Our human natures long for, and ultimately crave, acceptance. As social creatures, most of us fear rejection like school children fear catching ‘cooties.’ If you’re anything like me, you may subconsciously consult this fear before making big moves in your life, such as agreeing to speak in public or considering a new job opportunity.

As a high school kid, I remember not trying out for certain extracurricular activities, simply because I was terrified I wouldn’t get in. I vaguely recall a few instances when I managed to work up the nerve to rise to the challenge. On one momentous occasion, I had decided to audition for a spot in my school’s music night. Being the nervous wreck that I was, I ended up spending hours practicing beforehand, and even entertained mini-rehearsals with my family. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out weeks later that I didn’t make the cut. It was enough to shake my confidence for months.

As an adult INFJ, rejection is still difficult for me to bear. In the workplace, any type of rejection feels to me like my ideas are being turned down or I’m being passed over for significant leadership roles. Somehow, I push past these experiences. And gradually, as I’ve faced numerous rejections time and again, I’ve come to realize that rejection is just a fact of life: one of those things I can’t avoid. So, while rejection will never be my most favorite thing in the world, I have discovered some better ways to deal with it rather than just hibernating under my bed covers.  

Why rejection is so hard for INFJs

Rejection can be challenging for any personality type. What makes it especially hard for the INFJ is largely attributed to the intensity of their emotions. INFJs operate through extraverted feeling, which means they use their feeling preference when interacting with the world. As such, INFJs may become highly distressed in the face of conflict, even at times feeling the stress of it physically in their bodies (i.e. headaches, muscle aches, upset stomach).

When an INFJ finds their ideas are undervalued or if they are passed over for a desired role, it can often be perceived by the INFJ as a personal blow – an indication that their overall self is not up to the acceptable societal standard. Since the INFJ feels misunderstood frequently, it can be tough for them to readily distinguish these off-hand encounters from their everyday experiences living as an INFJ.

By nature, INFJs are highly sensitive and seek harmony at all costs. This desire for inclusion and belonging in any given environment extends to every single person, including themselves. Since INFJs work so hard in the efforts to acknowledge and appreciate others, it’s only natural that they would wish for the favour to be returned. These types want to be understood and appreciated. They want to belong. But even when they feel that they aren’t being appreciated, their people-pleasing tendencies may keep them from being able to sufficiently process the letdown. They feel it as a personal slight.

There’s another reason why INFJs struggle with rejection, and that’s because they are perfectionists. They put their heart and soul into the work they provide. This makes even the slightest rejection -- something like a simple correction -- brutal to take. Of course, this can be unfortunate, because the ability to process sound feedback is often a crucial element to one’s success in the workforce.

Why INFJs feel rejected in the workplace

The corporate world can be cut-throat and unforgiving, which is less than ideal for the rosy-eyed INFJ. Aside from a bunch of rules and bureaucratic policies, the INFJ longs for purposeful work. For company managers and supervisors who truly seek the goodwill of their team, it becomes imperative that their INFJ employees each find their place in the organization. INFJs who don’t find their place will quickly feel like they’re “on the outside.”

A surprising and often unwelcome part of the INFJ’s makeup is their high vulnerability to criticism and conflict. That’s why being challenged in an overly harsh way may come across as a form of rejection. If they become the subjects of unwarranted scrutiny, or find their motives being questioned, they can easily become demoralized.

INFJs may also bear the brunt of rejection in places where they find their voice is not being heard. Typically, INFJs are soft-spoken, which may be one of several reasons why others underestimate them. Micro-managers or controlling overseers might further restrict the INFJ’s uniquely idealistic spirit by assigning them repetitious or mundane work on a regular basis. Sadly, when this happens, this introverted Feeler is forbidden from being able to truly showcase what they can do. Thus, they may fall in the trap of living out someone else’s expectations and failing to assert their own independence. In group settings, such as corporate meetings or work get-togethers, an INFJ may feel their voice diminished, if others in the group refuse to listen to them or shut down their ideas.

Since an INFJ usually puts the needs of others ahead of their own, their own skills and abilities may not be fully recognized as a result. Also, because of the prevailing assumption that INFJs are not good speakers, other personality types may be preferred for engaging speaking roles. Yet, INFJs can be exceptional orators, to the point where their work colleagues are often surprised. Ultimately, giving INFJs opportunities to thrive in the workplace begins with the dismissal of all preconceived assumptions about their capabilities.

Giving an INFJ feedback

If you are a colleague or manager overseeing an INFJ in your workplace, consider the way you approach them when giving feedback. INFJs typically value cooperation and sensitivity as honorable traits. Point out what they are doing well consistently, and not just with performance reviews or project feedback. Refrain from using abusive language or carrying out any actions that would insinuate a personal attack on their character or behavior. Never confront them in public.

An INFJ is more likely to receive your correcting advice if their overall experience as your employee has been meaningful. Aside from just pointing out how they might improve at their job, consider diligently looking for other ways they might contribute to the workplace. You can begin by setting aside one-on-one meetings with them to find out more about their interests and future goals.

Above all else, place the well-being of your INFJ employee above all work-related objectives. Valuing the care of your INFJ employees has a return on investment. An INFJ who is deeply fulfilled in their work role will do nothing less than ensure you and your organization’s highest success.

Dealing with negative feedback as an INFJ

Rejection stings: there is no getting around that. While we can’t always keep it from happening – there will always be people who won’t accept you, no matter how many pumpkin pies you bake them – we can choose instead how we will respond.

Think back to a time when you experienced negative feedback. How did you handle it? Looking back, what do you think you could have done better? Now, moving ahead to the future, what lessons can you glean from past examples? No matter how harsh the feedback, there is usually some tidbit of treasured wisdom that you can glean from the experience.

As INFJs, we have the uncanny ability to discern true motives. Before reacting badly to any given situation, consider what is making you feel uncomfortable about what is being said. In the wake of upsetting remarks, remain professional. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone is out to get you.

First, consider who is giving you the feedback. Is this someone who has direct relations with your work, and will what they share be useful to you in your profession? Do you believe that this person is truly invested in your success? Do you value their opinions? What have your past dealings been with the one initiating the feedback? Regardless of your previous relations with the feedback giver, try to relinquish any past negative experiences from your mind – focus instead on the present message being conveyed.

Again, pay close attention to how you are feeling. What is it about their feedback that is disturbing you? If the feedback has been given via email, there is no need to reply right away. Take a few deep breaths, and even step away from the computer, if you have to. If the feedback has been shared over a phone call, arrange for a time to return their call. If in person, excuse yourself from the room, and reappear when you feel better equipped to deal with the issue. In all cases, keep the tone of your reply light and friendly; avoid accusing anyone of anything.

If your latest email hasn’t been responded to, there’s no need to automatically assume that they are ghosting you – follow-up with a quick email or phone-call. After you have done all within your power to address the situation, resist the urge to get hung up in the moment. Pick apart their words and capture the insights that resonate best with you. Release the rest.

At the end of the day, you can’t escape rejection – it’s not going anywhere. Instead of looking for a way out, choose not to let it hold you back. You have a lot to offer the world, and you can’t afford to let anything stand in your way. Whatever happened is in the past, let bygones be bygones. The very fact that you are alive and well today, proves that rejection can’t destroy you. A new and brighter tomorrow is just a day away.

Alexandra Yeboah
Alexandra Yeboah is a diversity issues writer and storyteller facilitator with a background in journalism. Her love of curiosity and adventure-seeking is what often drives her quest to discover new things, meet new people and find compelling stories to tell. Alexandra is an INFJ who appreciates long nature walks and stimulating one-on-one conversations with good company. Visit her at: theheartofthestory.ca