Why INFJs Understand Other People’s Emotions Better Than Their Own

INFJ personality process emotions

Fellow INFJ, do your thoughts and emotions overwhelm you sometimes? Do they make it difficult for you to function normally?

When I get overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings, I desperately need to talk to someone I trust, and when I do, the conversation usually takes a while. I share all that’s on my mind in whatever order I can get it out without worrying about sounding coherent or organized. The goal is to just get whatever’s in my head out in the open before a safe friend or family member.

It’s only after I’ve shared that I can begin to make sense of it all — and relax.

There’s a reason for this. Let’s explore why INFJs need to process their feelings outwardly, as well as why they have an easy time understanding other people’s emotions but not their own.

(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)

INFJs Are Wired to Pick Up on Other’s Emotions

I learned a great deal about why INFJs need to process their emotions outwardly from Marissa Baker’s The INFJ Handbook. One big reason we need other people to help us process, according to Baker, is that we’re wired to pick up on other people’s thoughts and emotions — but not our own.

As an INFJ, your dominant mindsets are Introverted Intuition and Extroverted Feeling. You use Intuition inwardly as you brainstorm, identify patterns, collect insights, and envision the future.

When you employ Feeling, however, you use it in an extroverted fashion. It clues you into social norms and expectations, as well as helps you think about others and what their needs are.

Your combined Intuition and Feeling give you an amazing ability to pick up on other people’s thoughts and emotions, even without them telling you what they are. You can generally sense if someone is genuine or if someone is trying to act as if everything is fine when it’s really not.

Unlike INFPs, who introvert their Feeling function and tend to be highly aware of what they are thinking and feeling, we INFJs have a hard time figuring out which feelings are our own and which ones belong to others. We tend to mix other people’s emotions with our own. We “absorb” other people’s emotional states without trying to do so.

That makes it pretty hard to understand what you are actually feeling.

This happens to me primarily when I’m around someone who’s discouraged or depressed. When my wife has had a bad day at work, for example, I often internalize her feelings and can’t shake them until she has recovered.

It’s not easy being a sensitive and emotional INFJ. But there are things you can do to understand your feelings better and prevent emotional overwhelm.

As Extroverted Feelers, INFJs Need Others

All Extroverted Feelers turn to others for emotional support. You’ve probably seen this in ESFJs and ENFJs, whose primary mindset is Extroverted Feeling. As extroverts, they’re fortunate to have a large network of people they can trust and turn to when they’re down. These extroverts are quick to open up and share what’s bothering them, and they usually receive adequate support from the people close to them.

We INFJs are also Extroverted Feelers like ESFJs and ENFJs, but, like ISFJs, we’re more reticent. We will only share our feelings with people we trust deeply. We’re complex, original thinkers who know few people understand and appreciate our real thoughts and feelings, so we tend to keep them to ourselves.

We’re also slower to make friends because we’re introverts who need plenty of time to ourselves.

And on top of it all, we tend to be hypersensitive to criticism, so we try extra hard to protect ourselves from biting words.

But in the end, we desperately need to share. INFJ, your sanity depends on it.

INFJs Must Nurture Relationships

So what’s the solution? The answer is to nurture relationships and employ a few other strategies to help you work through emotional buildups. Here are four that have worked for me in the past.

1. Connect with other introverts

Other introverts make good friends because they’re great listeners and appreciate meaningful conversations. You might enjoy talking with an ISFJ because she understands the need to share personal thoughts and feelings and to process them aloud.

You might also appreciate ISTJs. Like INFJs, ISTJs have deeply-held values. Many are good at keeping confidential information private, and you can trust them not to blab your personal struggles. Though ISTJs are thinkers, their Thinking and Feeling preferences are somewhat balanced, so they can be mature, compassionate listeners — especially the ones who are used to working with people.

2. Befriend extroverts

Yes, really! As INFJoe points out in Text, Don’t Call, some extroverts will actually “get” you and understand your needs. The ESFJ and ENFJ types whom I mentioned earlier tend to be tremendous empathetic listeners and can really help you when you develop a relationship of trust. ENFPs are great too. One of my closest friends is one; he’s helped me through some difficult times. I love ENFPs because their minds are wired similarly to our own. They understand and appreciate the way we think and can be extremely encouraging.

3. Journal

If you don’t have someone you can talk to, Baker suggests you try journaling. Journaling affords you as much time as you need to process your thoughts. It also helps you get them out in the open so you can sort through which feelings are yours and which are ones you’ve picked up from other people. INFJs tend to be writers, so this strategy might become a go-to solution for you.

4. Talk to professionals

INFJs are among the personalities most likely to seek professional help when they’re overwhelmed. They naturally trust and turn to therapists and counselors. I’ve talked to and appreciated the input of several counselors, and I know a few other INFJ friends who have too. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with turning to skilled professionals when you need to work through your thoughts and feelings — particularly if the issues you’re contemplating are serious.

To learn more about the way you process emotions, why you think as you do, and what makes you tick, grab a free copy of my eBook, The INFJ Personality Guide.

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Written By

Bo Miller is an introvert blogger, podcaster, and teacher. He’s also a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner. You can check out his work at ISpeakPeople.com.