INTJs and ENTJs might be at opposite ends of the Introvert/Extravert spectrum, but what they have in common is a drive to solve problems. This is great for building careers, but when it comes to friends, family and colleagues, their delight in giving advice can ruin relationships.

If you are an INTJ or an ENTJ, you may already know that you have a tendency to express your thoughts and opinions quite openly. But have you considered the effect this has on other people? And that your need to give unsolicited advice is probably caused by a lack of self-confidence.

If you want to use your strengths to enhance, rather than damage your relationships with the people around you, find out the truth about what’s driving your behaviour and how to change it.

The Advice-Giving Personality

So what is it about INTJs and ENTJs that make them dish out advice like Halloween candy? First, these two types have Intuition (N) as their dominant function, giving them a love of ideas rather than details, followed by the Thinking function (T), which makes them base their decisions on logic and reason. Finally, Judging (J) drives them towards order and organization. This combination creates analytical problem solvers who love to improve processes with their ideas.

INTJs are the Masterminds. They are logical, practical people who are often perfectionists. They can see the potential in all things and set very high standards for themselves and others. Unfortunately, they do not hesitate in pointing out when they believe others are wrong or not hitting the mark.

ENTJs are ambitious leaders who are interested in driving their careers forward and seeking power and control. They want to call the shots and put their well-thought out plans into action. Like their INTJ cousins, they are also perfectionists who can be frank and even arrogant about others’ shortcomings. All of this culminates in a person who frequently gives people advice, whether they want it or not.

While these two types may excel in the workplace with their love of ideas and thirst for excellence, they both lack an understanding and attention to emotion, both in themselves and others, and this can lead to problems in their relationships at work and at home. And while it may seem to the INTJ or ENTJ that they are only trying to help, it can be very annoying to the person on the receiving end who feels they can manage perfectly well on their own. What’s more, the person giving the advice may not actually have other person’s best interests at heart and are really more concerned with gaining control.

According to Seth Meyers, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, unsolicited advice givers have a few other traits in common:

  1. People who give a lot of advice tend to have a rigid personality. This is true for ENTJs and INTJs who, thanks to their Judging preference, are fairly inflexible. While their desire for perfection and high standards is a positive trait, especially when it comes to work, they can easily become overly concerned with making sure everyone around them is toeing the line, which makes them overbearing and intolerant.

  2. They have an exaggerated sense of their own competence. ENTJs in particular see themselves as leaders and everyone else as followers. They can be critical of others while unwavering in their belief in their own superiority.

  3. Advice givers tend to lack awareness. Their love of ideas, action and ambition makes both INTJs and ENTJs largely unaware of others’ thoughts and feelings, as well as their own. As logical, thinking types, they are uncomfortable with the world of emotion and often brush it aside without considering how their actions affect people or even why they’re giving advice.

  4. They seek a sense of control. When someone shares a difficult situation with them, the ENTJ or INTJ wants to solve the problem, in part, to relieve themselves of the anxiety they feel when things are in disarray. Telling someone what to do makes them feel better. Unfortunately, they tend to overlook how it makes the other person feel.

It’s this need for control that really drives the INTJ and ENTJ advice-giving behavior. People give unsolicited advice because they like the way it makes them feel more than for a genuine concern for someone else’s problems. A set of four studies found that giving advice makes people feel more powerful. The studies also found that people who admitted they want to be more powerful tend to give advice more often.

Giving advice is a way to prove to themselves, and everyone else, that they are smarter and more knowledgeable than other people, which makes them feel powerful. Since telling other people what to do is such a boost to their ego, they usually hand it out whether others want it or not.

But this drive to control is largely unconscious and based on the advice giver’s unresolved feelings of self-doubt. They constantly seek power because they don’t feel powerful. Just giving advice makes them feel important. And when the advice is taken, they feel valued. If the recipient doesn’t follow their advice, they can feel rejected, which can cause a further knock to their sense of self-worth and competence.

How to Stop Giving Unsolicited Advice

Most INTJs and ENTJs are unaware that they are giving other people unwanted, and often unappreciated advice, until someone points it out. They may believe they are being helpful and solving everyone’s problems while taking pleasure in the lift it gives to their self-esteem. But making yourself feel good while putting other people down will only damage your relationships and your own emotional health. Instead, here’s how to get ahead in life, at work, and with your family, friends and colleagues without hurting anyone’s feelings:

  1. Recognize that not everyone needs fixing. There’s a difference between improving systems and improving people. People need to learn and grow on their own. It’s important to recognize that people need to find their own way.

  2. Develop emotional awareness. Emotions are not the enemy. They may be a little harder to navigate, but feelings are there to help guide us through the murky waters of life, telling us when something is wrong or when we are not happy or comfortable with a situation. Instead of avoiding people’s feelings, which can make you appear cold and callous, acknowledge they are there and they matter, whether they are yours or someone else’s.

  3. Just listen. When someone shares a problem or upsetting situation, they usually just want someone to listen and care about how they feel, rather than give them a solution, says Richard B. Joelson, a New York psychotherapist and author of Help Me!: A Psychotherapist's Tried-and-True Techniques for a Happier Relationship with Yourself and the People You Love. When you are patient, accepting, supportive, and give people an opportunity to express themselves, they usually find their own solutions.

  4. Ask questions. To resist the urge to offer advice when someone comes to you with a problem, says mental health counselor Jennifer Artesani Blanks, ask a question instead. If your friend says they are fed up with their job, for example, instead of telling them to find a new one, ask them what they don’t like about their job. When they answer, ask another question, such as What would you really like to be doing? Asking questions makes the person feel heard, understood and that you care about their situation. It will also help them find their own answers.

  5. Boost their confidence. When someone tells you about a situation they are dealing with, you can help them just by reminding them of their own positive qualities. Instead of trying to make someone feel inferior by assuming you know all the answers, remind them of their own strengths, such as ‘I know you’ll sort this out because you’re such a good organiser’ or ‘You have such a caring nature, you’ll find a way through this.’ Bulldozing your way to the top may be easier, but when you show genuine consideration and respect for others, you’ll build trust that lasts. 

  6. Ask for permission. If you feel that you really could help someone with their problem, ask them if you could give them some advice before dishing it out with a snow shovel. The person may not want or need your help and may say no, which might make you feel a little less powerful and in control. But they will respect you for your consideration and your relationship will benefit.

  7. Share with caution. It can be very tempting to start sharing your own story when someone tells you about a situation that is familiar to you. But this is their story, not yours, so only talk about your own experiences after you’ve listened to theirs first and explain that you’re telling it to ensure they don’t feel alone, says Blanks.

For the friends, family and colleagues of ENTJs and INTJs, it can be hard to know what to do when confronted with all their unasked-for advice. Knowing that they are often unaware of how often, and how annoying, it is can help. But remember advice givers are not as confident as they appear. Their self-esteem may be fragile because they are unsure of their own worth. They can become upset, offended and bruised if you reject them outright. You don’t need to accept their advice, but they need to feel like you value them and you’re not rejecting them, says Leon F. Seltzer, a clinical psychologist and the author of Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy. Reassure them of their own strengths and that they matter.

Bottom Line

We are all guilty of giving advice without being asked. But ENTJs and INTJs are particularly susceptible to handing out their opinions and telling other people what to do because of their perfectionist personalities, their drive for achievement and their lack of emotional awareness. With a little bit of understanding about what triggers their advice-giving behaviour, and how it affects others, they can continue to be the powerful, analytical thinkers and go-getters the world needs, while also nurturing their relationships and themselves

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.