6 Things the INTJs in Your Life Probably Won’t Tell You About Themselves

IntrovertDear.com INTJ wish you knew emotions

If you have an INTJ personality type in your life, there’s a lot that they probably wish you knew. But there are also things we might not tell you—especially about our emotional side. As INTJs, we don’t like to show emotions (in fact, just writing this article was like pulling teeth). But that doesn’t mean our emotions never affect us. Here are six things that INTJs wish you knew—but we’ll probably never tell you. These things may not apply to every INTJ in equal measure, but I believe this list is generally true.

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

1. We have occasional outbursts, and they’re weird.

For a personality type known as “robots,” INTJs have a deep emotional core. We keep this largely hidden from the world, not as a protective measure but simply because we tend to view feelings as private. Expressing them in public is awkward, like forgetting to put on pants.

But those feelings are surprisingly sensitive. Your INTJ is likely to come equipped with:

  • A strong sense of dignity
  • Extremely specific tastes
  • Deep and often misplaced insecurities
  • The constant feeling that we aren’t achieving enough
  • A code of morals that we don’t talk about unless something violates it
  • An urge to take control in any situation where any of the above are threatened

Basically, if you cross a samurai style code of honor with the idealism of Gandhi and then give it imposter syndrome, you have a working model of the INTJ’s emotional core. (In personality type theory, this is known as our underdeveloped “Introverted Feeling” or Authenticity function.)

So what happens when those feelings get stirred up? Usually nothing. Most of the time, we keep that nonsense under tight wraps and deal with it privately or by talking to a trusted friend. But sometimes our emotions come out in a sudden burst that shocks everyone, including ourselves.

This usually happens when:

  • Someone affronts us personally
  • We witness a display of incompetence
  • Something strikes us as fundamentally unjust

Then we suddenly get indignant, non-cooperative, and even angry. If the situation is beyond our control, we may rant. If it’s something we can influence, we rip into it with withering critique. Or we may become stubborn and throw up roadblocks until it’s addressed.

Try sitting in a car with three INTJs when another driver cuts them off and you’ll see what I mean.

So what can you do about this? Well, ultimately it’s on the INTJ to learn how to accept and deal with their emotions (as an INTJ myself, just writing that sounds icky). But, if you witness one of these outbursts, it does help if you realize that this is a very vulnerable moment for your INTJ friend. We probably don’t want to talk about it directly, but if you offer to help us with the problem, it goes a long way.

2. There’s nothing we appreciate more than someone trusting our advice.

INTJs have a weird set of strengths and weaknesses. Our biggest strength is that we can eyeball a problem and almost immediately see a way to make it better, or even solve it outright. Our biggest weakness? Well, often, we’re terrible at communication.

The result: INTJs can spend our time making great suggestions, or bringing up very accurate insights, only to be told we’re wrong. This is not a pleasant feeling. In fact, many INTJs identify with the story of Cassandra, the ancient prophet who was cursed to see the future but never have anyone believe her. It’s probably our biggest pain point as human beings.

INTJs can get better at communication, of course—and all the other skills needed to get our ideas out of our notebooks and into the world. But for many of us, nothing feels better than having someone else listen to our advice, take it seriously, and try it out. Fixing problems is what we’re best at. When someone notices that and starts to use our advice, it’s an almost spiritually fulfilling experience.

3. We smile more with emoji than we do with our faces.

INTJs have a well-deserved reputation for never smiling. Even when we’re happy, we tend to wear a neutral, focused expression (because we’re often happiest when we’re deep in thought) that others misread as anger. INTJs can and do learn to overcome this, but one look at the kinds of selfies we take is enough to prove the point.

Something funny happens, though, when we start texting or writing an email—suddenly we’re all emoji. For most INTJs, this isn’t natural either; we all go through a phase of rolling our eyes and griping that people don’t use correct punctuation anymore. But what we lack in social graces we more than make up for in our language skills—and emoji are, basically, just another written language. They’re basically a way to code emotions. And coding we can handle.

As a result, I find myself very easily switching to the appropriate written tone for whoever I’m texting to, and using emoji like I’m 17 years old—even though the INTJ grimace is locked on my face in real life.

4. It doesn’t make us feel good to be told we’re smart.

Anyone who knows an INTJ knows we often don’t take compliments well. I find this is doubly true when we’re praised for our intelligence. Since we’re known as masterminds and bookworms, you’d think there’d be no higher compliment you could give us than to tell us how smart we are. And occasionally it is satisfying—perhaps when a new boss notices it and calls it out. But as INTJs, we probably already know we’re smart; we’ve been told that all our lives. What we really value is what we do with it.

This is because INTJs don’t view intelligence as a static thing (you’re either “smart” or “not smart” and that’s that). We view intelligence as a constant process of learning more about the world. As a result, accomplishing things in the world matters a lot. Achievements in any field are, to us, a measure of applied intelligence.

This focus on tangible achievements is why INTJs react so weirdly to compliments: if we’re already succeeding at our goals, we basically see praise as superfluous, because we’re happy without it. And if we’re not succeeding at our goals, being told we’re smart actually hurts—it underscores that we had the talent to succeed, so the failure must be our own fault. This is a self-pity loop that mature INTJs grow out of, but we’ve just about all experienced it at some point or another.

So, is there any kind of compliment that does make an INTJ’s day? Absolutely. With our great strengths comes a long list of weaknesses, especially the social skills mentioned above. Some of us spend years working to improve in these areas, and any praise we get is surprisingly meaningful. A simple, “You’re really great at handling clients,” or “I never would have guessed you think of yourself as a nerd; you’re always so charming” will melt an INTJ’s heart. (If it’s sincere, of course.)

5. We agree with you more than you think (really).

INTJs can be argumentative. But, unlike most people, we don’t always argue because we’re upset. We argue because we like to test out new ideas.

This can lead to major communication problems. For example, we may argue for something as a hypothetical only to have other people think we really believe it. Or, we might find ourselves in a one-hour discussion that we think is really deep, meaningful talk—but the other person thinks it’s a fight. The other day my girlfriend had to stop me in the middle of speculating about the job market and ask, “Wait, are you just talking out ideas or are you about to quit your job and move to Nepal?”

In polite conversation, this is on us as much as it is anyone else—we simply need to learn to rein in our debating and theorizing, and most of us do so by our mid-20s. But it also means many of us bite our tongues about our most interesting thoughts and ideas because we don’t want to upset anyone. This is part of why INTJs seem to “check out” from conversations: we’re running through all the possibilities in our head instead of saying them out loud.

The flip side of this is, once we’ve kicked an idea around enough, we often get convinced that you’re right. At that point, we will completely drop the argument (or the ruminating) and simply agree with you. But I think we often don’t emphasize enough that we really have come around to your way of thinking—that we’re on your side. Or, more accurately, that we’ve always been on the side of “let’s find the right answer,” and we’re proud to know someone like you who helped us find it.

6. Once you’re “in,” we’ll back you up for life.

INTJs can take a long time to warm up to a new person—perhaps more than other introverts. We often prioritize our work over our personal lives, giving us very little time to meet new friends. And we have high standards, preferring to surround ourselves with a few very interesting, thoughtful people. If you have an INTJ in your life, it may have taken you months or years to get “in” with them.

But once you are, you’re incredibly important to us. Bringing you into our inner circle means we think we can learn from you. It means that you stand out to us from all the other people we meet, and that we want to give you our respect, our affection, and our time. As a result, you’ll find that we’re patient, tolerant, and willing to stand by you even when other people would judge you. And, of course, we’ll offer way too much advice—see above. 🙂

How many INTJs do you have in your life? Have you seen any of these emotions and tics come out? Are there other behaviors you’ve noticed? Leave a comment below and tell us more.

Seminar for INTJs: Our partner Quistic offers a course for INTJ success. “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths (and How to Be a Likable INTJ)” is a four-part webinar from success coach Penelope Trunk. Includes access to a private Facebook group with nearly 200 success-oriented INTJs. Learn more about the INTJ course here.

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  • Kevin says:

    ’nuff said.

    Thanks – I’ll be sharing passing this around….

  • Kazual Moore says:

    I want to forward this to all of my friends who simply ” Don’t get it!” This article was perfectly on point!

  • Rupali G says:

    Infj here. I relate to number 2. The intj’s in my life give the best advice. They can assess my situation as it exactly is (the Ni), and then give reliable feedback that works.

  • @Rupali: Yay! Success 🙂

  • oneblankspace says:

    Sometimes we smile more with emoji because we don’t know exactly what we want to say and want to say something before we figure out what it is. Everything relevant may have already been said, if we are the 30th person to comment on a facebook post.

  • Chestnutella says:

    This is so on point. I have 2 INTJ’s in my life. A special someone and a friend. That special someone cannot take compliments really well, we were just arguing about it 2 days before this article got posted. So this article just helped me in understanding him better. I could relate to the emotional outburst, the giving of advices, not smiling in real life, everything from 1 to 6. But my special someone doesn’t really like pointing out things that I find out about him regarding INTJ’s (which are true though.) Anyway, thanks for this INTJ manual! Hoping to read more from you soon! – From an INFJ.

  • Chandiwana T says:

    4 is totally on point for me.

  • Lucy says:

    I’m going to be marrying an INTJ soon and these are all on point. However what about when they shut you out and not tell you?! I don’t quite understand at the moment and it really upsets me. I don’t know he is doing this and I’m worried it may ruin my relationship 🙁

    • John Harrison says:

      Please wait. He needs quiet time to process emotion. He always comes back. He lives and dies with integrity and great loyalty. When he comes back his appreciation is unbounded.

  • Lilian Moreno says:

    @lucy As an infj with 3 intj friends and an intj father, I find that intjs just need time alone to process and are not trying to be rude or disloyal. They would rather work things out in their heads, after removing themselves from an emotionally charged situation. They probably think they are doing you a favor by the “shutting out” but I find intjs to be extremely loyal. But you absolutely have to be on their side and never betray them. That is unforgivable. They are very private and don’t like their personal lives discussed with others. I do find that intjs take directness very well. You basically have to be very straightforward and respectful about what is bothering you and ask for what you want or need. If at all possible for them they will do their best to rise to the occasion, unless they fundamentally disagree with what you’re asking them to do or can’t do what you ask.

  • @Lucy — Lilian is right.

  • Anka S. says:

    Really poignant insights, Andre. Thank you for writing this. My husband is an INTJ (I’m INFJ) and I’ve noticed all of these things in a very big way. (No. 4 especially; It actually causes him anguish to be told he’s smart. I think he’s brilliant, but I can’t tell him for all the reasons you described.) After 12 years it still surprises me what a wonderful combination INTJ+INFJ makes. No. 6 is one of the things that makes INTJs so amazing. As an INFJ I need to feel that depth of love and connection. INTJs are no-nonsense when it comes to love and connection. When they care it’s with their whole heart and full dedication. (I loved that “samurai style code of honor” description, because it’s so true.) Based on my experience, when an INTJ makes a decision, he does not falter. He may not be perfect, but he will try with everything he’s got. And usually he’ll succeed brilliantly. Because INTJs really are brilliant. (But don’t tell them.) 😉

  • I am an INTP/INTJ and I agree with all of these- perfectly well done and said! Aside from myself, I haven’t met any other INTPs or INTJs so of course my behavior may be abnormal to my peers XD

  • Lisa Stone says:

    haha! Oh, yes… my partner is an INTJ (scientist), and this all rings very true of him. He is an incredibly sweet, tolerant and very loyal guy, who is delighted when I heed his suggestions, and has a maddeningly unstoppable flow of advice… I find it intriguing that such quirks come together in clusters (like these personality types), that really do seem to mean things… It makes me wonder quite a bit about our usual sense of what ‘personality’ means, and the choices that we make – or judge at least like choices…
    Anyway thanks, I really enjoyed this one.

  • Yet Another INTJ says:

    I am the only confirmed INTJ I know.
    I laughed at the line about crossing bushido with Ghandi’s idealism and imposter syndrome, though I don’t think imposter syndrome is necessary.
    Full agreement with 1 and 2.
    Partial agreement with 3. I personally don’t use emojis at all, because my face isn’t doing that, and it seems silly to pretend it is (ditto for “lol”, “rofl”, and even “haha”). But yes, during daily life, I often forget to upload expressions onto my face if I’m not consciously trying or I’m not genuinely excited.
    Majority of agreement with 4. I don’t have any positive or negative emotional result from that, UNLESS I strongly respect the complimenter’s intelligence, which produces a strong positive. Typically, it’s the equivalent of stating a known fact, and taken as a tally mark toward ‘this person is trying to be nice/friendly’.
    Full agreement with 5 and 6.

  • Christen M. King says:

    I’m probably the only female INTJ on here (recently discovered… heavily in denial) and I think this solves a lot of the anxiety I’ve been having about being a terrible INFP (I tend to switch between INFP and INTJ at different points in life. Weird, I know.). It’s also quite liberating as I realized I can do SO MUCH more with my intelligence and career than I’ve been doing. Thanks for the post. I really appreciate it.

  • robynquinn says:

    I’m an INFJ/INTP but deff an INFJ 1st! Especially according to this blog. Every thing above is def me. My mom and brother are also INFJs. We all have mutual admiration for 1 another. I can’t stand being complimented about anything tho not just intelligence.

  • SplittingInfinitives says:

    INFJ. My best friend is an INTJ and have known her for 25 years. Slow to warm is correct for an INFJ as well. It is a lifelong friendship once we do warm up.

  • Brianne Toma says:

    #6 We’ll also drop you like a dirty tissue if we find anything about you against our #1. Loyal, yes. Ruthless, yes.

    • Passing By says:

      I was logging in to say something similar and then I saw this. Yes, this INTJ has zero tolerance of betrayal and disloyalty.

      #6 might be about being ‘in’ but when you’re ‘out’, you’re on the OUTs to a degree you can’t comprehend. Your removal from the INTJ’s reality doesn’t even leave a hole. We’ll let our memories flow into the space and you were never there. Nobody who knew you isn’t there. Nothing you’ve done is there. This is not your usual juvenile petulance of ‘blanking’, or ‘the silent treatment’. This is you burning in a gasoline fire and me checking my twitter feed.

      • Megan Vosloo says:

        So true. I’ve had girlfriends ask me how I could get over a break up so easily (within a day) when it took them months to put it behind them. But if the guy is out, he is OUT. It’s like he was never even IN.

      • Amaya Marian says:

        Well said! Not to forget that when we hate someone, we also imagine their death in at least ten different ways. And then hope that one will come true (especially when you are forced to be in the same vicinity as that person/these people for long periods of time).

    • Catherine says:

      So true Brianne. One someone has pushed me too far…bam! They’re out. Bye! I thought that was called the INFJ doorslam, but I’ve just decided I’m an INTJ, so maybe they have a doorslam too. Done it so often.

      • Amaya Marian says:

        Same and has happened many times. I do believe there are some qualities between the INTJ and the INFJ that match (the one you mentioned is such an example).

        • Catherine says:

          Yes, do you find people can push you and push you, and then they think you’ll take ANYTHING? But one day they push you too far, then SLAM. That’s the end of the relationship and you don’t want to see them again.

          • Amaya Marian says:

            I’ve never even been in a romantic relationship to be honest, I simply never had my interest caught. But yes I do know what you’re talking about. I had one friend, who desperately wanted me to contort my way of thinking to match hers and just never stopped annoying me with useless ramblings and her ‘silent pouting’ whenever I openly disagreed with her. Needless to say, I put up with her shit for awhile, trying to give her a chance to realise she was being stupid and then I slammed the door on her. Hilariously, she thought of herself as being the center of my social universe, as I disliked a lot of people in general, and got her awakening once I completely dropped our friendship without a single comment from me. She is as visible as air to me and it’s like we were never even friends to begin with.

          • Catherine says:

            I meant friends actually, I’ve only had two boyfriends in life.
            I mean when people, not even friends, push my buttons and mess me about over and over again then one day I’ve had enough and I shut the door on them. They are generally very surprised, but I’m not the sort to make a big song and dance saying how annoying they are. I just smile nicely and melt away.
            Your friend sounds like a narcissist, best rid of her 🙂

          • Amaya Marian says:

            Well, we aren’t High School Musical here XD (though getting rid of people in this way would be funny and entertaining). And she wasn’t a narcissist, just desperately wanted to become a part of the troupe of bitches in our old class and I stood her attitude for about two months before cutting ties altogether. That was years ago though…..and PS: When I get rid of someone I stare them down with a chillingly cold gaze that literally says ‘Don’t f*** with me.’ so I guess you’re the nicer INTJ between us 😀

          • Catherine says:

            Yes, I meant ‘make a big song and dance’ as in the metaphor, not really singing and dancing 😉
            Apparently I’m not very nice according to some people- far too blunt and cold, I’ve been called evil and cruel and shitty. I just think I’m stating the obvious most of the time- apparently that’s wrong :s But I don’t ever stay where I’m not wanted, I melt away. If the person wanted an argument and a drama, they don’t get one.

  • Yukiya says:

    #6. Once you’re ‘in’, we’ll be very protective of you. No one could harm those who belongs to us.

  • Lina says:

    #5 Or, we might find ourselves in a one-hour discussion that we think is really deep, meaningful talk—but the other person thinks it’s a fight. – This, I cannot emphasize how true this is. Very often I believe I’m having a normal debate and I’m quite enjoying it undisturbed, and people somehow get the impression of me being belligerent and argumentative. Yes, because they cannot prove me wrong, I must be stubborn, certainly.

    • Passing By says:

      But – but – you’ve got a girl’s name????? GUYS are belligerant and argumentaive (also aggressive and irrational) and WOMEN are upset and emotional. You must read the papers and know this to be in every editor’s style guide in black-and-white. (Sorry, POC-and-caucasian. Is that what the kids are saying now?)

      But seriously, long, long before I heard of the MBTI and identified with being an INTJ, people told me they didn’t like my voice, my posture, my smile, my laugh or my tendancy to ‘upset normal people’. So, I didn’t have a single communication tool at my disposal that worked for me. And once, I realised what a limiting, low standard ‘normal’ was, I gave up on them.

    • Catherine says:

      This has happened a lot to me, especially online as obviously people can’t see my body language, expression or hear my tone of voice. Once on a message board, years ago, I was supposed to be having a ‘big argument’ with the only other woman there. All the men were horrified to see these two women ‘going at it like cat and dog’ but for me I was just logically replying to her comments. I was popping in and out of the room, making a cup of tea, watching TV, perfectly relaxed. The guys told this woman to apologise so she sent an email to me, but I was rather mystified and reassured her that I wasn’t hurt at all. I thought it was a logical discussion, not an argument…

  • #3 I have to disagree with. I smile a lot. Especially when I’m alone. I do sometimes wonder if it’s social conditioning that makes me smile in public. When I was little, if I wasn’t smiling, I’d get punched in the arm and asked why I wasn’t smiling.
    And I agree with the others adding on to #6. Once you’re gone you don’t even exist as a human being. You’re a chore or an inconvenience at best.

    • Cheryl Enns says:

      I agree with Liz. One of the things that people notice about me is how much I smile and laugh. Most of it is me expressing with my face the amusing things that are going on in my brain at the moment but part of it is definitely social conditioning. Life with people is just easier if you look happy.

  • Ren Benton says:

    I try not to smile even when my thoughts amuse me because if anyone sees, they zoom over and demand to know what’s so funny, which is aggressive, invasive, completely off-putting, and to be avoided at all costs. I’d rather have people outside of my sharing circle think I’m a joyless robot than believe they’re entitled to my thoughts just because I had a facial expression.

  • Karol Machajewski says:

    I am an INTJ-T (architect) and I agree with 99% of what you’ve wrote about us.

  • Christine says:

    #4 is so true. Telling me I’m smart (or good at something that’s always been a strength for me) isn’t flattering. But if someone gives me a sincere compliment on a weakness I’ve been working on to improve, it’s a big ego and confidence boost.

    • Catherine says:

      Because often I’m told ‘you’re just so clever, aren’t you.’ It’s not a compliment, it’s a sneer. I often get called ‘the oracle’ ‘the professor’ ‘the smarty pants.’ NOT meant as compliments…

  • Hermine Kruger says:

    Very interesting and accurate! I was especially interested in the part of people not believing my insight or paying attention to it. It is one of my biggest struggles in life and the topic of most of my dreams and nightmares. An reoccurring dream of mine is where I warn people of an approaching dragon that will destroy the city. No one believes me and consequently it was up to me to slay the dragon. Finally seeing the evidence of the dead dragon, the people blame me for sending the dragon and plotting the scheme for an opportunity to “be the hero”‘.

  • Amaya Marian says:

    Well, I’m a female INTJ (though I seem to have some traits from the INFJ, which is a bit confusing but I’m getting the hang of it) and everything is absolutely correct here. Though the way you worded this:” Basically, if you cross a samurai style code of honor with the idealism
    of Gandhi and then give it imposter syndrome, you have a working model
    of the INTJ’s emotional core.” just caused me a sudden bout of laughter that had to be contained since it is the middle of the night here and now my cheeks really hurt. Thank you so much – thick sarcasm –

    (The article is great, though – thumbs up – )

  • Samuel Garcia says:

    “INTJs can be argumentative. But, unlike most people, we don’t always argue because we’re upset. We argue because we like to test out new ideas.”
    That’s a bit more Ne than Ni, so more XNXP than an INXJ thing.

  • Oliver Kloseoff says:

    Its like you’ve known me my whole life……