One of the biggest frustrations plaguing INFJs is the fact that other people don’t “get” them. A little over 70 percent of all people on this planet are sensors, folks who are tuned into either the “here and now” or the past.
Sensors care about the practical details of life – chores, bills, and neighborhood happenings. They trust what they can observe with their senses and take it at face value. Most don’t normally go below the surface to search for implications and deeper meaning or think about what could be and future possibilities.
In contrast, we INFJs love to look for meaning. We want to know how the world works and why, and we look for patterns, make connections, and dream about what could be.
We’re far more removed from the present and the past than the average person. That’s not to say that we don’t think about either. It’s just that we tend to prefer thinking about future possibilities and a better future for ourselves and others.
The difference between us and the rest of the world is stark. Many people don’t understand that our way of thinking is both legitimate and important because it’s so rare and misunderstood. The INFJ personality type is the rarest of all 16 Myers-Briggs types, after all, making up only 1.5 percent of the population.
This wouldn’t be so big a problem except for the fact that we INFJs need other people and long for peaceful, fulfilling interpersonal relationships. We want other people to validate, understand, and appreciate us, but we seldom experience those things outside of relationships with other intuitive types.
But what if there were a way for you to enjoy better relationships with the sensors in your life, on that helped them understand you better? In this post, I’ll share a proven strategy that I’ve used to help other people understand and appreciate my INFJ personality.
One of the best ways to teach something unfamiliar is to relate it to something that is familiar. In the teaching world, we refer to this kind of device as an advance organizer.
In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath illustrate the beauty of metaphors, analogies, and advance organizers by describing a fruit unfamiliar to most Westerners – the pomelo.
At first, they provide a dictionary-definition description of a pomelo:
“A pomelo is the largest citrus fruit. The rind is very thick but soft and easy to peel away. The resulting fruit has a light yellow to coral pink flesh and can vary from juicy to slightly dry and from seductively spicy-sweet to tangy and tart.”
You get the general idea, but the fruit is hard to picture without seeing it.
Then, the Heath’s contrast the dictionary definition with an advance organizer:
“A pomelo is basically a supersize grapefruit with a very thick and soft rind.”
The result is instant clarity and understanding.
How to Put It to Use
This same strategy can help you help the sensors in your life understand you. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial for how to put it to use.
1. Determine what challenge, need, or experience you want your friend or family member to understand.
Try to pick something specific, and be strategic. You won’t be able to conquer Rome in a day. Start with a small pain point of yours, such as an explanation why hands-on chores are draining and monotonous for you or why too much noise and light are overstimulating.
2. Look for a similar challenge in the other person’s life.
The next step is to find a pain point the other person is wrestling with.
I wanted to explain to my wife why doing the dishes is feels like a waste of time to me, so I thought of something I know is challenging for her – long-term planning.
My wife is a planner who always has a to-do list, but she seldom plans more than a couple weeks out. When I ask her to sit down and plan out the year with me, she has a hard time hanging in for more than five minutes. She prefers to think about the present moment.
3. Craft and rehearse your explanation.
Once you’ve found a similar pain point, practice explaining the connection between your friend or family member’s struggle and your own. Make sure it’s crystal clear and that your explanation is as succinct as possible.
You may find that writing out your ideas helps you organize your thoughts. Also, consider running the explanation by a trusted friend to get another perspective before you share.
4. Find a good time and share.
Finally, when you’re ready, look for a good time to share, a time when you can have a humane, mutually beneficial conversation with the person you need to talk to. Your timing is critical. Make sure you get the person when he or she is in a good mood and open to the conversation, or your hard work might go to waste or even backfire.
Also, make sure that you’re sharing out of a positive motive, seeking to enhance the relationship. If your motives are right, your friend or family member will be more open to listening.
When I told my wife that doing the dishes, for me, is like her having to plan five to ten years down the road every night, she started to show me a little more grace and stopped thinking of me as lazy because I dislike hands-on chores. She started to just see me as different. I still have to do the dishes, but she makes a conscious effort to do a lot of the scrubbing before I ever get to the sink.
I realize the dishes are a small thing, but a breakthrough is a breakthrough. Start with something small, and build from there. People don’t usually see the world from a completely different point of view overnight.