What is it like to have Introverted Feeling (Fi) as one of your dominant personality traits? If you know someone who does, you might find them puzzling, even troubling at times. But certainly this complex trait can make life more rich and interesting for all involved.
If you have an Introverted Feeler in your life (INFP or ISFP), and you probably do, knowing more about this trait, and how it’s expressed in real life, may clear up some confusing moments and help you understand, and value, your Fi-friend better. Some of the points below may also surprise you, but hopefully they’ll give you an “aha” moment that will fill in some of the puzzle pieces you may have found perplexing.
Want to know more about cognitive functions? Start with our introductory article here.
1. We may strongly identify with our intellect
Although each of the 16 personality types identifies more strongly either with Feeling or Thinking, it is not really either/or. And it is certainly not true that those with dominant Introverted Feeling (Fi) are only about feelings and not really thinkers.
Many of us have highly developed intellectual and logical abilities and get part of our self esteem from our thinking ability. In fact, we may identify more strongly with our intellect than with our emotions.
However, the difference is that Introverted Feelers are more interested in ideas than in data, and we tend to think that “truth” is more important than mere facts.
Also, for Introverted Feelers, even our thinking comes along with strong feelings. When we analyze information, we tend to end up with conclusions that something is “good” or “bad.”
2. We are the types most likely to be highly sensitive persons
This means that not only are we emotionally sensitive and tuned into our own and others’ feelings, but we are also likely to display many of the traits of HSPs, people whose nervous systems are more sensitive to sensory experience than average. And we tend to experience strong stimuli as negative.
Intense light or sound, harsh textures, strong smells, and crowds of people overstimulate us. Many of these stimuli come with emotions. In fact, they can be perceived almost as if they are the emotion.
I sometimes experience too bright light or harsh noise as almost physical pain, coupled with a kind of shocked moral outrage, as if someone has insulted me, or tried to come into my home uninvited.
Cold is something to protect myself from, wrapping myself up as I would wrap my arms around a hurt or endangered child.
If I feel sudden physical pain, such as when I put my hand in too hot water, my first reaction feels like anger.
So, just as our feelings are tied into our values, our senses are also tied into our emotions, and we tend to “feel” them more strongly. It’s not that our Introverted Feeling, or our high sensitivity makes us “too” sensitive or overemotional, it’s just that we’re more acutely tuned in -- to stimuli, to others’ feelings, and to our own, whether we want to be or not.
3. We may actually seem cool and aloof
Though we are feeling-based, that does not mean that we are “touchy feely” or even appear warm and emotionally welcoming at first meeting. In fact, often we’re uncomfortable expressing our emotions when around people we don’t know well.
Also, since our emotion is directed inward, (hence the term “Introverted Feeling”), and often runs very deep, we may feel something so intensely that we think it’s obvious, but actually appear remote and composed on the outside. Or what we feel is so personal that we don’t let it show on the surface.
We also feel strong empathy for those around us, and even for strangers, but again, it may not be noticeable on the outside. For us, the more intensely we feel something, the less we may show it in warmth of expression, until we know and trust someone really well.
The opposite of those who profess to feel more than they actually do, we feel more than we express. To quote a Jane Austen character, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
We may seem nearly untouched by a person or situation, and then go home and dwell on what we’ve observed or experienced, or wish we could have said, long after others have moved on.
4. Introverted Feeling is more about values than emotions
Though we tend to be highly complex and nuanced, meaning partly that we understand various points of view and are good at seeing “gray areas,” when we’re in introverted feeling mode, we tend to experience things, even factual data, as “good” or “bad.”
We make decisions based on our values, not just on data.
If the data, such as numbers, say, for example, that wealth or reward is unevenly or unfairly distributed, or people in certain demographics mistreat people in other demographics, this is bad, even if it’s all stated in numbers or statistics, which of themselves are neutral.
If the data points to kindness, or an open mind, or agreeing with me instead of disagreeing with me, it’s “good.”
Or if the data shows something would be to our benefit, for instance financially, but it doesn’t fit in with our values -- honesty, fairness, work-life balance, personal goals, being true to our self image, etc, -- we will act on the values, not the numbers.
Sensors like sensation. We Introverted Feelers like our senses too, but we like to use them to surround ourselves with “beauty,” and to block out “ugliness.”
“Beauty” isn’t always pretty or pleasant. It may be poignant, elevated, meaningful, or “good.”
We may use sensory “beauty” to mitigate unpleasant sensory stimulation. Assaulted by a loud noise? Put on earphones and listen to quiet but “beautiful” music. An “ugly” smell intruding? Try some lavender aromatherapy to drown out the “bad” smell with a “good” one.
But mostly, we must act according to who we are and what we think is right. We have to live in harmony with our deeply personal internal values, even if that makes us unpopular or makes life more difficult.
We have a deep sense of who we are, and a strong need for authenticity and individuality. We also hold ourselves to high standards. But those standards are usually those we find intrinsically important, rather than those we’re told are important.
This certainly doesn’t make us easy to “herd” or manage. But it may make us especially easy to trust, because you know we’ll live by the values that are woven into our identity.
5. We’re really simple and really complicated, all at once
What I mean is that since we’re values-based, we tend to see things as good or bad, ugly or beautiful. It’s a strong, simple, reflexive reaction.
Those values are usually based on extensive reflection, but once they’re set, the response is fairly automatic, and black and white, at least at first.
However, we also have an immense capacity for seeing gray areas, and for understanding viewpoints that are different from our own. And we tend to make complex associations and follow introspective thought trails.
Sometimes, on further inspection, my values have a clash among themselves. I hope this willingness to re-examine my first response makes me more empathetic, and perhaps even more wise, but sometimes it really does complicate things. And it takes a lot of energy. A lot.
It’s also harder to “win” arguments, if you’re more willing than others to reconsider your own viewpoint, or at least to understand the other person’s.
But some things are still easy -- or hard -- depending on how you look at it. In short, when it comes to our values, the matter is clear and non-negotiable.
When it comes to how we think about others and their actions and opinions, we can be relatively pliable. When it comes to how we act on our personal values, we can be as immovable as boulders. (Ask any of my friends who’ve tried to talk me into having dinner with them when I’ve already decided I need to stay home and write).