Congratulations on the procurement your new INFJ!* INFJs are highly sought after in the personality type collecting world given their extremely rare nature. INFJ spotting is a very difficult hobby, requiring forays into the deepest recesses of bookstores, yoga studios, and the internet. Keeping an INFJ in your life once you’ve found one can be even more of a challenge.
INFJs are widely considered one of the most amiable and empathetic personalities. Their minds offer a good balance of emotion and logic that helps them relate to most types of people, and they highly value commitment and relationships. As introverts, though, they have limited social energy and they don’t maintain relationships with most of the people they meet. Once you’ve found and INFJ, taking your acquaintance to the level or friendship, or relationship, isn’t simple. That is, unless you have this user guide.
Overview of the INFJ
The INFJ is a strange sort of creature, often compared to unicorns. Their uniqueness is a result of two things: the way their brains/personalities are hardwired and the rarity of their personality type. What’s perfectly normal for an INFJ seems unusual among humanity as a whole because so few people function this way. Understanding your INFJ’s basic functions is the first step towards successful interaction with the INFJ.
- Introverted Intuition — advanced pattern recognition software used to connect seemingly unrelated bits of information to get at the “big picture.” Sees multiple sides to every situation and often includes complex daydreams, multiple inner worlds, conversations that never happened, and plans to unite humanity.
- Extroverted Feeling — a.k.a the emotional sponge. Picks up on other people’s feelings, emotions, and needs. Empathizes on every level, mirrors others to fit-in and meet them where they are, tries to meet needs without being asked. Not so good at handling the INFJ’s own emotions.
- Introverted Thinking — strategy and logic center. Not as well developed as the feelings side, but often used in connection with Introverted Intuition to make sense of patterns and ideas, as well as formulate plans. May trap the INFJ in an introverted loop where they overthink everything and never reach a decision.
- Extroverted Sensing — the part of an INFJ that deals with external, sensory information. Rarely works properly. Responsible for the phenomenon that makes INFJs appear graceful one minute then literally trip over their own feet the next. May result in healthy functions such as cooking and gardening, or unhealthy processes such as binge shopping and consuming excessive amounts of pastries.
INFJs come in different sub-types with their own special powers, and a single INFJ may include more than one of these mutations:
- Chameleon — blends in with the people around them and adapts to any social situation, as if they’re trying on different personalities like masks. The chameleon INFJ may be mistaken for an extrovert.
- Guru — in-touch with their spirituality and on a quest for personal enlightenment. More than happy to help you toward enlightenment as well.
- Manipulator — uses their powers of understanding people to their own benefit. Many INFJs do this in moderation, but it can show up excessively in an unhealthy INFJ.
- Revolutionary — wants to change the world. Typically peaceful (INFJs hate conflict), but may become more forceful if sufficiently provoked and/or disillusioned.
- Scholar — obsessed with one or more academic fields. Can show up as a hobby or full-time profession. Personal book collection may rival a public library.
Meeting the INFJ
INFJs typically appear quiet yet friendly upon first acquaintance. Like most other introverts, they dislike small-talk, but they can fake it for a while. If you want to have a casual chat about every day subjects, the INFJ will react politely until the conversation ends and then leave, most likely without revealing anything about themselves that they consider important (including the fact that they’re an INFJ).
To get an INFJ to consider you a potential friend, you’ll need to engage them in conversation about something that matters to them. This means taking the conversation to a deeper level, one that gets to the “how” and “why” instead of just “what” and “where.” They’ll want you to share these sort of things about yourself, as well as ask about their own interests. Here’s a couple examples:
- “What do you do?” becomes “How did you become interested in that field?”
- “Where do you live?” becomes “Why do you like/dislike where you live?”
- “What movies/shows/music do you like?” becomes a discussion about themes in and interpretations of your favorite entertainment
At first, you’ll probably be the one initiating conversations with your new INFJ friend. Once they know you really are interested in talking with them (and if they’re interested in talking with you), they’ll start to open up and make the effort to keep in contact. Keep in mind that understanding is one of the most important things to an INFJ. If they feel like you “get” and accept them, they’ll be more likely to let you get close.
INFJs sort people into different friendship levels (see this post I write for Jennifer Soldner’s blog). Remember, your INFJ has a limited amount of social energy and they’re only going to spend it on the people who need them the most and/or the ones they care most about (ideally you’re in the latter category). Advanced users who’ve become friends with the INFJ (at least one step-up from acquaintance) will see new sides to the INFJ personality.
- Active Counselor — INFJs aren’t nick-named “The Counselor” for no reason. Even complete strangers will pour out their life’s problems to INFJs. This often confuses the INFJ, but they’re willing to listen and occasionally offer advice. When you’re close to an INFJ, though, their counseling becomes more active. They listen with the intention of understanding you as completely as possible, and then offering comfort and/or advice as-needed
- Daydreamer — INFJ have what they call a “rich inner world.” They spend a huge amount of time in their heads, and rarely verbalize what’s going on there. If they trust you enough, though, you might actually get an honest response instead of an evasion when you ask “What are you thinking about?”
- Deep Thinker — this is one of the quickest ways to level-up your friendship with an INFJ. Once they know you’re comfortable diving deep into discussions, they’re more likely to share their own views. Unlock this mode by being careful not to vilify arguments that you don’t agree with — INFJs don’t mind respectful disagreement, but they hate conflict and won’t open up if they think you’d feel threatened by their honest ideas.
- Playful — a relaxed INFJ in the company of people they’re comfortable with is the exact opposite of up-tight and quiet. You might be surprised how off-beat their sense of humor is and how open they are to new and exciting experiences.
- Passionate defender — INFJs often feel very strongly that they want to make things right in the world. While they’ll talk about their chosen battles with anyone given the right context, having a friend who’s interesting in the same things and/or supports their passion is huge. Also, they’ll defend you if the need arises.
- Romantic — INFJs tend to prefer committed monogamy in romantic relationships. They’re highly unlikely to date casually and are searching for someone they can connect with on a soul-mate level. For more romance-specific tips, follow this link.
Troubleshooting and Support
INFJs are not unbreakable or more resilient than other people. In fact, they tend to be more sensitive (many are HSPs as well as INFJs). Sooner or later, something is going to trigger a stress reaction in your INFJ.
- Anxiety — many INFJs deal with anxiety of one form or another, often related to over-thinking. Try talking with your INFJ about what triggers their anxiety and finding out if there’s anything you can do to help. In many cases, just knowing you care without judging them is a huge relief.
- Obsession — stressed-out INFJs may respond by becoming obsessed with controlling the details of their environment. Don’t bother trying to convince them (at least right away) that they’re being illogical. Instead, encourage them to get out in nature, exercise, read a book, see a movie — something to break the cycle inside their head.
- Overload — too much intensity from other people can overload an INFJ’s extroverted feeling. They need space and alone time to re-charge.
- Withdrawal — while INFJs need a certain amount of alone-time, complete withdrawal from the world for long periods of time is not normal or healthy. This type is prone to depression, and in some cases need professional help to overcome and/or live with that condition. INFJs are highly unlikely to let you know they want support, but make sure to offer empathy, understanding, and affirmation.
There is a limit to how much you can get an INFJ to let you in. No matter how much you want a relationship with an INFJ, the INFJ also has to want a relationship with you for things to work out (either on a close friends level or in a romance). They won’t force their friendship on other people and they don’t like to feel you’re being pushy either.
In addition to feeling understood, connection on a spiritual level is vital for INFJs. In The INFJ Relationship Guide (available to forum subscribers on Introvert Spring), Marko Kircanski and Michaela Chung write, “to an INFJ, connecting in the spiritual realm with someone is absolutely vital! We seek a person who has a beautiful mind, and with whom we can share our deepest thoughts. It’s with that special person that we can reveal our true self. Only then can we allow ourselves to feel vulnerable.”
What INFJs need most is to feel understood and accepted for who they are. They don’t like it when you assume you know them after only a few days, weeks, months, or even (in some cases) years of acquaintance. They want to feel safe talking with you about anything, and they want to make you feel like you can tell them anything as well. INFJs don’t like one-sided friendships, in either direction.
Q: My INFJ door-slammed me! Is there anything I can do?
A: Probably not. INFJs don’t door-slam unless they’ve been deeply hurt. It’s a last-resort defense mechanism. If you really want to restore the relationship, let the INFJ know you want to get back into their life and then give them some space. Pestering the INFJ will only board the door up more firmly.
Q: What if I think my INFJ suffers from “special snowflake” syndrome?
A: Many INFJs grow up feeling misunderstood and embrace the uniqueness of the INFJ label when they discover Myers-Briggs. If you attack their sense of individuality, the INFJ will react defensively (often by shutting you out of their life rather than direct confrontation). Let your INFJ know you understand that they feel rare, unusual, and out of place, but remember they may also need a reminder that they really are part of the human race. Healthy INFJs won’t insist that they are better than other people or push you away for reminding them that they’re human.
Q: Why is my INFJ obsessed with Myers-Briggs types?
A: I’ll let Elsa answer this question:
Those four little letters mean so much to many INFJs because it means they’re not alone. It means they are not too sensitive, too quiet, too weird, too intense, or whatever other lies they picked up during their childhood. It’s permission to focus on being the best version of themselves instead of tying to fit in with other people.
Q: Why is my INFJ unresponsive? (either staring off into space during conversation or not responding to calls/texts/emails/life).
A: As stated before, an INFJ’s primary method of processing the world is introverted. It’s easy for them to get distracted from the world outside by the world that’s inside their heads. If they looked “spaced out,” that usually means they’re thinking about something that is (at least momentarily) more interesting than what’s going on in the outside world. Please don’t poke or shout at the INFJ to get their attention — speaking to them or a light touch should be enough to bring them back.
When an INFJ stops responding to communication attempts that don’t take place in person, there are several possible explanations. It could be similar to what’s going on when they get distracted by their inner worlds, in which case they should get back to you eventually. Or they might not think your comment needed a response. Or they might be sending the message that they don’t want to talk with you without actually saying that to your face. Or they could be struggling with a stress-reaction (see “Troubleshooting and Support”). Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
*Note: I write this post with humorous intent, as a more light-hearted version of How To Be Friends With An INFJ. I often enjoy reading posts of this type (laughed so much at this one about INTJs, and am indebted to it for this post idea), but I do understand type “user manuals” often come across as condescending or stereotypical. I’ve tried to aim for a more balanced presentation of the INFJ type, and hope I’ve been successful as well as entertaining. Thanks for reading 🙂