INFJ

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I have written at length about the Myers-Briggs, about my own type (INFJ), about how recognizing my introversion helped me understand my behaviors and preferences.  Susan Cain’s Quiet was an important book for me in that realization (and, as an aside, writing for her site, The Quiet Revolution, is a huge honor).  At the end of last week, I had a fascinating exchange with my friend Aidan Donnelley Rowley about introversion and understanding what that really means.

The topic was on my mind all weekend.  I’ve always been an introvert, I know that now, though for years I masqueraded as an extrovert.  That’s something I’ve heard many times from other I’s who function in the world as E’s.  My professional life requires me to be quite E, which means that when I’m not working I am even more I.  I am often quite spent by the end of the day, worn out from many hours of interacting with others.  That explains at least in part why I’m so loath to make social plans and why evening usually find my in my pajamas, with a book or my children (or both).

I admit it was an aha for me to realize that the various MBTI types are not proportionately represented in the world.  I assumed that each accounted for the same percentage of the population.  It was surprising – and confirming of a deep sense of other-ness that has suffused my experience as long as I can remember – to learn that INFJs are only 1.5% of the population.  I know three in my “real life,” and a great many more online.  It’s one of the great gifts of blogging, to be honest, that I’ve connected with so many kindred spirits in the ether, here and elsewhere.

Last summer Grace and Whit each did their first MBTI tests (simple, free on-line ones).  I was irrationally thrilled that I guessed both of their types 100% correctly before they did them.  They are quite different from each other (though both NF, as am I) which was not a surprise.  Whit is, like my mother, a roving extrovert.  I’ve written about her before, said that “she has always attracted people to her, and, like a sun, is surrounded by more orbiting planets than I can count.”  Many of my closest friends are also extroverts, and it took me a long time to realize that I was trying to replicate my mother, I think, getting close to another sun, familiar with that energy and that warmth.  Whit is like that too.

I know that not everyone is as smitten with the MBTI as I am, and that not everyone finds the introvert/extrovert distinction as  illuminating.  For me, though, the tool is hugely powerful.  It helps me understand myself and the ways that I respond to various environments and experiences.  Susan Cain’s description of the business school I attended was particularly helpful; I see now how I’ve compensated for my own natural predilection over the years.  I also understand the ways that my professional life affects how I behave in my personal life.

Another thing I learned, once I started reading about this topic, is that introversion, sensitivity, and shyness are three separate things.  They are correlated, and I am all three, but not everyone is.  Both shy extroverts and outgoing introverts exist.  I know some of each.  This was an incredibly helpful distinction for me to understand.

Are you an introvert?  Or are you an extrovert?  Do these terms help you understand yourself and how you experience the world?


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24 Comments

  1. Jennifer Jordan
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I relate to so much of this and agree Myers Briggs can be enormously helpful. I’ve always tested borderline on extrovert/introvert and while I identified as an ENFJ in my 20s, I had a professional M-B done at work 2 years ago and came up INFJ. I liked your phrase outgoing introvert – that describes it well.
    Thanks for sharing this as we all just try to figure life out as it is happening.

    admin Reply:

    Precisely this: figuring out life as it’s happening. So perfect! xox

  2. Posted April 4, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    I love the Myers Briggs. Like Jennifer, in my 20’s I was borderline ENFJ and now my results are INFJ. Having my introversion validated was a huge relief and “ah-ha” moment for me. Because I am an outgoing introvert, I always thought that my aversion to big parties and small talk meant something was wrong with me – like I was depressed or had social phobias or something. My husband is an EXTREME extrovert, so he would have people come and go out of our house constantly and it really drained me. Now we have a better understanding of our differences and can find a middle ground. I would love to know what my kids are! Thanks for sharing. xo

    admin Reply:

    I did not realize you were also an INFJ!! Coffee soon? I hope so …

  3. Isabelle
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Another INFJ chiming in, it is fascinating that so many of us are drawn to your blog. I also love the MBTI and have found it to be very helpful ever since my family took it together when I was a teen. I would definitely classify myself as an outgoing introvert. My child is this way too. I am curious to have him do the test and love that you guessed both your kids’ types.

    admin Reply:

    I LOVE how many INFJs I have met in this space!!

  4. Posted April 4, 2016 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    ENTJ who migrated over time to ENFP. Be glad that you never met the brash young me when I was a freshman or sophomore!

    admin Reply:

    🙂 xoxo

    admin Reply:

    PS a formative moment for me was seeing the grid at HBS of % of students of each MBTI type over 50 years and I believe INFJ was 0%.

  5. Posted April 4, 2016 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    INFJ here, too (love the MBTI and have taken it many times, haha, I think I read that taking personality tests is one of the things INFJs love), but I think I must be a good impostor because most people think/assume I’m an extrovert. My husband is more introverted than me; our kids are more extroverted than either one of us (one I would classify as an outgoing introvert very good at making it in an extrovert world). I’m glad. Being an introvert has been difficult for me especially at times… I definitely view it as an extrovert’s world…but being online has made a huge difference in my view of the world.

    admin Reply:

    ME too … on the difficulty, on the welcoming online world, on people thinking I’m an extrovert sometimes, on all of this.

  6. Posted April 4, 2016 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    I’m an ISTJ (consistently so) and it absolutely has shaped the way I navigate my life. So has me being a HSP (though I’m not shy). It’s all affected how many children I wanted, how I parent, the reason I was miserable doing litigation and needed to get the heck out, how I spend my free time…all of it. It’s probably also not made me an entirely easy person to be around (my husband is an extrovert, thankfully a patient one). Took me a while though to realize that it doesn’t mean there is anything “wrong” with me when I make the choices that I do. Love MBTI posts like this one. 🙂

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! I’m so glad this topic is resonant for you as well. xox

  7. Posted April 4, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    INFJ here as well, also masquerading as an extrovert throughout my professional day — it takes all I’ve got to make it look genuine. After awhile, it can start to feel authentic but after a vacation or even a weekend, I am so back to INFJ that the transition back to work is jarring.

    admin Reply:

    I hear that loud and clear. xox

  8. Renae Cobb
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Love it. I think INFJ’s are drawn to the social media/blogging sort of paradigm. Provides the connection we crave but allows the distance and choice around participation that makes us comfortable. Not that you won’t be, but be aware with Whit. His T function is also very strong based on his keen interest in the way things work, his scientific bent, his systems sort of focus. So navigating the poles between F/T may be something he needs some help with. Most engineers have this issue to one extent or another. If you want another layer on top of this one, the Enneagram is also quite interesting. In combination, the two can give you a lot of information about ways of operating in the world.

    admin Reply:

    I don’t know the Enneagram as well but have read a little – very interesting stuff. Good point you make re: Whit. I will be surprised if he doesn’t pursue engineering at least in school, but who knows. xox

  9. Julie
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    me, too! INFJ, except when I’m with close friends, then more likely to be an ENFJ. Loved Susan Cain’s book, too. Thank you for writing your blog, Lindsey. I’m a faithful reader, and your words often resonate with what’s happening in my own life.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much for saying this. It means a lot to hear. xox

  10. Renae Cobb
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I’m just learning. But there are some good online tests for it as well, and I’ve found it interesting. I love MBTI, but the Enneagram is shedding light on the differences I see between two people of the same type. So that’s been interesting. Let me know if you ever want to chat about it all.

  11. Gale
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I’m ESFJ. But I find myself moving more toward the middle of the E/I continuum as I get older. I am more protective of my alone time than I used to be (probably because as a working mother there is so much less of it). And more particular about whom I spend my time with. I am less interested in large social gatherings than I was as a teen/young adult, and more focused on time with family and very close friends in small groupings.

    I will be fascinated in a few years to ask my kids these questions and see where they land.

    admin Reply:

    I have observed the same transition in how I like to spend my (limited) free time and a similar increasing caution/care about who I spend my time with. xox

  12. Posted April 4, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Depending on the day I am an INFJ or an INFP 🙂 I saw Aidan’s post including Quiet in the picture, and I was reminded that I need to dive back into that book. I think Lucas’s work book club is reading it at some point in the next few months, so we’ll be purchasing a copy to peruse at our leisure instead of rushing through a library copy! It’s amazing how much these things can explain to us about ourselves, how clearer things become once we recognize certain traits within ourselves.

    admin Reply:

    That book was like turning on a light for me. I knew I was INFJ before I read it, but it really helped me understand. I’d love to hear what you think!

  13. Sarah
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I just took this test for the first time recently. Someone left a comment on my blog asking what I was. I’m not sure what I expected from the test, but in reading the description of my results, I was floored. It described me so perfectly. (I may or may not have cried a little.) It explained so much. I hadn’t put much stock in the test but now have included my results in my ‘about’ page. INFJ 💕

    Off to read your other posts on this (and get that book – it’s the fourth time someone’s mentioned it in the past month).

    admin Reply:

    I’d love to hear what you think of the book … it was hugely illuminating for me. And I’m smiling at how powerful reading your MBTI profile was. I love that. xox

  14. Posted April 4, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Love this, Lindsey. I’m an ENFJ. When I first learned my MB type it was hugely important for me in my professional life, especially as I built my consulting practice. Understanding each aspect of my type unlocked for me so much of what drives me and why I operate and respond the way I do. This clarity has helped me navigate better and understand others so much better too.

    admin Reply:

    Understanding my own MB (and those of others) has been so important for me, too. xox

  15. mia
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    INFJ! Explains why I adore your writings so much — we speak the same language!

    And Quiet was a game changer for me… it was the first time I saw my introverted tendencies and behaviors in a positive light (and started to shatter the “party pooper” image I had of myself).

    admin Reply:

    I STILL have the party pooper image of myself in my head … I so get it! So glad to know that you can relate to what I write. xox

  16. Posted April 4, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I am also an INFJ and I loved Quiet – it was a hugely illuminating book for me. Like you, I am also shy and an HSP – I agree that they are not the same, but related. I think it is largely an extrovert’s world, as Julia said, and it can be tough to embrace our own introversion in light of that. Fascinating post. xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you – so glad that this spoke to you, and I love that we are so kindred. xoxox

  17. Posted April 4, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I did this years ago, I’m not sure what I am, but you make me think I ought to find out soon!

    admin Reply:

    I’d love to hear what you are! I have a guess … but curious.

  18. Posted April 4, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always been fascinated by Myers-Briggs classification, and my own personal recent discovery is that it changes over time (of course it does! but somehow i never considered it). I’m pretty sure I used to be INTJ in my 20es, but now am firmly INFJ or INFP, also depending on the day 🙂
    I also assumed that all types are equally represented – how interesting that they are not!

    admin Reply:

    Isn’t that detail fascinating? I thought so too. xox

  19. Richard M Kennedy
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    God love you and Amanda Magee.You’ve provided me with an inordinate number of smiling and thoughtful moments over the last several years.

    Turns out I am an INFJ-T after taking the online profile test. T, by the way is for turbulent. I am thinking that could be problematic but not sure. A large portion of my makeup is Scots-Irish-German, so that might explain the T subset.

    It seems unusual that such a small percentage of the population is INFJ versus the high concentration of us that read ‘A Design So Vast.’ Perhaps that is precisely why we are attracted to what you write and how you present those thoughts……..kindred spirits, at least philosophically.

    We also read Lisa Jakub, the actress’s blog. She is a profoundly avowed introvert. It was through her mention about a year ago that I ordered Susan Cain’s Book. I haven’t finished it yet but found what I’ve read extremely informative.

    Thank you so much for today’s post. Even into my eighth decade, I am continually surprised what one can learn about themselves.

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU for these kind words. Reading my name in the same sentence as Amanda’s is an honor. I don’t now Lisa Jakub – will look her up now!

  20. Posted April 4, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    INFJ as well. This is a little spooky!

  21. Posted April 5, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Another INFJ who is also sensitive and shy! I found “Quiet” to be life-changing. Extremely validating that traits I was taught were negatives (and needed to be changed) were simply part of my inherent personality. I need to do better with acknowledging my need for quiet and alone time. Living in a house full of loud and boisterous, INsensitive beings (bright lights, loud sounds, the constant TOUCHING), I end up feeling quite depleted and then resentful.
    I’m not surprised that we are overrepresented here, I think introverted and shy people are drawn to blogging/on-line interactions, and your writing in particular is all about the inward-focused, introspective, and extremely perceptive and sensitive that I 100% relate to.

  22. Posted April 6, 2016 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    An INFP/INFJ here, depending on the test.
    I really enjoy reading your blog and can identify with a lot of what you write.

  23. Anya
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m also an INFJ! I loved Susan Cain’s book– it was an eye-opener for me, particularly the part about degrees of stimulation that E’s and I’s prefer. It made me realize that my animated teacher husband, who thinks he’s an ENFJ, is really an ambivert. Given the option, he stays home with limited company of just a few friends instead of hanging out with a crowd. As for me, I’m a primary care doctor– I spend all day interacting with people who are sick and needy (literally and metaphorically– it’s a community clinic) and more importantly, who are people. If I have to work through lunch and don’t get a break, I hit a wall at about 3:00. And the constant flow of people and stimulus is why– I need the down time, even if it’s responding to labs on the computer, to come back on-the-ball and compassionate instead of frazzled.

    In addition to being an INFJ, I’m a geek. This explains my recent conversation with our emphatically extroverted 15-year-old son about the MB types of the major Star Wars characters. Apparently Obi Wan Kenobi is an INFJ. 🙂 And the guy I had the hots for as a kid, Han Solo, is the INFJ’s total opposite in every regard. 🙂 My son thinks the new baddie, Kylo Ren, is an INFJ, and oddly enough, I think he may be right, although he could hardly be more different from Ben Kenobi (or me) in so many regards!!! Thanks for the fun topic. 🙂

  24. Marianna
    Posted April 8, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Yet another INJF. I believe Renea has it right when she guesses we are drawn to the blog paradigm.