The short answer to the question, “Can INFJs be intimidating?” is “yes.”
Of course, this partly depends on the specific INFJ and on what someone finds intimidating. Some people might be intimidated by the way INFJs people-watch. Others might find the way our minds work intimidating, or be overawed by our instinct for figuring others out.
Being intimidating can be a useful thing in some contexts. Unfortunately for INFJs, it seems like we come across as intimidating when we don’t mean to more often than when we do. INFJs are generally peaceful folk who don’t like confrontation and aren’t trying to intimidate anyone (even though the whole “good little INFJ” thing is mostly a myth).
Here are three ways that INFJs can come across as intimidating when they don’t mean to. If you’re curious about what INFJs are like when they are trying to be intimidating, click to check out my post “INFJ Dark Side.”
We Think Differently
Some people can find the way that INFJs think intimidating. We tend to be deep-thinkers and, in our own way, we’re pretty intense. Also, INFJs are a curious mixture of seemingly contradictory things and we’re hard for people to put into neat boxes. Some people find this fascinating, but others find it off-putting.
When I was finishing up my 4-year degree in college a guy at church asked me about my thesis project. So of course I waxed eloquent about how 18th century female writers used Biblical gender roles to present a solution to a “gender crisis” of their day. Not long after, this man described me as intimidating in a conversation with my father. He said that I was too well-educated and too deep thinking for any man in our church to want to marry me.
Now, he probably would have described any woman who talked about an academic project like that as intimidating, but I still think the example works. I no longer fit the “she’s this type of person” box that he’d had me in. INFJs will probably meet several people during their lives who think we’re one way, then act intimidated or offended when the INFJ does something that doesn’t fit their idea of who we are/should be.
We Stare At People
There are several types of INFJ stare. Here’s a sampling:
- We’re intently observing every person and their interactions looking for patterns.
- We’re sure we’re figured something out and have this knowing look that can make people feel a little too deeply understood.
- We’re listening so hard we forget to smile.
- We’re not actually staring. Our eyes just happen to be pointed that way but we’re so lost in our heads we’re not looking at anything.
Any of these stares can unsettle people. Some INFJs have been told they have “resting bitch face.” Others get accused of being so intense or focused that it’s “creepy.” Even people who usually get along well with the INFJ might point out that the staring is unsettling or weird.
We Figure Things Out
Each Myers-Briggs® type has two mental functions that they use most comfortably. INFJs lead with Introverted Intuition, which is basically advanced pattern recognition. That’s coupled with Extroverted Feeling, which picks up on what’s going on with other people.
Put those two mental processes together, and you get something we can almost describe as an INFJ “superpower.” We’re very good at reading people, picking up on how they feel, and putting all that information together into a pattern. That can let us make pretty good guesses at information we haven’t been told directly. An INFJ who hones these skills can become adept at figuring out who a person is beneath the mask they put on for the rest of society.
Of course, people tend to wear their masks for a reason. For some people, being truly seen is a relief. But many others feel intimidated or even violated by an INFJ’s insightfulness.
In Conclusion …
INFJs can be intimidating to certain people and in certain contexts, even when that’s not our intention.
In some cases, the people who find us intimidating simply aren’t comfortable with us being true to our real selves. If the way you think or the fact that you people-watch unsettles someone, you might just be better off not maintaining a close relationship with them.
In other cases, the INFJ might be unaware of how and why they’re intimidating people. An INFJ who wants to be less intimidating might try to smile a little more to soften their stare. It can also be a good idea for INFJs to work on learning when and how to share our insights about other people so they don’t feel creeped out by us.
If you’re an INFJ, have you ever been described as intimidating?
If you’d like to know more about the INFJ personality type, check out my book The INFJ Handbook. I just updated it with a ton of new information and resources. You can purchase it in ebook or paperback by clicking this link.