INFJ personalities are gentle, sensitive, intuitive individuals who are excellent listeners and very creative. Their high level of empathy and compassion gives them the emotional intelligence to understand and sympathize with other people’s feelings, often better than they can themselves.

This personality type is known as “The Counselor” for a reason.

Possessing great listening skills and a deep concern for others doesn’t mean that INFJs are destined to enter counseling as a career, however. While many INFJs find fulfillment in the helping professions, others find different jobs suit their temperament better, such as science, teaching, human resources or the arts.

When you look at the INFJ function stack, you’ll find a person who is born to care and use their abilities to help others, whether it’s personally or professionally. These are great skills to have, but they can also leave an INFJ prone to compassion fatigue. 

The INFJ function stack

The INFJ function stack is made up of four parts, ranked from the dominant function they use the most to the inferior function they use the least. 

1. Introverted Intuition

This is the dominant function of INFJs. As Introverts, they are quiet, reflective individuals focused on their internal world of thoughts and ideas. They unconsciously absorb information from the world around them and use their intuition to understand people in a way that can seem almost psychic. These traits make INFJs excellent counselors because they give them:

  • Superior listening skills
  • Insight into other people’s moods, motives and emotions that may lie beneath the surface
  • Appreciation for in-depth, one-on-one conversations
  • Expression of insights using symbolic, metaphorical language, ideas, patterns and stories
  • Passion for understanding people and making sense of their lives

2. Extraverted Feeling

While their dominant function makes INFJs thoughtful and introspective, their auxiliary function, Extraverted Feeling, creates a deep awareness and concern for other people’s emotions. This function gives them the ability to:

  • Read people’s emotional expressions and body language
  • Have empathy and compassion for others’ experiences
  • Enjoy helping people, being supportive and encouraging, and fostering others’ personal growth

3. Introverted Thinking

Introverted Thinking is the INFJ’s tertiary function, which creates a focus on logical thinking and facts. They use this function to:

  • Make connections between ideas so they can see the big picture
  • Find commonalities between seemingly unrelated things
  • Understand not only what happened, but why
  • Find solutions to problems

4. Extraverted Sensing

Although Extraverted Sensing is the INFJ’s inferior function, it enables them to become very aware and sensitive to the world around them, processing and absorbing life through their senses, such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch, and makes them:

  • Pay attention to detail in their environment and the people around them
  • Constantly absorb sensory information and use it to generate new ideas and insights about the world
  • Become a highly sensitive person who possesses an uncanny ability to understand other people

When you put these traits together, you have someone who makes a great counselor. INFJs use these traits so naturally, they will take on this role voluntarily, whether it’s part of their professional job or not. But that can often lead to INFJs helping too much and burning out.

How INFJs can avoid counselor fatigue

There are many reasons why INFJs make excellent counselors, but whether it’s a job or a service to friends and family, this caring type needs to remember to save some compassion for themselves. INFJs can easily become overburdened, taken for granted, stressed and exhausted when they give too much and receive too little. 

Here are a few ways INFJs can balance their passion for helping with a little self-love.

1. Avoid conflict 

INFJs are sensitive types who do not like conflict. They like to create positive feelings among the people around them and conflict is a huge source of stress, so take a step back when tempers flare.

2. Set boundaries

Many people are drawn to the INFJ’s caring, gentle nature and their excellent ability to listen, but while it makes you feel good to help others, you are not meant to be anyone’s personal therapist. Sometimes INFJs give too much and get too little, and put other people’s needs and feelings before their own. It’s important to set clear boundaries and say no when people make too many demands on your time and energy and to remember to think about your own feelings and needs as well.

3. Look after yourself

As sensitive, intuitive Introverts, INFJs need time and space alone to recharge. They are constantly absorbing information from the world around them, including other people’s emotions and energy, which can be very draining. Take some time every day for yourself to relax, whether it’s walking in the woods, listening to music or reading a book. Read our self-care tips for people who put others first.  

4. Use all your skills

INFJs have top-notch counseling skills, but they have a lot of other attributes as well. Many INFJs are interested in science, math, technology and research. INFJs are also very creative and do well in careers that mix their need for creative expression with their desire to help others.

5. Look for meaning 

When thinking about their career path, INFJs need to find work that allows them to do something meaningful and takes human values and personal needs into consideration. In her book, What’s Your Type of Career, author Donna Dunning calls INFJs “Compassionate Visionaries,” who do best when they connect ideas with solutions that help people.

The bottom line

INFJs are sensitive, caring, creative individuals who love to help others. With their warm, gentle manner and strong sense of empathy, this type always puts people’s needs and feelings first. It’s important for INFJs to remember, however, that their own emotions are valid too, and they need to take the time to look after themselves. But whether they choose counseling as a career or simply the way they live their lives, INFJs’ sensitivity, compassion and intuition make the world a better place for everyone.

Deborah Ward
Deborah Ward is a writer and an INFJ. She has a passion for writing articles, blog posts and books that inspire, motivate and encourage people to build self-confidence and live up to their potential. She has written two books on mindfulness, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness and Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness. Her latest book, Sense and Sensitivity, is based on her Psychology Today blog of the same name. It's about highly sensitive people and is out now. Deborah lives in Hampshire, England, where she enjoys watching documentaries, running and taking long walks in the country, especially ones that finish at a cosy pub.