One of my most popular posts on this blog is one I wrote back in 2016 called “The Vanishing INFJ.” Not only does it get quite a bit of traffic, but I’ve heard from several INFJs who contacted me specifically about the idea of them “vanishing.” It’s often something they hadn’t realized about themselves, but recognized immediately when they read my article.
Many INFJs have a tendency to drop out of contact with people. We get distracted by the world inside our own heads and might cancel plans, respond very briefly to communication attempts, or ignore other people entirely. Some INFJs might do this very rarely, other quite frequently. It depends on a variety of factors, including the INFJ’s priorities, maturity, personal growth, and how much social energy they have left after dealing with the people they come in contact with each day.
As an INFJ, you might think it’s perfectly normal to go months without contacting someone. You might not even notice it if you’re used to retreating inside your head for long periods at a time. Or perhaps you do notice it, but you worry about intruding on others and so you don’t like to reach out first. Maybe this time your vanishing is prompted by some outside influence, such as the social distancing regulations designed to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As you become aware of your tendency to “vanish,” you might also notice that it can have a negative effect on your relationships. Assuming these are relationships you value, you’ll want to find ways of keeping in touch with the people you care about and not letting your “vanishing” get in the way. Here are five tips for keeping in touch with people even when you’d be more comfortable withdrawing.
1) Give Yourself Alone Time
This may seem a weird place to start a list of tips for keeping in touch with people. After all, “alone” is the opposite of keeping in touch. It’s one of the things that happens when you vanish.
INFJs are introverts, however, and that means we need a certain amount of introvert time. One of the reasons we may want to vanish is because we’re burned-out and need some time to recharge. Before you try to push yourself to reach out to others, make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well.
A little self-care and recharge time can make it much easier to reach out to other people. It’s very difficult to convince yourself to keep in touch with others when your own energy is drained. This doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to isolate yourself for weeks or months with no outside contact. But we do need to give ourselves the time we need to recharge. Then we’ll have the energy we need to keep in touch with others.
2) Think Outside The Phone Call
Often when we think of keeping in touch with people the first thing that comes to mind is giving them a phone call. For many introverts, the next thing is panic. And if you’re terrified to actually make a phone call, then you’re much less likely to reach out to your friends if you think calls are the only/best way to keep in touch.
Phone calls aren’t the worst thing that could happen (I actually like talking on the phone with my closest friends). But if you don’t want to call, then there’s nothing wrong with sending a text or email to keep in touch. Or writing an old-fashioned letter. Or going more high-tech and setting up a one-on-one or group video chat.
In-person meetings are good too (or they will be once it’s safe to stop social distancing). Even meeting once a month for a movie night or a lunch time coffee can go a long way toward maintaining quality relationships. Some of my best socialization now comes from a small group of friends who meet at least once a month to play games together, and we keep in touch via a group text chat in between game sessions (which have now moved online).
3) Pay Attention to What They Need
We all have certain things we need in friendships. Some people need you to remember their birthday. Others need to know you’ll prioritize time scheduled to spend together and won’t cancel unless there’s an emergency. Some need you to be the one initiating contact. Others just need to know you’ll respond when they call or text.
Everyone is different. Our personalities, backgrounds, experiences with other friendships and much more all come together to influence what we need from our friends. You might find that some of your friends are perfectly okay with you vanishing. Others might get worried and just need to know that you’re okay. And some others might be offended that you’ve stopped talking to them (and hopefully those will understand once you’ve explained what’s going on).
We INFJs are pretty good at paying attention to details that have to do with human relationships. Let’s put that “superpower” to good use to make sure we’re keeping track of what our friends need. You’re not responsible for making other people happy. But you can be a better friend if you’re making note of which types of keeping in touch are most meaningful for the different people you’re friends with.
4) Prioritize Your Friendships
You don’t have to be friends with everyone. You’re under no obligation to keep in touch with every single person you were friends with in high school, or college, or past jobs, or other social groups. It’s okay for some friendships to fade with time. It’s also okay to pick which friendships you choose to prioritize.
INFJs interact with the outer world using a process called Extroverted Feeling. It’s our co-pilot cognitive function (click here if you’d like an explanation of functions in Myers-Briggs® theory). In the personality type sense, Feeling is considered a rational function that is conceptual and analytical about things relating to human beings. Extroverted Feeling is the mental process we use when sorting people into categories like “family,” “friend,” and “coworker.” It can help us measure our relationships, recognize the degree to which we relate to different people, and figure out how to prioritize our social value systems (Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual by Lenore Thomson, p.318-319).
It all sounds a bit clinical when it’s written out that way, but it all boils down to FJ types being in-tune with how people fit together in relationships. We INFJs can use this personality strength to help us prioritize who we keep in touch with in our friendships. Most of us are going to be happier if we maintain a few deep friendships than if we try to stay connected with everyone.
5) Share What’s Going On
I’m assuming that the people you want to stay in touch with are people who you consider friends. (We may also vanish from relationships we want to end, but that’s a different sort of topic.) You have some kind of generally positive relationship with them that you want to maintain. With that assumption, I think it’s safe to assume they also want to maintain a good friendship with you.
Being vulnerable is one of the scariest and most important things we can do in a relationship. It can be frightening to tell your friends that sometimes you’ll struggle with keeping in touch. You might worry that they’ll judge you, or think there’s something wrong with you, or that you don’t value them enough if you get stuck in your own head and forget to keep in touch.
But there’s also a chance that if you open up to your friends they will understand. If you tell them you appreciate it when they initiate conversations, many will be happy to do so. If you assure them that you still care about them and won’t vanish forever, it can help them not worry so much about the state of your friendship. And if you give some of them permission (or ask them) to check up on you if you fall of contact, they can help you realize when you’re vanishing.
What are your experiences with life as a vanishing INFJ? Do you have any tips to share with the rest of us? Let’s discuss in the comments!
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.
Featured image credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay