The 12 Best and Most Painless Ways for INTJs to Express Their Feelings

I can count on one hand the number of times I've cried. The first was when a kid called Robert punched me in the teeth. I was nine years old and the crying completely rattled me. It's when I realized that emotions were not fragile but borne of righteous indignation.

I cried again a decade later when a big relationship ended, but I had to watch the devastating "Schindler's List" to draw forth the tears. And I cried during my pregnancy when a song about a sick baby came on the radio (Wires, by Athlete). For about an hour, I was inconsolable. Then rationality slipped back into control.

I did not cry when my kids were born. I did not cry, or rant, or panic when the Twin Towers tumbled. Or when Princess Diana died. Or during any of the events, happy or sad, that are able to reduce entire nations to tears.

I did not cry when my father died. The experience was so alien and unprocessable that I couldn't connect to it. My grief consisted of sitting on the sofa in the small hours of the morning, drinking tea. I didn't talk to anyone until that evening, some 14 hours later. Then, I urged my newly grieving mother to think of all the money she would save on nursing home fees. I bear a heavy guilt for this, naturally. It was a terrible consolation to offer someone as fragile as tissue paper.

At home, I say the "L" word about once a year. I operate a strict no hugging policy with everyone but my closest family. Holding hands feels like inappropriate touching. As for cheek-kissing casual acquaintances - honestly, someone should file a complaint.

And I've deleted and rewritten the preceding paragraphs a half-dozen times. I feel weird writing about INTJs, because I have no idea what it's like to be an INTJ. I only know what it is like to be this INTJ. And I feel more weird writing about myself. Sharing and soul-bearing on the Internet feels like handing over part of my brain. I'm just not comfortable with that degree of vulnerability.

I am not a robot.

My emotions run deep. They just don't surface very often. Sometimes they whisper so quietly that they are not heard at all. I dislike that others may think that I'm uncaring and indifferent, because that's a false impression. As an INTJ female, I can be deeply sentimental and I often feel intense emotions. I just don't pop the champagne cork and let those emotions splatter the crowd.

So how can we still-watered INTJs express our feelings? Here are some suggestions that don't run counter to type.

1. Subtly do something nice for someone

When INTJs express emotions, they tend to do it in a kinesthetic way. Words are cheap. They don't mean much unless they're backed up by planned and deliberate action. You may never be the one to give hugs. But others will appreciate that you wash the dishes and change their flat tire. For action-oriented INTJs, changing lightbulbs is an excellent metaphor for love.

2. Be present

INTJs can be distracted as distracted can be, especially when something bores us. But when we listen to someone and then follow up on things that they say, it means that we care about them. The ultimate gift that an INTJ can give another is our presence. Making that person the center of our attention, even for a few minutes, is a genuine expression of our affection.

3. Focus on the happy

INTJs are realists and realism is a deathtrap. On a bad day, it can push you from healthy skepticism to bitter cynicism. And cynicism sucks. It sucks the joy out of people, work and life. To combat cynicism, it helps to show happiness as openly as you can. Happiness is the antithesis of cynicism. It's also one of the easiest feelings to express since it's unlikely that you will feel mocked or vulnerable when showing optimism, amusement, hope or joy. Muhammed Ali never went three rounds over a smile.

4. Name your feelings

Even the most repressed INTJ has an idea of when they feel "good" or "bad." Unfortunately, these are whisper light, gossamers of words, too flimsy to carry the weight of elation, or apoplexy, or sorrow. Are you feeling appreciated? Confused? Frustrated? Misunderstood? Taking the time to develop a strong emotional vocabulary can help you to articulate your feelings with pinpoint accuracy. Plus, it's far easier to confess to an emotion you've defined and labeled, instead of a shapeless "feeling."

5. Mirror others

Most INTJs are not pre-programmed with an emotional outlet valve; rather, we learn to express our feelings through conscious observation and deliberate mimicry. While other people talk, we watch and scrutinize their words, their body language and their gestures.

And then we steal those expressions.

Yup. The key to expressing our feelings is blatant and unrepentant theft. We do this not because we lack self-expression, but because acceptable public self expression is clothed in the actions of extraverted-feelers. So why not copy the pros?

6. Tell a story

It's the magic of storytelling: the author can arrange words in a certain order and make others feel something. And the best stories develop mood using the technique of "show, don't tell." In other words, you evoke a character's emotional state by describing their words, actions and motivations. You don't write, "his mom was angry with him." You write, "'Gideon Smith,' mom bellowed, 'Get in here this instant!'"

Framing your feelings as a story is effective on two levels. First, it adds perspective to your feelings so you can rationalize them better, and it has a mood-lightening, comedic effect. It's hard to confess that you're feeling stressed at work and are beginning to doubt your own abilities. It's easier to describe how you couldn't get out of the house for an hour because you had to find the perfect shade of lipstick. Most people will read between the lines and know where you are coming from.

7. Let it out in private

The (few) real-life INTJs I know enjoy crying at movies and books, as long as no one is around to see. A good cry can blow off steam, even if you can't connect with the underlying emotion.

8. Touch and feel

Some INTJs are comfortable with small non-verbal gestures such as putting their head on someone's shoulder, locking eyes or casual touching. If you enjoy that, then go for it. Touch registers as warmth and reassurance better than any outpouring of language.

9. film yourself

For emotions or situations you are really struggling with, you could try the age-old technique of filming yourself expressing how you really feel. The first time around, you probably will be appalled by your language, gesticulation or facial expressions. But it's a jump point for gaining greater self-awareness. Since rationals must continually outdo themselves, you can use the exercise as an opportunity to practice your skills and become more competent.

10. Be solutions-oriented

I have a suspicion that, for most INTJs, it's never enough just to express your feelings. There's another step - "Now that I have this emotion, what do I do with it?" "How do we fix this situation for the future?"

INTJs silently shape the world they live in. Applying a rational fix is a highly productive way for us to deal with our emotions since it allows us to close off the situation without wasting time on the murky detail. With any luck, you'll pass straight from point A (having a feeling) to point C (fixing it) without ever stepping foot on the path of self-expression.

11. Choose to open up

Fair warning, this is the "just do it" part of the article where I recommend that you stop being a numpty and you call me out for being a closet ENTJ. But hear me out. INTJs can be reserved and walled-off. Or we can be open and animated. These things are a choice. Sometimes, you just have to spit it out. And if you honestly don't know what you're feeling or if you're feeling anything at all, say that. The other person will have to deal with your reticence or find a clever way to draw you out. In which case, bump them straight to the top of your friendship list because that relationship is golden.

12. Forget feelings

Life is hard and sometimes it makes you feel things you don't want to feel. Or it makes you feel nothing at all. You could obsess about that and go for therapy. Or you could accept what you can't control and get on with life.

Getting to the root of your feelings can be liberating and motivating ... for some. But if keeping your feelings locked in is not making you unhealthy then what's the downside? Who does it help to wear your heart on your sleeve?

I believe that I'm doing a good-enough job despite my distaste for touchy-feelies. I have curiosity, and ambition, and confidence, and common sense. Those things mean more to me than emoting every experience.

And that, I think, deserves higher praise.

Jayne Thompson

Jayne is a freelance copywriter, business writing blogger and the blog editor here at Truity. One part word nerd, two parts skeptic, she helps writing-challenged clients discover the amazing power of words on a page. Jayne is an INTJ and lives in Yorkshire, UK with her ENTJ husband and two baffling children. Find Jayne at White Rose Copywriting.

Comments

Guest (not verified) says...

Or, we can just stay as we are and not worry so much about fitting in. There are plenty of folks in the world who will accept and love us AND our unaltered personalities. Why waste time on those who are too high maintenance and needy for our comfort level? Almost all INTJ forums I have visited suffer from chronic over analysis. There is often a subtext running through INTJ forums that something us wrong with us that must be fixed, that if we could only (fill in the blank), we would be SO much happier and fulfilled. More people would "get" us and love us if we could just add a pinch if extraversion to the mix!

There are great gifts in being INTJ. It is incredibly liberating to not require the constant presence and validation of others in order to be happy. IMO, the positives of being INTJ far outweigh the negatives. I suffer no angst whatsoever, as I truly believe that my personality is as valid as that of any extravert.

Guest (not verified) says...

I myself am an INTJ and constantly find difficulty expressing and understanding these things we call emotions. So thank you for the suggestions.

Guest (not verified) says...

Jayne,
You sent us so many reasons you are okay. It made me wonder why you felt defensive when most of what you describe is just that.

Finding you an attractive friend or sister would be a challenge based on what you write. Are you really like this?

If so, do you know about emotional intelligence and that 90% of communication needs it to be effective. I did not feel empathy after reading your self description or got your point.

Maybe you have Augsberger Syndrome ?

Guest (not verified) says...

It's Asperger's Syndrome. Please do not attempt to diagnose people you have never met or spoken to with psychological disorders, especially if you have so little knowledge on the topic that you don't even know the correct name of the disorder.

Guest (not verified) says...

Very well spoken, thank you.

Guest (not verified) says...

There can be a many reasons why a person's personality manifests itself into the category of intj description. Sometimes, suggestions just don't work. The emotional walls I have, I have had for my entire life. I have always had difficulty expressing emotions and communicating them with others. Sometimes it is because I don't understand what I am feeling. Most of the time, it is because I feel overwhelmed by the emotion and expression of it. I do not like attention to be drawn to me; I find comfort in being a supporting role in a situation,as opposed to the leading character. This is true for both good and bad emotions. For some, it is compulsive. I think the best thing you can do for yourself if you are an intj and need to handle negative emotions is to know what comforts you enough to separate yourself from the emotion. We do not do well feeling like we are our emotions, when our minds are always logically analyzing everything, including the emotions. When I need to express to others how to care for me, I tell them if I am not feeling well and feeling overwhelmed. The people who love me give me my space, and respect my needs are different than theirs. The things is, most intj do not feel a need to express their feelings, nor do they want to. We need people to understand how to handle our lack of connect with others on an emotional state. Many of us are emotional and incredibly empathetic and sensitive, we just treat them more as a symptom of our humanity, instead of a definition of who we are and what is going on.

La Belle Epoque (not verified) says...

How do you deal with a Manager who shouts all the time even when she is not cross?

And always reacts with anger when there is a problem at work, so even more shouting? I am a deputy Manager myself.

It is a day later before I realise she has jumped to conclusions or because she is so busy shouting that I cannot think of a rational response to make until hours afterwards.

I have very strong feelings. But I only share those with a handful of people. Yet I have many friends at work, because I care about them and can empathise. I practice small talk and affectionate gestures to make others feel comfortable around me. I say what I feel sometimes for the same reasons.

But I really cannot stand all the shouting.

Anony (not verified) says...

This is spot on.

What has helped me the most in my emotional development is #4 (Naming Your Feelings), #10 (Find Solutions), and #12, though I'd rename it as "Accept Your Feelings."

Because we are so solution oriented, we get uncomfortable when we're NOT able to fix something, especially something that seems to be in our control. Yet feelings are very often not rational, and not in our control. So our normal logically rational approach will not be able to fix them, thus causing a very distressing anxiety loop.

I've learned to accept that I have emotions, that those emotions are not always rational, but that I can still develop tools to listen, know, explore, and cope with them in a more effective way.

David Sweatt (not verified) says...

In a personal relationship I find that my need for alone time far exceeds the needs of my lovely girl friend. What should I do?

LydiaCarol (not verified) says...

Reading your question, I had a few thoughts. I'm an INTJ but when I took the Myers-Briggs test, my T/F score was somewhat in the middle, meaning I have some emotional skills (but still not as many as I'd like). Here are my ideas:
1. Compromise? Spend a little more time than you'd like with her, while she compromises by spending less time with you than she'd like to.
2. Maybe find some activities you can do together, but with you still being able to think your own thoughts, like reading separately but in the same room, or something. Something quiet that you can do side by side. Hobbies?
3. I think in situations like this, it's most important for both of you not to feel that either is in the wrong. Accept that you have different needs without anyone being the "bad guy"; people are just very different from each other sometimes. It's always easier to figure out a solution when your brain is not clouded by feelings of blame or self-blame.
4. If the worst happens and this difference ends up being a deal-breaker for either or both of you, as long as you're both accepting of the difference and not blaming each other or yourselves, at least you can part knowing that you both did your best. In all likelihood you will have learned something valuable about yourselves as well, so you can count it as an experience that will help you ultimately find someone more compatible. Of course it may never come to that point!
Good luck to you with your relationship. I'm sure you're not the first couple that has ever had to deal with a problem like this, and many have figured out solutions that worked well enough for them, so hang in there.

Invisible (not verified) says...

I love this article. Being an INTJ female, I find it so difficult to find people I can relate to. Sometimes I really hate when I have emotions and I have no solution for them. What the hell am I supposed to do with those? It just seems so unproductive.

"I operate a strict no hugging policy with everyone but my closest family." For me, this even applies to my family. I'll only hug (out of obligation) on special occasions. 

Faded (not verified) says...

Thank you for the nice article.

But I can't just forget my feelings.

My story is like Professor Snape's secret.

"Always."

Hyu (not verified) says...

I find it more difficult being a male INTJ especially in love relationship cos almost all INTJ's traits resemble "fenine energy".

Jester (not verified) says...

Hello all,

I think I am an INTJ (this is based on a few days of research and taking the test about 5 times from various websites to see if I achieved consistance results). Negative emotions have been something that I have struggled with for a long time, and I agree with almost everything that has been stated above. I can confirm that all of these mechanisms are also helpful.

I also have a different perspective on INTJ negative emotions. When I was little I was known as a 'cry-baby'. I would cry when I was frustrated, mostly because I couldn't communicate my frustrations. I didn't like this stigma, so I learned to repress it. After about the age of 12 or so, I've rarely cried. Ironically, my older sister who used the 'cry-baby' title for me so often told me a few years ago, spitfully, that I was the 'Female Spock'. I actually enjoyed this comment, and take it as a compliment (how often did Spock do something stupid because of emotions?). And now I have a new perspective on how I want to express myself: equinimity. My emotional goal is to be likened to a monk or a nun. These people are not heartless, emotionless, or robotic. They are wise, in control, and peaceful. In my road to this, I have done exactly as what is described in the article. I name my negative emotions, analyze how it might be destructive to my mental state, then devise plans to disperse it if it is destructive. I've created this method to teach myself that emotions are not inherantly 'weak' or 'stupid', they are an unconcious response to the world. What is done with this (internally or externally) has to be healthy.

An example:

-Background information: I am a junior in college. I am a full time student who is working on a capstone project, in a research lab, and working full time in a technical field. On top of this, I have a younger sister who is battling with depression and anxiety, and recently moved in with me. While I recognize I do not have to 'take care of' her, I feel the natural urge to, which has added to my stress because I do not process emotional stress quickly.

-The event: This morning I was making my homework schedule for the week and realized I would not have time to complete a homework assignment that would effectively drop my grade from an A to a possible A-/B+ if not turned in. All day today my heart-rate and blood pressure were going through waves, I kept feeling jittery, and I wasn't focusing well in class. I could not figure out what was happening until I realized what I was feeling was anxiety. I noted that all my physical reactions were a 'fight-or-flight' response, and this calmed me down within minutes. I also realized that every time I get stressed I have an urge to pace and imagine fight scenes (I have to physically fight someone, or escape from a physical situation). I've connected this to a possible coping mechanism of turning something internal into something physical- something that can be fixed.

This revelation made me happy because I discovered something about my coping mechanisms. I then turned the energy I still had into mental power for imagining ways to experiment with this discovery (Is it an inherant response for other people who internalize their feeling? How could I could prove it outside a singular event? etc.). By the time I got home I was happy. I've also noted the telling signs of the anxiety so I can cope in the future.

I feel like defining emotions gives me power over them because I naturally hone in on applying this knowlege towards something greater and better, which turns the negative emotion into someting positive. I don't feel ashamed of the emotion, I feel in control. And all of this can happen inside my mind. No exposing myself externally, and it doesn't break the persona I'm attempting to develope. If my sister asks, I'll gladly share my epiphany.

 

Thanks for reading.

Valerievk (not verified) says...

As a child I was quite depressed (all good now though), and I actually felt guilty towards my parents who struggled to understand me and made real efforts to get me to talk to them, when I'd just be this silent wall. This is why one year, for my father's birthday, I made him a PPT explaining my perceived failings of the structure of education (it's teaching the wrong things and making children feel unprepared for society) and society, i.e. what I determined to be the root causes of my depression after much analysis, as well as my proposed solutions to reform them.

Now that I think about it though, that was perhaps an excessively INTJ way of communicating emotions, and I'm not sure if they really did get it...

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