In my early twenties, an online Myers-Briggs assessment revealed my new four-letter identity—a rare personality type nicknamed the INTJ. I felt flattered as I read about who I supposedly was. Yes, I was a strategic, big-picture thinker, smart as a whip, and different from others, thank you. Being an INTJ made me feel special, even important.
Yet in some small corner of me, something didn’t feel right. Wasn’t I usually the counselor in my friend group, the one people came to for emotional support? Didn’t I struggle at times with being a people-pleaser? How very un-INTJ of me.
Years later, I took another personality test and got the result of INFJ. Reading about this type, I was shocked at how much it sounded like me. Finally! All those years I had been wrong—I actually was an INFJ. (Want to know your personality type? We recommend this free, quick test from our partner Personality Hacker.)
Why did I mistype as an INTJ? Probably for a few reasons. First, growing up, I highly respected my “thinker” dad and uncles, and I wanted to be like them. Second, for a time, I attended a church that rejected emotional thinking, instead favoring the cold, hard facts of doctrine and the Bible. Finally, I was young and just didn’t know myself well yet.
Later I learned that it’s not uncommon for people to mistype as either an INTJ or an INFJ, because both personalities are introverts who lead with big-picture thinking, are results-oriented, and “see behind the curtain,” so to speak. However, there are some key differences between these types.
Keep in mind that typology describes general personality characteristics. You may have some characteristics of an INFJ and some of an INTJ, because people don’t fit perfectly into boxes. Your experiences, upbringing, and circumstances make you an individual. Yet we tend to lean more toward one type than another. Here are 10 signs you might be an INFJ, not an INTJ:
- You feel comfortable dealing with other people’s emotions. In your group of friends, you often play the counselor, thoughtfully listening to others and offering emotional support and advice—a role you relish, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your necessary alone time. People seek you out because they feel better after talking with you. INTJs, on the other hand, prefer to deal in logic, not emotion. They feel uncomfortable with overt displays of emotion, because for them, feelings are highly personal and private. When an INTJ is approached with a personal problem, the INTJ’s first reaction is to treat it like a challenge to be solved. In lieu of emotional support, the INTJ may offer practical solutions.
- You are more interested in people and relationships than concepts and theories. Your resume should read “People Scientist.” You spend a great deal of time analyzing others, trying to discover what makes them tick. You might be interested in psychology, sociology, spirituality, and the humanities. INTJs, on the other hand, tend to be more intrigued by systems, the sciences, history, philosophy, and technology, although there are many exceptions to this.
- Conflict is distressing. You take disagreements and criticism personally. Your feelings can be hurt by what others say. You may find yourself ruminating on an off-hand remark a loved one makes or a negative comment your boss gives you on an evaluation. A romantic relationship or a friendship quickly sours for you if there are frequent fights, drama, and a general lack of positive feelings. INTJs get their feelings hurt too, but they view criticism through the lens of logic, not emotion, so they are less likely to take harsh words to heart.
- You use your emotions and personal values to navigate the world. It’s more important to you that your decisions feel right rather than make logical sense (although as an INFJ, you rarely lack common sense). You not only take your own feelings into account but also the emotions of others, because you care deeply about how your actions affect those around you. Of course, INTJs care about others too, especially those closest to them, but they make decisions by asking what works or what makes sense. They value using time and resources efficiently more so than catering to people’s personal preferences.
- You may struggle to advocate for your own needs. Because you care so much about others, it’s easy for you to slip into people-pleasing mode. You want others around you to be happy, so you sometimes subjugate your own needs. For example, if your significant other wants to go out to dinner but you’d rather stay home and recharge, you may find yourself saying “yes” anyway. Mature INFJs diplomatically protect their own preferences, because they understand that when they get their needs met, they can be better for others. INTJs struggle less with people-pleasing.
- You’ve developed the appearance of social conformity—at least on the surface. Both INFJs and INTJs often grow up feeling different from others, like they’re on the outside looking in. Many still experience this as adults. For INFJs, feeling different really bothers them. Add to that their desire to please others, and INFJs may work hard to blend in. INTJs are usually less concerned with conforming to social norms.
- You’re a dreamer and a doer who focuses on the human condition. A true idealist, you’re concerned with helping people reach their true potential and bettering the human condition. You’re talented at connecting with others and bringing them together for a common cause. Mature INFJs build communities and are catalysts of large-scale social movements—think Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, who were probably INFJs. INTJs are also catalysts for change, but they prefer to improve systems, theories, concepts, and procedures—think Stephen Hawking, Al Gore, Ayn Rand, Hillary Clinton, and the fictional TV show character Monk.
- You’re soft in your approach. At your best, you interact with others in a warm, casual way. Skilled in diplomacy, you value tact and the preservation of others’ feelings more than the delivery of objective facts. For example, if an INFJ is invited to hang out with friends but doesn’t want to go, she might make an excuse to preserve her friends’ feelings rather than stating her honest preferences (“Sorry, I would like to go, but I have plans tonight.”). INTJs are more direct, straightforward, and even business-like in their communication.
- You don’t want just any job—you want a humanitarian mission. Ideally you use your creativity in an independent way to develop and implement a vision that is consistent with your personal values. An organized environment and harmonious relationships with colleagues are a must. INTJs also value freedom in the workplace, but they thrive in environments that are logical, efficient, and structured, with colleagues that are intelligent, competent, and productive. Ideally their job allows them to use their analytical skills to problem-solve in a challenging environment, and to implement their own original ideas to create more efficient, innovative systems.
- Because you’re tuned into emotions, at times you may experience others’ emotional states as if they were your own. If someone near you is experiencing stress, you may begin to feel stressed yourself. This is due to your high level of empathy. INTJs, although not emotionless, create more emotional space for themselves by viewing situations through the lens of logic. For this reason, they tend to be less sensitive emotionally than INFJs and do not absorb others’ feelings.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ Martin Luther King, Jr., likely an INFJ personality type
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