You know when you’re struggling with something bad that happened to you and someone says, “Just get over it,” but you know it’s not that simple? For some reason, this particular hurt lodged deep inside and letting go seems well-nigh impossible.
For this post, I’m not talking about a hurt like grief over losing someone you love. We know why things like that are hard to “get over,” and in many cases it wouldn’t be appropriate to move on quickly. Most people recognize that hurts of that sort require time to heal and grieve. I’m talking about interpersonal hurts that might seem “little,” but have a big impact anyway. For example…
You express an authentic part of yourself (like your happy, fun-loving side), then people assume that’s all there is to your personality.
You receive 99% positive feedback about a project, but that 1% haunts you anyway.
You help someone out of the goodness of your heart, but others misinterpret your motives.
You decide to open up to someone, then lie awake at night worrying about their reaction.
Hurts like this touch on the core of who we are and/or our relationships with other people. These hurts are often deeply individual, and others might not understand them. If you don’t care what other people think of you, then you’re not going to understand why someone else is so upset about the one person in their life who’s a critic. If you find it easy to adapt to different social situations, you might not understand why someone’s so upset about not being able to express their true self all the time.
The reason why things like this can hurt us so deeply is often nuanced and complicated, but it has a lot to do with how we use the Feeling sides of our personalities. Everyone has a Feeling side (whether or not there’s an F in your four-letter Myers-Briggs® type), and we each use this part of our personality a little differently. Read more →
A few weeks ago a fellow INFJ named Bo Miller contacted me and asked if he could interview me on his new podcast. After picking my jaw up off the floor and texting my boyfriend to share that I was equal parts terrified and excited, Bo and I started a conversation that led to this interview. Our conversation focused on how INFJs can understand and learn to use their Extroverted Feeling and Introverted Thinking functions.
I already shared this link on my Facebook page, but in addition to the podcast I have a special treat for you all today as well. Bo is a Certified Myers-Briggs practitioner and the creator of iSpeakPeople.com as well as The INFJ Personality Show. He recently published The INFJ Personality Guide and would love to give you a free copy. I haven’t read it yet myself, but from my conversations with him I’m pretty well convinced it’s going to be really good. I hope you’ll grab a copy and check out his website. Here’s more info:
In The INFJ Personality guide, you’ll discover…
• Your greatest strengths
• Your weaknesses
• Why the rest of the world thinks differently than you
• Why you’re so good at discerning people’s thoughts, motivations, and feelings
• How to set better boundaries
• How to cultivate healthy relationships
• What to do when you get down or depressed
• Career advice
• How to manage your thoughts
• How to make your creative ideas, insights, and visions a reality
• How to communicate more effectively with other personality types
• How to handle criticism without getting your feelings hurt
The guide is divided into three sections:
• INFJ preferences
• INFJ functions
• How to develop your personality and reach your potential
Because INFJs and INTJs both use Introverted Intuition as their favorite mental process, the two types can appear very similar. Quite a few people who take a Myers-Briggs test and get either of these results (or both on different tests) are left wondering, how can I tell whether I’m an INFJ and INTJ?
My personality type is INFJ and my sister’s is INTJ. It would be well-nigh impossible to assume we share a personality type, but if you don’t have that contrast living with you (or if you’re a little less extreme on your T/F preference) I can see how deciding which type is your best fit could be a challenge. INFJs and INTJs lead with the same mental process and they react in very similar ways when stressed out. The main differences between the two types have to do with how they handle their Thinking/Feeling preference.
INFJs use auxiliary Extroverted Feeling as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Thinking. INTJs use auxiliary Extroverted Thinking as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Feeling. The auxiliary process is how they prefer to make decisions and interact with the outer world, but they can slip into their tertiary quite easily. It’s not as well developed or as reliable, but it can seem comfortable since it’s introverted (just like their dominant intuitive function).
How comfortable each INFJ/INTJ is with their thinking and feeling processes depends on a number of factors, including age, environment, and past experiences. You can find INFJs who are very people-oriented and social, or INFJs that seem distant and logical. Similarly, you’ll meet INTJs who are stereotypically blunt and calculating, and INTJs who are comfortable experiencing their own emotions. Even so, the way these functions shows up looks different for each type.
My Cup of T
An INTJ’s Thinking side is focused on the outer world. It’s also the function they’re most comfortable using when making decisions. While mature, well-balanced INTJs will take the human side of a question into consideration, it’s typically secondary to finding the most logical, fact-based solution. Personality Hacker calls this mental process “Effectiveness” and says it “focuses on impersonal criteria for making decisions” and prioritizes efficient problem solving.
INFJs, on the other hand, use an inward-focused Thinking process and they’re not usually as comfortable with it as they are with their Feeling side. Personality Hacker calls Introverted Thinking “Accuracy” and says this function gives users “the ability to reason through a subject or concept within one own’s understanding, even if it doesn’t match ‘outer world’ data.” Basically, this process is trying to work through things until they make sense.
INTJs are much more likely to express their Thinking judgements externally than an INFJ. They’ll often seem more blunt and direct because efficient communication is more important to them than worrying another person’s feelings. INTJs are also more likely to draw on objective, external facts to support their ideas. They want their ideas to work and they want outer world validation for their problem solving. That’s not nearly as important to INFJs, who need things to make sense personally more than to the people around them.
Feeling The Feels
An INFJ’s Feeling side, like INTJ Thinking, is the function they use most comfortably when making decisions. It’s also outward focused, but it’s primarily people-oriented. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Harmony” because it “makes decisions based on how things are impacting people on an emotional level.” The key thing to remember about this function is that it’s outward focused. INFJs are more in touch with other people’s feelings than they are their own.
INTJs use a Feeling process that’s introverted, which Personality Hacker calls “Authenticity.” While it’s also concerned with how decisions impact on an emotional level, it’s focused on one’s own emotions rather than other people’s. To again quote Personality Hacker, “Introverted Feeling is about checking in with all those inner parts and voices to determine what feels the most in alignment with oneself.” Somewhat ironically, the stereotypically cold and logical INTJs are often much more in-tune with their own feelings than the stereotypically emotional INFJs.
INFJs are more comfortable expressing feelings in the outer world and also more likely to pick-up on what other people are feeling. They’ll typically seem much more empathic and expressive than an INTJ. An INFJ who’s comfortable with their Extroverted Feeling side will also appear more social and “extroverted” than a typical INTJ. But INTJs are far more in-tune with their own emotions than most people (and many type descriptions) will give them credit for.
INxJs In Real Life
Even after you know about the technical differences between the ways INFJs and INTJs use thinking and feeling, you might still wonder they show up in real life. Let me give you some quick examples.
When making an everyday decision — an INFJ’s first impulse will be finding what makes as many people as possible happy, while an INTJ’s first impulse will be quickly finding the most logical answer. For me and my sister at least, the INTJ has a much easier time making simple decisions without overthinking them than the INFJ does.
In a stressful/emergency situation — I’m the one who’s in logic mode and my INTJ sister is the one indecisive and unsure. We’re talking something that calls for quick action and is stressful enough to push you out of your most comfortable mental processes (such as deciding to take someone to the hospital), Might not hold true for every INFJ or INTJ, but it’s an interesting observation I’ve made.
If asked to change their minds — an INTJ is most likely going to stick with what they’ve already decided because they know their idea is based on logic and that it feels right to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present a fact-based counterargument that matches their deeply held beliefs about what’s right. A confronted INFJ will second-guess themselves because now they know someone isn’t happy with what they chose but they’ll also be reluctant to abandon something that makes sense to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present an argument that hits emotion as well as logic.
I hope this helps you with telling the difference between these two types If you can’t tell if you’re an INFJ or and INTJ, looking at the differences in Thinking and Feeling functions is a good place to start figuring out your type. You’re not going to be a perfect 100% fit for every description of any one personality type, but there should be one that’s a “best fit” for your personality.
Your Turn: What are some differences and similarities you’ve noticed between INFJ and INTJ types?
Once again, I failed to introduce myself to someone. I’m 27 years old — by now I should have mastered the incredibly complicated art of walking up to someone visiting my own church group and simply saying, “Hi, I’m Marissa. Welcome. What’s your name?”
It would probably come out more as a squeaky “Hi” followed by awkward silence as I frantically tried to come up with words resembling normal small talk.
*sigh* So much for INFJs being “the most extroverted introvert.” Perhaps some INFJs are, but I’m not. I’m shy. I thought it was getting better, but apparently I still need more work battling my social anxiety.
Introversion is healthy for introverts. Shyness … not so much
Despite Google’s antiquated definition of introvert as “a shy, reticent person,” shyness and introversion are far from the same thing. “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments” (quote from “Are You Shy, Introverted, Both, or Neither (and Why Does It Matter)?” by Susan Cain). Shyness produces anxiety in social situations, while introversion means you lose energy when around other people. The traits often go together, but extroverts can also be shy.
Introverts who aren’t shy still prefer the inner world of thoughts and ideas to the outer world of people and things, but they’re capable of socializing and even enjoy it. Extroverts who are shy want to spend their time in the outer world, but they’re scared of people.
One of the most genuinely friendly extroverted women I know was once shy. For her, the turning point from shy to social was when she realized her fear of talking was rooted in self-focus. It was about “I’m scared to talk with people,” or “Socializing makes me nervous,” or “What if they don’t like me?” Read more →
I’ve been rather preoccupied with the idea of Balance lately, both in the world around me and internally. A lack of balance frustrates me so much and yet many people seem to gravitate toward polarities rather than searching for middle ground.
Let’s look at Christianity for a quick example. I’m not sure if this is the case in your churches, but in the groups I attend the question of Sacred Names comes up every once in a while. One the one hand, you have people who only use the Hebrew names like Yahweh and Yeshua and claim others “have rejected the name of their God.” I’ve even heard of people who won’t talk with other Christians unless they can pronounce the sacred names “correctly” (which varies depending on who you talk with). Then on the other hand, you have people who say Sacred Namers have fallen into “a satanic doctrine that leads people into idolatry.”
It just seems so ridiculous to me. To the first claim, if God wanted us all speaking Hebrew He wouldn’t have confused the languages at the tower of Babel. Read more →
Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.
Ah, the infamous inferior function — the way Myers-Briggs theory explains why you don’t always act like “yourself.” If we’re using Personality Hacker’s car model* to illustrate Myers-Briggs types, the inferior function is like a 3-year-old sitting behind the driver. It’s the least-developed function in a person’s stack, but it plays a significant role, especially when we’re stressed. Since we don’t use this mental process effectively, we often try to ignore it or bury it deep and dismiss times when it shows up as being “out of character.”
That side of our personality is not, however, easy to ignore. Continuing with the car analogy, if you’ve ever driven with a 3-year-old you know they’re only quiet when they fall asleep for a little while. Even when they’re happy and chatting they can be distracting. When they’re upset, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything else.
When the 3-year-old mental process in the backseat of your mind is throwing a temper tantrum, it’s hard to see the inferior function as anything useful. Often, I feel more like I’m “dealing with” my inferior Extroverted Sensing than learning from it or profiting by it. But as annoying at it can seem at times, it’s still one of the four mental processes that you have most access too. Even if it’s only 3-years-old, it’s still better developed then one of the four mental processes that’s completely outside your function stack. Instead of treating it as the enemy, maybe it’s time to embrace it as an immature, but lovable, friend.
Meeting Your 3-year-old
First, introductions. You’ve been ignoring this side of yourself most of your life, so if you’re going to make friends with it you have to first learn more about how your mind works. If you don’t know your personality type yet, I recommend Personality Hackers’ test as the most reliable I’ve found online. If you already know your type, you can learn more about your inferior function here:
You can also look up your inferior function by Googling “Extroverted Thinking” or “Introverted Sensing” or whichever function is lowest on your type’s function stack. Most articles you find that way will be talking about a healthy, mature form of that function as seen in types that use it as their primary or secondary mental process. Remember when reading these articles that it will show up differently for your type, since it’s not well developed.
For example, ENTPs and ENFPs use Extroverted Intuition as their primary, or driver, process. It’s an innovative, idea-generating mental function that’s constantly looking for new possibilities and patterns. They’re not only comfortable with exploring new ideas — they crave and thrive on it. When this function is sitting in the inferior position, it’s still exploring possibilities, but in a less-mature way. For ISFJs and ISTJs, their Extroverted Intuition shows up in generating worst-case-scenarios when stressed, and a near-constant worry about “what if?”
You might be frustrated that your inferior function can’t work as effectively in your mind as it does for people who use that mental process more readily. I’m an INFJ, which means Extroverted Sensing is my inferior function. People who use Extroverted Sensing effectively have “real-time kinetic” skills and respond quickly to things happening in the outer world. I’m so oblivious to the outer world that I run into doors on an almost daily basis. Even keeping track of my own hands and feet can be hard — once I wondered why my ankle hurt, and looked down to discover blood dripping from a cut I couldn’t remember happening.
Things like that can be really frustrating. But if we’re trying to befriend and cultivate our less-developed mental process, it’s better to start out accepting it how it is than hating how our minds naturally work. In fact, many of us could already be using our inferior function and not realizing it. An ENFJ who works with computers is using their inferior Thinking side at work. An ISTP with who cultivates close friendships in their local church is tapping into their inferior Feeling side.
You might start out exploring your inferior function through hobbies. When you’re reading about your inferior function, take note of what sort of skills and hobbies are usually enjoyed by types who use that function effectively . In my case, I’ve always enjoyed gardening and cooking, which are two endeavors that use Sensing skills. I’ve also started consciously cultivating awareness of the world around me through my yoga practice.
Growing and Learning
I’ve found that just knowing about your inferior function is a personal growth step. You finally have an explanation for why you react to stress the way you do, and why sometimes you have a “Was That Really Me?“* moment (which is the title of an excellent book by Naomi Quenk on inferior functions). Once you start understanding why your mind works the way it does, you can start learning how to use your natural stills more effectively.
Naomi Quenk’s book includes a section on how each of the types changes as they learn to use their inferior function. I also touch on this at the end of each post in my “Learning From Your Stress Function” series. Here are those links again:
Type theorists often call becoming comfortable with your 3-year-old mental process ‘incorporating your inferior function.” This should make you a more well-rounded, balanced individual who’s comfortable in their own skin and it better able to exercise forgiveness/acceptance toward self (and others) in areas where we’re naturally not as strong. As an added bonus, you’ll also start to strengthen that under-used part of your mind, making it less likely to trip-you up (at least in theory).
Your turn: What sort of hobbies do you enjoy, or skills do you have, that are not typical of your personality type? do you consciously use your inferior function?