I’m one of those INFPs who both loves and quietly rebels against my personality type. Perhaps this is indicative of the INFP in general: We never really feel like we fit in a box, because who can ever fully understand us anyway?
Perhaps it’s just human nature to bristle at anything resembling a stereotype — when it’s directed at us, that is. There were aspects of my personality that, upon first reading, elicited a resounding YESSSSSSS. And there have been others that made me wonder if I’m really an INFP after all (cue obsessive re-taking of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator *just to be sure*). Shocker, every time I’ve landed in the same spot.
That said, there are patterns I’ve noticed in friendships that trigger me more than others. While a large part of this gut reaction may be attributed to my personality type, realistically, a portion is also shaped by my specific wounding in relationships. It will be the same for you. In other words, not all of this is going to resonate with every INFP. We don’t fit into a box, remember?
The more I’ve learned about myself as an INFP and empath, the easier it has become to identify the types of friendships that don’t feel safe for my heart. While this list could be longer, here are three types of “friends” I’ve learned to avoid — or at the very least, approach with caution.
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Unsafe Friendships for the INFP
1. The entitled friend
“Entitled” has all manner of connotations these days, but in this context, what I mean is this: Someone who assumes a level of trust that hasn’t been earned. This one is huuuuuuuuuge. And multifaceted.
INFPs are notorious for being hard to get to know, blah blah blah. This is one of those paradoxical statements about my personality type that frustrates the ever-living daylights out of me, and admittedly, has a ring of truth.
Case in point:
Truth: I am an open book.
Truth: It takes time and trust for my book to open, it opens in chapters of varying degrees of revelation, and I am choosy about who reads those chapters.
Just because we’re friends, on some level, doesn’t mean I’m going to let you into my innermost world. Every once in a blue moon, I meet someone I feel instantly safe with. It doesn’t take long to bare my soul with this person, though the baring comes in layers over a period of time. In most cases, I don’t feel this instant connection and have to test the waters with incremental degrees of vulnerability. How the person responds to this vulnerability speaks volumes to me about how trustworthy they are with my heart.
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If someone’s response to my vulnerability is to try to “fix” me, offer unsolicited advice, criticize, spout platitudes, or assume they know more about me than they do, this tells me I’m not safe. And it makes me feel misunderstood, which has been brilliantly explained as being synonymous with feeling marginalized, minimized, discounted, or having our motives questioned. With some time and open, respectful communication between us — yes, maybe even conflict, UGH — we may be able to shift this dynamic. But if it takes too much work for little gain, I’ll keep myself politely guarded or stop investing in the friendship altogether.
2. The chronically self-absorbed
Deeply empathetic, INFPs are equipped with the ability to understand and accept the humanity of others. We know relationships are give and take, but we also get that there are seasons in life where others have less to give than they would like. I’ve had close friends drop off for months at a time when the demands of parenting, a personal crisis, or mental health issues kept them from engaging in the way they normally would. And I’ve understood this, with the occasional effort of communication between us. However, when this pattern becomes the new normal, and all the effort has fallen into my hands to nurture or maintain our connection, I begin to distance myself.
I’m highly adverse to one-sided friendships. It’s one of those “been there, done that” tangos I’ve danced a dozen times too many, until I broke my ankle or passed out from exhaustion. I’ve gradually learned how to protect my energy from being drained and say no to one-sided friendships — a life skill I’ve worked hard to attain.
There are the people, too, who consistently dominate the conversation without leaving space for others to be heard. And the ones who make everything about what’s going on in their own lives, as if there’s only room for one person’s drama or crisis in a relationship. I admittedly have a pretty low tolerance for friendships with people who exhibit these tendencies.
Why? Because when I care about someone, I care about them 100 percent. I also love myself and believe I’m worthy of being cared for in return. I don’t do half-hearted relationships, if I can help it. I hold myself to high standards as a friend, and as such, I’m careful to invest in people who won’t take advantage of that love.
3. The judge
There was a time in my life when I genuinely thought it was okay to dole out my approval or disapproval of my friends’ choices, and I didn’t realize the harm I was causing. Most of the time, my friends and I agreed or disagreed on the same issues, so it was a moot point. But there came a time when I began to change in ways that felt threatening to some of those friends, and the disapproval that was communicated suddenly stung really bad.
What the judgy friends have taught me is this: Any time we can’t make space for others to evolve and change without expressing our approval or disapproval, we are placing conditions on our love. The empathetic part of me as an INFP understood where they were coming from in their need to judge, because I used to be that person, too. The open-minded part of my INFP self recognized that some people are too afraid of differences to let go and trust that another person’s process is valid, even if they don’t understand it. Behind their self-professed “good intentions” of telling me what they believed was the truth, I detected something else: conditional love.
Thankfully, I finally realized that I wanted no part in loving or being loved with conditions. So I’ve lost a few friends who I thought were “forever” along the road of personal growth. For a personality type that loathes conflict, I’ve had to learn a lot about confrontation. I’ll still probably never feel completely comfortable with it, but I have gotten much better at initiating hard conversations and letting people know when they’ve violated my boundaries.
A huge part of personal growth has been recognizing when someone is “safe,” then investing accordingly. It’s required me to step far beyond the bounds of my comfort zone as an INFP, and perhaps this is one of the reasons I feel paradoxical at times in this personality type. Being empathetic, idealistic, and adverse to conflict does not translate into passive acceptance of unhealthy friendships. Not anymore.
I hope the same for you, dear INFP. You deserve to feel safe and loved.
You might like:
- The 3 Biggest Reasons INFPs Struggle to Connect With Others
- 8 Things INFPs Need on the Job to Be Happy
- Here’s What Makes Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Personality Type Angry
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