Some would say that INFJ personalities are generous to a fault. Motivated by boundless empathy, they devote their time and energy to helping others. There is no calculation or self-interest involved; they give of themselves because it feels good and because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

But INFJs are so unselfish that they often fail to let others know what they want and need out of life. Too often, their personal and professional relationships are one-way streets, casting them in the role of Santa Claus while others are the kids with Christmas lists a hundred items long.

In romantic relationships, they may defer to their partners repeatedly, putting the other person’s needs above their own until it becomes an ingrained habit that both come to take for granted. Friendships that start out relatively equal may devolve into dependency, with the INFJ filling the role of protector or caregiver. On the job, their need to promote harmony and to support the aspirations of others may leave them picking up the slack for irresponsible co-workers. They may stay quiet and let others receive (or take) all the credit for their best work, or decline to chase their career goals just to be a people-pleaser.

If you’re an INFJ, it’s important to look at your life honestly. Are you getting everything you want and need from the people around you, and from life in general? Your sensitivity, compassion, and desire to see others thrive are admirable personality traits. But they shouldn’t prevent you from watching out for your own needs, or from demanding respect and acknowledgement when you deserve them.

Can we speak honestly?

Despite your deep empathy and concern for the feelings of other human beings, you may keep your true emotions repressed or hidden. This is par for the course with INFJs, and it makes it difficult for others to read you the way you read them. They don’t share your empathic instincts, and consequently they cannot detect what remains verbally unexpressed.

In many instances, exploitative or self-centered behavior in others could actually be based on a misunderstanding. If you’d been clear at the outset about your expectations, your partner, friend, family member, or co-worker might have been far more thoughtful, considerate, or giving. They might not realize they’ve been taking advantage of your generosity by not returning it in kind.

This isn’t to suggest that you are to blame for being overlooked or taken for granted. The point is that others may be working with limited information, and you won’t know if that is the case until you give them more information to work with, to see if anything changes.

No, you don’t like hurting people’s feelings or making them feel uncomfortable. You may dread confronting them about your disappointment, knowing that they might take it personally. On the other hand, if the situation has gone on for too long, your anger and disappointment may have accumulated. In that case, the conversation could devolve into something unpleasant and destructive.

But you won’t be able to break your self-sabotaging patterns unless you take the initiative. If something is bothering you, you must talk about it. Others can’t be expected to change the way they treat you until they realize there’s a problem.

Plan what you’re going to tell them

Making the decision to address problematic relationships is a vital first step. But you want to do it right, to make sure the other person can really hear you without feeling attacked.

Since you’re a naturally organized person, you should plan what you want to say and how you’d like to express yourself ahead of time. If you follow a script instead of shooting from the hip, you’ll benefit in two ways.

First, you’ll leverage your natural INFJ creativity to craft a message that is eloquent and expressive, yet diplomatic. 

Second, you’ll decrease the chances of your hurt, disappointment, or anger getting in the way. A pre-crafted presentation will let you focus on something else besides what you’ve been feeling, which could be intense enough to make you adopt a harsher tone than you intended. You want understanding from the other person, and that won’t happen if you say something that triggers a defensive reaction.

Of course, the best way to change your pattern of giving too much and getting too little is to let others know about your expectations ahead of time.  Doing it this way will help you avoid the slights, hurts, disappointments, or lost opportunities that come from being too deferential, or the feelings of being unappreciated that emerge from one-way relationships.  

Talking it out ahead of time

As a way to change the dynamics of personal and work relationships, you could organize weekly discussions with co-workers, partners, close family members, or friends.

Listening and learning would be the focus of these weekly sessions. During these meetings, everyone would be encouraged to speak about whatever is on their minds, with no worries about being judged or criticized.

You could take the opportunity to discuss your feelings and reactions without personalizing it or making it seem like an attack on anyone else. Ideally, others would hear you and really understand you, maybe for the first time ever.

If you’ve been feeling overburdened with responsibilities, you could explain why you plan to do less and express your hope that your co-workers or loved ones will be willing to step up and do more. If they’re caring and conscientious, they will adjust their behaviors to be more accommodating and considerate.

There would be nothing confrontational about these conversations. They would be entirely constructive and proactive, designed to improve communications and eliminate misunderstandings before they get out of control.

If you’re not fine, don’t say you are

Here’s a simple and easy way to let other people know what’s going on in your life. When someone asks you how you are, tell them. INFJs get into the habit of answering “fine” when someone asks how they are, which seems modest but actually represents a missed opportunity.

When you only say “fine,” other people will take you at your word. Most won’t share your refined empathic instincts and they won’t detect anything that lies underneath your response—unless you tell them.

So, tell them exactly what you’ve been thinking and feeling. Don’t sugarcoat it if you have worries, concerns, aches, pains, or any other feelings or experiences that could be defined as negative. The idea is not to provoke any specific response, but to help them get to know you better and understand more clearly how events in life affect you.

In general, the more honest you are with people, the more they will take your feelings into consideration. This will be true even if you haven’t mentioned anything about their behavior or attitudes specifically.

Beware of the manipulators

Most of the time, being open and honest will have a positive impact on the dynamics of a relationship. Seeking more equality will earn you respect and consideration from others, who in most cases will really listen and try to become more conscious of your efforts and more aware of your frustrations.

But there are exceptions to this rule. In this world there are users and manipulators who will take advantage of your giving and generous nature, knowingly and with calculation. They will be happy to exploit your magnanimity and desire for harmonious relations, if you let them.

You won’t likely encounter them in your romantic relationships. Your instincts about people are too refined to allow you to become intimately involved with someone who lacks character. But you may encounter them in the workplace from time to time (they’re the ones who give the term ‘office politics’ its meaning). Or there may be one or two of these individuals in your extended family, bound to you by the accidents of birth.

If you speak to these people forthrightly, they may pretend to understand and sympathize. But the first chance they get to use you or take advantage of you again, they will seize the opportunity without a moment’s regret.

In dealing with these individuals, you can accept no excuses. You must either eliminate them from your life, if that is possible. If it isn’t,  you must let them know that you won’t be giving them the benefit of the doubt ever again.

Fortunately, these men and women are the exception rather than the rule. Your kindness and helpfulness will be appreciated by most people, even if they need to be reminded from time to time of all you do. For the most part, you attract good people into your life, and the positive feelings you generate will motivate them to respond to your needs more consciously and constructively in the future.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—and smart strategy to boot

As an Introvert, you can learn a lot from watching Extraverts in action. You should be on the lookout for Extraverts who have no trouble expressing their feelings and preferences, and who in general seem to attract bountiful rewards.

If you know such a person, watch them carefully, to see if you can spot patterns in their speech, vocal tones, body language, or actions that might explain why they seem to be appreciated by everyone. What is it about them that gets them noticed, and prevents others from overlooking their needs? Is there anything they say or do that you could try, or a particular attitude that you could adopt?

There is nothing wrong with emulating the communication habits of others, at least some of the time. It may not feel authentic to you at first. But if tweaking your communication style means others will really see and hear you, your initial discomfort will be a small price to pay.

Generosity can be contagious

Your kind and generous nature defines who you are. It’s not something you would ever want to sacrifice. At times it may create inequality in your relationships, or even put you in a position to be exploited.  But if you abandon the best part of yourself, you’ll feel lost and miserable.

Whether they’re close or casual, or somewhere in between, you should seek balance in all your relationships. You can be as helpful and magnanimous as you need to be to feel fulfilled. But you shouldn’t automatically prioritize someone else’s needs over your own, and you shouldn’t allow your relationships to devolve to the point where that sort of thing is expected.

Your generosity will generate affection in most cases, and that can be converted into more respect and acknowledgment if that is what you require.  Once others have a clear idea of what you need and where you stand, most will be willing to change their behavior to reduce your burden and make you feel more accepted and valued.

By being more open and honest, you’ll give others the chance to open their hearts and be more generous with you, and in the end they will thank you for the opportunity.

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.