Today I’d like to examine misconceptions about some of the most misunderstood types in the Myers Briggs system – INFJs. There is a lot in here relating to mistyping patterns in general so don’t skip it if you aren’t considering INFJ as your type!
It often comes up how “rare and wonderful” INFJs are… the mythical unicorns of the Myers Briggs Type system. As if no one had ever met one in real life before. Since they’re the very rarest type, only 1% of the population, you must never have actually spoken to one! Um… Let’s reexamine that.
First of all, 1%, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that rare. There are about 110 M&Ms in a 1.69 oz bag (the size they have at the impulse buy rack at the check out). So if INFJs were M&Ms there would be an average of about 1 per bag! If you were Christmas shopping at a “big box” store along with a couple hundred other people there were probably one or two INFJs in the store with you (except that they probably hate the crowds and do their shopping online or way in advance or hand-make something personal). If you stand in a line at a store or wait for the bus with a small group of 4 people 25 times a month you’ve stood within a couple of feet of one about a dozen times and quite possibly chatted with them. Now the issue is – did you know you were in the presence of a Unicorn?!?! 🙄 Then there’s also the fact that pretty much anything that could be described as an “Online Communities” (especially typology and personal development communities) is going to be a mecca for INFJs, giving them a perfect environment to get into a happy place of intuition, feeling and thinking without a lot of the energetic hits I’ll describe below. So INFJs do abound there, it isn’t wrong that they seem to crop up all over the place online – but they may not be who they, or you, think they are.
Something that does make INFJs elusive is that actual INFJs often mistype themselves as INFP, INTP, or INTJ, approximately in that order of frequency. They usually don’t have trouble pinning themselves as intuitive, though they can possibly think they are an Extravert if they identify strongly with their Fe. I’ve already written about how INFJs are the least “J-like” Js when it comes to things like tidiness and being on top of the details and deadlines like bills and doing paperwork correctly and on time. (See “How Can I be a J if My Car Looks Like This?”). This can cause them to think they can’t possibly be a J type so INFP is one of the most common mistypes.
What about these Thinker mistypes? How can the cute cat video loving, romance novel adoring, Cumbauya singing INFJ possibly think they are a thinker? Well most INFJs aren’t always as warm and fuzzy as the internet would have us believe. They can often get down-right prickly, in order to protect their energy. Fe is a battery drainer for INFJs. Especially since their dominant function is Ni, the combo with Fe creates a sensitivity to emotional tension that feels like static electricity in the air – a nearly constant unpleasant tingle at best and painful zaps pretty regularly. I also describe it as a syphon of mental and emotional energy. An INFJ can’t turn off their consciousness of it, so in the presence of other people it is diverting energy and hijacking their emotional state. Even if they aren’t absorbing the specific emotions of others, an INFJ might find they are tense when there is unrest anywhere near them. And by unrest I mean the barista forgot the cocoa sprinkles on the guy’s mocha who’s in line in front of you and he’s super annoyed that it totally ruined that 30 seconds of his life where he had to find the cocoa at the bar and do it himself. So they may always feel a little (or a lot) tense because stuff like that is happening constantly anywhere that there are people and it is really hard to tune out.
So we shut that sh*t down. We block out Fe and say screw that, I’m going to focus on the facts (tertiary Ti, a less draining introverted function) and people can just “suck eggs” as my Dad would say. I do not have the energy to do this constant emotional negotiation in my own mind that other people don’t even appreciate.
This is an energetic short cut that people of any type might take – bypassing the auxiliary function and sticking with the tertiary function. In INFJs it is a particular pain point, not just an energy drain, so it is even more common. That causes an INFJ to feel a lot more comfortable with Ti than with Fe, and with Ni being so freaking vague and unconscious, they feel like, and likely test like, an INTP. They get along with INTPs. They appreciate INTPs’ straightforward truthiness and near incapacity to be slighted in an interpersonal sense. No need for emotional gymnastics with that INTP logic crew, the undercover INFJ thinks they have found their tribe.
Except for the fact they neglected – that Fe is not a blind spot (as it is in INTPs, being their inferior function), it is a pain point, which is something very different. The INFJ is painfully aware of the social contracts, unspoken expectations, and resents them when they don’t make sense. They are painfully aware when they are neglecting to live up to “normal” and “appropriate” and painfully aware that they are actively trying to be oblivious. They know it and they hate it. Actual INTPs are just plain oblivious to those unspoken social contracts, then angry that there is this irrational set of expectations that they can’t wrap their head around at all. Healthy INTPs do learn how to get along in this world of people’s non-sensical expectations by making lots of mental notes to self that are like translations of an utterly foreign language, and their missteps completely blindside them and typically require elucidation from 3rd party observers.
So take this inherent aversion to the use of the function they are wired with, and add to it the fact that and the loudest examples of INFJs and Fe in general can be extraordinarily off-putting. INFJs often get the “yucky” reaction to anything described about Fe, even the positive versions of it, and many type hunters say you can spot the inferior function as the function that you reject with that “yuck” feeling. So INTP makes perfect sense to an energetically drained INFJ. We really don’t want to hear that “meeting people’s needs” is our second highest strength and highest yield growth state. The words “people’s needs” still makes me convulse. The association is to something too acute, in-your-face, urgent, draining – even when I think of it in the context of putting my own needs first. Give me Ne any day over that.
An INFJ may realize they are an INxJ but relate to themselves and the world more as a Thinker than as a Feeler for a lot of the above reasons, leading them to conclude INTJ. This is especially true of male INFJs who have been unconsciously indoctrinated into cultural expectations of men being logical and women being emotional. Their interpersonal perceptiveness tells them to blend with the Te male majority. The other thing about INFJs and the Thinking function is that there is a lot of conscious tension between the Feeling Auxiliary and the Thinking Tertiary (that conscious tension is generally the case between any type’s auxiliary and tertiary functions. T and F functions are decision-making functions, and the basis of decisions may not feel so clear to an INFJ. “Do I do what makes sense logically or do I do what will help people get along?” Also in their studies and professions, INFJs often gravitate toward scientific topics and research. They can feel much more at home in the world and descriptions of NTs than they do with Feeler stereotypes. Wanting to translate this to all aspects of their life, they may really really want to think of themselves as making those impersonal data-based decisions… They do so in their heads… But in the face of social scrutiny they will go along to get along more often than not.
So those are the most common reasons many INFJs don’t know they are iNFJs, let alone other people knowing they are INFJs. Now lets think about people who think they are INFJs but aren’t. If there is one thing I’ve found in doing many dozens of type discovery consultations, it is that everyone is aware that they unique and different in some way and at times alienated and misunderstood. That can lead especially any iNtuitive + Feeling type and some Sensing + Feeling types to think they are this rare and deep and misunderstood type – the INFJ. INFPs do it, ENFPs do it, ENFJs do it, ISFJs do it. Even ENTPs, INTJs and ISTJs do it (identifying with their tertiary Feeling function, remember?). I don’t have any actual statistics on this, and I know this statement is hyperbolic, but sometimes it feels like all the INFJs in the typology communities think they are something else, and all the people who loudly believe themselves to be paradigms of INFJ-ness are really not. Don’t crucify me for saying that – of course plenty of people figure themselves out correctly. But there are a lot of really “off” examples that foist themselves up as models to the community.
If you’d like some help clarifying your type, look into a Personality Type Discovery Consultation with me, which can be booked via the Consultations tab on the home page.