INFJs are sensitive, compassionate people who care about other people’s feelings and want to make the world a better place. But they are also deep thinkers with a clear sense of logic and, often, a love of science. This combination of artistic vision and fact-based reasoning can make INFJs appear to have two distinct personalities, and can confuse even INFJs themselves, especially when it comes to making career choices.
But if you’re an INFJ in Myers and Briggs' typing, you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can embrace both sides of your unique nature. Read on to find out why INFJs are both Thinkers and Feelers and what you can do to satisfy these dual and often competing sides of your personality.
Decoding the Mysterious INFJ
Breaking down the INFJ type into its four functions can help you see your strengths and weaknesses and their influence on your personality. But they are more than just a list. They interact and affect your choices to varying degrees. This is called ‘type dynamics’. Your dominant function has the most influence on you. The second function is the auxiliary and supports the dominant. The third and fourth functions, called tertiary and inferior, are the least powerful.
For the INFJ, the four functions are introverted intuition, extraverted feeling, introverted thinking and extraverted sensing.
Introverted Intuition is the dominant function of INFJs. This means they are focused inwards, on the internal world of thoughts and ideas, as opposed to an extraverted function which is centered on the real physical world. Introverted intuition types like to reflect on the world around them, the meaning of things and their own purpose in life. They are often keen readers, researchers and intellectuals who truly enjoy learning, but a lot of the information they absorb is received through intuition or the unconscious.
They love language and in-depth discussions about their insights and theories using stories, symbols, patterns and metaphors. For the INFJ, this dominant function provides the ability and desire to absorb ideas, see meaningful connections around them and express them creatively.
Extraverted Feeling is the secondary function in INFJs. Deeply concerned with the energy, moods, and feelings of others, INFJs have deep insights into people and situations and make decisions based on how they will affect people.
People with extraverted feeling are extremely empathetic and compassionate individuals who enjoy helping others. They like being useful, supportive and encouraging, although sometimes they help too much and put other people’s needs, feelings and desires before their own. This auxiliary function in INFJs supports their primary introverted intuition function by giving them a drive to express their ideas and insights in a way that is clear, understanding, compassionate, accessible and will benefit other people.
Introverted Thinking is the INFJ’s tertiary function. People with introverted thinking want the world to make sense in a logical way. This focus on logical thinking and facts creates an interest in understanding why things happen, rather than how they happen or how things work, which can lead to the study of science, math, technology and research.
For INFJs, this Thinking function means that they are analytical, able to see a problem from different angles, consider the consequences, and think of concepts in-depth. Because their Thinking side is also introverted like their dominant function, they really enjoy thinking. The INFJ desire for facts, logic, truth and making sense of things can draw them into the world of science, but it’s important to remember that introverted thinking is a tertiary function and doesn’t hold as much strength as the primary function, which will always pull them back into concern about the effects of information on people.
For example, if you read research about ADHD, you might feel inclined to write an article about it for a parenting magazine because it might help people cope better with their children. A Thinking type might be more likely to contact the researcher to confirm the data.
Extraverted Sensing allows people to process life through their senses and experiences, becoming aware of sights, sounds, smells, touch and taste. This keen attention to details in their environment can be a source of stress for INFJs when there is too much going on around them. But it can also be a wellspring of creativity as they absorb and process sensory information and use it to generate their unique ideas and insights. Other types often see INFJs as having psychic qualities because of their ability to simply “know” things, but it’s because they are constantly and often subconsciously absorbing information, which gives them a naturally intuitive and seemingly mystical understanding of the world and the people around them.
This receptive awareness of their environment creates in INFJs a “highly sensitive person” who is constantly aware of sensory experiences around them and is able to mindfully and appreciatively live in the moment.
Competing or Complementary Preferences?
INFJs belong to the Feeling group in the 16-type personality system, but don’t confuse that with how emotional you are. Similarly, being a Thinking type doesn’t mean you’re more intelligent. Feeling and Thinking categories are about how we make decisions. Thinkers tend to base their choices on objective principles and impersonal facts, while Feelers give more weight to personal concerns and people.
The Judging preference for closure and completion also means INFJs are generally "doers" as well as dreamers, giving them a rare combination of vision and practicality. So INFJs can dream up ideas, based on human values, and have the drive and practicality to translate those concepts into real results.
When you combine the INFJ’s love of ideas and ability to understand abstract theory (introverted intuition) and interest in logic and facts (introverted thinking), you have a personality type who is drawn to both the arts and the sciences because these fields give INFJs an opportunity to think and reflect, which they love to do because both those functions are introverted. It can make them appear, and believe themselves to be, a cold, logical Thinking type.
But with all these functions and forces pulling them in different directions, it can be difficult for INFJs to know their true path. Personality, environment, society, childhood experiences and genes all work together to affect people’s choices and preferences, so there is not one right way for all INFJs. But when it comes to making choices that will make them happy, INFJs are Feeling types who need to connect their ideas with people.
How to Balance Your Thinking and Feeling Sides
Here’s a few things to consider that will help you harness your natural preferences and create a healthy balance between your thinking and feeling sides:
- Accept that you have a complex nature, so you need to find ways to embrace and express all sides of yourself.
- INFJs love science and are very good at understanding logic, but they need to do something with that knowledge that will help people because focusing on just the facts will feel too cold and impersonal to them. For example, INFJs love music, art and books, feel other people’s emotions deeply and always feel driven to help. But they’re also often interested in psychology, neuroscience and other sciences, and enjoy reading about those subjects. As an INFJ, even my day job involves reading scientific reports. Learning about science makes the work interesting, but sharing it in a way that helps people makes it fulfilling.
- INFJs can and do become scientists and academics, but they are less interested in using their intuition in abstract ways as they prefer to use it in conjunction with their feeling. Isabel Briggs Myers' book Gifts Differing includes the results of a study of research scientists of whom 77% were Thinking types and 23% were Feeling. Myers noted that while there were fewer Feeling types among researchers and scientists, they were no less talented.
- Consider pursuing your interest in science as a hobby or pastime, such as reading science magazines, playing games or puzzles or joining a club or class. Your interests don’t have to become a career.
- INFJs are artists and creators at heart, and to be truly happy, they need to find a creative outlet for the information they subconsciously absorb. Your introverted intuition is where your true talents lie, while your introverted thinking side is more like a curious child, pulling on your sleeve.
- Your primary function, and the one that has the most influence over your choices, is introverted intuition, so you will always be drawn to the big picture world of ideas, insights and theories and expressing them creatively. While you may be interested in scientific subjects, it probably won’t fulfill your need for expression.
- With a secondary function of extraverted feeling, INFJs need their ideas and insights to be of real benefit to others, so think about how you can use your vision in a practical way. Professions that might suit INFJs’ preference for ideas that help people include teaching, religious leadership, psychology and counseling, communications and anything to do with the arts, such as writing, art, music and drama.
- Introverted intuition, introverted thinking and extraverted feeling can work wonderfully well together. If you combine your love of ideas with your interest in learning the facts, you can use that knowledge to help others in an artistic way, such as writing, or a helping field, such as healthcare or teaching, all of which let you use your introverted thinking by organising your thoughts and ideas in a logical way and making sense of the information you’ve learned.
- As a ‘thinking feeler’ you bring a whole set of different skills to the table that others do not – you can understand the rational and logical side of an argument as much as the need for a humanistic approach, which makes you pretty well-rounded and balanced, according to Jenn Granneman, founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World.
- The more you understand yourself and your tastes, interests and preferences, the easier it will be to find a career that fulfills you.
INFJs are more than the rarest personality type. They have a unique blend of qualities and characteristics that make them empathic, compassionate and understanding as well as curious, creative and bursting with ideas. To many, these introverted people possess an otherworldly quality, like seers, mystics or visionaries. But the source of the INFJ intelligence is not psychic, but intuitive. They simply absorb more information from the world and people around them than others do, while also possessing a deep interest in facts and a passion for making things make sense.
These contrasting preferences and talents can make INFJs appear to have two sides to their personality and, for the INFJs themselves, can lead to a confusing quest for their ideal career. With a passion for communication, expression and helping people, as well as a keen interest in science, INFJs have a wealth of options open to them, limited only by their own interests, goals and dreams.