Introverts at Risk
Each of the sixteen Myers-Briggs types is unique and different. Some types are outgoing and gregarious, while others treasure their privacy. Some are serious and others are fun-loving. Some are warm and giving and others are cool-headed and objective. A few of the types have similar descriptions. That’s because they have several traits in common. For example, the INFP is much like the INFJ because each is introverted (I), intuitive (N), and Feeling (F). They differ only in the Perceiving vs. Judging traits.
When under stress, each type has the tendency to overuse its strengths to the point where they sabotage their ability to cope. An example is the Introverted type. The person tends to withdraw when stressed out, avoiding the company of others. When this trait is carried to the extreme, the person becomes isolated and no longer enjoys feedback and support.
The Eight Introverted Types
For ISTJs, one way of losing out is to immerse themselves in too much detail. They may become so fixated on rules and minute details that they forget the overall meaning of an activity. A mother supervising a child’s birthday party may be so obsessed with a game and its rules that she forgets the purpose of the game—to have fun. In this way, she only communicates her stress to the children and no one has a good time. By focusing on the details of the game, she forgets the larger issue: fun.
In their effort to get the job done, ISTJs may overlook such niceties as “please” and “thank you.” By neglecting to make direct personal comments, they fail to show their appreciation to others.
Under stress, ISTJs may ignore the long-term implications of a project in favor of day-to-day realities. Because of their tendency to focus on short-term goals, they may lose sight of the overall purpose of their work. They rely too much on the standard way of doing things and neglect innovation, which is sometimes critical in this changing world. They also see errors more readily than successes, resulting in a doom-and-gloom attitude toward work.
ISTJs sometimes have difficulty recognizing their own emotions and values. As a result, they may be seen as insensitive and cold. As the stress from work situations heightens, so does the likelihood that ISTJs will explode, doing no one much good.
Like all Myers-Briggs types, ISTPs under stress act in ways that depart from their usual style.
One of their problems is finding shortcuts when a project seems too long and difficult. By taking the easy way out, they can jeopardize successful completion, which makes them appear indifferent and unmotivated. When working on parts of a project that they enjoy, their work is usually competent and satisfactory. It’s the parts that frustrate or bore them that get them in trouble. If a homeowner is cultivating both a vegetable and flower garden behind the house, weeding the vegetable patmay be a much less gratifying job than tending the flowers. Later in the summer the family complains that they have fewer fresh vegetables than they expected, although the flower garden is lovely.
ISTPs may lose out when they keep important information to themselves, failing to inform others. When they do share they may focus on the faults and problems of the issue in question. As a result, others find themselves operating on incomplete information.
Because ISTPs are oriented to collecting new facts, they can get overwhelmed by all the information they have dug up. As a result, they may put off decision-making in order to keep their options open. This may give them the appearance of being indecisive and incompetent.
Finally, ISTPs may find themselves in trouble when they fail to complete old projects and instead move on to new ones. They sometimes have difficulty with perseverance and the ability to stay with undertakings until they have finished them. A boy who makes model airplanes loves having the final products but leaves many of the planes unfinished because the work gets too complex. His parents are disappointed that they’ve paid for so many kits and their son has so few completed airplanes to show.
One way ISFJs can lose out is by paying too much attention to the present status of problems and failing to seek options for a satisfactory solution. They can see the present clearly but not the possibilities for the future. Thus, they may get stuck in ruts and unable to find a way out. They focus on past negative experiences and apply them to the present problem. If, for example, the car is making a strange noise, they may remember a time when they threw a rod on an old automobile and assume that the same disastrous breakdown is about the occur, when actually a broken fan belt may be the only problem.
ISFJs attend to plan excessively. They want things to go a certain way and become discouraged if they turn out to be wrong. If things proceed satisfactorily, they may waste time looking for another potential problem. For example, they may get to an outdoor concert an hour in advance to find a good seat, and then, while they are waiting, worry about the chances of rain.
ISFJs may feel undervalued by others as a result of their quiet, self-effacing style. This may cause them to lose confidence when presenting their ideas in a group. They tend to minimize their own importance and contributions to an organization, so that everyone takes them for granted. They view their contributions as simply “doing their duty.” An employee presenting the progress of his project before a committee may minimizing her own contribution so no one realizes that she was instrumental in its success.
In times of stress, ISFPs may overlook their own needs. Because they see others’ needs so clearly and they’re motivated to serve them, they may ignore their own requirements.
When a loved one is in the hospital with a serious condition, the ISFP is likely to put all his or her concerns aside in favor of staying with the loved one, keeping the spirits up of the rest of the family, and so on. If the hospitalization lasts long enough, the ISFP may get worn down and lose his or her positive attitude—becoming snappish and unhelpful.
Conflict is disagreeable to ISFPs and they try to avoid it at all costs. If they do engage in a confrontation, they may later feel like the disagreement was their fault. Even if the issues legitimately belong to the other party, they may feel hurt and withdraw rather than confront the person and “clear the air.”
ISFPs tend to accept the statements and opinions of others as valid. They are often gullible. Strong, manipulative, persuasive people may find them easy prey. Rather than buy into the views of others without question, ISFPs need to develop a more skeptical attitude and ways to analyze the words and actions of others more realistically.
Failing to appreciate their own contributions and accomplishments is another way ISFPs can lose out under stress. Because they are gentle types who focus internally, they suffer from self-criticism—which may not be apparent to the outside world. Without outside support from trusted friends and coworkers, their thoughts become negative and destructive. They need to appreciate their contributions more, although this may be difficult given their habitual modesty.
Under stress, INFJs can lose contact with some of the unpleasant realities of life. They focus mainly on their idealist vision of how things should be, ignoring reality when it contradicts their views. Because of their single-minded, persistent view of how things should be, they don’t know when to cut their losses and move on. They may need help from supportive friends and coworkers in learning how to relax and let go of futile dreams.
Another way INFJs lose out is when they fail to act assertively and don’t share important ideas and insights with others. Because of their reluctance to intrude, many of their ideas are overlooked or underestimated. People who might have been able to support them have their hands tied because they were never included in the INFJ’s thinking process.
Another way INFJs can lose out is by focusing on facts that aren’t relevant to the situation at hand. They need to focus on which details are important and which aren’t. A female INFJ getting the house ready for a big party might find herself obsessing over everything. If, for example, she can’t find her embroidered guest towels she may enter a state of “melt down” until someone points out to her that no one ever uses them anyhow. The stress of her big party has made her temporarily unreasonable, prey to her drive for perfection.
INFJs hold their criticisms inside longer than they should because of their belief in the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” When the pressure mounts and their objections are stifled long enough, they can blow up. Trusted colleagues can help them focus on the overall concept in question and retreat from an attitude of blaming to one of acceptance and understanding.
One way that INFPs can lose out when under stress is by focusing on their dreams so intently that they’re blind to others’ points of view. They fail to adjust their unrealistic vision to the facts of reality. If they’re extremely out of touch, people might view them as almost mystical. An INFP who believe he has the solution to world problems can be brought back to Earth by questions regarding individual actions that can contribute to the goal.
Another problem for the INFP under stress is that they try to please too many people at once. They never refuse any one, with the result that they’re often overtaxed, sometimes to the point of being resentful. They also dislike conflict and will go to some lengths to avoid it. It’s not uncommon for them to give people the impression that they agree about an issue, when actually they are dead set against it. They need to get more tough-minded and assertive, learning how to give negative feedback tactfully but firmly.
INFPs may delay finishing projects because they’re holding out for a perfection that simply isn’t possible. They postpone action by focusing inward instead of reaching for resources outside themselves. Outside support can encourage them but also give realistic feedback concerning a project. Nothing has to be perfect. Something to start with is better than nothing at all. An employee preparing a brochure for his company may try to do the proofreading, graphics and layout to perfection when there are other professionals available to do these jobs. As a result, the project may be late, much to the annoyance of his supervisors.
Finally, INFPs, although generally modest and gentle, can become overly critical about everything that bothers them. Everyone around them seems irresponsible and incompetent, as the result of the INFPs internal feelings of stress. They lose the ability to see the situation logically, step back, and let their natural appreciation come forward. A man throwing a party for his business associates may find himself criticizing what his wife is wearing, how the table is set, the noise the children are making, and other bothersome details when the real culprit is his own anxiety.
Some INTJs have trouble letting go of their expectations when they aren’t based on facts or current reality. They imagine they have the ability to predict the future—when they don’t. Their impractical ideas and goals may be so impractical that the INTJs seem to be living in a dream. Sometimes they’re so private about their vision that they fail to communicate with other people who will be affected by it or are necessary to make it happen. They need to learn when to give up on unrealistic dreams and solicit the input of others to help get them back on track.
An employee planning a going-away party for a co-worker may try doing everything herself—the announcements, music, refreshments, etc.—instead of enlisting the help of others in the company who have the expertise she needs. As a result, the party may come off as a half-finished affair.
Some INTJs have a certain model or way of living that they approve of and then criticize those who don’t fit the model. For example, people who are Democrats may be so fixated on their line of thinking that they can hardly make themselves speak to a Republican. They find it difficult to tolerate choices that don’t conform to their own. They need to filter out the single characteristic that offends them and focus on the person’s general merit, of which they may actually approve.
INTJs can also lose out by focusing on unimportant details. Their need to control all possible outcomes prevents them from attending to what’s really necessary. If they have bought their son a new suit to wear for special family events, they may not be satisfied until the pants are lengthened (or shortened) one quarter of an inch and they’ve found the perfect tie to go with the suit. The son could care less about a suit he doesn’t want to wear anyhow, so his parents’ perfectionism is wasted. They could have spared themselves the nagging over the issue of the dress suit.
INTJs may ignore the impact of their style on others. With their impersonal, independent approach to life, they think that others function best in the same kind of environment. Others may see them as detached, inflexible and logical—so much so that they’re afraid to approach the INTJ. When they find out that their style is alienating others, many are surprised. They need to learn to foster their relationships and make sure they show appreciation others.
Because of their tendency to focus on the shortcomings of others, INTPs may be perceived as negative and arrogant. They may appear to be aloof and fault-finding and are surprised when they’re not liked by others.
The man whose spouse has just come home with a new dress and is asked his opinion may say something like, “It’s all right but I think the hemline is a little high.” He may have made this remark with the best of intentions, wanting only to be helpful, but his partner thinks he finds nothing attractive about the dress (because he didn’t say so) or he objects to her showing so much leg. She takes his comment personally and feels criticized and unappreciated.
Another way the INTP can lose out if by focusing on the small inconsistencies in a project or plan. They may even prevent the project from moving forward because they stall progressing one small step. They need to learn when to let go of trivial details that are of little consequence. To others, this tendency may lead them to believe that the INTP suffers from convoluted opinions outside the understanding of ordinary people. A woman preparing wedding invitations for her daughter may become so focused on the font used in the announcement none of the printer’s efforts please her. As a result, the project is late and the guests have very short notice.
INTPs can be their own worst critics as they hamstring themselves looking for the exact way to present their ideas perfectly. They can’t listen to praise because they know they could have done so much better. Focusing on their own flaws without outside support can even end up making them depressed. They need to discuss their feelings with other people who can provide more realistic, candid opinion.
Because INTPs are usually so conservative and quiet, their emotions—the least accessible part of themselves—can stay bottled up until the pressure is too great. Then they may explode in an unmanageable outburst and appear hypersensitive. Bystanders can be so overwhelmed by this unexpected display of feelings that they come to regard the INTP as unstable.
INTPs are especially susceptible when they can’t identify an objective cause for their emotions, which shouldn’t be disregarded simply because they seem illogical. Exploration of the emotions with a trusted supporter can pave the way to potential areas for growth.
When these introverts get back on track, they can be enjoyable to work and live with and tireless in following through on their commitments. By keeping their Myers-Briggs traits in a healthy balance, they can make the best of their work, leisure, and relationships.