The INFJ personality type is very rare, making up less than one percent of the population, but they nonetheless leave their mark on the world. As Diplomats (NF), they have an inborn sense of idealism and morality, but what sets them apart is the accompanying Judging (J) trait – INFJs are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.
INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all.
HELP ME HELP YOU
INFJs indeed share a very unique combination of traits: though soft-spoken, they have very strong opinions and will fight tirelessly for an idea they believe in. They are decisive and strong-willed, but will rarely use that energy for personal gain – INFJs will act with creativity, imagination, conviction and sensitivity not to create advantage, but to create balance. Egalitarianism and karma are very attractive ideas to INFJs, and they tend to believe that nothing would help the world so much as using love and compassion to soften the hearts of tyrants.
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
INFJs find it easy to make connections with others, and have a talent for warm, sensitive language, speaking in human terms, rather than with pure logic and fact. It makes sense that their friends and colleagues will come to think of them as quiet Extroverted types, but they would all do well to remember that INFJs need time alone to decompress and recharge, and to not become too alarmed when they suddenly withdraw. INFJs take great care of other’s feelings, and they expect the favor to be returned – sometimes that means giving them the space they need for a few days.
LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY
Really though, it is most important for INFJs to remember to take care of themselves. The passion of their convictions is perfectly capable of carrying them past their breaking point and if their zeal gets out of hand, they can find themselves exhausted, unhealthy and stressed. This becomes especially apparent when INFJs find themselves up against conflict and criticism – their sensitivity forces them to do everything they can to evade these seemingly personal attacks, but when the circumstances are unavoidable, they can fight back in highly irrational, unhelpful ways.
To INFJs, the world is a place full of inequity – but it doesn’t have to be. No other personality type is better suited to create a movement to right a wrong, no matter how big or small. INFJs just need to remember that while they’re busy taking care of the world, they need to take care of themselves, too.
Martin Luther King
“James Wilson” from House M.D.
INFJ STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Creative - Combining a vivid imagination with a strong sense of compassion, INFJs use their creativity to resolve not technical challenges, but human ones. People with the INFJ personality type enjoy finding the perfect solution for someone they care about, and this strength makes them excellent counselors and advisors.
Insightful - Seeing through dishonesty and disingenuous motives, INFJs step past manipulation and sales tactics and into a more honest discussion. INFJs see how people and events are connected, and are able to use that insight to get to the heart of the matter.
Inspiring and Convincing - Speaking in human terms, not technical, INFJs have a fluid, inspirational writing style that appeals to the inner idealist in their audience. INFJs can even be astonishingly good orators, speaking with warmth and passion, if they are proud of what they are speaking for.
Decisive - Their creativity, insight and inspiration are able to have a real impact on the world, as INFJs are able to follow through on their ideas with conviction, willpower, and the planning necessary to see complex projects through to the end. INFJs don’t just see the way things ought to be, they act on those insights.
Determined and Passionate - When INFJs come to believe that something is important, they pursue that goal with a conviction and energy that can catch even their friends and loved ones off guard. INFJs will rock the boat if they have to, something not everyone likes to see, but their passion for their chosen cause is an inseparable part of their personality.
Altruistic - These strengths are used for good. INFJs have strong beliefs and take the actions that they do not because they are trying to advance themselves, but because they are trying to advance an idea that they truly believe will make the world a better place.
Sensitive - When someone challenges or criticizes INFJs’ principles or values, they are likely to receive an alarmingly strong response. People with the INFJ personality type are highly vulnerable to criticism and conflict, and questioning their motives is the quickest way to their bad side.
Extremely Private - INFJs tend to present themselves as the culmination of an idea. This is partly because they believe in this idea, but also because INFJs are extremely private when it comes to their personal lives, using this image to keep themselves from having to truly open up, even to close friends. Trusting a new friend can be even more challenging for INFJs.
Perfectionistic - INFJs are all but defined by their pursuit of ideals. While this is a wonderful quality in many ways, an ideal situation is not always possible – in politics, in business, in romance – and INFJs too often drop or ignore healthy and productive situations and relationships, always believing there might be a better option down the road.
Always Need to Have a Cause - INFJs get so caught up in the passion of their pursuits that any of the cumbersome administrative or maintenance work that comes between them and the ideal they see on the horizon is deeply unwelcome. INFJs like to know that they are taking concrete steps towards their goals, and if routine tasks feel like they are getting in the way, or worse yet, there is no goal at all, they will feel restless and disappointed.
Can Burn Out Easily - Their passion, poor patience for routine maintenance, tendency to present themselves as an ideal, and extreme privacy tend to leave INFJs with few options for letting off steam. People with this personality type are likely to exhaust themselves in short order if they don’t find a way to balance their ideals with the realities of day-to-day living.
When it comes to romantic relationships, INFJs take the process of finding a partner seriously. Not ones for casual encounters, people with the INFJ personality type instead look for depth and meaning in their relationships. INFJs will take the time necessary to find someone they truly connect with – once they’ve found that someone, their relationships will reach a level of depth and sincerity that most people can only dream of.
Getting to that point can sometimes be a challenge for potential partners, especially if they are the impatient type, as INFJs are often perfectionistic and picky. People with this personality type aren’t easily talked into something they don’t want, and if someone doesn’t pick up on that, it’s a trespass that is unlikely to be forgiven, particularly in the early stages of dating. Even worse is if a suitor tries to resort to manipulation or lying, as INFJs will see right through it, and if there’s anything they have a poor tolerance for in a relationship, it is inauthenticity.
IS THIS FOR REAL?
One of the things INFJs find most important is establishing genuine, deep connections with the people they care about.
INFJs will go out of their way to seek out people who share their desire for authenticity, and out of their way to avoid those who don’t, especially when looking for a partner. All that being said, INFJs often have the advantage of desirability – they are warm, friendly, caring and insightful, seeing past facades and the obvious to understand others’ thoughts and emotions.
INFJs are enthusiastic in their relationships, and there is a sense of wisdom behind their spontaneity, allowing them to pleasantly surprise their partners again and again. INFJs aren’t afraid to show their love, and they feel it unconditionally, creating a depth to the relationship that can hardly be described in conventional terms. Relationships with INFJs are not for the uncommitted or the shallow.
When it comes to intimacy, INFJs look for a connection that goes beyond the physical, embracing the emotional and even spiritual connection they have with their partner. People with the INFJ personality type are passionate partners, and see intimacy as a way to express their love and to make their partners happy. INFJs cherish not just the act of being in a relationship, but what it means to become one with another person, in mind, body and soul
There is a running theme with INFJs, and that is a yearning for authenticity and sincerity – in their activities, their romantic relationships, and their friendships. People with the INFJ personality type are unlikely to go for friendships of circumstance, like workplace social circles or chatting up their local baristas, where the only thing they really have in common is a day-to-day familiarity. Rather, INFJs seek out people who share their passions, interests and ideologies, people with whom they can explore philosophies and subjects that they believe are truly meaningful.
CLOSED BOOK AND SPEED READER
From the start, it can be a challenge to get to know INFJs, as they are very private, even enigmatic. INFJs don’t readily share their thoughts and feelings, not unless they are comfortable, and since those thoughts and feelings are the basis for INFJ friendships, it can take time and persistence to get to know them. Meanwhile, INFJs are very insightful and have a particular knack for seeing beyond others’ facades, interpreting intent and compatibility quickly and easily, and weeding out those who don’t share the depth of their idealism.
In friendship it is as though INFJs are searching for a soul mate, someone who shares every facet of their passions and imagination.
INFJs are often perfectionistic, looking for ultimate compatibility, and yet also look for someone with whom they can grow and improve in tandem. Needless to say, this is a tall order, and INFJs should try to remember that they are a particularly rare personality type, and even if they find someone compatible in that sense, the odds that they will also share every interest are slim. If they don’t learn to meet others halfway and recognize that the kind of self-improvement and depth they demand is simply exhausting for many types, INFJs are likely end up abandoning healthy friendships in their infancy, in search of more perfect compatibilities.
LIKE FINDING A NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK
Further complicating things are INFJs’ eloquence and persuasiveness, which lead to a lot of (unwanted) attention and popularity. Their quiet, determined idealism and imaginative expression naturally draw influence, and if there’s anything INFJs avoid, it’s the accumulation of power over others – and the people who are drawn to that type of power. INFJs will find themselves more sought after than they’d ever care to be, making it even more difficult for them to find someone they truly have an affinity with. Really the only way to be counted among INFJs’ true friends is to be authentic, and to have that authenticity naturally reflect their own.
Once a common thread is found though, people with the INFJ personality type make loyal and supportive companions, encouraging growth and life-enriching experiences with warmth, excitement and care. As trust grows, INFJs will share more of what lies beneath the surface, and if those ideas and motives are mutual, it’s the sort of friendship that will transcend time and distance, lasting a lifetime. INFJs don’t require a great deal of day-to-day attention – for them, quality trumps quantity every time, and over the years they will likely end up with just a few true friendships, built on a richness of mutual understanding that forges an indelible link between them.
As parents INFJs, much as in their friendships, will tend to look at their relationships with their children as opportunities to learn and grow with someone they care about, while working to achieve a distinctly separate but important goal – raising someone to be an independent, responsible and principled adult. People with the INFJ personality type are unflinching in their devotion to their children, willing to grin and bear any burden without hesitation. While warm and compassionate throughout the parenting relationship, what INFJs are really looking forward to is being able to communicate and relate to the person they helped to raise, as equals.
BE UNIQUE, JUST LIKE ME
As their children grow, INFJs will likely try to project a great deal of their own qualities onto them, demanding the same sort of idealism and honesty that they demand from themselves, and maybe even manipulating them into this in their weaker moments. Despite this, INFJs will also push their children to think independently, make their own choices and establish their own beliefs.
The highest goal for INFJ parents is for their child’s choices and beliefs to culminate in a cause that they are able to act on, contributing to the world around them.
If all this independence is taken to heart, it can cause some trouble for INFJ parents though, as their children move into the naturally rebellious phase of adolescence. If INFJs’ children take a contrarian approach, adopting beliefs that violate their parents’ own well-developed principles, INFJs are likely to feel like their children are pointing out their flaws by following another path, a hurtful thing to such a sensitive personality type.
A JOB WELL DONE
Ultimately though, INFJ parents will realize that these conflicting beliefs aren’t a sign of their failure, but of their success in raising someone who did indeed learn to form their own ideals. As they mature, INFJs’ children will also come to appreciate the combination of independence and personal responsibility they were raised with. So long as their child grows up with a firm understanding of the difference between right and wrong and is able to fight for a cause they believe in, striving to be the best they can be, INFJ parents will be satisfied with what they’ve accomplished together with their child.
INFJs are likely to find that most corporate career paths are not designed for them, but for those focused on status and material gain. This doesn’t mean that people with the INFJ personality type struggle to see viable options though. In fact, they are likely to face the opposite problem – many INFJs struggle to begin a career early on because they see ten wildly different paths forward, each with its own intrinsic rewards, alluring but also heartbreaking, because each means abandoning so much else.
TRUTH, BEAUTY, PURPOSE
First and foremost, INFJs need to find meaning in their work, to know that they are helping and connecting with people – an INFJ Ferrari salesperson is a non-sequitur. This desire to help and connect makes careers in healthcare, especially the more holistic varieties, very rewarding for INFJs – roles as counselors, psychologists, doctors, life coaches and spiritual guides are all attractive options.
INFJs’ needs don’t end at meaning though – any productive work can be rationalized to be meaningful, as any productive work helps someone, somewhere. INFJs crave creativity too, the ability to use their insight to connect events and situations, effecting real change in others’ lives personally.
For INFJs, money and Employee of the Month simply won’t cut it compared to living their values and principles.
TWO ROADS DIVERGED IN A YELLOWED WOOD
These needs are hard to meet in a corporate structure, where INFJs will be forced to manage someone else’s policies alongside their own. For this reason, people with the INFJ personality type are more likely to, despite their aversion to controlling others, establish their independence by either finding a leadership position, or simply starting their own practice. As independents, sole proprietors in the parlance of business, INFJs are free to follow their hearts, applying their personal touch, creativity and altruism to everything they do.
This is the most rewarding option for INFJs, as they will step out of the overly humble supporting and noncompetitive roles they are often drawn to, and into positions where they can grow and make a difference. INFJs often pursue expressive careers such as writing, elegant communicators that they are, and author many popular blogs, stories and screenplays. Music, photography, design and art are viable options too, and they all can focus on deeper themes of personal growth, morality and spirituality.
Where INFJs fall flat is in work focusing on impersonal concerns, mundanity, and high-profile conflict. Accounting and auditing, data analysis and routine work will leave people with the INFJ personality type fidgety and unfulfilled, and they will simply wilt under the scrutiny, criticism and pressure of courtroom prosecution and defense, corporate politics and cold-call sales. INFJs are clever, and can function in any of these fields, but to be truly happy, they need to be able to exercise their insightfulness and independence, learn and grow alongside the people they are helping, and contribute to the well-being of humanity on a personal level.
INFJ IN THE WORKPLACE
INFJs have pretty tall demands when it comes to a satisfying work environment. Not only does this personality type need to be able to express their creativity and insight, INFJs need to know that what they are doing has meaning, helps people, leads to personal growth and, all the while, is in line with their values, principles and beliefs.
Oftentimes the best way for INFJs to achieve this is to not have to answer to others’ rules at all – to be their own boss, neither above nor below anyone else, just directly interacting with the people and ideas that are important to them. All that being said, INFJs are a clever and inspired group, and with a few of the right conditions, most any position can be made to work.
As subordinates, INFJs are likely to chafe under hardline rules, formal hierarchies and routine tasks. People with the INFJ personality type value diplomacy and sensitivity, and the more democratic and personal their manager’s style is, and the more they feel their independence and input are valued, the happier they’ll be. INFJs act on their convictions, so when they do something, it’s something that has meaning to them – if those actions come under criticism, even justified complaints, but especially unwarranted ones, their morale is likely to tank spectacularly.
A manager’s values need to be naturally aligned with their INFJ subordinates for both parties to be most effective. Though usually idealistic, if they feel in conflict, INFJs can lose touch with that sense and end up all too bitter. But if it’s a balance they can handle, with a little encouragement every now and then, INFJs will be hardworking, trustworthy, and more than capable of handling their responsibilities and professional relationships.
As colleagues, INFJs are likely to become quite popular, being seen as positive, eloquent and capable friends, identifying others’ motives and defusing conflicts and tension before anyone else even senses a disturbance. INFJs are likely to prioritize harmony and cooperation over ruthless efficiency, encouraging a good, hardworking atmosphere and helping others when needed. While this is usually a strength, there is a risk that others will take advantage of INFJs’ commitment to their responsibilities by simply shifting their burdens onto their more dedicated INFJ colleagues’ desks.
It should also be remembered that at the end of the day, INFJs are still Introverts (I), and their popularity isn’t always welcome – they will need to step back and act the lone wolf from time to time, pursuing their own goals in their own ways. An unhealthy version of this tendency may pop up if INFJs sense that their values are being compromised by a more ethically relaxed colleague.
As managers, INFJs are often reluctant in exercising their authority, preferring to see their subordinates as equals, coordinating and supervising people, leaving the technical systems and factual details to more capable hands, and working hard to inspire and motivate, not to crack the whip. That’s not to say that people with the INFJ personality type have lax standards – far from it – as INFJs’ sense of equality means that they expect their subordinates to be as competent, motivated and reliable as the INFJs themselves.
Though sensitive, understanding, principled and just, able to appreciate individual styles and to make accurate judgments about others’ motivations, if a subordinate’s actions or attitude undermines INFJs’ ethics or values, they well find little comfort in these qualities. INFJs have no tolerance for lapses in reliability or morality. But, so long as no such lapse occurs, INFJs will work tirelessly to ensure that their subordinates feel valued and happy.
Few personality types are as sensitive and mysterious as INFJs. Your imagination and empathy make you someone who not only cherishes their integrity and deeply held principles but, unlike many other idealistic types, is also capable of turning those ideals into plans, and executing them.
Yet, as an INFJ, you are likely to be easily tripped up in areas where idealism and determination are more of a liability than an asset. Whether it is navigating interpersonal conflicts, confronting unpleasant facts, pursuing self-realization, or finding a career path that aligns well with your intricate inner core, you may face numerous challenges that at times can even make you question who you really are.
The sections you have read so far are just the introduction to each chapter in our discussion about the complex enigma that is the INFJ personality type. You may have muttered to yourself, "wow, this is so accurate it's a little creepy" or "finally, someone understands me!" You may have even asked "how do they know more about me than the people I'm closest to?"
This was not a trick. You felt understood because you were. We've studied how INFJs think, what motivates and troubles them, and what they need to reach their full potential. Many of the challenges you've faced and will face in the future have been overcome by other INFJs. We are all unique, but we can also learn from each other’s experiences – and use that knowledge to better understand ourselves. Our comment sections are a great venue for that, giving you a unique chance to be a part of this ongoing effort.
We explained how INFJs tend to behave in certain circumstances, such as in parenthood and the workplace… Now we’d like to go much deeper into your personality type, answering questions about why certain qualities express themselves more strongly, how to manage personal and professional relationships with challenging personality conflicts, and what happens if stress causes your shadow side to emerge. Discovering the answers to these questions can truly make a difference, not just in the way you view yourself, but in viewing the challenges you and others with the INFJ personality type face more constructively.
So, are you interested in finding out what really motivates and inspires you? How to grow as an individual, with a clear purpose in your sights? How to use your INFJ strengths and carve out a niche in a world that sometimes seems to have been built by and for completely different personality types - while also staying true to who and what you really are?