Learning about our unique strengths as INFJs helps us realize what gifts we can access most readily. It also gives us some guidelines for learning to use those gifts effectively in work, interpersonal relationships, and our private lives. These strengths don’t make INFJs “better” than any other type (each type has their own valuable strengths) but they are an important part of our personalities.
We often use our personality strengths so easily that we don’t think of them as gifts. For example, it’s so natural for INFJs to pick up on other peoples emotions that it might just seem like a slightly annoying thing we do automatically, rather than a unique gift we can use to relate to other people. But the strengths that are so much a part of the INFJ personality types are not common in the world at large. If we ignore our gifts or assume they are not useful, we deprive ourselves of confidence and deprive the world of our unique skills.
As I’ve been working on the second edition of The INFJ Handbook, one of the things I’m expanding is the chapters on INFJ strengths and weaknesses, as well as the one with personal growth tips. That re-writing that sparked the idea for this post, which is a shortened version of one of the chapters in my upcoming handbook. Read more →
Once upon a time, I told my sister, “I don’t think I’d ever date an ENFP.” Even though I’d seen lots of people describing ENFP-INFJ as a “perfect” pairing it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me. I loved having ENFP friends, but the ones I knew were either so intense they made me feel anxious, or so extroverted they wore me out, or too scattered for me to think I wouldn’t eventually get irritated with them in a closer relationship (or all of the above).
Then a few years after making this statement, I started actually getting to know one of my ENFP acquaintances. And now we’re dating (doesn’t that sound like just the sort of coincidence that would happen in a romance story?). He does have an intense personality but I’ve done enough work overcoming my social anxiety that doesn’t scare me any more (actually, it’s rather exciting). He’s the most extroverted person I know but I’ve discovered it’s not a problem for us. And he’s not scattered or flaky (which, it turns out, is another of those unfair/too widely applied stereotypes bouncing around Myers-Briggs circles).
Now, I could spend the next 1,000+ words telling you about how wonderful my boyfriend is but that’s probably not what you clicked on this post for (if it was I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed). Instead, we’re going to talk about why ENFPs and INFJs have a reputation in Myers-Briggs circles for getting along so well. Read more →
One of the ways we relate Myers-Briggs type to culture is by saying most Feeling types are women and most Thinking types are men. This seems to work quite nicely as a partial explanation for gender stereotypes in Western culture. In spite of social pushes to break-down gender distinctions, Feeling-type attributes (emotionally expressive, nurturing, relational, etc.) are typically considered “female” and Thinking attributes (impersonal, fact-oriented, business-like, etc.) are considered more “male.”
If we fit this generalization, we probably haven’t even noticed it. If you’re a woman with traditionally feminine traits or a man with traditionally masculine traits, there’s little pressure to change (though there are exceptions, of course). But if you’re a woman whose mind naturally makes decisions in an impersonal way or a man who prefers harmony to competition chances are someone has told you at some point that there’s something wrong with you.
As with many generalizations, there’s a whole slew of problems related to this observation. According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, about 57 to 84 percent of women are Feeling types and about 47 to 72 percent of men are Thinking types. It’s hard to get exact numbers on type distribution, but even these broad estimates show that, while the generalization holds true, there are also quite a few Feeling men and Thinking women.
Just in my family of 5, there are three good examples of exceptions to the general rule that most men are Thinkers and most women are Feelers. My dad (ISFJ) and brother (ENFJ) are both Feeling types, and my sister (INTJ) is a thinking type. My mother has asked me not to type her, but as an INFJ I might be the only one in my family who fits the “women are Feeling types” generalization.
Thinking vs. Feeling
Lest these generalizations lead you to conclude Thinking people don’t have emotions or that Feeling people can’t be intelligent, let’s take a quick look at what Thinking and Feeling refer to when we’re talking about Myers-Briggs types. Both Thinking and Feeling are Judging functions, meaning they describe how you like to make decisions. Read more →
I started writing this post nearly a year ago, after losing a dear friend, but I couldn’t finish it then. While I was grieving and watching the people around me grieve, I started wondering if the ways individuals respond to grief might be influenced by personality type. Once I started thinking about it, I was surprised that it wasn’t something I’d already read about in my personality studies.
People experience grief in such different ways that it would make sense for someone to try and find commonalities between how each personality type deals with grief. Maybe then we could come up with a self-help method for the grieving process more individualized than the inadequate and outdated 5 stages of grief model.
A few Google searchers later, I’d found plenty of forum topics where people who shared personality types were getting together to compare notes on how they deal with grief. I also found the following on the official Myers-Briggs website:
There have been many books written about personality type and grief, and it is perhaps one of the most profound uses of type. Understanding one’s personality type helps a person recognize why certain expressions of grief are better suited to his or her personal journey through this difficult process.
Recovery from Loss is specifically written for people who are grieving the loss of a spouse. It proposes a 20-step model for dealing with grief, and does address the role of personality type. However, the authors’ ideas are drawn from general knowledge of how different types respond to stressful situations rather than on actual research. They suggest this would be a profitable study, but do not undertake such a study themselves.
For such a study, I found a The Relationship Between Grief and Personality — A Quantitative Study by Lisa Prosser-Dodds, who presented this study of 239 individuals’ responses to grief as part of her PhD (I’m assuming it was also the starting point for her soon-coming book). Her study asks, ” Is there a difference in grief response between groups with differing MBTI personality types?” According to her, previous explorations of the MBTI’s role in grief are very few. She mentions four:
a 1990 study of 51 bereaved mothers that said, “Extroverts reported higher levels of coping resources and focused on Social, Cognitive, Emotional and Spiritual resources.” The sample group mainly consisted of Extroverts and Feelers.
a 1999 study of 14 people who had lost a spouse. This study “found differences in styles of grieving between varying personality types” but not “a significant use of inferior function,” which we would expect to show up in times of stress.
the 1990 book Recovery From Loss, which I’ve alredy mentioned. Prosser-Dodds thinks their 20-step recovery model is presented “at a level of intellectual requirement that most grievers might become unable to digest,” and notes their observations are “not grounded in empirical data.”
the 1994 book Voices of Loss, compiling first-hand accounts of grief and loss (not necessarily due to death) from various personality types. It is also “not based upon empirical data.”
What We Can Learn
If you’re interested in reading part of Prosser-Dodd’s study, her summary of results begins on page 68 of this PDF document. The aspect of her findings that I found most surprising was that “When the dominant function aspect of the personality was compared, none of the results showed significant differences. All six subscales and the total scale scores failed to support the hypothesis.” Given Naomi Quenk’s writings on the role of inferior functions in times of stress, this is quite shocking. I would have assumed eruptions of the shadow played a key role in grief, but our dominant function might actually have more to do with how we grieve than our inferior functions.
Instead, “the results that showed the most significant differences were with the predictor variable functional pairs (NT, ST, NF and SF).” This probably wouldn’t have surprised Isabel Myers, since that is the method she used to divide personality types into four groups: “ST- Practical and Matter of Fact Types,” “SF – Sympathetic and Friendly Types,” “NF – Enthusiastic and Insightful Types,” and “NT – Logical and Ingenious Types.”
Prosser-Dodd found that NF types had “higher levels of despair, disorganization and detachment” in their grief response, as wells as “slightly less personal growth.” NF type tend to feel things deeply in general, so it is hardly surprising that our grief response involves high levels of emotion. They are, however, better able than thinking types to find meaning in the tragedy of loss and regain balance in relation to the world.
Intuitive Thinkers scored lowest on all aspects measured by the Integration of Stressful Life Events Scale. This measures the ability to make meaning out of a loss and to find one’s footing in the world while recovering. Prosser-Dodd said that considering NT types as “as the logical and strategic types, it would follow they might struggle with a comprehension of the loss in general and perhaps find it difficult to regain their footing in world following a loss.”
SF and ST Types
On the scales of despair, disorganization, and detachment the ST and SF types scored in between the NF and NT types, with SF types just a bit higher than ST types. Interestingly, ST types were the most likely to use a loss for personal growth. SFs scored higher than STs in being able to find their footing in the world and make meaning out of a loss (they’re better at this than NF types, as well).
Over the past few weeks, it has become apparent from comments on this blog and Word Press’s statistics that my writings about INFJs, introverts, and personality type are by far the most popular. Even though it’s been two full months since I wrote Things You Should Know About INFJs, it gets more than twice as many views per week than the newer posts. Since INFJs are one of the personality types most likely to read about themselves and look for answers about how they think, I guess this shouldn’t be surprising.
Am I An INFJ?
If this is a question you’ve asked yourself, that’s a pretty good sign you’re an NF type. If we accept David Keirsey‘s ideas on personality type, NF Idealists are by far the most likely type to be searching for identity.
Do you know your Myers-Briggs type? How did you discover it and in what way, if any, has this knowledge affected you?
I discovered my personality type was INFJ after taking a free test based on the MBTI around the time I graduated high school. Since taking the official test wasn’t an option at the time, I tracked down several free versions online (here’s one that’s pretty good) to compare results. Then, I read many descriptions of INFJ types online and in books, and they fit me so well that I’m certain this type is correct.
Signs You’re An INFJ
Here are a few results I found while glancing over a forum on TypeologyCentral called “You know you’re an INFJ when…” It is 231 pages long, was started in 2008, and is still active. These are all quotes from the first two pages.
You’re convinced you can make positive change for humanity happen if you just keep working on your vision…
You’ve figured out that you don’t fit any other type well.
Had a co-worker this summer tell me about her cheating on her husband. You know, after knowing her for all of a week. It seems like everyone wants to share any dark/weird stories with me.
You can’t act on something you know logically is the right course of action until its ethically justified for you.
You’re pretty sure something is a lost cause, but you have to try anyway for conscience sake.
To a certain extent, all these are true for me (the third one as a general principle — random strangers confiding weirdly personal things with little or no encouragement). The top points on my personal list are a little different, however. The following are typical of most INFJs, and ring especially true for me.
Conflict is tremendously uncomfortable. Even tense moments are hard (especially, for some reason, while eating dinner)
You have a well developed “rich inner world” and/or the feeling that you belong in a fantasy world rather than the real one
It seems easy to pick up on other people’s emotions and mirror them while you are talking.
You’re a spiritual/religious person who frequently ponders deep and/or abstract ideas
You are fascinated by personality types and enjoy figuring out what other people’s types are
There a struggle between needing to be around people so you can connect with them and share your thoughts, and an introvert’s desire for alone time
If you’re an INFJ, what would you add to this list? What convinced you this type is the one that fits you?