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When INFJs and ISTJs Disagree

The INFJ does not live in the same world as the ISTJ. They’re both introverts (I) and judging (J) types, but that’s about it. One is intuitive (N) and the other sensing (S). One is feeling (F) and the other thinking (T).

Differences of Opinion

If you’re an INFJ in a relationship with an ISTJ, be prepared for differences in opinion. As an INFJ, I’ve had problems with some ISTJs in the past, and I’ve seen them happen in other INFJ-ISTJ relationships. As a result, this blog is as much a personal statement as it is the sharing of professional knowledge about Myers-Briggs types.

The ISTJ believes that everything must be seen, heard, or measured to be real. The hunches of the INFJ, frequently based on limited information, may seem outlandish to ISTJs—even though the INFJ is usually correct. Also, the emotional component of INFJ thinking doesn’t make sense to most ISTJs. They believe in making decisions based on hard data. They consider feelings to be mostly irrelevant, except for their own—which they believe are based on reality, not state of mind. INFJs consider ISTJs too literal and lacking in imagination. What’s the use of gathering so much information, thinks the INFJ, when the conclusion is obvious?

How to Handle Conflicts

To negotiate disagreements or differences of opinion with ISTJs, INFJs need to back up their points with literal, objective examples, not subjective feelings or abstract ideas. Discussions should be concrete and matter-of-fact, not emotional. If an argument concerns an expenditure, for example, INFJs should not dwell on how important a desired item is to them. They should focus on needs the item meets, the benefits it offers, and its impact on their financial resources.

Let’s say an INFJ female partner in a relationship with an ISTJ wants to buy a canoe. She’s pretty sure it’s within their budget, although she hasn’t done the calculations. She thinks canoeing would be good exercise for them both. She knows of nearby rivers and lakes where they could launch their boat. But mostly, she wants the pleasure of being out on the water with her partner. This last argument for a canoe is not the first one she should use. After broaching the subject, she should be prepared to go over the family budget with the ISTJ partner, look into the purchase price of canoes, and consult maps about available sites for canoeing. She might even raise the topic of exercise benefits.

Construct: Conflict Resolution

constructThe diagram shows how INFJs and ISTJs handle this type of decision. The triangle represents a construct—the prospect of buying a canoe. (The dictionary defines “construct” as “an idea or theory containing various conceptual elements.”) The green circle at the top of the triangle represents the INFJ, who, as an intuitive (I), generally approaches ideas from the top down, looking at the whole before investigating the parts. The red circle at the bottom represents the ISTJ, who, being a sensing (S) type, looks at bottom-line details first and then decides whether they fit into a larger construct. The question is, how do the two Myers-Briggs types meet in the middle?

The best way for an INFJ to discuss the matter of a canoe purchase with an ESTJ is to deal with information, not feelings. This approach draws the ISTJs mind further up into the overall construct of buying a canoe. If the INFJ and ISTJ are lucky, they will meet in the grey zone in the diagram. Then, hopefully, they can head happily to a sporting goods store.

Despite their personality differences, some INFJs and ISTJs have undoubtedly developed the skills to sidestep conflicts. I was never very successful.

INFJ Meets ISFJ

INFJs and ISFJs are alike in many ways. They’re introverted, feeling, and judging. They differ only on the intuitive/sensing dimension of the Myers-Briggs Inventory. Both types put much of their energy into helping others and share a drive to make the world a better place. People can count on them in times of trouble.

Although INFJs and ISFJs have high ideals, they’re modest about them. They prefer to make their values apparent in their actions. This is partly due to their introverted personalities and desire to avoid the spotlight. Seldom do they call attention to themselves or demand recognition for their achievements.

The main difference between INFJs and ISFJs is that INFJs are more perceptive. They pick up on the motives of others quickly. Because they’re so sharp at spotting phony behaviors in people, their judgments are sometimes harsh. On the other hand, ISFJs are somewhat naïve. They have a hard time understanding power-hungry people or those with self-serving motives. They are bewildered by greed and unkindness as it’s so foreign to their natures. INFJs and ISFJs complement each other because they meet somewhere in the middle. INFJs protect ISFJs from their gullibility, and ISFJs are models of tolerance.

Quiet and unassuming, INFJs and ISFJs aren’t easy to get to know, but people close to them value their friendship.

In Love

Both INFJs and ISFJs take romantic relationships seriously and are attentive to their partners’ needs. In their speech and demeanor, they’re tactful and kind. At the same time, their introverted natures make them cautious about expressing their feelings for fear of rejection. These two types may be so cautious in their approach to romance that more extraverted partners get impatient with them. INFJs and ISFJs have a tendency to hold back on the playful aspects of their personalities until they know people well.

INFJs and ISFJs sometimes remain in partnerships that are no longer working. The thought of leaving a relationship makes them nervous and insecure. When either of these types is left by a partner, they’re deeply hurt. Typically, their self-esteem suffers and they go through a period of painful self-examination. If they don’t turn to friends for support, they’re slow to regroup and move on. Some grow quiet, trying to appear composed and stoic to the people around them.

At Home

The homes of INFJs tend to be more cluttered than those of ISFJs. An abundance of books, crafts supplies, musical instruments, and other paraphernalia lie around the house, allowing INFJs to pursue their hobbies at a moment’s notice. While they would prefer a tidy environment, housekeeping has a lower priority than having fun. When family members complain about the mess, however, INFJs will pick up after themselves.

ISFJs’ homes are usually neater, as they’re more prompt about attending to home maintenance and domestic chores. Sometimes their sense of responsibility prompts them to take on more than they can handle. They may complain about their workload in a martyred sort of way, but then turn down offers of assistance from family members. To accept help makes them feel inadequate and guilty.

Celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries are important to ISFJs, who are more traditional than INFJs. To get the most enjoyment out of such events, they participate enthusiastically in the preparations—cooking the holiday meal, cleaning the house, and so on. This is one way they show their commitment and love.

Both Myers-Briggs types take their parenting responsibilities seriously. For them parenthood is a lifelong commitment. Protective and patient, they’re likely to set aside their own needs to be sure their children are taken care of first. They give them every opportunity for a good education, for example. While ISFJs tend to encourage their children along conventional career lines, INFJs are more broad minded. They’re tolerant of unusual extracurricular and career interests as long as their children put forth genuine effort.

INFJs and ISFJs desire harmony above all. They want their partners and children to be happy. As a result, they sometimes sidestep family conflicts that should be resolved for the good of everyone.

At Work

INFJs and ISFJs need careers that are consistent with their values and desire to serve others. ISFJs are generally satisfied with conventional careers that focus on short-term goals and hands-on attention to detail, while INFJs feel fulfilled only when their intuition and creativity are called into play and they’re involved in long-range planning and problem-solving.

Both personality types are averse to conflicts and stress in the workplace. INFJs can become rigid and uncommunicative in a competitive or intense work environment. Eventually, they look for another job. ISFJs are likely to keep trying, working harder in the hope that the situation will improve.

Growing Older

INFJs and ISFJs enjoy their retirement years if they’re free of financial worries and have leisure time to pursue their interests. INFJs, once preoccupied with world problems, become more relaxed as they grow older, leaving many of their worries behind and enjoying the present. They’re likely to decide that the state of the world is the next generation’s problem.

ISFJs, always more now-oriented than INFJs, also enjoy being released from the time-consuming obligations that characterized their working years. With age, they become less self-critical and more extraverted. Their give their own needs and desires higher priority than they once did. Still, being of service to others remains important.

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INFJ Men as Lovers

INFJ men are complex, warm, and perceptive. They’re drawn to women who are intelligent, creative, and compassionate. While few INFJ men ever achieve perfect relationships, they always wish for them. This is a positive quality when they stay in a committed relationship but it works against them when they move from one woman to another, always seeking a partner who lives up to their ideals.

If you’re in a relationship with an INFJ male, your feelings won’t go unnoticed. He’ll pick up every nuance and shift in your mood. Sometimes you’ll think he can read your mind. He’s a skillful, attentive lover who won’t be happy unless he can give as much pleasure as he receives. He views lovemaking as a nearly spiritual experience and wants you to feel the same.

Have no fear that he’ll leave you on a whim. He’s steadfast and loyal. Hurting people is not what he does. In fact, he has a tendency to hang on to partnerships long after they start going bad. If your relationship begins to deteriorate, you’re likely to see him struggling with himself. If he finally concludes that his efforts are useless, he’s likely to move on quickly. Don’t expect to go through a series of arguments. That’s not his style. There’ll be no shouting or fighting, just a quiet announcement that it’s over and time for him to go.

If your relationship stands the test of time, you can look forward to years of meaningful companionship. You’ll receive thoughtful gifts, favors and compliments. INFJ men enjoy showing their love, but they also like to hear that their efforts are appreciated. Getting material gifts from you isn’t necessary. They’re happy with your words of pleasure and gratitude.

Don’t risk being dishonest with an INFJ man. You won’t get by with it for long. INFJs have little patience for people they consider fake or corrupt. They recognize lies quickly, even if they don’t say anything about it.

You may notice that other women are attracted to your INFJ partner. He may not realize this. He’s hard to resist because of his intelligence, warmth, and consideration. He has interesting ways of viewing the world. He inspires people to be their best. Yet because he’s a selfless person, he doesn’t recognize the impact he has on others. His modesty is part of his appeal.

If you’re lucky enough to find an INFJ man, don’t count on his making the first move. INFJs are rarely the first ones to initiate social contact. Ask whether he’d like to have coffee sometime. If he’s interested, you’ll know. Also, keep these pointers in mind:

1.  On a date, don’t talk about designer labels, top ten music, and other superficial matters. This is a major put-off for INFJs, who enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Money and fads are of limited interest.

2.  Leave your hand-held devices at home unless you need them for directions to a theatre, restaurant, etc.

3.  Don’t flirt with other men. You won’t impress your INFJ man. He’ll worry that you’re an unreliable partner.

4.  Don’t suggest that you’re out for a temporary affair.

5.  Don’t pressure him into going places that involve crowds of people, unless they’re quiet spectator events such as concerts, art shows, etc. Remember, he’s an introvert.

6.  Even though he may talk about expensive places he can take you, let him know that your idea of a good date is spending time one-on-one with him—that you’d rather be picnicking next to a river in his company than eating at a five-star restaurant.

7.  If your relationship moves on to sexual intimacy, take your time at lovemaking. Don’t rush the process. Savor every moment.

8.  Don’t lie to him, even about little things. He’ll pick up on it and your deceits will lower his opinion of you.

9.  Be patient about learning the INFJ’s innermost secrets. INFJs are more guarded than most Myers-Briggs types. If your partnership flourishes, he’ll eventually tell you everything.

Of all sixteen types, the INFJ has the greatest capacity for love and compassion in a relationship. If you find an INFJ man, hang on. He’s one in a hundred.

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INFJ Meets ISTP

It’s obvious looking at the letters I-N-F-J and I-S-T-P that these two Myers-Briggs personality types are very different. The only trait they have in common is their introversion. Both types enjoy privacy. They find meaning not from superficial experiences but from their contemplation of them.

 Sensing vs. Intuition

Because ISTPs rely on their sensing preference more than their intuition, they are driven to understand how things work. They usually have good eye-hand coordination, which makes them skilled at fixing things. They use their minds for practical matters and think problems through while working on them. Theories don’t interest them unless they can be put to practical use.

In contrast, INFJs aren’t mechanically minded. They get impatient with details and prefer to head straight to outcomes. The ISTP can be a big help to the INFJ who doesn’t want to bother with, say, taking apart a toaster to see why it’s not working. If the problem is a blown fuse, that may occur to the INFJ intuitively while the ISTP works his or her way to the solution through logic. ISTPs are likely to examine the parts of the toaster before checking the fusebox. The two types have complementary strengths.

When an ISTP and INFJ collect information to make a big decision, such as what car to buy, their sensing and intuitive functions may collide. The ISTP may not be satisfied until all aspects of a model are checked out and the vehicle is examined by a mechanic. The INFJ is more likely to base his or her decision on how the engine runs and if the car feels good to drive. The ISTP’s private opinion is that the INFJ rushes to conclusions without taking enough precautions. The INFJ thinks the ISTP is too fussy about details.

Thinking vs. Feeling

When an ISTP-INFJ relationship runs aground, it’s usually because of thinking-feeling conflicts. ISTPs make decisions based on facts rather than feelings and values. This impersonal approach gives them a tendency to ignore the effects of their actions on others. They may not even be clear about their own feelings. INFJs’ emotions are more likely to influence their decisions, although they do examine the facts. Because of this difference, the ISTP can hurt the INFJ’s feelings without meaning to. The INFJ can get on the ISTP’s nerves with his or her emotional reactions.

Perceiving vs. Judging

Because of their perceiving preference, ISTPs don’t worry much about deadlines and usually finish jobs just under the wire. They postpone starting projects and then rush to finish them on time. They’re often late for appointments. In contrast, INFJs work on a schedule, make lists, and make sure to meet their deadlines with time to spare. They plan projects. They don’t just jump in. In this arena, too, the INFJ and ISTP can get on each other’s nerves.

Making the Relationship Work

It takes effort and patience to make an ISTP-INFJ relationship work. The two must respect each other’s methods of processing information. The ISTP should try to understand the INFJ’s need for emotional support. Often this requires that the INFJ explain his or her needs to the ISTP and make suggestions for meeting them. INFJs shouldn’t expect ISTPs to be their sole source of emotional support. They need to cultivate a few friends who can empathize with their feelings and give them support.

As close friends, INFJs and ISTPs enjoy sharing experiences quietly, away from crowds. They’re most at ease when they’re camping, listening to music, or watching a documentary. Words aren’t necessary. The shared experience is enough.

The INFJ appreciates the ISTP’s ability to enjoy the details of life without over-thinking. ISTPs have a matter-of-fact, uncomplicated way of viewing the world. This can be a relief to the complex INFJ for whom very little is easy. Often the ISTP has practical solutions to the small problems of life: how to replace a bicycle chain, determining what’s causing the funny noise in the car engine, or figuring out what’s killing the roses in the yard.

Famous INFJs—The Good and the Evil

 

INFJs are the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type—found in only one percent of the population. The combination of introversion, intuition, feeling and judging make INFJs insightful, persuasive, charismatic, and passionate. When famous INFJs worked for good, they were positive forces in the world. When they turned evil, they became dangerous and desperate people.

INFJs whose childhood influences nourished their desire to do good in the world include Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. INFJs turned evil include Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and David Koresh.

Here are their stories.

The Good

Nelson MandelaNELSON MANDELA

Born to the royal Thembu family in rural South Africa in 1918, Nelson Mandela spent his early boyhood tending cattle in the countryside. He grew up with two sisters in his mother’s village. At the age of seven, he was sent to a Methodist school where a teacher gave him the English name Nelson.

As a young man, Mandela studied law in Johannesburg. Because of his legal efforts against apartheid, he served over 27 years in prison. He was released in 1990 only after international organizations campaigned for his pardon. In 1994, he was elected South Africa’s first black leader. During his life, he received more than 250 honors, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 2013 at the age of 95.

Among the most influential leaders of the 20th century, Mandela exhibited the best traits of the Myers-Briggs INFJ type. He was eloquent and had a sharp sense of humor that defused many touchy situations. He was confident enough to laugh at himself frequently, endearing him to followers.

Mahatma GandhiMahatma-Gandhi-Gandhiji-300x250

Born in 1869, Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual and political leader of India from 1921 until 1948. Gandhi was raised in a prominent Hindu family. When he was 19, he traveled to Britain to study law. Returning home, he led a nonviolent national struggle for India’s freedom from British rule, which was finally granted in 1947. It was his greatest achievement. He became famous for his many fasts to protest social injustice.

Gandhi was a true INFJ. Even at an early age, his value system was so strong that no one could talk him out of his convictions. Although deeply committed to social change, he achieved his goals without violence. He was a visionary who infected others with his dreams.

October 2, Gandhi’s birthday, is celebrated as the International Day of Nonviolence.

Martin Luther KingMARTIN L. KING

Born in 1929, Martin Luther King was leader of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. He used Gandhi’s nonviolent methods to combat racial injustice. King organized numerous peaceful protests U.S. cities, including the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

As a child, King attended church regularly. His belief in the church’s mission led him to study the ministry in college. After earning a PhD degree at Boston University, he decided that church work helped him satisfy his “inner urge to serve humanity.” In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent protests against racial inequality.

In 1968, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots followed in many U.S. cities. After his death, King received numerous posthumous awards. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was declared a U.S. holiday.

Martin Luther King showed the best traits of an INFJ. He was committed to his ideals and ready to put himself in peril to defend them. He was a brilliant speaker, articulate and forceful. He was able to convince others of his beliefs and pinsire them to action.

The Evil

Adolf Hitleradolf-hitler-2

Born in 1889, Hitler was the leader of Nazi Germany from 1934 to the end of World War II. He was responsible for the deaths of at least 5.5 million Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Like many INFJs gone bad, Hitler had an unhappy childhood. He got in trouble at school, and his father beat him regularly.

Hitler’s only love was art, which his father considered a waste of time. Adolf was sent to a technical school where he performed poorly and dropped out. After his father died, he worked as a watercolor artist to make a living. His hopes for the future were dashed when he was rejected by Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts because of his poor academic record.

Hitler had an idealistic streak typical of many INFJs. He was a vegetarian, often trying to persuade friends to give up meat in their diet by describing the inhumane slaughter of animals. He quit drinking and smoking, as well. He was kind to a select few people around him and to his dogs, which he loved. Some of Hitler’s extreme behavior has been blamed on his amphetamine addiction during the war.

Osama bin LadenOsama

Born in 1957, Osama bin Laden was the founder of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Bin Laden also claimed responsibility for other deadly attacks against civilian and military targets.

Bin Laden was raised a devout Muslim. As he was growing up, his main interest was religion, charitable work, writing poetry, and reading. In these respects, he was a model INFJ. Colleagues described him as gentle and soft spoken. However, like many INFJs, he was considered a mystery even by family members. He was known to be opinionated and severe in many situations. In the Muslim tradition, bin Laden had five wives and fathered over 20 children. Most of his wives were educated women, not subservient females as one might expect.

Bin Laden’s career as a jihadist began when he joined Muslim forces in Pakistan against the Soviets as a young man in 1979. His life ended in 2011 when he was killed in a covert military operation carried out by U.S. Special Forces and the CIA on the orders of President Barack Obama.

David Koresh220px-David_Koresh

David Koresh was the charismatic young cult leader whose “Army of God”—the Branch Davidians— had a 51-day stand-off with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Waco, Texas, in 1993. The siege began after the cult stockpiled weapons to prepare for the apocalypse. The ensuing firestorm left 76 cult members and 4 federal employees dead. Koresh shot himself in the head.

Born to an unwed teenage mother in 1959, David Koresh was raised by his grandparents in Houston. He was a lonely child, often ridiculed by kids his own age. He did poorly in school and eventually dropped out. Finding comfort in the Bible, he memorized long passages by the time he was twelve. A high school dropout, he moved to Hollywood at the age of 20 in a failed attempt to become a rock star.

At 22, Koresh moved to Waco, Texas, in 1981 to join the Branch Davidians. Taking over the cult after the death of its leader, Lois Roden, he instituted “spiritual weddings,” which permitted him to have sex with female followers of all ages. As a result, he had 12 children with women other than his wife.

With a sense of misguided idealism, Koresh exalted his own ego at the same time as his Christian bliefs. A powerful orator, he transmitted his ideals to others, as other INFJ cult leaders have done. His Myers-Briggs traits went unchecked and eventually expressed themselves in extreme, destructive behaviors.

 

How Myers-Briggs INFJ Scores Can Change

The Myers-Briggs scores of INFJs can change over the years, sometimes dramatically. Twelve-year-old INFJs who never turn their homework in when it’s due can, by age 17, become academic achievers. That’s because the childhood years of INFJs are devoted to developing imagination and creativity. They daydream, have just one or two friends, and share their make-believe world with only one or two trusted adults. Between ages 6 and 12, their introverted function occupies the main stage.

In their teen years, INFJs become more extraverted, getting good grades and excelling at sports, acting, or other extracurricular activities. They become conscious of their appearance and want to dress attractively. They take on added responsibility, often holding down part-time jobs. At the same time, being INFJs, they always feel a little out-of-step with their peers. They know they’re different and tend to think that something must be wrong with them.

As teenagers, their feeling preference turns their attention to causes such as animal welfare, human rights, and so on. They become more aware of ways they can help others. They may get so involved in these activities that they have little time for themselves—quite a contrast to the reclusive children they were between ages 6 and 12.

From ages 20 to the mid-thirties, socially approved ambitions take hold. INFJs look for ways to become autonomous, run their own lives, and succeed at their jobs. They learn to be smooth and accomplished in many settings, even though inside they may still feel unsure of themselves.

Many INFJs decide in early adulthood that they were too submissive in their earlier years. The INFJ becomes assertive and sometimes rebellious. Family and friends may be puzzled by the change. What happened to the quiet, accommodating INFJ they used to know?

At the same time, INFJs start to tap into their sensing abilities and put them to work. In their early twenties, they may learn to play the guitar, take up oil painting, or collect antiques. INFJs pursue these new interests with enthusiasm, attentive to the smallest detail. Unlike their former tendency toward introversion, the company of others becomes desirable in their quest for new interests.

The departure from the ingrained INFJ style serves their overall development well. With time and maturity, the fully evolved person should be proficient in all eight personality functions.

Readers may get the impression that it’s best to develop all the functions equally. According to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst who developed personality theory, it doesn’t work this way. If a person dedicates a period of his or her life to, say, sensing and intuition simultaneously, neither function will get the attention and energy needed to become fully developed. The same is true of the other three trait pairs. One of each pair of functions must be dominant at any given time to produce a stable, reliable personality.

The objective of personal development in terms of the Myers-Briggs theory is to have access to each of the mental functions when its use is appropriate. By being able to use the less-preferred functions when they are needed, the person brings more balance to his or her life.

Prevalence of INFJs in the General Population

According to researchers, the INFJ Myers-Briggs type occurs in about 1% of the population—the lowest prevalence of any type. Studies vary regarding the exact percentages of the 16 types, but INFJs always walk away with the prize for the most rare.

The downside of being an INFJ is that there are few people out there with whom they can relate deeply. Also, they don’t fit into social norms because their qualities are unusual and, to some people, unsettling. INFJs can size up others quickly and those who don’t like to be sized up are likely to avoid them. Friends and colleagues find many INFJs almost clairvoyant.

The upside for INFJs is that they have gifts not common in other types. This makes them valued as leaders, workers, and friends. They also have rich interior lives.

In work settings, INFJs collaborate well with the second rarest type, ENTJs—also known as the CEO type. While ENTJs prefer the footlights, INFJs are happy to operate behind the scenes. Both types are intuitive; when they combine their insights they make a formidable team. INFJs can soften the edges of ENTJs, who prefer logic and rationality and are often insensitive to the feelings of others. The quiet, tactful INFJ can steer the ENTJ away from decisions that will alienate colleagues. Since the two share a Judging preference, the two types can forge productive partnerships and get a lot done.

At the other end of the scale are the three most prevalent types, shown in dark green: the ISTJ, ESFJ, and ISFJ. Each constitutes between 11% and 14% of the general population, for a total of over 35%. The ISTJ, sometimes called the Inspector, is reliable, works conscientiously, and follows rules and regulations. INFJs and ISTJs often have trouble understanding each other, probably because they have neither intuition nor feeling in common. ESFJs, called Harmonizers, are friendly facilitators. ISFJs, called Protectors, live to serve others often at the expense of their own interests. The ESFJs and ISFJs are liked and admired by most people.
prevalence

How INFJs Can Lose Out

INFJs walk in the footsteps of such illustrious figures as Carl Jung, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name a few. The path can be challenging. But for INFJs who struggle to evolve throughout their lives, it’s a rewarding one. However, problems can come up if one or more Myers-Briggs functions move to the extreme end of the scale.

• When their expectations aren’t met, the resulting stress damages their ability to function. 

• Their perfectionism can get them in trouble when their perceiving function is too weak to buffer setbacks.

Their idealism can bring them down if people disappoint them.

They can trick themselves into thinking they’re above rules and regulations—a sense of entitlement resulting from their superior grasp of principles and ideas.

They may be intolerant of people who lack their gifts, becoming arrogant and difficult to approach.

They can let their four dominant traits get out of control and lead them into depression.

Expectations

Because their expectations are high and they work hard to achieve them, INFJs stumble when their efforts backfire. Under stress, they’re likely to do more of what they’ve been doing all along, trying to force things to turn out as planned. More of the same is not what’s needed. They need to acknowledge what is and adapt. In situations where their judging function leads them astray, they need to tap into their flexible perceiving function to adapt their expectations and strategies to current realities.

If an INFJ is planning a big party and the caterers are late delivering the food, he or she may come unglued. Someone must fetch the caterers! It’s hard for INFJs to reframe the problem of no food arriving in order to devise an alternative solution. Instead they waste time blaming themselves for not having the foresight to avoid the disaster. At this point, wringing their hands is not helpful.

Idealism

Having intuition as a dominant function, INFJs can become wedded to their expectations for the future. When facts conflict with their predictions, they’re inclined to cling to their hopes despite evidence to the contrary. If, for example, they have watched their Widget stock rise over several years, they may be confident that it can’t fall. When the stock market has a downturn, INFJs may hang on to their stock with unrealistic fantasies of a market reversal.

False expectations can be personal. INFJs can be disenchanted by friends and co-workers who turn out to be less perfect than they thought. When a person shows himself or herself to be flawed in important ways, the INFJ feels let down. To them, this is a reasonable reaction because they expect no more from others than they do of themselves.

Entitlement

INFJs resist rules that make no sense to them. If they park where a sign says “One-hour parking” and stay for 90 minutes, they’re indignant when they find a police citation under their windshield wiper. There were no other cars on the street! They believe in the spirit not the letter of the law. Other sources of frustration are penalty fees when a payment was only hours late, returned forms for minor missing information, and so on. Bureaucratic details are beneath INFJs.

Impatience

INFJs have little patience for sensing/thinking/judging types, considering them to be barriers to progress. They consider many STJs to be shortsighted and obsessed with trivial details. Why can’t they see the big picture? INFJs get exasperated when required to follow protocol, even when it’s necessary to the smooth operation of an organization. This is why INFJs tend to do poorly in administrative positions where routine is critical. Security jobs, for example, are often unsuitable because they require so much focus on detail.

Attitude

Knowing that they’re gifted with more wisdom than the average person, some INFJs adopt an attitude of moral superiority. This puts others off. As a result, friends and colleagues hesitate to ask them for guidance. Only when INFJs use their feeling function to empathize rather than criticize are they able to relate to others authentically and help them as equals.

Depression

Many INFJs are prone to depression. Each of their four dominant traits contributes to this tendency. Being introverts (I), they are focused inward much of the time. Their highly developed intuition (N) provides them with insights into themselves, others, and the world at large—insights that are sometimes painful. Their feeling function (F) gives these insights emotional weight that wouldn’t count as heavily in a thinking type. Their judging function (J) sometimes leads them to gloomy conclusions. If they could call on their perceiving abilities, they could open their minds to more promising possibilities.

When INFJs Go Bad

When INFJs are on track, they’re creative and insightful. They’re almost clairvoyant. In addition, they’re compassionate and generous. They are protectors of the weak. As idealists, they have strong values. And they get a lot done. While they prefer private time to socializing, they use their solitude productively. INFJs can be depended on to come through—and to come through on time.

How can they miss? Any Myers-Briggs type can overuse or abuse one or more traits.

Ways of Losing Out

When INFJs act on their ideals and do good in the world, all is well. But some INFJs focus on their visions without doing anything except talk about them. If unpleasant realities come along that contradict their utopian views, they try to ignore their existence. Focusing on their single-minded beliefs, they cling to goals that can’t be attained. INFJs who have painted themselves into this corner need to reframe their visions, attune them to reality, and be more flexible in their objectives.

Many INFJs dislike conflicts and go to great lengths to avoid them. As a result, they may fail to be assertive about important issues—only to find later that their ideas are overlooked or played down. People who might have been their allies don’t come through because the INFJ didn’t share his or her thinking.

Similarly, INFJs may be so conflict-avoidant that they’re afraid to voice criticisms that might offend friends or colleagues. Even though their concerns are valid, they keep them bottled up for fear of creating ill will. Their negative energy builds up, like steam in a kettle. When the pressure gets too great, they blow up, causing conflict and making the resolution of problems difficult. In reality, their fears of antagonizing others are mostly groundless. INFJs are masters of tact. They can count on their customary encouraging style of communication to reassure others that their intentions are good.

Another way INFJs lose out is by focusing obsessively on minor details. An INFJ preparing to give a seminar, for example, may get so caught up in preparation of name-tags, seating arrangements, projection equipment, and so on, that he or she doesn’t spend enough time on the presentation itself. The students are there to listen to the INFJ. The housekeeping details aren’t that important.

Getting Support

INFJs are, of course, introverts. Asking for advice isn’t their long suit. But getting help from others is a major ingredient of success. Also, the very process of discussion prompts INFJs to come up with ideas and insights of their own.

INFJ Meets Sensing Type—A Relationship Challenge

INFJs trying to live peacefully in this world face a major challenge in their relationships with the Myers-Briggs sensing type. Unlike INFJs, sensors are not intuitive (N). They’re puzzled by people who rely on hunches rather than hard facts to steer their way through life. Sensing types believe in concrete evidence. INFJs depend on insights. They just know. For this reason, the two types often find themselves at cross-purposes.

It isn’t so difficult for INFJs to relate to their opposites on the other three Myers-Briggs scales: extraversion/introversion, thinking/feeling, and perceiving/judging. Like INFJs, extraverts need some solitude, too. It’s just that they need much less. Thinkers may be mostly logical in their approach to life, but they’re not without feeling. Perceivers are capable of adopting some judging habits when it’s to their advantage. If they antagonize enough people with their tardiness, for example, they may cultivate the habit of punctuality.

Examples

The INFJ looking for a car with a sensing partner may dread the shopping experience. He or she is prepared for a long, tiresome search. Alone, many INFJs could purchase a car in a single morning. They’d do research online the day before, figure out what automobile would be the best buy, and then go out and look for a dealer that has one.

Not sensors. They want to collect lots of information and then go out and look at lots of cars. Even when their brains are full of specs and prices, it may be hard for them to choose. However, pressuring a sensing type into a hasty decision tends to come with consequences when he or she later ponders its wisdom. (“Are you sure the sticker said 27 mpg?” “Do you think we could have gotten a better interest rate?”)

Another problem is that INFJs lose things a lot. Unlike sensing types, they have more engaging things to think about. With their minds elsewhere while checking out at the supermarket, they leave their keys at the counter. When they reach the car, they panic. If they’d taken a sensing partner shopping with them, this probably wouldn’t have happened. The sensor would see the keys on the counter, pick them up, and roll his or her eyes.

INFJs and sensors also handle social situations differently. After a party, sensing types remember who was there and what they were wearing. These details go right past the INFJ. On the way home in the car, the sensor asks, “Did you notice Fred’s orange tie? It was horrible!” The INFJ has no memory of Fred’s tie. He or she says, “Do you think Fred’s having trouble at home? His wife wasn’t there and he seemed tense.” The sensor wonders how the partner could have jumped to that conclusion from across the room.

Earth to INFJ

Sensing types are earthbound. They’re systematic, follow instructions, and collect information before making big decisions. INFJs are creative and free-wheeling. INFJs with sensing partners are in for a rough ride if they don’t respect their personality differences. Neither type is being willful or obstinate. They are simply using their tried and true methods for viewing the world.