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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.

INFJ Meets ENTJ

INFJs and ENTJs are on the same wavelength in many ways. They enjoy spending time together and sharing creative, stimulating conversations. Superficial topics bore them. Both have excellent intuition and can size people up accurately on short acquaintance. They share the ability to comprehend complex situations that baffle others.

ENTJTraitsWhile the two types can become close friends, INFJs should be mindful of the ENTJ’s rough edges. This type can be blunt, with little tolerance for mistakes. Sometimes their tempers flare because they don’t recognize the effect on others. As the ENTJ’s friend you may take offense at some of his or her remarks. Refusing to engage in an argument is the most effective way to deal with this.ENTJTraits

ENTJs have a high regard for their own positions. INFJs must be the ones to establish limits in the relationship, firmly but tactfully setting their boundaries. Most ENTJs have sharp enough intuition to recognize the need for tact if they want to keep the INFJ’s friendship.

Because ENTJs can be so intimidating, many people hesitate to be open and honest with them. This deprives ENTJs of important information. Surprisingly, they respond best to those who stand up to them quietly but firmly. ENTJs have little regard for people they can push around. Eventually, most friends and co-workers learn that the ENTJ’s bark is worse than his or her bite.

While ENTJs may seem like pillars of strength, most have a sentimental side that they try to conceal. They believe that emotional displays are a sign of weakness. When ENTJs are sad or worried, they seldom talk about it. Sensitive INFJs can usually pick up on their troubled feelings and offer compassion while not intruding with solutions.

The major difference between INFJs and ENTJs lies in their need to influence or control others. INFJs lack the ENTJ’s leadership drive. In a work setting this need not be a liability, because the INFJ is comfortable letting the ENTJ take charge as long as the two parties agree on objectives. INFJs don’t have the same ego investment in running the show. They like credit if it’s due, but they won’t ask for more than their share. At home, the issue of control may become troublesome. The INFJ is likely to tire of the ENTJ’s tendency to micromanage and, when things don’t go as planned, to lose his or her temper.

Falling in Love

ENTJs are usually drawn to attractive partners. This preference is a reflection of their high standards. Most ENTJ men prefer beautiful women and most ENTJ women like handsome, confident men. To get along with an ENTJ in a relationship, an INFJ needs a well-developed sense of self. It helps to have a sense of humor.

If you’re an INFJ man, you may find ENTJ women intimidating. They are hard for many men to accept. In fact, women of this personality type can be quite nurturing and caring. Their femininity isn’t expressed in traditional ways. When their confrontational style surfaces, the most effective way to avoid conflict is to deflect arguments with humor and good will.

The partners of ENTJs will find themselves on their own much of the time. An INFJ shouldn’t expect to take top priority in the partnership. While it may seem possible at first, it won’t last. The INFJ will be expected to fit into the partner’s ambitions. Some of the INFJ’s intimacy needs will have to be met by family and friends. Otherwise, the INFJ is likely to feel emotionally short-changed.

ENTJs tend to see their partners as extensions of themselves–as supportive characters in their life scripts. They expect them to honor their commitments and respect the ENTJ’s need for autonomy. Failure to do so will make the ENTJ angry.

Family Life

ENTJs and INFJs share a love of family life. They invest themselves fully in their children, see that they get a good education, and emphasize responsible behavior. As conscientious parents, they make sure their children do their homework and sign up for extracurricular activities.

Friction can arise between the parents when the ENTJ parent takes charge too much. ENTJs prefer a domestic autocracy, with them at the head. An INFJ entering a long-term relationship with an ENTJ, including plans for marriage and children, should have a strong self-image and be able to set clear boundaries.

An ENTJ’s family can expect to have their playtime and vacations structured. The children won’t be encouraged to lie on the beach doing nothing. ENTJs don’t approve of pursuits that have no goal. In their view, leisure activities should be productive. Not only that, it’s preferable that they be scheduled. INFJ partners are likely to share this view to some extent, but they’re less intense about it.

Work

ENTJs are career-focused and fit well into corporate life. They’re quick to solve problems and have an uncanny sense of where business decisions will lead. They aspire to leadership roles and enjoy competition.

INFJs share the ENTJ’s gifts of highly developed intuition and creativity, but they aren’t interested in the power needed to run things. Because they find conflict unpleasant, it’s hard for them to be forceful. Also, they treasure their private time too much to participate fully in the social aspects of business.

In business settings, the two types complement each other. INFJs make good advisors to ENTJs. INFJs have the social sensitivity needed to help ENTJs avoid problems in the workplace that might result from heavy-handed decisions. They can express their hesitation about the wisdom of an ENTJ’s decision and have their opinions respected. By complementing the ENTJ in this way, the INFJ acts as an effective buffer.

Famous Examples

thatcherroosevelt-3Eleanor Roosevelt, an INFJ and the wife of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a renowned humanitarian and U.S. Peace Ambassador. Margaret Thatcher, an ENTJ, was the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.

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It’s Hard To Be an INFJ: The Author’s Personal Story

Since posting “It’s Hard To Be an INFJ” on this blog, I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from other INFJs. Their main theme has been how disconnected they’ve felt surrounded by extraverts and more sensible, earthbound types. Their posts and my responses appear after that blog.

This is my personal account of what it feels like to be an INFJ.

Growing up

As a child, I felt like an outsider. I’ve felt this way most of my life. Even though all evidence suggests that I was successful and respected by my peers in school, I knew that I was an odd duck. I never liked large groups of kids. I preferred being alone or in the company of one friend—a typical preference of INFJs. Most introverts tend to feel insecure about their preference for privacy because of the high value our culture places on extraversion. People who enjoy being alone are considered odd.

As a student in elementary and high school, I did well academically and had two close friends. For an INFJ, I was surprisingly active in extracurricular activities: acting in community theatre, studying the piano accordion and sometimes performing publicly, editing the school paper, and so on. I was like two people—one who appeared successful and the other who always felt a little lost.

When I left home for college at the age of 17 and began to date, my relationships with boys were fragile. If I fell in love, I couldn’t figure out how to hang onto the boy. He usually tired of my neediness and left. If a boy I didn’t care for kept pursuing me, I couldn’t figure out how to escape without hurting him. With my overactive feeling function, relationships with boyfriends put me on emotional rollercoaster rides.

Personality Traits

Like most judging types, I’ve always been highly focused. I’ll stay up all night working on a project, never miss a deadline, and be punctual for appointments. I like closure, not uncertainty. I make decisions quickly. Thanks to my highly developed intuition, they tend to turn out well.

My opinions on social and political issues are pretty unshakeable, without shades of gray. I recognize the problems my inflexible positions can cause, however, and try to open my mind to other perspectives. When I have strong feelings about an issue, I share them with only one or two trusted friends. I am generally not a leader of causes in public. I write about them passionately, though.

My intuitive, feeling, and judging functions, acting in concert, make me quick to respond to emergencies, especially those involving injury or danger to people or animals. Even at age 82, I still rush into threatening situations. I always emerge unharmed because my intuitive function steers me away from personal danger while my emotions give me the courage and force to act.

Career Experience

Like me, many INFJs are writers. We make good investigative journalists, science editors, and nonfiction writers. The social sciences interest us more than physics, mathematics, electronics and other theoretical and physical sciences. The social sciences engage our feeling function. On aptitude tests, we excel on the verbal portions. However, our thoughts usually have a strong visual component. What we describe in words we see in pictures. We’re more concrete than abstract. Highly creative INFJs are drawn to careers like acting, painting, designing, and so on. However, they are more concerned with pursuing truth than creating art.

Because of their creativity, many INFJs are successful entrepreneurs. They’re good at coming up with fresh ideas, taking risks, introducing new products, marketing to the public, and trouble-shooting. All the while, they maintain their idealism and desire to make life better for those around them. If they get too caught up in the profit motive and are seduced by materialistic goals, they end up demoralized. They suffer from stagnation, burnout, and loss of creativity.

In my early 60s, I earned over $250,000 a year for three years in a row. (I saved most of it and am now enjoying the fruits of my intuitively guided investments.) The problem with all that money was that I became too attached to it. It made me feel very important. Ultimately, my confidence and self-esteem relied on my six-figure income. Approaching retirement, I realized that money could be a trap. I needed to release this attachment and start volunteering. I began to give more money to causes I believed in—mostly animal welfare, education of children in developing countries, and women’s rights. Now, at 82, I have all the money I need to feel safe and enjoy myself. When I work, I don’t accept money for my professional services. Charging money would spoil my pleasure.

Life Can Be Hard

Life can be difficult for those of us who share INFJ traits. First, we’re often misunderstood—perhaps because we make up only one percent of the population. There aren’t enough of us around. Although we often don’t recognize a fellow INFJ when we meet, we’re likely to become fast friends once we recognize the common ground we stand on. Here’s how each of the four traits challenges us:

Introversion: Our preference for privacy can isolate us. We retreat into our thoughts too much and can find ourselves in a cycle of brooding.

Intuition: While well-developed intuition is a gift, it seldom makes us popular. Because the intuitive individual can seem almost clairvoyant, he or she can make others feel uncomfortable. Our forecasts usually turn out to be true, but in the passage of time they’re usually forgotten so we go without credit. We may become so confident of our insights as the years pass that we’re shaken by the rare occasions when they’ve led us down the wrong path.

Feeling: The truths that underlie our accurate insights can wound us. For example, if I have a hunch a friend is lying to me, the chances are I’m right. Knowing this and having it confirmed can be more painful than it is for people whose dominant function is thinking. Although our feelings often bring us joy, when they’re negative we suffer, particularly when rejection is involved. Many of us are prone to depression.

Judging: Our judging function can lead us into premature decisions with uncomfortable consequences, especially in relationships. Many a marriage has foundered because an INFJ didn’t take enough time to understand his or her partner fully before the wedding. (I’m an example of this—more than once.) As the saying goes, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.” In groups of people, INFJs may appear aloof, even arrogant, because they’re concentrating on sizing up others before they can relax.

We’re in Good Company

INFJs are in good company. Famous INFJs of the past and present are Mahatma Gandhi, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Carl Jung, Simone de Beauvoir, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Noah Chomsky, and Oprah Winfrey.

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