The INTJ Owner’s Manual: 5 Things You Should Know About Your Personality Type

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As an INTJ, have you ever wished that your complex personality came with an owner’s manual? Although I can’t give you a comprehensive guide to understanding everything about yourself, I can help you understand the INTJ personality type better. As the founder of Truity, a company that helps people and organizations use personality assessments to develop their full potential, I often get questions from INTJs who want to learn more about themselves. Here are five questions INTJs frequently ask me — and my answers:

1. How can I be less abrasive in my dealings with others?

People do not communicate just to gather information. They do it for all sorts of purposes — to lubricate uncomfortable situations, to boost their own sense of self-worth, and to build relationships. As an INTJ, you do not value such trivia. Greasing the wheels of social interaction is not an INTJ strength.

Instead of focusing on the hideous touchy-feely stuff, you’d rather pursue the truth. You happily will tear ideas (and people) apart to prove their worth. You are capable of giving blunt, harsh, and even hurtful commentary in your quest to solve a problem. If someone repeats the same tired processes after being proved wrong, you’ll treat them as an irrational idiot. It’s not the greatest game plan for winning friends and influencing people.

Like it or not, you’re sharp with an afterburn. You probably will have to put on a facade when dealing with others in order to not come across as rude, abrasive or even disdainful. How can you play this part?

Show interest: The trick is to ask how people are feeling, even if those feelings are illogical. What emotion is driving their conversation? What troubles them the most? Repeat back what the other person is saying; repetition dials up the empathy and makes you appear sympathetic to the other person’s concerns.

Be positive: Being less abrasive means softening your language and tone. Curb the flippancy and the sarcasm and try rewording your argument in a positive way. Sandwich the criticism with compliments. For example, you could express admiration for an idea before you pull it apart.


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Watch the body language: Too often, only negative emotions show on an INTJ’s face: impatience, agitation, and indifference, for example. If the conversation bores you, at least try to look interested — lean forward, uncross your arms, and maintain eye contact. Smile more.

Do some investigation: Gather information about people’s families, interests, and social lives, and ask them about these events before you launch into your usual analysis. Note names and birthdays on your calendar so that you remember to wish them a good day or provide a card of some sort. These little tricks show your softer side.

For more tricks, check out Four Strategies for INTJs to Become the Coworker Everyone Loves.

2. What is a good career fit for me that will be fulfilling?

INTJs are the most self-confident and pragmatic of all the personality types, which means that you can master just about any task you set your mind to. Jobs that demand a high degree of logic, research, and innovation are particularly appealing. That’s because you:

  • are a natural big picture thinker; focusing on future possibilities and “what if” questions
  • have energy and an intellectual playfulness
  • are naturally critical of ideas and proposals, highly adept at identifying the impediments to achieving goals
  • are objective; able to step back and be impartial
  • have a strong moral compass; you champion sticking to the principles
  • are conscientious, deliberate, decisive, and focused

Jobs that play to these strengths can be found in just about every field and industry, and cover all seniority levels, so you will be spoiled for choice. See our INTJ careers overview for a list of the (extensive) careers in which INTJs prosper, and check out Three Hot Careers for INTJs.

That was easy, wasn’t it? Here’s the drawback. While you are capable of flourishing in any career, assimilating into some work environments will feel like a Sisyphean struggle.

Busy, open plan office environments that provide no quiet space for privacy and concentration may immobilize you with stress. Team-oriented positions (All that collaboration! All those pointless meetings!) are, in your mind, akin to letting the lunatics run the asylum. You need autonomy if you are to provide the calm, rational and stabilizing influence you are capable of.

Thus a fulfilling career may be less dependent on the job itself, and more dependent on the environment in which you work. You achieve the greatest career satisfaction when you are given the freedom to exercise your incredible intellect and forge your own way of working. Find an employer who values you for the work you do rather than the way you do it, and you’ve got a winner.

3. Am I actually a “mastermind”? Sounds a bit exaggerated.

Mastermind: a person of outstanding intellect; a genius; an architect; an egghead; a sage; a scholar. Describe yourself in these terms and you likely will come across as an arrogant braggart. Unless you are actually the reincarnation of Isaac Newton or John Paul Sartre, there’s a good chance you’re overestimating your abilities. Two percent of the U.S. population are INTJs. Mensa, the high IQ society, classify less than 1 percent of the population as “genius.” You do the math.

Luckily, the “Mastermind” label is not intended as a noun of the type described above, but as a verb. It describes the way that INTJs think — their penchant for logic, their ability to extrapolate concrete plans of action from only a vague impression of the theory behind a problem, and their ability to mastermind the whole campaign. Visually, you see the world as a gigantic chessboard. You forever seek the strategies, tactics, and contingency plans that have the highest payoff.

But to “Mastermind” a plan expresses more than chess-like maneuvering. You also seek a practical application for your strategies. You have a strong desire to bring about the ideas you dream up by whatever means — even if those means include manipulation, wrangling, and control. You can be quite ruthless in the implementation of ideas, seldom stopping to consider the personal cost of your systems.

The visual representation here is of a General, safe in the War Room, manipulating the battle by pushing toy soldiers around a map with little thought of the emotional cost of the victory…smart, detached, pragmatic, and cold. No one would describe the INTJ as “nice,” but they sure get the job done efficiently.

INTJ in Depth will help you discover what makes you tick. Above all, embrace your Mastermind tendencies. Evidence suggests that they will stand you in good stead in your earning poweryour relationships, and even your health!

4. Are INTJs the most powerful type of them all?

To the extent that “powerful” means having “self-power”— absolute awareness of and confidence in one’s abilities — then yes, INTJs are the most powerful of all the personality types. High levels of self-assuredness and self-reliance are the result of your deep introspection, itself a combination of your introversion along with your Intuitive and Thinking functions.


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Introspection is the skill that leads you to reflect deeply on any subject with a keen perfectionist’s eye. Guided by logic and your own moral compass, you are able to explore all the possibilities surrounding a problem, test ideas, and generate ground-breaking solutions — no room for error; no stone left unturned. Then your Judging function takes over, letting you quickly reach a decision on the matter. Once a decision is made, you are at rest. Little wonder that INTJs are so self-assured.

What about external power — the type that helps you drive change and influence people?

Well, psychologists have identified a particular personality type known as the “maverick.” Mavericks are imaginative game-changers who are both goal and risk-oriented. You’ll recognize them as the coworkers most likely to look at problems from a different angle, question voraciously, and push against the status quo. Another trait that mavericks possess is tenacity. Once they have a goal in mind, mavericks will aggressively pursue it even if their approach upsets the apple cart. True mavericks will risk being quite disagreeable to get the job done.

Sound familiar? That’s because mavericks display many of the characteristics typical of an INTJ.

In today’s competitive business environment, mavericks are highly prized for their ability to catalyze change. There are some famous examples everyone knows about: Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg to name just three. Cultural mavericks include existential author Franz Kafka, economic pioneer John Maynard Keynes, and freestyle rapper Jay-Z.

Not all of these mavericks are INTJs. But a significant proportion are, showing that INTJs may just have the right combination of skills to exert tremendous power in the world — despite (or perhaps because of) their self-reliance.

Want to learn more? Check out Five Super Successful Introverts and What They Did Right, and The Four Personality Types of Successful Entrepreneurs.

5. How can INTJs achieve happiness in a largely banal, shallow society?

INTJs do not enjoy shallow social rituals. This is their Achilles’ heel. Who cares to ponder last night’s TV when racism, misogyny, environmental depredation, and economic instability loom large in the world? Social mores (birthday celebrations, white lies, expressing sympathy following a bereavement) proffer no good reason for their existence other than “that’s just what people do.” This is unacceptable to the deep-thinking INTJ. Tradition is pointless unless it serves a logical purpose.

Let us recap how it is to be in the shoes of an INTJ:

Information— You hold learning and complexity in high value; there can never be too much knowledge. While the rest of the world relaxes in front of the television, you are busy deconstructing and rebuilding every problem in the world. Everything else is a bore.

Interrogation— You think about things deeply and you like to be factual. You will cross examine people and challenge their assumptions. It’s not that you want to prove them wrong. It’s just that you need to be right. Like, all the time.

Empathy— Emotions run deep in you, but your weaker Feeling side means you’re pretty terrible at perceiving the emotional state of others. Passion, sentiment, and other emotionally charged situations are anathema to you. As such, you can come across as distant, cynical, condescending or even mean in your relationships.

How do you achieve happiness in a world that doesn’t function like you do?

One way is to play up your rules-based approach to life. INTJs have tremendous power to act logically and set up “rules” for their work tasks. There’s no reason why you can’t use the same system for other aspects of your life such as surviving after work drinks or finding a mate. Strategize, forge a beneficial solution, and follow your game plan.

A second way is to choose your friendships carefully. Instant connections are possible with people that share your Intuitive (N) trait. NF types in particular may enjoy your sarcasm and dark humor, and they should help to open up your Feeling side, giving you more of a clue about relationships. Spending time with an intellectual soulmate will provide the stimulation you crave and fuel your personal development. You may want to ignore social media – a banal and self-validating circle of likes and pseudo-friends is no kind of social life for you.

The final thing to remember is not everyone has to hunt in a pack. Famous INTJs have shown that it is perfectly possible to live a life of deep solitude and introspection while making an incredible contribution to society. Changing our banal and shallow society for the better, rather than finding ways to fit in, may be one of the most satisfying things you ever experience.

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Read this: 5 Experiences Every INTJ Has Had


  • Lena Dee

    Thanks for this, Molly. I have some thoughts to add. I am a female INTJ who, after many years, has found an actual logical reason to ask people how they are feeling. I don’t view it as a kind of trick, but rather as a tool to reach a goal.

    For example, if people’s emotions are getting in the way of achieving a goal, it is an obstruction that needs to be cleared, a problem that needs to be solved. If I decide that I’m in the business of problem-solving (I usually do), I see my learning about people’s underlying emotions to be in everyone’s best interest.

    I “say back” what I heard, not because I want to appear sympathetic, but because it’s a useful thing to do if you want to make sure you’re getting accurate information. Sometimes I say, “Help me understand why you’re saying that” because it’s an easy non-adversarial way of getting more information, as well.

    The emotion related to me by another person does not affect me (emotionally), and the solution I relate back to them (at a point that feels natural) is entirely rational, but the other person usually appreciates it. They realize at some point that their emotions were an obstruction in reaching their own goal, and put their daggers away (or dry their tears).

    I also like your advice to knock off the sarcasm, for the same reason: sarcasm obstructs the flow of information that could be used for problem-solving. The other person is not going to give you the information you need if the off-putting tone ends the exchange.

    • I agree with your thought process. As a female INTJ (who for some reason, everyone vents their problems to) I often just give them advice rather than support and often am unable to make an emotional connection with their situation. I usually end up just giving what I know to be an appropriate response (pat on shoulder/hug/etc.) They seem to feel better after that, and even though I want to question them about their feelings- I know that’s wrong in this scenario. But I can never bring myself to ask. I think I’ll definitely be using this tool, thank you.

  • Bo

    Great article, Molly. I really enjoyed this. I’m not an INTJ, but I have a few friends who are. Thanks for sharing your insights!