When you read about INFJ strengths or dig-in to tips for personal growth, one of the things that often comes up is the potential for INFJs to act as peacemakers. As an INFJ, you might have mixed feelings about that idea. Sure peace sounds nice — we love peace — but peacemaking assumes that there’s a lack of peace when you start out. In order to make peace out of conflict, you need to be able and willing to wade-in to that conflict.
Many INFJs, including me, find conflict extremely uncomfortable. Our palms get sweaty. Our insides start to shake, and possibly our hands or whole bodies as well. Our throats start to close up and our thoughts race to worst-case scenarios for how this might end. We’d often far rather quietly slip away from the conflicts, hold our tongues, or give-in on issues that don’t seem “all that important” right now than risk escalating a conflict. If we can get past that fear, though, INFJs have innate skills that we can build on to become good at conflict resolution.
We Value Harmony
Because external emotions affect us so much and we’re quick to notice disconnects between people, INFJs typically have a heightened sensitivity to conflict. We notice when something is off between two people (whether or not it directly involves us). INFJs place a high value on peace and we’ll do almost anything to preserve it.
For many INFJs, that means avoiding conflict even when something really should be addressed. We fear conflict rather than resolve it because we want harmony so much. But we need to learn that sometimes in order to create harmony, we have to deal with conflict. Read more →
I’ve talked with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of INFJs since I started this blog and wrote the first edition of The INFJ Handbook. One thing that most of us have in common is the feeling that we’re alien; that we don’t belong in the cultures, social groups, and/or families that we find ourselves in. Even if the people around us are welcoming, accepting, and seem to love us as we are we often feel as if there’s still something different about us.
Part of an INFJ’s feelings of alienation can be explained through type theory. Intuitives only make up about 30% of the population, and that means the way we process information and perceive the world is different than the way most people do. That difference is neither good nor bad; it’s just how our minds are hardwired. But as INFJs, we’re also FJ types who interact with the outer world using Extroverted Feeling. This is a cognitive function that’s keenly aware of values, ideals, behaviors, and cultural expectations. We notice when there’s something about us that doesn’t fit in, and it often bothers us.
Since I discovered the Enneagram and, years later, decided it might actually be a useful tool, I’ve started wondering if part of this feeling of being different might be connected to our Enneagram types. While INFJs can have any Enneagram type, some are more common than others. According to a survey conducted by Heidi Priebe in 2016, just over 30% of INFJs are Fours on the Enneagram, which makes it the most common Enneagram number for INFJs. It’s also my Enneagram type, and that’s the one I’m going to focus on today. If you’re wondering how different Enneagram types show up for INFJs, check out Susan Storm’s article “Your INFJ Personality Type and Your Enneagram Type.”
Why Fours Are Different
Myers-Briggs® types are typically describe in neutral or positive terms. You’ll also find information about the dark side of each type, but for the most part you’re likely to feel pretty good about yourself after reading your type description. That’s not the case with the Enneagram. When I first started reading about the Enneagram, what I noticed most is that it describes the core wounding message you internalized as a child and which you’re stuck with you your entire life.
I did not like this view. Truly, though, I probably wouldn’t have been so upset by the Enneagram’s description of Fours if part of me didn’t already believe that I was broken, abandoned, and envious of people who seem to have whatever basic human ingredient I’m missing. It wasn’t until years later, when I started seeing a counselor about my anxiety, that I realized I had internalized messages like this even though I grew up in a loving, supportive, stable home.
According to my favorite Enneagram book — The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile — “The wounding message Fours hear all the time is, ‘There’s something off about you. No one understands you, and you’ll never belong.’” Fours feel as if there’s something essential lacking; like we missed out on some important ingredient when God was putting people together. We’re not sure what it is, but we’re sure others have it and we don’t.
Wanting To Be Different, but Maybe Not Too Much
While some INFJs feel that their uniqueness is a burden, I’d venture a guess that most of us don’t really want to give it up (at least not entirely). The whole “otherworldly INFJ thing” can get ridiculous at times but many of us not-so-secretly like our unicorn status. I wonder if perhaps this might have to do with Fours being a common Enneagram type for INFJs
The Road Back To You says that Fours need to “be special or unique. They believe the only way they can recapture or compensate for their missing piece and finally secure an authentic identity is by cultivating a unique image, one that distinguishes them from everyone else.” I don’t know about you, but reading that connected with something deep inside me.
As an INFJ, part of me wants to be a chameleon to fit in with the people around me, but another part strongly wants an authentic identity (so much so that for a while I thought I might be an INFP, since Introverted Feeling is often associated with authenticity). This is probably the reason I started “dressing like a hippy” (to quote family members and friends who noticed my style change). I wanted a way to make myself visibly unique without stepping too far outside accepted behavior.
I suppose the holy grail for type Four INFJs is to find a way to express their individuality without feeling as if they have nowhere they fit. We want to be unique and different, but not so much that it messes with the harmony we need to have in our relationships.
Healing The Broken Things
I’ve come to realize that if there’s something inside us that feels broken, missing, and wrong, then running away from it or pushing it deep down inside us isn’t a good idea. It’s far better to let ourselves feel things and process our complicated emotions, particularly if they keep coming back to bite you after you think you shut them down (note: I’m not a therapist or psychologist. There are exceptions to every rule, and some things are best dealt with in a therapy setting. If you’re struggling with something, I encourage you to seek out professional help).
The Enneagram can be a useful tool for helping us identify and face unhelpful messages we’ve internalized. And it’s not depressing to read about those messages once you realize the Enneagram does include descriptions of healthy, average, and unhealthy versions of all the types, along with advice for how to grow into a healthier version of your type. What form that advice takes depends on who’s using the Enneagram. For example, The Road Back To You is written from a Christian perspective, and so the advice in that book is framed through that lens.
Before offering their 10 tips for Fours’ personal growth the authors write, “Fours need to hear this loud and clear: there’s nothing missing. It may be hard to believe, but God didn’t ship them here with a vital part absent from their essential makeup.” I teared up reading that the first time. I’m not convinced of it all the way deep down inside yet, but I want to be. And I’ve been heading that direction a lot more steadily over the past couple years thanks to tools like schema therapy.
Grow As Yourself
One of the most important messages an INFJ hears from Myers-Briggs® is that you’re not broken. You’re a perfectly normal INFJ, and it’s okay if that’s different than the majority of other people.
One of the most important messages we can hear from the Enneagram is that it’s okay to feel broken. None of us are perfect and we don’t have to be; we just need to grow, and realizing what sorts of foundations we’re starting with can be a great first step for that.
After someone learns about Myers-Briggs® types and starts taking online tests, one question that often comes up is how to tell the difference between two similar types. Maybe the tests you took gave you a couple different results. Or maybe you started reading about the types and discovered more than one sounds a lot like you. If you’re trying to decide whether you’re more of an INFJ or an INTJ type, I hope this article will help.
I’m an INFJ and my sister is an INTJ, and we’re both fairly typical examples of our types. Looking at the two of us it’d be almost impossible not to tell the difference between our personalities. But there’s also a huge amount of similarities between our two types — especially for what’s going on inside our heads and also how we respond to stress.
Just looking at the names of these personality types, we might think that the only difference is that one’s a Thinking type and the other Feeling. That’s true, but it’s not the full story. When we dive deeper into the cognitive functions that describe the mental processes each Myers-Briggs® type uses, it becomes easier to see the differences and similarities between these types more clearly. If you’re not familiar with cognitive functions, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.” INFJ and INTJ share the same Intuitive and Sensing functions, but have different Thinking and Feeling functions, as shown in this graphic:
The way these cognitive functions work together makes INFJs and INTJs very different in certain ways and very similar in others. The two types can often find lots of common ground and make great friends. And there are also several key differences in how they approach the world that makes it possible for us to tell them apart. Read more →
The world is opening back up after quarantines and shelter-in-place orders. Most of us are now free to leave our homes, even though we’re being asked to social distance. Still, things aren’t entirely back to normal and many of us find we have some extra free time on our hands this summer. Large social events like concerts and festivals are canceled, we can’t go to movie theaters, and it might be hard to get together with friends.
Maybe now is a good time to try out a new hobby. I’ve been writing a series of posts for Psychology Junkie about 21 hobbies each Myers-Briggs® type loves. For this post here on my blog, though, I’m just going to suggest one for each type. I’ll skip the more common hobbies like reading, music, and art (which people of every personality type enjoy) and focus on some that are a bit more unique.
The hobby I chose for each type is one that I’ve seen at least one or two people of that type talk about enjoying, though it’s usually not common enough it would appear on a list of top 5 hobbies for that type. My hope is that you’ll find some suggestions you’re intrigued by but haven’t tried yet. Also, don’t hesitate to borrow a hobby suggestion from one of the other types. Who knows; you might find that hobbies other people love give you a fun new experience.
ENFJ — Local Exploration
Many ENFJs enjoy meeting new people, but something you might not have thought of is how much fun it could be to “meet” new places. Travel and exploration is a favorite hobby of some ENFJs, and you can even do that close to home. I’m pretty sure there are at least a few small towns, parks, tourist attractions, or other intriguing locations in your local area that you haven’t explored yet.
INFJ — Target Practice
This is the hobby that surprised me most when I was researching how other INFJs spend their free time. I came across several INFJs talking about how much they enjoyed archery, skeet shooting, and related hobbies. Most mentioned that they shoot at targets rather than going hunting. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised considering how intrigued I am by archery. So if you’re an INFJ looking for a new hobby, perhaps you’ll want to give this one a try. Read more →
One question you might have after learning about Myers-Briggs® types and taking a few tests is how to tell two similar types apart. Maybe the online tests you took gave you a couple different results. Or maybe you started reading about the types and discovered more than one sounds a lot like you.
If you’re trying to decide whether you’re more of an INTP or an INFP type, I hope this article will help. Just looking at the letters in these personality types, we might think the only difference between them is that one is a thinking type and one a feeling type. This is only party true. When we dive deeper into the cognitive functions that describe the mental processes each Myers-Briggs® type uses, it become easier to see the differences and similarities between these two types more clearly.
The way these cognitive functions work together makes INFPs and INTPs similar in some ways and very different in others. They might seem near-identical in some ways, but they lead with very different functions and that makes them much less similar than you might think. Read more →
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. Read more →