Several weeks ago, I wrote about the traits people with an INFJ personality type have that can make them wonderful peacemakers. One thing I didn’t cover in that post was how to develop those traits in order to become a better peacemaker. Just because we’re “hardwired” to have certain personality traits doesn’t mean they’re all equally well developed or that we’ll be comfortable using them. Peacemaking comes more naturally to some individuals than to others. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re stuck with whatever traits and quirks we have now which might make it challenging to be an effective peacemaker. We can always grow and improve, even if we’re already pretty good at dealing with other people.
Learn To Handle Conflict
Raised voices are one of my biggest anxiety triggers. Even a hint of conflict used to send me scurrying for another room. But we can’t help create peace if we run away any time there’s a lack of peace. In other words, if you’re paralyzed by fear in the face of disharmony, you won’t be a very effective peacemaker.
One thing INFJs need to keep in mind is that what seems to us like a frightening disagreement often seems like a harmless debate to someone else. What we interpret as a voice raised in anger, for example, might come from someone who merely thinks they’re proving their point in an emotionally neutral way. This is not to say that INFJs should let others bulldoze their boundaries or that they should make themselves stay in genuinely threatening situations. But we do need to learn how to recognize when we might be over-reacting to conflict and learn how to step down our fight-flight-or-freeze reaction.
Learning to handle conflict in a healthy way can be a long process. You might even want to get professional help (that’s what I did, and I highly recommend seeing a counselor if you’re struggling with any sort of anxiety that impacts your quality of life).
Practice Seeing Others’ Points of View
An INFJ’s favorite mental process is a cognitive function called Introverted Intuition. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Perspectives” because it’s so good at seeing things from different angles and it’s not tied to just one perspective. We INFJs are still human, though, and it’s a very human tendency to get comfortable with one way of looking at things and then not notice (or not be open to hearing) contrasting points of view.
Learning how to take responsibility for our own feelings and talk about complicated issues is not an easy thing to do. When I wrote an article on that topic a little over a year ago, some of the things I recommended for learning how to do that included assuming positive intent on the other person’s part, refusing to insult them, really listening instead of assuming you know what they’ll say, and reading articles like “How To Talk To People You Disagree With” and “We Should All Speak to People We Don’t Agree With. Here’s How.”
Learn to Listen
Since INFJs are so good at seeing patterns, we can very easily fall into the trap of assuming we know what someone will say and then not really listening. But no matter how good we are at predicting what will happen and how people will response, people are still full of surprises. If we want to mediate conflict, we need to learn to really listen to every person involved. Only once we understand each person’s point of view can we help smooth relationships and fix miscommunication.
In most of the opportunities I’ve had to be a peacemaker, I find myself acting as a kind of interpreter for emotion and intent. So many times, conflict happens because people just don’t understand each other. I find there are often times when two frustrated people just need a bit of help to rephrase their arguments so they can sort out misunderstandings and resolve the conflict.
INFJs often find theory more comfortable than action. We like to read about how we can grow, but then hesitate to take those steps. I’m as guilty of that as most anyone else. But if we want to become better peacemakers (or improve in any other area of our lives) at some point we need to put theory into practice.
Peacemaking gives INFJs a chance to use skills that come naturally to us because of how our brains work. It can also be an incredibly satisfying use of our talents. Most INFJs want there to be harmony between people, and if we learn to act as peacemakers we have a chance to actively create harmony rather than passively wishing it would happen. We won’t always enjoy perfect success. Sometimes our efforts might even make things worse. But if we are invested in peace, build our peacemaking skills, focus on trying to help others, and strive to act with their best interests in mind we can grow to become effective peacemakers.