the way INFJs approach the world. Types who want, more than anything, to experience the world are perceivers. They prefer to live a more spontaneous, less scheduled existence. They enjoy variety and trying new things. What’s more, they sometimes fear making decisions because they don’t want to miss out on a better choice.
INFJs, in contrast, are judgers. They like their decisions made, their ducks in a row, and their projects completed. Read on to learn what this part of an INFJ’s personality looks like.
To-Do Lists and Calendars
INFJs love to get stuff done. (Some more than others…)
Each INFJ probably has several to-do lists and gets a lot of pleasure from checking items off. In college, I spent the beginning of every semester copying all of my assignments from my syllabi to a calendar. No one made me do this. I just loved that I could keep track of all my work and that I could see the work progressively getting finished.
I still use Wunderlist – a digital todo list – on a regular basis. In the app I have a todo list for work, for home, for my blog, and for spiritual growth. On top of that, I complete a five-minute journal every morning where I list my top three priorities for the day. Then, at the end of the day, I reflect on what I accomplished and record it. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes when I’ve completed my priorities for the day. It’s the days when I don’t get all of my work done that I feel most frustrated.
INFJs are excellent long-term planners who feel best when they know what’s coming down the pike. They make plans for the short-term as well as the long- term. The past several years, I’ve learned the joy of long-term planning for future goals. Rather than just make plans for the next two weeks, I’ve started making five, ten, and fifteen-year plans. A lot of personality types don’t enjoy looking so far ahead. My wife hates this kind of thinking, but it’s a great strength I can bring to our relationship.
Execution and Accountability
When I took the Strengths Finders assessment, I was surprised to learn that three of my five strengths were executionary in nature. I love to get stuff done. When I get frustrated with other people, if it’s not over their insensitivity, it’s probably when they don’t follow through with commitments. If someone tells me he’s going to do something, I fully expect that he will.
This bent is another reason why INFJs make great teachers and counselors. They like holding other people accountable. They want to see that people aren’t just talking but that they’re also taking measurable steps of progress toward a better future. I enjoy following up with friends and family who say they want to achieve certain goals. I’ll send them texts and emails for weeks if that’s what it takes to encourage them to accomplish their goals.
Right now, in fact, as I’m writing these words, my sister and I are holding each other accountable. She’s starting a photography business, and I’ve made plans to complete several Kindle books. We each set goals with deadlines, and we’re going to follow up with each other to make sure we’ve done what we said we were going to do. When we were video conferencing with each other, I didn’t feel good about leaving the conversation until my sister had written down exactly what she needed to accomplish over the next few days, so I took the liberty of opening up a Google Document and writing down the action steps for her.
In general, INFJs dislike open loops. When faced with leaving a decision open or waiting for the perfect outcome, they’d sometimes prefer to settle for a less-than perfect outcome, just to get the job done. Too many unfinished jobs will stress an INFJ out. In fact, the more responsibilities you give an INFJ, the more she’ll feel the tension mounting. An INFJ wants to start to chip away at the mountain of tasks.
It’s when INFJs are getting things done that they feel best. They dislike the stress that accompanies an approaching deadline, and they’ll work ahead to avoid that stress.
Approach to projects
As Judgers, INFJs approach projects in a methodical way. They have a bent for backward planning. They begin with the end in mind and then work backward to determine what needs to be done and when. So, for example, if they know that a project is due in a month, they’ll calculate the amount of time and effort involved and then determine how to attack the project, throughout the upcoming weeks. For some, this might mean front-loading a lot of the work and cranking it out in advance so that they can enjoy a break. For others, it might mean putting in the same amount of hours each day until the task is due. A lot depends on the individual and on the particular project. What’s certain, however, is that few INFJs will want to be caught frantically working on the project the night before it’s due. This is a sure recipe for stress, and INFJs don’t like stress.
For a lot of simple day-to-day decisions, INFJs may be creatures of habit. They do like routines because they cut back on the number of decisions the INFJ has to make. For instance, the INFJ may prefer to get the same kind of cereal, bread, and sandwich meat instead of trying something new. It’s not that INFJs don’t like to try new things, but they feel better when the decision has already been made and they can just get a task done.
So, as a result, INFJs will create routines for themselves. They may have a morning ritual, a work ritual, and an evening ritual when they get home. I do pretty much the same thing every day when I get up. I drink my coffee, read, work on my blog, and then get ready for school. I like the consistency of the routine and know that this schedule enables me to get stuff done.
What About Variety?!
The crazy thing about INFJs is that we do like variety. For a long time, I thought I was an INFP because, while I do appreciate routines, I have to change it up after a period of time. I can’t do the same exact routine indefinitely in the same way an ISTJ can. I face this challenge every year at school. The first month is interesting because I’m teaching a new crop of students, implementing fresh ideas, and feeling the energy of a fresh start. A month in, however, I’m starting to drag: I need a change!
That’s why I’ll often change the room around, move my desk, or try some new technology. I have to move things around, or I’ll lose my mind!
While perceivers appreciate this variety too, this desire for change is more a product of INFJ intuition than it is a preference for perceiving. Yes, every personality, the INFJ included, uses both judging and perceiving, but the judging preference is primary for INFJs. What they want is to always be looking and moving forward toward a more ideal future. They want to learn and acquire new skills, and they need to mix things up.
Congrats! You’ve explored the four INFJ personality preferences. Want to learn how they interact with one another via your primary mindsets – the cognitive functions?
An Introduction to Functions
Now that you’ve finished reading about the preferences, it’s time to delve into the driving mindsets that direct every INFJ. These mindsets are called functions. This is the next tier of understanding in unlocking your personality type. It has to do with the synergy of your preferences: Your introversion, intuition, feeling, and perceiving interact with each other in complex, amazing ways.
Don’t worry, if at first, the information in this section confuses you. It takes some time to wrap your mind around it. You don’t have to fully understand the functions to benefit from what they’ll tell you about your INFJ personality. Don’t get bogged down in this section. Move quickly through it the first time and come back later if you wish.
The Eight Functions
The functions are combinations of introversion or extroversion with either information gathering preferences (Sensing and Intuition) or decision-making preferences (Thinking and Feeling). Introverted sensing, extroverted intuition, and introverted feeling are some examples. In the Myers-Briggs personality system, there are eight functions in all:
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Extroverted Sensing (Se)
- Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
- Extroverted Thinking (Te)
- Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
Each of the functions is identified with a capital letter and a lowercase letter. The capital letter represents either the information gathering or decision-making function, depending on what type of function it is. The lowercase letter stands for either extroversion or introversion – whichever is represented in the function.
Of the eight functions, four are information gathering functions:
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Extroverted Sensing (Se)
- Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
Two of them are used inwardly (introversion), and two are used outwardly (extroversion).
The same is true of the decision-making functions. There are four of them:
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Extroverted Thinking (Te)
- Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
Two are used inwardly, and two are used outwardly.
Every Myers-Briggs personality is comprised of just four functions called a stack: two are information gathering functions and two are decision-making functions. You, as an INFJ, will be more comfortable and far better at using one of your information gathering functions than you will be the other, and the same is true for one of your decision-making functions. Finally, of the two functions you use most skillfully, you’ll use your information gathering function better than you will your decision-making function. All of this to say, here is what your INFJ functional stack will look like:
- Introverted Intuition – Ni (Dominant Function)
- Extroverted Feeling – Fe (Auxiliary Function)
- Introverted Thinking – Ti (Tertiary Function)
- Extroverted Sensing – Se (Inferior Function)
As you move down your functional stack, your ability to employ each of the functions diminishes significantly. Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge of personalityhacker.com do an excellent job describing this reality using a car. I’ll borrow their analogy. Imagine a convertible. Your greatest strength – introverted intuition – would be the driver, the most mature person at the age of 30. You employ this function more adeptly than any other. Besides introverted intuition, in the passenger seat, sits extroverted feeling. Extroverted feeling is 18, so you also use this function well, just not nearly as well as you use introverted intuition. Behind extroverted feeling, in the back seat, sits introverted thinking, a thirteen-year-old. Obviously, this function is less developed, but you’ve still got a handle on it to some extent. Finally, behind the driver, beside introverted thinking, sits your least developed, three-year-old function: extroverted sensing. This function is like a child, and you have a poor handle on it. In fact, you’ll see it rear it’s ugly head mainly when you’re under great stress.
In the upcoming sections, we will look at each of your functions, starting with your dominant and moving to your inferior, and talk about how each shows up in your everyday life.
Introverted Intuition: Your Greatest Strength
It’s time to get to the good stuff. Now that you have a basic understanding of the preferences, we can explore every INFJ’s greatest strength. This is where it starts to get fun!
As I mentioned in the previous section, an INFJ’s most mature and fully developed function – the driver in the car model – is introverted intuition (Ni), and it’s through the lens of this function that INFJs see the world. INTJs are the only other type whose greatest strength is introverted intuition, but only INFJs use it in conjunction with extraverted feeling. INTJs combine introverted intuition with extroverted thinking, so each type’s strengths come across very differently. Only about eight percent of the population uses Ni, compared to the majority – approximately 46 percent – who use introverted sensing (Si). This means introverted intuition is a mystery to most people. Let’s investigate how this function works.
As I mentioned above, introverted intuition is an often misunderstood function mainly because it’s unobservable and, therefore, difficult to understand. Introverted intuition works by using the five senses to collect subtle details from the immediate environment. Because INFJs are feelers and they use extroverted feeling, their focus tends to be on people, so the details they notice may be barely recognizable facial cues, voice intonation, and general body language, for example. Once an INFJ notices these things, Ni then begins to process them in the subconscious mind.
Introverted intuition considers all the data at once searching for patterns and connections. When it’s working, you may experience an “aha” moment where all of the sudden you have an insight into what a person is thinking or feeling even without that person telling you. That’s why a lot of INFJs are mistakenly thought to be mind readers.
Introverted intuition doesn’t, however, focus only on details about people. You may, for example, be studying a particular topic, reading articles and books, and thinking through the research in your mind. Then, when you’re in the shower, getting ready for the day, walking down the hallway, or driving your car, an insight will hit you out of nowhere: You, seemingly all of the sudden, understand how all the pieces fit together.
This happens to me a lot. I’ll wonder why, for instance, an ENFP would ever want to be a math teacher. I know that ENFPs are creative problem solvers and inventive people and that they like helping others but can’t understand why they’d be so interested in numbers, since thinking and logic aren’t the driving processes in their minds. After reading several articles and thinking back over my experiences with ENFP friends, however, everything clicked for me. Suddenly, I realized that my friend TJ is a math teacher because he likes people – and his feeling and thinking processes are balanced. Then, I remembered that my other friend Mike is also an ENFP, and he works with numbers every day in his financial advisor role. The same is true of my friend Steve, who’s an ENFP and has for a long time had an interest in personal finance as well.
When you’re trying to solve a problem, introverted intuition may present itself as a hunch: seemingly out of nowhere, you have a good idea what the cause is or what the solution may be. This seems odd and fishy to others – like magic, but it’s not. What’s really happened is that your mind has put the details together subconsciously, identified a pattern or trend, and led you to a highly likely conclusion. My mother-in-law is a nurse. Her supervisor used to give her a hard time because my mother-in-law could solve a problem intuitively. She’d sense what was about to happen – or why something was happening – when no one else would – and she was often right. Because she couldn’t explain how she had come up with the insight or answer, the other nurse was annoyed with her, but I suspect it was just my mother-in-law’s introverted intuition at work.
Because introverted intuition is an INFJ’s dominant function, he may seem like he’s often in another place. The process makes it easy for you to get lost in thought. I regularly find that, when I’m driving, I’ll miss an exit on the interstate or I’ll arrive at my destination with little memory of the actual driving experience and the route I took. My mind will have guided me to the destination virtually on autopilot.
When my wife was in high school, her mom was supposed to pick her up from soccer practice. An hour or two went by, but her mom didn’t come. My wife had tried several times to call her house, but she couldn’t get through because her mom was on the internet (This was during the days of dial-up internet when you couldn’t be on the phone and the web at the same time.) Eventually, my wife got home somehow, only to find her mother lost in research on the bald eagle.
While the story is funny, this sort of thing happens to the INFJ a lot, and it’s a consequence of the introverted intuition which is an information gathering function. An INFJ can easily spend two, three, or four hours researching a topic of interest. INFJs get so caught up in what they’re doing that they lose track of time and may even neglect their basic needs. They’ll forget to eat or drink or to use the bathroom until all of the sudden they realize they’re starving or they’ve got to run.
Introverted intuition wants to know how everything fits together. It’s not content to just know that something works. It wants to understand why and how.
Last night, I took a walk with my mother-in-law, who’s also an INFJ. We spent a while discussing the rock and soil composition of our region and how the presence of clay and silica indicate that there were once still bodies of water where we live. I suspect that this topic is a deep and abiding interest for my mother-in-law because she wants to understand why the world is as it is and how it came to be that way. She’s not content to know what rocks are here; she’s got to know what brought them here too.
Introverted intuition is also an incredibly creative function. It excels at putting seemingly disparate ideas together to make something new and interesting. It naturally and easily connects the dots between ideas that, to most people, don’t seem to go together.
Since elementary school, I’ve been good at puns. I love words and their multiple meanings, so I’m always looking for double meanings. I don’t have to make a conscious effort. When I hear a sentence, my brain naturally analyzes the phrase and thinks about other phrases that would go with it. Most people who know me well can’t spend an hour with me without hearing three or four puns – or ridiculous jokes. For instance, when my son had a toy sheep in his hand the other day when my wife and I were visiting her family, I asked him, “Are you feeling sheepish as though someone has pulled the wool over your eyes? Don’t feel baaaad!” Ridiculous – I know. That’s introverted intuition at work.
Most INFJs are good with words, and I think it’s largely because of this function – and perhaps because of extroverted feeling. They don’t just know language, but they have a deep awareness of the meaning and power of each of the words. Latin was one of my favorite subjects in high school because it helped me understand the origin of our language. I loved seeing Latin words in our words. When, for example, we were studying the word send – “mitto, mittere, misi, missus” – my mind started rifling off related words: missionary, emissary, missile, emit, mission, missiological, amiss, and so on. I still love etymology because it helps me understand how everything works and fits together.
It’s this same process at work that’s the source of my best humor. Whenever I’m with someone and they’re telling me a story or sharing about their day, I listen for the central ideas. After a little while, I’ll hear something related to an original topic, but the connection won’t be one that the person I’m listening to would think of. I’ll, then, bring the current conversation back around to that original thought in a surprising or ironic way. If, for example, an engineer were to explain to me how a gear box can only handle so much force or structural load, I might reintroduce the concept when talking about a mutual friend. “Yeah, Jon left the party early because he’d had enough people time. His social gear box had reached its structural load.”
Introverted intuition is what makes INFJs excellent musicians, artists, graphic designers, writers, and so on. The connections they make are original and wonderful, and there is a world of creativity in each INFJ’s mind.
Introverted intuition also postures INFJs toward the future. They will look at the past and the present, but they’ll do so in order to collect enough data to project what’s going to happen in the future. They’re wired to analyze what’s happening now – or what has happened – and anticipate what will happen in the future. Because introverted intuition is always at work in their minds, they do a great job predicting what’s coming down the pike or imagining what could be.
This is partly why INFJs are so idealistic. The personality types with an NF in them are referred to as the idealist for good reason. They can anticipate what’s going to happen, and they are seldom content with reality as it is. They want the best possible future, and, as a result, they’re often unhappy with their present circumstances. INFJs are usually happier with working toward a desired goal. They need to see that they’re making progress every day toward a better future, and when they’re not, they can grow discouraged.
As I mentioned before in this article, INFJs are great at beginning with the end in mind and backward planning. They can anticipate the future and work out what it’ll take to get there. INFJs live with a deep hunger for a sense of purpose. They anticipate the end of their lives and want to know that they’ve made a difference in the world, primarily through serving people. They’ll commit themselves to personal growth plans and work tirelessly to achieve their long-term visions.
This past year, I read and listened to a combined 80 books. It was one of the best years of my life partly because I learned so much about myself, others, and how the world works and partly because what I learned helped me take measured steps toward a more exciting future.
INFJs’ gift for generating ideas and seeing the future also makes many of them great entrepreneurs. They see what people’s needs are and they can come up with amazing solutions and future possibilities. Many INFJs also like entrepreneurship because it allows them to design a business that fits their personalities. They can help people from their homes so that they have the quiet they need to focus, and they can also ensure that their business or practice aligns with their personal values and high standards of integrity.
Since I started blogging a year or two ago, my mind has almost constantly been generating potential business ideas. I keep my phone or computer near me as often as possible so that I can capture my ideas in Evernote and come back to them later. I love this brainstorming process.
As NFs, INFJs naturally see possibilities for people: this is when introverted intuition and extroverted feeling work together. An INFJ can project what will come to pass for an individual based on her current state of affairs. He also loves to help her figure out what she’s good at and create an action plan to help her get there. Again, this is why INFJs make great teachers, life coaches, counselors, psychologists, nurses, and other workers in the helping professions. They enjoy helping people get where they want to go and to the places and positions that are best for them, their families, and society at large.
Because introverted intuition is your dominant function as an INFJ, you are a deep thinker. You won’t be satisfied with knowing that something is as it is – you’ll also want to know why. Introverted intuition is the capacity to understand complex systems. You’ll also be able to focus on a problem or project for an extended period of time until you’ve figured it out. These are wonderful gifts, and you’ll be happiest when you’re fulling engaging your mind while trying to solve a complicated problem, create something completely original, or understand a challenging theory or idea – all in the service of others.
When I have free days, I invariably spend time on the computer writing, researching, or composing a song. If you can’t find me there, I’ll be reading a book or having a deep discussion. I’m happiest when I’m engaged in these sorts of activities.
INFJs are also people of action. There introverted intuition yields dreams and visions of future possibilities, but unlike other perceiving types who come up with ideas but have a hard time putting them into practice, INFJs are most satisfied when they’re actively working toward a goal and making a vision a reality. They not only dream it; they do it.
I love brainstorming future possibilities with other people, but once we’ve settled on an idea, I fully expect that we implement. One of my greatest frustrations is when someone gets fired up over a good idea and says he’s going to do something but then does nothing. I once planned a website with another person that was going to allow her to create videos and share her knowledge. I set up the website for her and spent several hours talking about how she could present the content and planning how she could add that content to the website. When it came time to enact the plans, however, she just couldn’t get started. She was worried about her work being imperfect and she always had a reason why she needed more time to do more research. That experience frustrated me to no end and taught me that I need to be more careful when I decide to help someone: I need to know that the person is actually going to do something before I invest time because I need to see that the project is moving forward.
Signs of Introverted Intuition at Work
I know that introverted intuition manifests itself in different ways for different INFJs. For me, it shows up as follows:
First, I’m a learner. Like most intuitives, I get bored when I’m stuck using the same old skills. That’s why I went into teaching. I hoped that I’d always be learning and sharing something new. When I’m not in the classroom, I’m usually reading, listening to a podcast, or watching some kind of video. I can’t help but continue to study personalities and try out new technologies. I have an insatiable desire for knowledge and for understanding how the world works.
My mind naturally drifts into the future. I naturally imagine what life will be like a year, five years, ten years, or twenty years into the future following my current pattern of living. It’s because of this that I put a lot of pressure on myself to be productive today so that life in the future will be like I envision it now. When I have an unproductive day, it’s super easy for me to feel discouraged.
I think – a lot. I analyze observations I’ve made about people, brainstorm, introspect, reflect on earlier conversations, and ask why things are as they are. What I think about varies widely, but I’m always thinking about something, putting my introverted intuition to work.
When my introverted intuition and extroverted feeling combine, they give me an intense desire to understand people and what makes them tick. My friends and family think I’m always psychoanalyzing everyone around me. I wouldn’t call it that. I just love to figure out why they do what they do. This knowledge enables me to better appreciate the difference between people and help them take the steps that are right for them. I love coaching others because I realize that every person on this planet is unique and different and has special strengths and gifts. I have a hard time with institutions and practices that treat people like cogs in a machine. I know that any team can be improved when they get people in the roles that are right for them.
This incredible gift – introverted intuition – is one of the best parts of being an INFJ. Let’s discuss another one of your gifts, extroverted feeling.
Extroverted Feeling: Your Compassionate Side
The second strongest driving mindset for the INFJs has to do with the way they make decisions. It’s called extroverted feelings. Unlike the dominant function, introverted intuition, extroverted feeling is visible to others. It’s what everyone will notice first about you because you use it in your relationships with other people and as you take action. Let’s explore what extroverted feeling looks like, how it works, and how it shapes your personality.
What Is Extroverted Feeling?
Because it’s their auxiliary function, extroverted feeling is less-developed than introverted intuition. Nevertheless, INFJs have a strong handle on this function. They use it well, and it drives a lot of what they do, despite the fact that using it drains them. As introverts, INFJs will never get energy from acting in an extroverted way, even though they’re really good at it.
First and foremost, extroverted feeling is concerned with meeting other people’s needs. It makes decisions based on values and is primarily based on how others will be impacted by decisions. It seeks to include others, make them feel as though they’re part of the group, and meet their emotional needs. Because INFJs use this function, they’re adept at picking up on and interpreting how people are feeling. They can do this without anyone else ever telling them how they’re feeling. This is true of almost all extroverted feeling users.
Because INFJs pair extroverted feeling with introverted intuition, they have an incredible ability to “mind read”, or so it would seem to outside observers. Attending to the nuances of people’s body language, facial expressions, and voice intonation, they infer – usually very accurately – how others are really doing. They read between the lines and depend more on nonverbal information than on the words they hear. As a result, they’re often extremely perceptive and great at helping people work through problems.
The paradox of being an INFJ is that you crave privacy, but because you use extroverted feeling, you’re skilled in social situations. Most INFJs really do enjoy their time with people. They’re natural conversationalists who can talk to almost anyone. They have the ability to almost “get inside another person’s mind” and determine what she wants to talk about. Then, they can adapt their words to fit the conversation and engage the person they’re talking with. They’re conversational chameleons when not making a concerted effort to be completely transparent and say what they think and feel. Granted, this is a valuable skill, and we all need to adapt our styles somewhat to engage the different people we talk to.
Because INFJs are so good at connecting with and talking to other people, others often mistake them for extroverts. INFJs can be fun and lively, when they feel comfortable. I’ve always enjoyed making other people laugh and being goofy at times. The challenge of being an incredibly private introvert and wanting to be around people is that INFJs have a tendency to overdo it in social situations and then fall off the map all of a sudden. One day, an INFJ will be out with friends, sending text messages, and participating in a variety of activities. Then, the next, no one can find him. This happens to me on a regular basis. I’ll be enjoying time with friends and family. When I’ve spent all of my energy, however, I’ll disappear for a while. I’ll stay inside or intentionally keep a low profile until I’m ready to talk to people again.
INFJs may also experience competing feelings. When they see someone in the grocery, for example, they might one day go up and say “Hello” and have a lively conversation. On other occasions, in the same grocery store, they might hide behind a fruit display to avoid having to talk to someone. A lot depends on how much energy they have and what their mood is for the day.
As extroverted feelers, INFJs have an irresistible urge to help other people. As NFs, they see possibilities for people and particularly love helping people make strides in personal growth. They do extremely well in the helping professions as nurses, teacher, counselors, and coaches. Because INFJs are introverts, they do better helping people in small group and one-on-one settings. While they can fulfill the role of a classroom teacher, for instance, they probably won’t enjoy it long-term because it places such a high demand on their energy. Most INFJs will be happiest in roles where they can help people but do so in a setting that preserves their alone time and privacy.
In Do What You Are, a career book that uses the Myers-Briggs personality system to match people with careers they’ll enjoy, the authors tell about an INFJ who works from her home creating children’s Bible study curricula for children. The job fits her because she gets to work from the quiet of her home and use her creativity to design original lessons that will benefit churches and the families they serve. This suits her well because she gets the privacy and creativity her introverted intuition needs when she designs original lessons from home, and she works to help others, which suits her extroverted feeling.
Many INFJs also make good writers.
Writing is an extremely private activity, but authors write to benefit an intended audience. So, again, this work meets the requirements of alone time and creativity as well as work done in the service of others. In fact, if you were to break INFJ work down to a formula, it would look like this: privacy + originality + helping others = satisfying work.
The Challenge of Being an Extroverted Feeler
One of the first things other people will notice about INFJs is that they’re kind, caring, and genuinely concerned about other people. With introverted intuition as their dominant function, they’ll also want to talk about why the world is the way it is, purposeful living, and theory, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ll be concerned for other’s well-being. Until they learn that many people communicate directly and are not concerned with feelings and harmony, INFJs will also be at risk for getting their feelings hurt. They have paper-thin skin. This is one of the biggest challenges of being an INFJ: you easily get your feelings hurt and are hypersensitive.
When I was in high school, I played middle hitter for our volleyball team. I was a decent hitter and could dunk a basketball. One of the parents of a player on our team encouraged me several times to spike the ball into the face of a player on an opposing team and give him a bloody nose. It seemed that he thought this would be an empowering experience. I, however, had absolutely no desire to give anyone else a bloody nose, regardless of whether he was on the other team or not, so I had to put up with a lot of grief that season.
Over and over, throughout my basketball career, coaches kept telling me to “be tough” or “get mean”, but I could never do it. It wasn’t in my nature. I was a decent athlete, and I did learn as time went on to be more aggressive. Really, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties when I started to develop my introverted thinking more that I learned to be competitive. Looking back on my high school days, I wish someone would have told me that there was nothing wrong with me. I was just an extroverted feeler!
INFJs can also be somewhat manipulative when they want to get their way. Because they quickly pick up on other people’s moods and motivations, they can craft their words to make a person feel a certain way. In close relationships, the INFJ may selfishly try to get people to do what he wants them to, but he can also use this gift in service to others, motivating them to take action for their own good.
Extroverted feeling is an incredible and valuable function. While you will need to develop some thicker skin and toughness to keep from getting your feelings hurt, this function paired with your introverted intuition will give you the chance to relate to all kinds of people. As an INFJ, you genuinely care about people you meet and treat them with dignity and respect. You look out for their good. People don’t always get this treatment, and they appreciate that you take interest in them and attempt to make a genuine connection. You possess an especially high level of emotional intelligence, and this gift makes you an extraordinary people person as well as an incredible networker.
My senior year of college, I was named homecoming king. If anyone would have told me I’d be homecoming king, I would have laughed. My first day of kindergarten, I hid under the bed and refused to come out. I stayed an extra year in preschool before I was ready for public school. When you treat everyone with kindness, however, people take notice. The good reputation I’d built up from doing the right thing and treating others well also helped to get me my first job out of college. I got a teaching job at the same school that I had attended as a child. The teachers there knew what I was like and how I worked, and I think that caused them to want to help me.
In addition to being compassionate people persons, INFJs can be logical too. The next section will explore INFJs’ third function, introverted thinking.
Introverted Thinking: Your Logical Side
Your third driving mindset, or function, is introverted intuition. Unlike feeling, thinking takes a logical approach to decision making. It’s objective and impersonal. Introverted thinking, in particular, is often associated with a search for truth. It’s also responsible for organizing and arranging a large amount of information. Let’s explore how this function colors the INFJ personality type.
Keep Your Intuition In Check
INFJs’ introverted intuition and extroverted feeling work together to many times give INFJs accurate impressions. According to AJ Drenth of personalityjunkie.com, introverted thinking keeps these processes in check. It enables INFJs to critically analyze their intuition and check it for accuracy. This logical review of your insights about people provides a healthy balance and keeps you from leaping to faulty conclusions.
Balancing Your Feeling
As I mentioned in the preferences section, INFJs use extroverted feeling and introverted thinking in a balanced way. This enables them to feel compassion for others but also allows them to listen to a person’s story in a detached manner. They’ve got the best of both worlds going on.
Some INFJs even present as INTJs. They thoroughly enjoy academic endeavors and, to an outside observer, can appear cold and logical. The fact that they are introverts makes it hard to judge what’s really going on inside their minds without taking the time to get to know them.
I loved the academic side of college. I enjoy psychology, philosophy, and English equally. In fact, I had more fun in my general education classes than I did in the classes for my education major. They challenged me and expanded my understanding of how the world works.
Organizing Large Amounts of Information
INFJs often want to know why things are as they are. Furthermore, they want to be able to explain and organize the world around them. This is a result of their introverted thinking at work. Most of the information that I take in and organize revolves around my core interests. These days, I’m learning about different personality types, especially introvert personality types, and what makes them unique. I’m on a quest, of sorts, to analyze and explain why the sixteen personality types think and behave as they do. I’m constantly evaluating other people and revising and adding to my mental personality knowledge base.
What you know much about and focus on will depend largely on your personal interests. People have told me that I know a lot about a variety of subjects. Most people know a good deal about one subject, but INFJs have the capacity to know much about many subjects. It’s not surprising, then, that INFJs are one of the highest performing types in academic settings.
Introverted thinking also adds to an INFJ’s depth and complexity. They are anything but content to just exist. Rather, they’re the kind of people who search for the purpose of life and ask deep questions. They want to know how the world came to be and what holds it in place. I’ve heard from a number of INFJs who love astronomy, geology, and other sciences that explain the origin of the universe. Many INFJs are also people of faith. They have to have a purpose in life, and many find it in a God who is bigger than they are.
That’s been the case for most of my life. I don’t know how I could go on if I didn’t believe there was a God. To me, life would be pointless and empty if my pitiful little life is all I was living for. I need to exist for a purpose that’s greater than myself. Believing that God created me for His greater purposes and plan adds both meaning and value to my life.
During college and as I transitioned into the work world, I asked a number of deep questions that had to do with my purpose, calling, and the future. I wrestled with my beliefs, and the people I talked to tired of wading through such deep waters. I’m thankful for the time that they gave me and the energy they invested. In particular, my dad and I read and discussed a number of C.S. Lewis titles together, and that helped me a great deal.
Your introverted thinking will raise questions and show up more noticeably as you reach your twenties and thirties. Pay attention to the questions and engage them. You’ll be a happier, better-balanced person on the other side of the struggle if you do.
In addition to the fact that you, as an INFJ, are a creative introvert, you’ll desire freedom to do things your own way. This is another consequence of your introverted thinking. INTPs and ISTPs, two personality types with introverted thinking as their dominant function, are fiercely independent. Above all else, they want the freedom to solve problems their own way, and they resist systems that tie them down.
This is the difference between extroverted thinking and introverted thinking. Extroverted thinkers design systems that facilitate productivity and increase efficiency. Introverted thinking, however, works on a more case-by-case basis and engineers unique solutions for specific problems that arise in the moment.
With introverted thinking as a driving mindset, INFJs experience a dilemma. On one hand, they are people of strong values and integrity, so they want to honor whatever system they are a part of and conform to the expectations as long as the rules and regulations don’t violate any of their values or standards. On the other hand, INFJs want the freedom to do work on a project in a way that works for them: they need freedom to tackle it in a meaningful way. This is another reason why I think INFJs are often happiest when they are their own boss. If they can do work that successfully pays the bills and allows them to approach a job in the way they want to, they’ll enjoy their work more.
The final section of this article will look at your fourth driving mindset as an INFJ, extroverted sensing.
Extroverted Sensing: Your Achilles Heel
The last mindset – or function – making up an INFJ’s personality is extroverted sensing. Remember that this function is the most immature. It’s the three-year-old in the group. As a result, INFJs aren’t very good at using it, and when they do use it, they’re usually under extreme stress. They don’t call extroverted sensing your inferior function for nothing!
What Is Extroverted Sensing?
Extroverted sensing is a function that uses the five senses to pick up on and respond to stimuli in the immediate environment. It excels at performing and in-the-moment problem-solving. Many professional athletes and performers excel at extroverted sensing and have this mindset as their dominant or auxiliary function. They can read a situation, and they feed off of a crowd. Lebron James’s dominant function is extroverted sensing: he has incredible body control and court sense. His coordination and physical prowess allow him to dribble between an opponent’s legs in a full-out sprint and jump over a grown man. Lebron thrives in the present and on competition.
Extroverted sensing also enjoys the moment. People who have extroverted sensing as their dominant or auxiliary function tend to like expensive cars, upscale houses, and flashy jewelry. They dress fashionably and like exotic getaways, exhilarating experiences, and fine dining. They spare no expense to experience what the world has to offer.
A Big Weakness
Most INFJs will have a hard time being in the moment, at least early in life. They’ll be prone to getting caught up in their minds and will prefer to employ introverted intuition than they will extroverted sensing. This is why, when I’m driving, I’ll often miss my exit or when I’m listening to a conversation, I’ll mentally go off on a rabbit trail. I remember a time when my wife and I were sitting on the porch eating a popsicle and watching the sunset. My wife, an ISTJ, loved the experience. To her, memories are one of the best parts of life, so she loves enjoying experiences together that she can look back on. I, on the other hand, had the hardest time being present with her. While I enjoyed the beauty of the sunset, I had to fight to keep my mind from wandering to the future or pondering some more complex problem. I struggle to enjoy the moment.
Under great stress, you are likely to overindulge your senses. You may overeat, get drunk, or watch too much TV. You might also overdo exercise. During the times in my life when I was stressed, I spent way too much time on the computer perusing the internet, doing nothing productive. This is in contrast to the meaningful research I enjoy doing when I’m at my best.
Carl Jung, the mind behind the Myers-Briggs theory, believed that people’s preferences balance out as they age. At least, this is the case when they intentionally work on them. He called this process individuation.
While an INFJ will never use extroverted sensing as adroitly as she uses introverted intuition, she can learn to be present in the moment and use it well. As time passes, she’ll improve. As a result, at the end of your life, you have a much greater chance of having balanced functions and, as a result, more balanced thinking as you learn to employ your introverted thinking and extroverted sensing.
I would also challenge you to actively work on both of these. As I mentioned in the previous section, your extroverted feeling and introverted thinking are somewhat balanced already. Still, work to develop introverted thinking and, especially, extroverted sensing. When you do, you’ll enjoy your relationships – and your life – a lot more.
I’m thankful for my parents. When I was young, they recognized that I was uncoordinated, so they allowed me to play video games so that I could work on my eye-hand coordination. They also got me involved in sports, which helped me learn to control my movements. If I hadn’t played sports, to this day, I would have an even more challenging time controlling my large body.
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