5 Things I Wish People Understood About INFJs

an INFJ wishes someone would understand her

INFJs are often dubbed “the misunderstood personality type,” and there’s a lot of truth in that. While we have no trouble empathizing with others, we struggle to find someone who’s as committed to connecting as we are. Finding someone who truly understands? It’s not easy for the INFJ, the rarest of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. Here are five things I wish people understood about us.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)

What I Wish People Understood About INFJs

1. Yes, we do actually like affection, so don’t be afraid to hug us.

INFJs may look intimidating because we’re not constantly grinning or bubbling with energy. We may even come across as rather serious and brooding, lost in our heads. But the truth is, we feel deeply and intensely — especially when it comes to those we love. And many of us like hugging and holding hands with those people.

It may be hard for us to make the first move because, like anyone else, we fear rejection — and because we’ve been in one too many awkward “hug or not” situations — but inwardly we’re dying for a soft embrace or squeeze. If you’re a stranger, we’ll give you an icy glare if you get too close, but for the people we personally know… we want that closeness. We ache for it. Don’t be afraid to approach us with arms wide.

2. We do talk — ask us about our passions.

Being introverts, INFJs may not be eloquent speakers, and small talk kills us. As a result, we’re often the silent ones in the group — simply analyzing, observing, and possibly dreaming about some yet undiscovered universe. But just because we’re quiet doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to say. Ask us about our passions. Or our hobbies, dreams, and opinions on thought-provoking matters. We have plenty of opinions, and delving into these subjects will allow us to thrive. An INFJ shines when talking about his or her loves. We crave diving below the surface and having a proper discussion.

P.S. If you’re talking to an INFJ, please have the decency to look us in the eye. INFJs can’t bear superficiality, and if we sense (and we will) that you’re not really invested in what we’re discussing, we’ll end the conversation as quickly as possible. We may feel vulnerable just talking, so don’t make it worse by confirming our fears.

3. When it comes to people, we’re usually right.

It’s hard not to mistake this claim for arrogance, and that’s something an INFJ often gives the impression of when we actually say it out loud. But the truth is, an INFJ is often right. At least about some things. We’re extremely perceptive, we notice patterns others don’t even realize are there, and not only do we love reading people, but we’re great at it. While we have to watch ourselves for being overly critical and judgmental, our observations are usually spot-on. When an INFJ tells you how someone else felt about that party you brought them to, or that your friends felt awkward and uncomfortable during that discussion, it’s unlikely they’re making it up.

We’re excellent at reading people, and we can sense people’s moods instantly. Don’t call us crazy or tell us we’re imagining what isn’t there — give us a chance to explain. We’ll have answers.

4. We need our space, so please know when to back off.

When an INFJ is anxious, angry, or heartbroken, we retreat from people. We may get irritable, go quiet, and avoid eye contact. We’re trying to handle all our emotions by ourselves, in ourselves, and our alone time is the only thing that will eventually get us back on track.

Ah. Alone time.

When an INFJ says they need time alone, please listen. Please let us retreat to our room, or the couch, or the garden, and let us breathe. Don’t try to coax us into talking at that moment, don’t insist on physical affection (just this once, INFJs will shake it off) and don’t try to drag us out of our thoughts. We have a process — we will work through this. But we need people to respect our process. Most of the time, we know what’s best for us.

5. Appreciate us, because we need to know we’re valued.

INFJs are our own worst enemies. Our inner critic never shuts up, and we’re always the hardest on ourselves. Our judgmental side is always kicked up to 200 percent, and no one gets it harder than the criticism we inflict upon ourselves.

As introverts, we don’t like being in the spotlight (we’ll murder you in our thoughts if you shove us there). But, we do like to know we’re valued and appreciated. A genuine thank you, a brief acknowledgement of “hello,” an “I love you,” goes a long way for an INFJ. When we’re constantly beating ourselves up about everything under the sun, we need to be reminded that we are loved and valued, and that we bring something special to the world. An INFJ will remember when you’ve said thank you or hello, and we’ll store up these words in our hearts for when we’re drowning in our darkest times.

If you’re anything like me, you dislike compliments because they make you feel awkward, and you instantly tell yourself that the person is just complimenting you because they feel sorry for you. But we INFJs need compliments, even if we don’t realize we do. At a later stage, we’ll require the confidence those words instill. And we’ll be forever grateful.

5 Tips for INFJs to Cope

So… what now? Are we INFJs doomed to feel misunderstood?

Thing is, an INFJ probably won’t go up to someone and tell them to do x, y, and z. It just isn’t going to happen. We rarely talk that openly.

So, in lieu of that, here are some coping mechanisms to help us INFJs in hard situations:

1. The hard truth is, you might have to initiate affection if you really want it. It is hard, it can be suffocating, you might feel like everyone’s eyes are on you, but here’s the thing: the person you go to for that hug is very, very unlikely to shy away from it. The hard part is taking that first step. To make it easier, why not wait till another person hugs someone else in the group, then follow their example? That way, you won’t stand out.

2. INFJs are good listeners. Why not ask someone about their hobbies or interests? They’ll probably return the favor. Or, if you’d rather not initiate that conversation, wait for the chance to bring up your own opinions when you’re asked about something else. If you’re asked “How’s school going?,” you can reply with something like, “Oh, it’s okay, thanks. Not too busy, which gives me some to write and read.” Those sort of statements open lots of avenues, and it’s unlikely that the person asking you will ignore them. You’re literally handing them discussion starters on a silver platter and you get to talk about what you love.

3. People might think you’re imagining things if you reveal what you thought of a certain situation or interaction, because they may not be as perceptive as you are. The answer: explain why you think that. INFJs shy away from conflict, so it may not be easy to start arguing your case, but you deserves it. Don’t be afraid of explaining — as best you can — why you think something. Give examples: the body language you noticed, or their tone of voice. After all, you’re not imagining things, so unpack your observations to make your case.

4. When you need that alone time, be bold and take it. Shut your door, silence your phone. Say “I’m fine, I just need some quiet.” Slip away before they can grab your arm and pepper you with questions. We introverts are generally experts at avoiding people — don’t feel bad if you take advantage of this.

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5. Remember, you don’t need people to accept you. Social media might brainwash you into thinking you can’t live without other people’s likes and follows, but the truth is, it’s easy to go after something that will never fulfill you. As INFJs, we’re extremely sensitive and emotionally vulnerable; we need to be careful that we’re not investing in relationships and people that don’t return what we’re putting in. When you’ve found the right group, the right friends — people who truly care about you — they’ll show it, and you’ll rarely feel like you need to remind them. 

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