The INFJ is the rarest of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types; they make up only 1-2 percent of the population. People who identify as INFJs are deeply complex, highly sensitive individuals. They are creative and insightful, concerned with the big things in life, like the state of humanity. They often ask the questions that others aren’t asking, such as, “Why are we here?” and “What is the meaning of this life we live?”
In relationships, INFJs can be warm and friendly. They are generally well-liked by the people who are privileged to know them. Yet at other times, they can be distant and analytical, retreating into themselves and their private thoughts. INFJs often grow up feeling profoundly “different” from other people. They care deeply about others and like being a part of a community—yet because of their “big picture” perspective on life, they may always feel like an outsider looking in.
Like a rose, INFJs have many layers. They will probably not reveal all those layers to you right away. However, the longer you are in an INFJ’s life—and if an INFJ trusts you—the more petals you will discover, all the while moving further inward toward the core of the INFJ’s true self.
Are you an INFJ personality type? Or are you close to an INFJ? (If you’re not sure what your personality type is, we recommend taking this free personality test from our partner Personality Hacker.) INFJs can be a mystery. Sometimes even INFJs don’t fully understand themselves. So, let’s take a look at some of the “secrets” of what it means to be an INFJ personality type:
1. INFJs feel profoundly misunderstood.
INFJs, do you feel like people rarely “get” you? When you start to talk about something you care about, do you notice others failing to grasp why it really matters? If so, you’re not alone. Many INFJs feel deeply misunderstood and under-appreciated.
The reason many people are not on the same “wave-length” as the INFJ is because the INFJ’s dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni). (A personality type’s “dominant function” is the primary way that person takes in and processes information. It’s the main way a person interacts with the world.) Ni subconsciously notices patterns; specifically, INFJs notice patterns related to human nature, because their secondary function, Extroverted Feeling (Fe), orients them toward people. Ni works mysteriously and subconsciously. It allows the INFJ to know information without knowing why or how they know it.
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Their “sixth sense” can be difficult to explain to other people, says personality profiler Antonia Dodge, who co-owns Personality Hacker. Often INFJs give up trying to explain their ability (or don’t try at all, because they know how unusual it sounds), which leaves them feeling isolated and misunderstood.
2. INFJs absorb other people’s emotions.
INFJs, has this ever happened to you? You’re going through life, feeling fine. But then, a close friend calls you. She’s really struggling with something—she and her boyfriend broke up, or her boss insulted her. The more you talk, the more you feel your own mood deflating. When you get off the phone, you’re rattled and preoccupied with anxious thoughts.
This situation happens frequently to INFJs, says Dodge, because they tend to take on other people’s emotions. No other Myers-Briggs personality type has this unique ability. Some INFJs even report absorbing the emotions of strangers. An INFJ may suddenly feel grumpy, only to look around the room and discover a grumpy-looking person has just walked in. The closer the person is emotionally to the INFJ, like a spouse or best friend, the more likely it is that the INFJ will absorb that person’s mental state.
To feel not only your own strong emotions, but those of other people—this can be overwhelming! But the INFJ’s ability can also be used to bring emotional healing and comfort to others. “The ability to unconsciously absorb other people’s emotions with very little information to go on—how is that not a super power?” says Dodge. “INFJs have the ability to get inside the suffering of others and tell them it’s going to be okay.”
3. INFJs have amazing long-range forecasting abilities.
Sometimes INFJs may feel like fortune-tellers. That’s because Ni helps them see the big picture, notice patterns, and make predictions for the future based on the patterns they’ve observed. For example, let’s say an INFJ meets a new love interest. Right away—possibly within minutes of meeting them—they may start predicting where the relationship will go. Could they see themselves marrying this person or would it just be a fling? If they don’t think the relationship is going to bring the desired outcome, “they may immediately cut themselves off from that relationship,” explains Joel Mark Witt, co-owner with Dodge of Personality Hacker.
4. Even though they are “Feelers,” INFJs can easily access their “Thinking” ability.
INFJs often mistype as INTJs, the “Thinking” twin of the INFJ. Although INFJs are indeed people-oriented, due to their third function, Introverted Thinking (Ti), they may see themselves as analytical and scientific. They may enjoy careers in technology, the sciences, and research. Because Fe is second in their functional stack and Ti is third, these two functions are fairly balanced in the INFJ. Indeed, INFJs don’t outwardly appear to be as emotional as an ENFJ or ESFJ, whose Feeling functions are their dominant functions. An INFJ might lament that they are “too emotional for the Thinkers but too logical for the Feelers.”
5. One of their greatest strengths is their ability to create intimacy.
In the presence of casual acquaintances, INFJs might come across as quiet and reserved. Remember, they usually don’t open up to people right away. But INFJs are actually extremely relational. Because they can feel other people’s pain and joy, they are able to truly walk in another person’s shoes—like no other personality type can. This ability to empathize creates strong bonds of intimacy, says Dodge.
6. INFJs are true introverts.
INFJs are sometimes called the “extroverted introverts.” They get this nickname because they can be passionate, enthusiastic, and chatty when they are in the presence of someone they feel comfortable with. Likewise, when they are fighting for a cause they believe in—such as asking people to sign a petition to end animal abuse or righting some other injustice—they may come across as extroverts. However, INFJs are true introverts who prefer to have a small circle of friends. Just like any introvert, they need plenty of downtime to recharge their “batteries.”
7. INFJs are sensitive to conflict.
Fe makes INFJs seek harmony in their relationships. They strive to create “good feelings” whenever they interact with someone. So when conflict arises—especially in close relationships—INFJs can become extremely distressed. They may have trouble sleeping or lose focus at school or work. They may even feel the stress of the conflict physically in their bodies, getting headaches, muscle aches, upset stomaches, etc. This does not mean INFJs should seek to avoid conflict by becoming passive push-overs or constant people-pleasers. INFJs must stick up for their own needs—but they can do it by using the warmth and understanding that flows naturally from Fe.
8. INFJs know a lot about other people.
Ni and Fe work together to gather information about people. But INFJs don’t just remember when someone’s birthday is or how they take their coffee; INFJs use Ni to penetrate below the surface. They get into other people’s heads and figure out what makes them tick. They understand that the emotional pain their friend is experiencing stems from a certain need that friend has. They know when someone is lying even to themselves. INFJs are often not consciously aware of how they know so much about other people—and they rarely reveal the depth of their knowledge.
9. Many relationships are one-sided for INFJs.
INFJs tend to be great listeners because they truly care about other people. Likewise, they enjoy helping others understand their emotions and grow. They’re nicknamed “the Counselor” for a reason. Unfortunately, this may result in the INFJ’s relationships becoming one-sided. Other people start coming to the INFJ when they need to vent. Or they may take advantage of the INFJ’s desire to help. One day, the INFJ wakes up and wonders why their relationships are so draining. The people in the INFJ’s life are getting so much out of the relationship but the INFJ is getting little in return. What INFJs desire, says Witt, is for other people to return the favor of taking the time to listen to them and truly understand them.
10. INFJs are looking for their soul mates.
INFJs desire to connect deeply with others. Shallow, one-sided relationships won’t do. Likewise, because they are introverts, they have limited social energy. So, INFJs look for friends or a partner who are their “soul mates.” These are people who truly click with the INFJ and can feed their very real need for authentic connections, intimacy, and meaningful conversation. However, INFJs often struggle to create the kind of relationships they desire. When they do find people with whom they truly connect, it feels like a miracle.
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Read this: An Open Letter to INFJs