What is an INFJ?
INFJ is an acronym used to describe one of the sixteen personality types created by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers. It stands for Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging. INFJ indicates a person who is energized by time alone (Introverted), who focuses on ideas and concepts rather than facts and details (iNtuitive), who makes decisions based on feelings and values (Feeling) and who prefers to be planned and organized rather than spontaneous and flexible (Judging). INFJs are sometimes referred to as Counselor personalities.
The INFJ Personality Type
INFJs are creative nurturers with a strong sense of personal integrity and a drive to help others realize their potential. Creative and dedicated, they have a talent for helping others with original solutions to their personal challenges.
The Counselor has a unique ability to intuit others' emotions and motivations, and will often know how someone else is feeling before that person knows it himself. They trust their insights about others and have strong faith in their ability to read people. Although they are sensitive, they are also reserved; the INFJ is a private sort, and is selective about sharing intimate thoughts and feelings.
How the INFJ Thinks
The inner lives of INFJs are dominated by a grand, panoramic perspective of past, present and future, where all is unified and everything is interconnected. Even from the briefest observations and the smallest bits of data, INFJs can make inferences and see implications that others fail to perceive, and in their dealings with other human beings they reveal an advanced ability to detect meaningful patterns in ordinary actions and behavior.
Of all the intuitive (N) personality types, none possess the razor-sharp instincts of INFJs, who are masters of nuance and so skilled at interpreting the information they absorb through the five senses that their friends and family often accuse them of being psychic. INFJs have a naturally holistic view of the world and of its diverse social, material and environmental aspects, and through the power of their imaginations they are always working to synthesize disparate phenomena into a more cohesive and inclusive meta-framework.
INFJs are the most empathic of all if Myers and Briggs' personality types. They cannot escape from the powerful emotional impressions they soak in from social encounters or even from the atmosphere in the rooms they occupy. Consequently, the intellectual gymnastics of INFJs are always intimately intertwined with deeply humanistic concerns. Rather than retreating into clouds of abstraction, INFJs always try to project their intellectual breakthroughs outward, anxiously trying to understand how their intuitive leaps of logic and carefully thought out conclusions might shed greater light on the complexities of the human condition.
For INFJs, what we think, perceive and conclude must always be measured against a standard that puts the needs of people first. In a very real sense, the soaring flights of imagination that define the interior realities of INFJs are fully grounded in moral and ethical concerns that are too vital to be sacrificed on the altar of contingency.
INFJs search for meaning and purpose in their own lives just as they seek it in culture, society and in the universe as a whole. For INFJs the stakes are always high and they are convinced that every thought or action could potentially have important consequences, either positive or negative. Less reflective types may conclude that INFJs are prone to letting their imaginations run away with them when they indulge in such musings, but for INFJs these sorts of judgments only demonstrate how easy it is for people to embrace an unreflective view of the world that renders them insensitive and intellectually lazy. INFJs know instinctively that society is nothing more than the sum total of the decisions we all make, and that is why they believe our choices, actions and interpretations of circumstances and events should always aim to enhance rather than hinder our personal and collective evolution.
As open and creative as INFJs can be, once they have made up their minds about something an interesting juxtaposition often takes place. Suddenly and seemingly without warning these mild-mannered spinners of imaginative webs will plant their feet firmly in the ground, set their jaws and refuse to budge an inch, absolutely convinced that they have uncovered the definitive answer and that all further discussion is superfluous. Because of their introverted natures, INFJs turn inward when they are attempting to solve puzzling problems or resolve troubling issues, so when they do make up their minds, the fierce, stubborn resistance to argument they display can catch even those closest to them off guard.
Ultimately, INFJs want to bring their intellectual meanderings back down into the concrete world, where, if applied, their ideas could conceivably make a transformative impact on others while hopefully promoting the greater good. At some point the speculation and the “what-if” scenarios have to stop and actual movement must occur, and despite their intensely reflective natures, INFJs will eventually lose patience with those who desire to keep the debate going indefinitely.
INFJ Values and Motivations
INFJs are guided by a deeply considered set of personal values. They are intensely idealistic, and can clearly imagine a happier and more perfect future. They can become discouraged by the harsh realities of the present, but they are typically motivated and persistent in taking positive action nonetheless. The INFJ feels an intrinsic drive to do what they can to make the world a better place.
INFJs want a meaningful life and deep connections with other people. They do not tend to share themselves freely but appreciate emotional intimacy with a select, committed few. Although their rich inner life can sometimes make them seem mysterious or private to others, they profoundly value authentic connections with people they trust.
What the INFJ Values
INFJs believe we have an obligation to take responsibility for the way our actions help shape the world around us, and accordingly they always endeavor to make positive changes in how they think and behave. People reporting near-death experiences frequently claim to have undergone comprehensive life reviews that reveal how their conduct has impacted others, but INFJs subject themselves to these reviews voluntarily and on a regular basis, and they constantly make alterations based on what they see when they gaze at their own inner reflections. We don’t know for sure what personality group the Wicked Witch from Snow White belonged to, but we are certain that she was not an INFJ because if she had been, her relationship with her mirror would have been entirely different.
As quintessential idealists and visionaries, INFJs have tons of ideas about how to improve society and make the world a better place. To more grounded, down-to-earth types this endless utopian-style theorizing may seem like a glorified kissing cousin of idle speculation, but from the standpoint of INFJs there is a method to the madness. They believe complex thought experiments can provide clarity and help focus energies in more constructive directions.
Far from representing an escape from reality, INFJs see their complicated mental explorations as a doorway to more intelligent and effective action. Even if the social change or charitable work that a fledgling activist chooses to undertake as a result of such in-depth deliberation doesn’t seem practical or capable of producing immediate results, INFJs believe a more just society can only be attained if we concentrate on doing what is right, regardless of the transient consequences.
Because they are so thoughtful and see hidden implications that others miss, INFJs are a bit unpredictable in their final conclusions. As students, INFJs are the type that will ace tests filled with “compare and contrast” questions, and when they join debating teams they quickly become star performers despite their introverted natures. This is because they excel at seeing all sides of an issue, and because they are forceful and convincing when they do adopt a viewpoint. But in social interactions this quality can make INFJs seem rigid, didactic and inflexible; once they reach a conclusion about where they stand on a serious issue or thorny moral question, INFJs will abandon their open-mindedness and stick to their guns with the intensity of a thousand white-hot suns. This tends to astonish those who have become accustomed to the gentle and compassionate natures that INFJs normally exhibit.
Cohesive and harmonious relations matter greatly to INFJs, and not just in the abstract. In fact, INFJs are so determined to keep the peace and restore it when it has been lost that they will often gloss over the root sources of a conflict, preferring to negotiate an uneasy truce rather than putting in the messy and unpleasant work required to hash things out permanently. INFJs seek harmony because they view conflict as inherently damaging and destructive, and they will do everything in their power to eliminate fractiousness and suppress quarrelsome behavior as a matter of principle.
What Motivates the INFJ
Some see hypothetical speculation as the bane of clear and effective thinking. This attitude is understandable, but INFJs believe such criticism is short-sighted and unintentionally supportive of the status quo. Whatever the limitations are that have prevented human beings from achieving a lasting peace and establishing a kinder and gentler social order, INFJs assert that we should not passively surrender to them and retreat into situational ethics simply because fundamental macro-scale change seems so elusive.
Others may see the efforts of INFJs to hitch their wagons to a shooting star as utopian and naive, and they may dismiss an INFJ acquaintance’s search for ultimate answers as a foolish endeavor that even Sisyphus would dismiss as futile. But unleashing their prolific minds on the problems of the world energizes INFJs and satisfies their need for a broad frame of reference from which to operate, as they strive to achieve a perfect synthesis between what is doable and what is actually worth doing.
INFJs have a profound respect for human potential and the power of the human mind, and that is why they see no discontinuity or inconsistency between abstract thought and effective pragmatic decision-making. According to the worldview of the INFJ, authentic self-development must occur on a continuum, binding open creative thought to logical concept to effective action in sequence, and if we neglect any of these important stages we will wander aimlessly and never reach our final destination, never come close to living up to our true potential.
According to idealistic INFJs, if we believe in our ability to accomplish the extraordinary, the extraordinary will instantly become a possibility— “dream it and you can achieve it,” as the saying goes. However, the moment we compromise our principles for the sake of expediency or attach the “impractical” label to our most noble ambitions, ultimate defeat is all but assured.
Some would accuse INFJs of having an inordinate affection for tilting at windmills, but in their heart of hearts INFJs are convinced that if we re-imagine or re-configure the terms of our most important debates to include a grander perspective, we can transform the contexts within which we make important decisions, both individually and collectively, thereby clearing new pathways to a much brighter future. For some, John Lennon’s classic song “Imagine” might seem like wishful thinking spruced up with a catchy tune, but for INFJs, it represents a real blueprint for hope and change.
A metaphysically-optimistic attitude nourishes the lifeblood of the typical INFJ and helps inspire her efforts in the “real world.” However, INFJs are prone to depression and will occasionally succumb to ennui, losing their motivation as they become frustrated with the slow pace of change. But INFJs don’t just worry about the state of the world—they also care about the suffering of individuals, and when people they care about are in need of guidance and support, that is often all it takes to re-energize INFJs and pull them out of their funk.
INFJs are existentially motivated by their unquenchable desire to play the role of the healer, conciliator or facilitator; and sadly, our dysfunctional society provides so many opportunities to translate empathy into worthwhile action that no one who is determined to make a difference in the lives of others will have to stay idle for long.
How Others See the INFJ
INFJs often appear quiet, caring and sensitive, and may be found listening attentively to someone else’s ideas or concerns. They are highly perceptive about people and want to help others achieve understanding. INFJs are not afraid of complex personal problems; in fact, they are quite complex themselves, and have a rich inner life that few are privy to. They reflect at length on issues of ethics, and feel things deeply. Because Counselors initially appear so gentle and reserved, they may surprise others with their intensity when one of their values is threatened or called into question. Their calm exterior belies the complexity of their inner worlds.
Because INFJs are such complex people, they may be reluctant to engage with others who might not understand or appreciate them, and can thus be hard to get to know. Although they want to get along with others and support them in their goals, they are fiercely loyal to their own system of values and will not follow others down a path that does not feel authentic to them. When they sense that their values are not being respected, or when their intuition tells them that someone’s intentions are not pure, they are likely to withdraw.
Famous INFJs include Mohandas Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Emily Bronte, Carl Jung, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Florence Nightingale, Shirley MacLaine, Jimmy Carter, and Edward Snowden.
INFJ Hobbies and Interests
Popular hobbies for the INFJ include writing, art appreciation, cultural events, reading, socializing in small, intimate settings, and playing or listening to music.
Quotes About INFJs
"The visions of the INFJs tend to concern human welfare, and their contributions are likely to be made independent of a mass movement."
- Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing
"These seclusive and friendly people are complicated themselves, and so can understand and deal with complex ethical issues and with deeply troubled individuals."
- David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II
"INFJs' nonstop search for learning, self-growth, and development—and wishing the same for everyone else—makes them very reassuring to others and people worth emulating."
- Otto Kroeger, Type Talk at Work
Facts about INFJs
Interesting facts about the INFJ:
- Least common type in the population
- On personality trait scales, scored as Sincere, Sympathetic, Unassuming, Submissive, Easygoing, Reserved and Patient
- Among highest of all types in college GPA
- Among most likely to stay in college
- Most likely of all types to cope with stress by seeing a therapist
- Highest of all types in marital dissatisfaction
- Personal values include Spirituality, Learning, and Community Service
- Commonly found in careers in religion, counseling, teaching, and the arts
Source: MBTI Manual