INFJs are supposed to be really good at reading other people’s emotions, guessing their thoughts, and seeing things from their perspectives. In many situations, that’s true. But there’s one type of situation where many INFJs (including myself) feel like we have a blind spot.
It’s like there’s a mental block when I’m trying to see myself from other people’s perspectives. I have to ask my closest friends how I come across in conversations, whether or not someone’s response to me was positive, and if what I said made sense. I suspect that for me personally much of this is related to social anxiety, because I’m not as paranoid around people who I know well. But I’m also not the only INFJ who struggles with this. We tend to assume that people think we’re weird and that they won’t like us because we’re so different from other people.
However, I’ve also talked with enough non-INFJs to know that quite a few of them actually do like us. Our INFJ weirdness isn’t guaranteed to scare everyone away. In fact, what makes each of us us “weird” is also what makes us attractive to the kind of people who connect well with our unique, authentic selves. So today, let’s take a look at how other people actually see INFJs. I’d also like to invite any non-INFJs reading this post to share your thoughts in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!
You’re probably wondering why this is at the top of my list, since most INFJs already know/fear that they come across as socially awkward. But I can’t write a post like this and ignore the fact that we do give others this impression. People aren’t judging us nearly as much as we think they are, but they do notice how awkward we make ourselves when we try too hard to fit in.
When I was writing the first edition of The INFJ Handbook, my ENFJ brother shared with me that “INFJs seem less socially functional than they might actually be. They come across as extra shy, but seem to function pretty well once they ‘get out’ a little bit. … You usually know more about a subject you’re talking about than the people you’re talking to do, especially if it’s something you’ve studied and they haven’t, so you can stop being so anxious about it.”
Most INFJs are better at holding conversations than they give themselves credit for. In fact, those who learn to effectively use their Extroverted Feeling can actually be mistaken for extroverts. We really don’t have as much to worry about as we think. Also, even though people notice when an INFJ feels socially awkward, most aren’t looking down on us for it. They just wish we felt more relaxed.
Kind, Helpful, and Safe
INFJs don’t come across as socially awkward in every situation. In fact, it’s pretty common for other people to see us as friendly, kind, and easy to talk with. Depending on the situation and/or the specific INFJ, most of us have the ability to set people at ease and make them comfortable opening up.
From an INFJ’s perspective, this can be very puzzling. We rarely (if ever) open up about our lives to new acquaintances and we have a hard time figuring out how and why we ended up comforting a stranger in the bathroom or counseling a new acquaintance who opened up about their biggest struggles.
From the other person’s perspective, though, INFJs are a safe place to share because we tend to come across as compassionate, non-judgmental, and eager to really listen. One ENFP who I found writing about this topic said, “Some of the wisest, sweetest most helpful people I know are INFJs. … they are like warm hugs.”
I once saw someone online describe INFJs as “one type I’m not keen on having a relationship with” because of our conflict avoidance. Apparently, some people see us as so indirect that they don’t want to go to the effort of figuring out what the “deeper meaning” is beneath what we’re saying. When I asked my ENFJ brother how he felt about INFJs’ tendency to avoid speaking our minds, he said, “That is kinda annoying. You do that a lot.”
The more I’ve talked with people about how they view INFJs, the more I’ve realized that our choice to hide our true feelings in order to spare other people conflict is interpreted differently by others. Instead of avoiding hurt, we cause confusion. That’s why I get comments from people who can’t figure out whether or not an INFJ likes them or who are confused by an INFJ who seems friendly and then vanishes. An excessively indirect INFJ can also come across as passive-aggressive and/or as taking pride in how hard it is for others to understand them.
Realizing we can come across as too indirect might actually be a relief for INFJs. I know I have a tenancy to talk in circles sometimes because I try to soften anything that might seem harsh and to make sure I’ve fully explained my ideas. But really, it’s okay to just say what we want to say in a more direct fashion. There’s a good chance that something you think is too blunt could seem normal to other people.
INFJs tend to give others the impression that we’re intelligent. This type typically has a high emotional intelligence and since we like to study and figure things out we also collect quite a bit of head knowledge as well. It’s not at all unusual for an INFJ to be able to speak intelligently on a wide variety of topics, some of them quite in-depth.
Other types tend to see INFJs as wise beyond their years. Some might also see the way we use intuition as a “super power” because our pattern-recognition abilities help us guess at the larger picture. In addition, pairing that pattern-recognizing Intuition with our interpersonal Feeling side helps us quickly get to the heart of what others are trying to communicate. That’s a trait other types notice and often appreciate.
A surface-level impression of INFJs might be that they’re gentle, naive, and perhaps even timid or submissive. But get even just a little deeper into an acquaintance and people find out that INFJ emotions run deep. Other people’s reactions to this trait can be both positive and negative.
On the one hand, certain people admire INFJs’ passionate natures. They see us as generous, caring, and sincere. They admire how alive we seem when talking about something we care about or fighting for a cause we believe in. When INFJs channel their intensity and passion into something that other people connect with, they can even be seen as good leaders.
On the other hand, some people describe INFJs as “too sensitive,” “too intense, “crazy,” or “unstable.” These sorts of descriptions typically come from types that clash with INFJs on the Sensing or Thinking preference. But even when there’s less of a difference in personality preferences, INFJs can still come across as overly idealistic. Other types can also notice that some INFJs have a tenancy to fall into depression and pessimism when they don’t know how to channel their intensity and/or can’t bring their visions into the real world.
Their Favorite Type
While no personality type is objectively “better” than any other type, many of us do have some types that we generally connect with more easily and appreciate more than others. And in the context of this post, it’s worth noting that INFJs are some people’s favorite type.
There really are people out there who see your INFJ weirdness as attractive or even fascinating. They see and appreciate INFJ intelligence, caring natures, sense of humor, and sincere kindness. Instead of finding our depth of ideas and emotions intimidating, they find it intriguing. And since many INFJs like to bond deeply with other people, we’re very attractive to types who like to “go deep” in relationships. So take heart – there are people out there who appreciate your uniqueness!
If you’re an INFJ, what kind of feedback have you received about how other people see you?
If you’re a non-INFJ, what are your impressions of this personality type?
Featured Image credit: Pete Linforth via Pixabay
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.