When it comes to the INFJ’s use of language, others may look on in confusion. While the INFJ personality herself might know exactly what she means and why she says things, it’s not usually clear outside of her head. To add to the confusion, there are some common phrases that virtually all INFJs say at some point, which really should not be taken at face value. That’s because an INFJ is always trying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or burdening them with their problems. And they will use shrewd language to achieve that goal, even if the statement isn’t clear.
Whether you’re an INFJ or you have an INFJ in your close circle, here are 8 things INFJs say – and what they actually mean.
1. “Nothing is wrong,” or “I’m fine.”
While other personality types in Isabel Briggs Myers' system of personality typing may conceal their feelings if they’re worried about burdening the listener, it’s habitual for the INFJ. INFJs feel a duty to help others sort through their problems, and the last thing they want to do is direct the spotlight on their own problems. They’re also independent and desire to handle their problems on their own.
Factor in the INFJ’s fear of being misunderstood, and you have a tri-fold reasoning system of guilt, pride and fear that’s preventing this type from opening up to you. I’ve often downplayed my feelings to my loved ones because to acknowledge any negativity adds to their stress, and that’s never what I want.
So when an INFJ says “nothing is wrong” or “I’m fine,” it could mean exactly that. It could also mean something is very wrong, but they don’t want to unload their problems on you. In this case, you may want to follow up the conversation by asking if they need to talk or if something is wrong. When you come out of the gate asking them about their welfare, they’re more likely to feel comfortable opening up.
2. “Does that make sense?”
Often, when an INFJ starts to describe their inner thoughts, philosophies, or ideas it goes into an abstract area. That’s when the tangents start and the INFJ begins taking detours that others may not be able to follow. At the visible look of confusion on the listener’s face, an INFJ may end their side of the conversation, asking, “Do you get what I’m saying?” or “Does that make sense?”
INFJs have a deep desire to be understood, and they generally are self aware. When they ask you if they’re making sense, it’s because they’re aware that their communication style can cause others to misinterpret their words. What they’re saying is, “I realize that the way I described that idea was abstract, and you may not have a clue what I’m talking about. I feel like I’m on a different planet, and I’m trying to explain what I’m feeling or thinking, so I hope you understand.”
If an INFJ asks you if they’re making sense, be honest. If you understand their meaning, say so, but if you need further clarification, ask them if they’d mind explaining further.
3. “It’s not important” or “Never mind.”
If an INFJ says something “isn’t important” or throws out a “never mind,” take care! This can mean one of three things:
- They’re testing you and want you to address an uncomfortable subject, as if they’re saying, “I’m not sure how you’re going to react to this subject, so I’m testing the waters.”
- The INFJ is actually saying, “I want to solve this problem now, but it’s obvious that you don’t, and that makes me angry. Since it seems like this conversation is going nowhere, and you’re misunderstanding me, I don’t think there’s any point in talking about it anymore.”
- The INFJ wants you to feel comfortable and unburdened, so they’re kindly putting a stop to a challenging conversation. If this is the case, the INFJ might as well as be saying, “I want to take care of this, but I’m afraid of making you feel uncomfortable or discussing something that could hurt our relationship.”
All three outcomes are relevant to an INFJ personality type and share a similar meaning. But the true meaning will depend on who they’re addressing, if it’s after an argument, or if it’s with someone they don’t trust.
4. “How are you doing?”
While this may seem like the common greeting used by everyone, an INFJ doesn’t ask “How are you doing?” to hear a generic answer like “I’m well.” If you know an INFJ, you’ll know that this Feeling type wants to understand how you’re doing in every light; not just the good days. With that in mind, an INFJ might as well be saying, “Hey, I know times could be hard, and I want you to feel comfortable telling me everything, even if you’ve had a terrible day. Tell me how you’re feeling and if there’s any way I can help make it better.”
5. “Can we wait until tomorrow?”
While an INFJ lives for strong human connections, if you hear, “Can we do this later?” or “Can we wait until tomorrow?” it probably means they’re overstimulated. Instead of wishing to postpone until tomorrow, the odds are the INFJ means, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t feel like socializing right now, and I need time to myself. I can’t guarantee I will feel up to it tomorrow, but I’m saying what I think I should because I don’t want to offend you and make you feel unimportant.”
When an INFJ wants to postpone an event, a gathering, a phone call or any social activity, know they need some time to recharge their batteries, and will likely let you know when they feel up to joining in.
6. “It’s pretty crowded, isn’t it?”
When an INFJ comments on the number of people at the store, restaurant or party, it’s not to get a quiet acknowledgement. Any comments about a crowd usually means the INFJ feels uncomfortable. Although INFJs are often mistaken for extroverts due to their love for human connection, it’s also true that loud noises, bright lights, and noisy groups can make the INFJ reach their threshold for stimulation faster than small groups.
If an INFJ you know says this, they actually mean something like: “I’m feeling overstimulated and anxious because there are more people here than I anticipated. I’m not sure how long I can be sociable. I’d like to leave earlier than planned because I’ll feel tired within the next hour or two.”
Consider this when out with your INFJ and remember that although they love to connect with others, when they’re done, they’re done.
7. “Hey, I’m sorry I missed your call.”
There is a chance this statement should be taken at face value. Like anyone, INFJs may miss a phone call here or there. However, there’s also a chance they saw your incoming call and decided not to pick up the phone because they could not deal with it at that moment.
The way to spot the difference lies in how the INFJ voices their apology. If they give you a lengthy response about why they missed your call, it’s likely they didn’t see it come in. But if that’s not the case, then what the INFJ is really saying is, “Hey, I’m sorry that I didn’t pick up my phone, but I had a lot going on, and I needed some time to recharge. It isn’t because I don’t care, but sometimes I make myself too available and that tires me out.” When you hear this from an INFJ you know, it probably means you need to give them some space. They will contact you whenever they feel recharged and ready to socialize again. If, however, your call involves something serious, try sending them a text summary of what’s going on. Odds are, even when the INFJ feels overloaded, they’ll reach out to you if you need someone to listen.
8. “Sorry, I was zoning out.”
If an INFJ remarks on how they missed what you said to them, it’s not because they were “zoning out” with an absence of thought. Instead, consider that an INFJ gets lost in their thoughts often; sometimes multiples at a time, which can be very distracting. In this case, their meaning is something along the lines of, “Sorry, I wasn’t ignoring you, but I got distracted thinking about a few other things. That happens a lot, and I still have a hard time controlling it. I’m not sure what you said, so if you could please fill me in, I’d appreciate it.”
While an INFJ says things that mean something different, once you understand how they tick, you should be able to pick up on these nuances and understand after you’ve gotten to know them well. Sometimes, their statements sound abstract, and they have a habit of bottling up their feelings in favor of the feelings of others. The key to understanding an INFJ—whether it’s yourself or an INFJ loved one—is to ask questions. INFJs may take a while to reveal their idiosyncratic conversation habits to you, but if you approach them with a desire to understand them better and build a closer connection, they’ll soon open up to you and reveal their inner thoughts.