They’ve been called a lot of things: The Unicorn, The Special Snowflake, The Oracle, The Protector, The Physic, The Counselor. But whatever you want to call the rarest 1% of the population, it’s hard to deny that they’re the most elusive type among us. In fact, it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that no one is actually an INFJ but in their own deluded, self-aggrandizing minds. MBTI buffs, particularly of the NF variety, love to self-efface from the vague descriptions online and wave the INFJ flag. That’s precisely why, whenever someone who is unfamiliar with the MBTI tool and cognitive functions takes the test in front of me and gets the INFJ result, I take astute interest in them.
Are you actually an INFP?
The thing I always want to know first is ‘Are you actually an INFP?’. Why? Because INFPs frequently mistakes themselves for an INFJ. First of all, INFJs and INFPs are really, really similar in appearance and by appearance, I mean they take on the same mannerisms, tend to behave the same ways, and reach the same conclusions. They’re also the two most frequently misunderstood NFs (Introverted Feelers). The reason why is a bit complicated and has a lot to do with how cognitive functions work. Without getting into the boring details, INFPs (understandably) mistake the fact they lead with a Judging function (Fi) with being a Judging type. This isn’t the case, however, for reasons which are even more complicated and involved and I don’t care to make your eyes cross by getting into the mumbo jumbo of how functions work together. If you really want to know what the difference is between INFJ and INFP, it’s discussed in great length here. If you’re still confused, this test will give you a better clue if you’re torn between the two.
INFJs Are Not Who You Think They Are
It’s true. They’re social chameleons, like Mystique from X-Men, they can observe and take on the shape and form (behaviors and mannerisms) of any other type. At work, INFJs may look like INTPs (laid back geniuses) and socially, they may resemble ENFPs (charismatic idealists) or ESFJs (social organizers). Actually, they can seem like any type, depending on which side of their multi-faceted, multi-layered personality they want to show you in whichever social context you happen to be in. You may even think an INFJ is your type, since they like to frequently use the social tool called ‘mirroring’, which is basically observing and copying your mannerisms in order to gain rapport with you. For this reason and a lot of others, INFJs are notoriously difficult to type. The only sure way to know is to have someone take the test and confirm that they are an INFJ. You will be surprised to find who is actually an INFJ. I like to think that I know people pretty well and I still tend to miss identifying true INFJs.
INFJs Can Predict The Future
Well…kind of. Actually, it’s that they lead with the most mysterious function, Ni (Introverted Intuition) which is able to instantly make connections; both past, present and use them to establish patterns, which will produce knowledge of the most likely outcomes. INTJs also have this ability but in a different context. For those of you who play video games, it’s kind of like this: two classes may have the same abilities (for example, close combat melee weapons) but one class masters dueling swords while the other uses a broadsword. That’s kind of how cognitive functions work for types: INFJs and INTJs both use instant connections to establish patterns and determine likely outcomes..but the INFJ is an expert in determining what people will do whereas INTJs are better at determining what logical events will happen.
If you want to know, at any given point, what a person will likely do when put into X situation, ask an INFJ. They will be right about 97% of the time. That’s because INFJs understand people almost instantly and on the deepest level you can conceive. INFJs build a multi-layered, subconscious profile on everyone that comes into contact with them. This ‘profile’ is not something consciously done or even understood by the INFJ but rather, it’s a function which operates in an automated way: kind of like your body’s circulatory, limbic, and metabolic systems. You don’t have to tell your body to breathe. It just does. So it is with INFJs and their people-related connections. They just know people, inside and out and since events are often caused by or related to human behavior in some way, INFJs often give the impression that they can predict events like an INTJ. Remove the human element from the equation however, and you’ll find that INFJs are less adept at this particular brand of foreboding. Now, this isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. I’ll use the analogy of a video game, specifically a Role Playing Game. If the task or duty at hand requires you to the desired knowledge or reaction out of other players or NPCs, then you would want to switch your character into the INFJ class. If the task or duty involves understanding non-human systems (engineering or IT comes to mind), then you’ll want to switch your character into the INTJ class. Both classes can do each other’s jobs with relative efficiency but if you want the extra advantage, you’ll want the class that specializes in one or the other.
INFJs are Psychic
Again…only kind of.There’s a good reason INFJs are frequently appointed in tribes throughout history and around the world as the Shaman or the Healer. In modern, western civilization, INFJs often work as counselors, therapists, coaches, and other occupations which serve as the go-to person for a wide variety of human problems. INFJs are basically emotional sponges.What does that mean exactly? Well, a lot of types can develop abilities which center around reading body language and listening for inflections in tone and manners in speech. NF empaths, in particular, are sensitive to the emotions of others and have the ability to cross-reference their own to correctly identify emotions (like INFPs do). INFJs, however, are by far the most natural at this. They are literally like a sponge. They absorb the emotions of others in their raw state in real time. This ability is vastly different than that of the INFP, which can only make self-effaced (albeit highly accurate) guesses. INFJs literally feel what you feel and they feel it exactly at the moment that you’re feeling it and most shockingly, sometimes even before you know you’re feeling it. The reason is a unique combination of Dominant Ni and Auxillary Fe (Extraverted Feeling). It’s the perfect storm of functions which allows INFJs to ‘take the emotional temperature’ of others and use Ni pattern recognition to correctly identify their emotional state and respond accordingly.
Another reason INFJs seem to be psychic is that they are simply better listeners. Yes, I’m generalizing here but it’s true. INFJs are the best listeners. The reason, again, is explained by having Ni as a dominant function. Ni is a perceiving function which takes in information. It’s primarily an input system rather than an output system. Because of this, INFJs often seem passive and non-reactive. They are constantly observing and listening, generally responding with open-ended questions, reflective dialogue, and only answering questions when directly asked. Any counselor or therapist worth their salt will tell you the value of ‘reflecting’ another person’s feelings and information back to them. Conversations with INFJs are often one-sided and peppered with frequent bits of validation like “I see how you could feel that way” or “That must have been really hard for you” or the classic “Tell me more.” INFJs are focused on you and want to know more about you. You’ll learn a lot more about other people if you ask to listen and more importantly, to understand. Most types struggle to listen to truly understand. It’s a self-absorbed world out there; with everyone clamoring over each other to get a word in, talking over each other, or simply just waiting for their turn to speak. With everyone focused in on themselves, it’s little wonder why INFJs have more knowledge of what’s going on than everyone else. As far as I know, that’s not a psychic phenomenon so much as just simple logic. Not to say that INFJs couldn’t be psychic, I’m sure a lot of them are…but that’s on a whole other level.
INFJs are Nice
This leads me to the next generalization that I’m going to boldly make. INFJs are nice..generally speaking. There’s really two levels to this: individual and global idealism. On an individual level, I just explained that INFJs are basically emotional vampires who absorb the emotions of others. I can’t emphasize that enough, since it actually means that your emotions literally become their own. In other words, if an INFJ hurts you, they’re also hurting themselves…so they’re going to do everything they can to avoid hurting you. This is how INFJs got the label ‘Protectors’ since they protect the hell out of your feelings. INFJs are also highly driven by the motive to ‘help’ others, often rescuing disenfranchised souls and homeless animals. That cliche novel or movie about a perfectly well-adjusted guy bringing home a hooker to give her a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, and attempting to help her get out of the life on the streets…that’s about an INFJ.
Perhaps even more important is the concept of global idealism, which INFJs, and NFs in general, are famous for. INFJs truly do want to make the world a better place for people (and/or other living things). This global outreach entails an inner value system with its own set of rules which are prioritized from the core (most important) and taper out to lesser values (less important). An INFJ’s inner value system is a paradox to their seemingly passive, gentle, observant nature because it is rigid, adamant, and possesses the highest standards for what an individual INFJ considers ‘moral’. INFJs, generally speaking, are primarily concerned with one thing: doing the right thing. It’s their modus operandi. It’s their prime directive, if you will (Star Trek fans, anyone?). It’s the secret ingredient of the INFJ’s personality makeup and it completely explains why they lack ego, balk at superficiality, act with caution, and getting back to the subject at hand…that’s also why they’re nice.
INFJs are Assholes
This is also true. In fairness, all types are assholes and some just have a series of personal habits which create a combined sum of excessive assholerly. But allow me to clarify that I just mean that when an INFJ decides to be an asshole, this is the particular way he/she goes about it:
For the very same reason INFJs are nice, they’re also assholes. They know everything about you (with a positive inflection) and they know everything about you (negative inflection). That can be a bad thing. Imagine if everything an INFJ has on you (which is a lot) were to be used to turn the tables on you. It can happen..and it does. INFJs are plenty assertive when they need to be. The following is a list of things sure to piss off an INFJ:
- Bullying/being mean to someone they care about. – The other reason INFJs are called “protectors”. If you’re going to be cruel, thoughtless, or unfair towards someone that an INFJ really cares about, you’re going to have a bad time.
- Dishonesty – INFJs fucking hate liars. It’s really best to be honest with an INFJ..since they know the truth, anyway. In fact, if you do lie, they’ll let you keep speaking just to see how far you’re willing to go with it. Also, being vague and/or short with your responses or omitting pertinent information is tantamount to lying to an INFJ since the motive is deception.
An honorable mention is superficiality, which is really more of a pet peeve or an annoyance than an actual trigger. Aside from that, violating personal boundaries or values will put you on the shit list. But since they’re too individualistic, I’m not going to try to list them here. So what happens when you make an INFJ mad? Well, of course, there’s a spectrum of reactions which are unique to the situation and I’ll attempt to categorize them according to anecdotal information I’ve acquired from several dozen INFJs:
- The Door Close – This happens for various reasons. It could mean an offended INFJ or perhaps just an exhausted/conflicted INFJ. This is when they unceremoniously place a lot of emotional/physical/psychological distance between you and them. Also known as the ‘Door Slightly Ajar’ or the ‘Door Gently Closed’.
- The Door Slam – The infamous INFJ door slam is when you’ve been shut out completely from existence, often without explanation.
- The Button Pushing/Door Slam – Rarely used. When an INFJ becomes infuriated and spiteful and decides to draw upon their vast expanse of knowledge of all your deepest, darkest insecurities and use them against you with deadly precision. They use Tertiary Ti (Introverted Thinking) to locate the exact, right words to say and the exact, right things to do/not do which will hurt you the most. Usually followed by the door slam. Always highly regretted maneuver.
- The Quietly Judgmental Detective – Asking open-ended questions to determine if you’re lying and if so, just how bad of a lying sack of shit you are. Usually accompanied by laser death eyes and a surly, judgmental look.
- The Disappointed Mother/Father – Guaranteed to make you feel like shit. This is what happens when you disappoint the person you really like and admire. INFJs are really good at letting you know that they think just a little less of you..and that’s so much worse than anger.
INFJs Are Complicated
If you like human puzzles, INFJs are right up your alley. Remember that emotional sponge thing I mentioned earlier? Imagine having that ability and not being able to turn it off. There is no on and off switch for being absorbent. This is why warm-hearted, sincerely interested INFJs suddenly withdraw from you without explanation. For them, it can be exhausting to be around other people. The only way to truly escape inheriting the emotions of others is to get away from people entirely, which explains the beguiling push-pull behavior. INFJs are hot and cold, never seeming to approach you in the same, exact way twice. At their core, INFJs yearn to be around other people, to be understood, and appreciated. But they also shoulder the responsibility/burden of caring about all the souls they encounter and always doing the right thing. It’s the weight of the world, resulting a low-level baseline of stress that is omnipresent, only to be temporarily relieved by solitary processing or true understanding by another.
INFJs Are Deep and Sensitive
Probably my favorite thing about INFJs; they’re deep. There’s no discussion too deep for an INFJ and no judgment passed if you’d rather be discussing the meaning of life than the caloric content of your lunch. INFJs are all about emotional connection and the meaningful exchange of ideas. Most significantly, INFJs crave the deepest connection with someone that can possibly be attained. INFJs learn at a young age what most people start realizing much later on, which is that its better to have a few quality relationships in life than a large quantity of casual acquaintances and fair weather friends. Despite being naturally popular people, INFJs don’t crave or seek attention from the masses. Depth can only be established one on one and each relationship is seen as a large emotional investment to be taken seriously.
The inner world of an INFJ is sentimental, poetic, and highly idealistic, no matter how he/she appears to be from the outside. There’s a innate sense of self-preservation and secretiveness that is associated with the type, since they’re highly sensitive to mockery and rejection. INFJs don’t share unless they know for sure that you aren’t going to hurt them. Their own personal feelings, which so rarely see the light of day, are deep and intense that if they were entrusted with the wrong person, it would be devastating. I vaguely recall a quote that someone said (and I’m probably butchering this quote) “If you want to know how someone wants to be loved, observe the way they choose to love others”. I believe that to be true for INFJs as well. Somewhere, deep down inside, they wish someone would do for them the same that they constantly do for the rest of the world.