Why INFJs Are Both Thinkers And Feelers (And How To Find a Balance Between the Two)

Categories: Self-Discovery, INFJ

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, 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:

  1. Accept that you have a complex nature, so you need to find ways to embrace and express all sides of yourself.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Deborah Ward

Deborah Ward is a writer, editor 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. Her latest book is Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness. 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.

Comments

Pensieve (not verified) says...

This has been on of the more useful articles I've read on INFJ's, especially welcome because it focuses on how to put this personality type to the service of others - a welcome contrast to those soupy articles which function as baths of self-preciousness.

sue says...

Great article. As an INFx, I've found a very rewarding career path in Horticulture/Botany/Organic Farming. Perfect combination (for me anyway) of science, creative expression and investing in my community and planet. 

Jmb (not verified) says...

An infj is likely to ask him/herself, upon entering adulthood in a capitalist society and facing the decision of which career to choose, "Why have a career?" And when the answer is, "If you fail to obtain money, you will die," it's deeply disappointing. 

And, for infjs, choosing a role in life requires looking at the society as a whole, and asking oneself what is needed to help the group function as an entity. When we look at the United states, we cannot even do this, because it is causing such harm on a massive scale that to find a niche within it is not honest: it must be stopped in its tracks before we can just enjoy our lives. But since this is not possible, we try not to think about it and hope to find fulfillment in contributing in a possible way. It will keep affecting us though, as it's in our nature to look at the big picture... and right now that's a horrifying sight.

Jmb (not verified) says...

I meant, "...contributing in a positive way."

Pensieve (not verified) says...

Alas, history is replete with societies who have wreaked havoc within and without themselves. Causing harm on a massive (that is, worldwide scale) goes back at least to the Romans. Although every historical situation varies in some aspect from all the others, thus allowing an individual to conclude the one he's living through is unparalleled for wickedness, a wider historical perspective makes us see that almost all human beings have had to function amid largr circumstances that are deeply troubling, even horrifying.

The story of the child and the starfish come to mind.  The child sees a starfish in danger of drying up on the beach and flings it into the water.  An old man, viewing the beach as a whole, sees that there are thousands of jellyfish that have been washed up, and in imminent danger of catastrophe.  Viewing this wider starfish carnage, he says to the child, "How can you think helping this one starfish will make any real difference to all these starfish?"  

But the child has a viewpoint that is more personal and arguably more humble.  "Well," he says, "it made a difference to THAT one!"

Jmb (not verified) says...

I see where you're coming from. The type of human behavior that led to the circumstances we're in is nothing new. But contemplating nuclear weapons and poisoned waters has not been something most humans have had to do. ( Though Romans were drinking lead- contaminated water.)

My point was that infjs look at the whole and can't feel at ease unless the group is both safe from outside threats and has harmony within. This is looking at our species from an evolutionary perspective.

Theo (not verified) says...

I feel this sentiment in a very profound and personal way. The dehumanizing affects of neoliberal capitalism force the more sensitive among us to make difficult choices. And yet, if we zoom out and look at the big picture, we are reminded that every thing flows - Panta Rhei. Meditation upon this fact can wash us in a peace that surpasses understanding. 

Jennifer QS (not verified) says...

This is truly one of the BEST articles I’ve ever read about being an INFJ. Thank you. Your explaination of the functions is so clear and concise.  I learned I am an INFJ only 3 years ago (I’m now 45) and it has completely changed my life. Since then I’ve spent countless hours learning more and more about my type, and I have to say this article has to be one of the best I’ve read in all this time. INFJs are hard to explain, but you nailed it. :) 

Susan Pearson (not verified) says...

This was a really interesting read. I have often felt the overwhelming need to be "doing everything" and the pull you talk about makes complete sense. I was happy in my last occupation until I had to give it up for health reasons. However, I have now found myself in the perfect situation. I have Fibromyalgia and I run a blog called Living Creatively with Fibro. My time is spent doing further research into Fibromyalgia and also papercrafting all the while blogging about both of these. I am also a genealogist and include this in my blog from time to time. I am able to be a researcher, a crafter and to help others through my blog and social media channels. A perfect way for an INFJ to spend their time!  

Theo (not verified) says...

As an INFJ who is currently struggling with the decision to leave a relatively successful yet ultimately unsatisfying career and to try something - BUT WHAT?! - different, this article comes just in time. Thank you so much for this heplful analysis. It helps me see more clearly where things may have gone wrong, and how I can correct course and find greater happiness in the future. 

Franck BK (not verified) says...

This is probably the most insightful article I’ve read about INFJs. It is another synchronicity for me because I’m on a crossroad where I really have to choose the career that suits me best. I have a background in industrial engineering. I think I enjoyed this field because it was challenging for my brain. But since It didn’t allow me to make the connection between my head and my heart, I had to think of something else. I take online classes in Psychology and Counselling. However, Music Production/Sound Engineering is the field which really makes me feel “alive”. It combines science and artistic expressions. Furthermore, it’s the only field where I feel connected to my environment and to my inner being. This articIe makes me see things clearer, and confirms my personal discoveries (mainly through harsh experiences). I am really grateful for that. Thank you.

Hey Teach! (not verified) says...

I laughed out loud several times as I was reading this article, not because I thought it was laughable, but I felt so naturally overjoyed at the accuracy of this article in describing how I am driven to use my unique brain-wiring combo as an INFJ. As I was reading, I traced the thread of my career goals, and was able to better understand them in light of this article: In middle school, I wanted to be a professional flutist (artistic expression), and practiced like it was my job until my priorities shifted. In early high school I wanted to be a band director (artistic expression with the people-interaction aspect). In late high school, after taking science courses and realizing I had an interest and ability that surpassed my peers, I chose to major in Biochemistry upon entering college, not because I knew what I wanted to do, but because I loved it and would figure it out as I went, maybe even be a doctor or something, considering music and art apprecation to be a permanent hobby that would enrich my life even if I didn't make it a career (straight up science research and learning). Halfway through my sophomore year I switched my major to High School Science teaching, because I realized I need to have a little bit more of a people-oriented job (not to mention how much I want to give high school kids the love they need) and wanted to study ALL the sciences with more of a big picture and not just commit to focusing on one field (science understanding with the people-interaction aspect). So as I'm about to begin my career as a high school science teacher, I find myself in a position where my entire job is to serve my students, while also keeping the continutal love of learning about science in the job description. The next step as I move forward in my career (though there's no rush), is hopefully more learning, researching, writing, educating, and sythesis of big world issues like religion, ethics, culture, and social problems in the context of having a clear understanding of the scientific world. As a Catholic, I am particularly interested in helping people understand that faith and science are not contradictory, and creating a more full understanding of this for myself. So like.......that pretty much covers the whole list of likely careers, haha. 

So basically, after reading this article, I'm feeling very affirmed in my career trajectory, realizing that I was making these decisions truly based on my loves and abilities. Yay! 

JaimeP (not verified) says...

Amazing! So, so, true for me. In fact, I used to be a life balancing coach - helping people balance their heads and their hearts, or their right brains and left brains. I always used research and psychology in my coaching, along with psychic insights. I am an empath and also worked as a psychic reader for a while. All the while, I have been learning, absorbing and creating products that help others - such as articles, speeches, meditation albums, and classes. I am now an author and a speaker. Thank you for this!   

TracyF (not verified) says...

Great article and spot on! I went to college for graphic design and took some advertising classes as well. As I've grown in my career, I'm especially curious about how people are affected by visual communication, marketing and advertising. Early on, I felt like a failure as a designer, because I was still developing my computer and artistic skills and tried to achieve perfectionism right out of college. I've since learned that perfectionism isn't possible and design projects are never really 'complete', which is ok! Design is also very subjective and what's considered 'desirable' aesthetic differs from person to person.

I now love working with small business owners and entrepreneurs to effectivly communicate their mission and message through their brand. I'm especially drawn to the health and wellness industries because they love to help/nurture others as much as I do. I'm still constantly reading and learning about marketing/design/branding, and have especially become interested in neuromarketing. 

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