When I pulled up to a stop sign yesterday, the cars to my left and right weren’t moving. The lady on my left had arrived first, so it was clearly her turn to go. I patiently waited, but she didn’t move. She soon started waving angrily, motioning for me to drive. I looked at the car to my right, who was now also motioning. Confused, I pulled threw, wondering why these people were so hot and bothered.
Then, I realized: I never had a stop sign.
Mind you, this was my own neighborhood. I was paying attention but only enough to be safe. Most of my mental energy was caught up, contemplating some aspect of personality, planning out the weekend, or something else.
Why are the routine, practical details of everyday life often a challenge for INFJs?
Sensors vs Intuitives
It can be tough to be an INFJ in a practical, detail-oriented world. About seventy percent of the people around us are sensors, while we are intuitives. Sensors focus on what they can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear, taking that information at face value.
As a result, sensors tend to be good with logistics and tactics, depending on whether they are SJs (ESTJs, ISTJs, ESFJs, and ISFJs) or SPs (ESTPs, ISTPs, ESFPs, and ISFPs). We NFs, on the other hand, prefer diplomacy or, rather, relating to and caring for people.
One of the biggest ways this shows up in day-to-day life is the way people communicate. Both SP and SJ sensors focus on real, actual specifics. They talk about specific people they work with and live beside and the businesses and communities they frequent. In contrast, we NFs speak in metaphors and fill our conversations with meanings we’ve inferred and possibilities of what could be. Our language is far more imaginative.
Function Stack Clues
Another reason the practical side of life is challenging for us is that introverted intuition (Ni) drives our personality. It’s positioned at the top of our function stack and is, consequently, the top dog in the hierarchy.
Since Ni prefers theory, creativity, research, depth, the abstract, and the like, we spend much of our time contemplating these things.
As a result, we tend to be innovators, visionaries, writers, creatives, and thinkers, but the tradeoff is that we may have a hard time with – or at least lack interest in – the repetitive, concrete aspects of day-to-day life.
Our inferior function, extroverted sensing (Se), does appeal to us to a certain extent: we may enjoy exploring the great outdoors, visiting new places, sports, and mini-adventures, for example. Most of the time, however, we default to intuitive thought.
Practice and Interest
And as is the case with most people, we practice what we’re good at and become good at what we practice. It’s a cycle that reinforces itself and leads us to develop some skills while neglecting others.
The bottom line is that the situations that require us to be “in-the-moment” and zero in on the here-and-now tire and bore us. We’d much rather look to the future, employ our imagination, introspect, research, or think deeply.
This is the reason we miss our exits on the freeway and forget to eat when we’re caught up in a project. It’s also the reason why, when I’m enjoying a vacation, my natural inclination is to start planning another one just like it. I do this during the vacation when I should be enjoying the moment with friends and family. But it’s just too much fun to use my intuitive side.
Is there something wrong with us?
Before you start worrying, know you’re not alone. People of all types default to their dominant functions when forced to concentrate on things that are not their strengths. Many hands-on, tactical ESTP, ISTP, ESFP, and ISFP kids, for instance, can hardly stand the introverted-sensing and introverted-intuition heavy work that comprises K-12 learning. In elementary school, they fidget and play with pencils in their desks. In high school, they gravitate toward sports, shop class, band, work, or other interests.
Engage an ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, or ISFJ in a theoretical or future-oriented discussion, and they’ll quickly lose interest and try to change the subject to tangible here-and-now matters.
All people prefer what interests them, so we’re not weird for neglecting the details and practical life from time-to-time.
The challenge is that survival in the real world requires attention to the practical matters of life. So whether we like it or not, we INFJs have to mind the details.
At first glance, that doesn’t seem like a fair deal. I know I’ve lamented my lot in life more than once. But the more I study other people, the more I understand that all people are blind or weak in some area. Some people are great at making money and struggle with personal relationships, while others have outstanding family and personal relationships but struggle to make ends meet. Some folks thrive on change and thinking about the future but hate the routines of daily life, while others love doing the same thing the same way but constantly fret about tomorrow. I could go on.
My point is that, as an INFJ, you’ve got some wonderful gifts this world needs. Additionally, there are strategies and tactics you can learn (here’re chore-related examples) that’ll help you cope with the day-to-day grind. Ultimately, meeting your basic needs and being thankful will help free you to do what you love most.
You’re not messed up or broken – just different. So don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself neglecting details and stopping at imaginary stop signs from time to time.