The INFP Personality Type: More than a Dreamer

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One of the more rare personality types, INFP individuals are values-driven idealists who strive to heal the world.

A couple of years ago, I posted an article on the INFP personality type titled “A Dreamer’s Life: The INFP Personality Type”. The article garnered many comments from readers, especially from fellow ‘dreamers’ who recognized themselves in the descriptions provided in the article. Some folks commented that they experienced tremendous relief just knowing that there might be someone out there who could actually understand them. Others expressed gratitude that the article helped them come to a deeper level of self-awareness and appreciation. Even other readers — not themselves INFP types — expressed appreciation for getting a better glimpse into the nature of someone they know. INFPs, you see, are a fairly rare personality type, so it’s easy for them to be misunderstood.

INFP personalities are individuals whose responses to questions on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator categorize them as more introverted than extraverted, intuitive as opposed to sensing, feeling as opposed to thinking, and perceptive as opposed to judging in their overall style of relating (this is admittedly, but necessarily, an oversimplification). My 2010 article was titled as it was because INFP types tend to imagine grand things, and often find themselves caught up in the world of ideas and dreams. But INFPs are much more than dreamers. Their dreams are both born of and deeply rooted in their most cherished values. INFPs are dreamers, to be sure. But as value-driven folks, they are often quite lofty dreamers — idealists who go through life searching for meaning, and who often feel compelled to make the world a better place.

Now, at first glance it might appear that folks with INFP profiles are ‘ideal’ personality types. But we live in a world of people with many different personalities, each of whom has their own unique contribution to make, and not all of whom readily understand or appreciate the INFP perspective. In fact, there are far more extraverts in the world than there are introverts, and this is just one dimension of personality on which INFPs differ from most folks. These unique perspectives of the INFP can invite certain difficulties in relationships. Sensitive, deep, and often intense in their feelings, INFPs don’t easily make or engage in ‘casual’ social interactions. They prefer one-on-one encounters with a select few trustworthy souls who share the same values. As a result, INFPs can appear stand-offish and aloof in many social situations. And while INFPs are generally laid-back, and prone to avoiding and easing as opposed to creating conflicts, they can become fairly emotionally unnerved and even undone when they feel someone has violated, disregarded, betrayed, or trampled upon one of their core values. Normally accommodating and adapting, they can come across as stubborn, rigid, hard and unyielding when they feel the need to defend any of their most cherished ideals.

When I was just beginning my professional career, and wasn’t well-versed in the Myers-Briggs system, I wasn’t aware of the fact that INFP personalities are often good at writing, especially writing that communicates vision and ideals. In fact, I’d never even viewed myself as a writer. And, having been told by several schoolteachers that my writing style left a lot to be desired, I was always hesitant to put pen in hand. But even from an early age I was aware of my search for meaning in life, and I also had pretty good awareness of the principles I had grown to cherish. For some reason, I also always felt somewhat compelled to share with others some of the ideals I held the most dear. So somehow, I found both the courage and a way to communicate my vision and values, especially in regard to the human condition, in a straightforward, understandable way to a fairly wide audience. As a result, those who are familiar with my books and other writings have not only a solid glimpse into my value system, but also into the person I am — or at least the person I strive to be (you see, INFPs are notoriously hard on themselves for not always living up to the standards and ideals they promote). I suppose the writing career I embarked on almost 18 years ago is my way of making an intimate connection with more than just a handful of close confidants — no small feat for an INFP personality type. In the process, I’ve cultivated friendships around the world, and not just with folks who share or endorse the same values or perspectives I promote.

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Over the years, I’ve become more comfortable in the skin of a dreamer and idealist. My ideas aren’t always well-received or endorsed by others, but at least folks know who I am. More importantly, I’ve grown to know myself, including my strengths and weaknesses. I know that my ideals can get me in just as much trouble sometimes as they can resonate with and inspire others at other times. And of necessity, I’ve had to get better at appreciating the perspectives of the other personality types. Communication, after all, is unavoidably a two-way street. And in that vein, if you just happen to be a fellow ‘idealist’ and have some insights or stories to share, I’m sure there are others out there (including myself), and not just fellow INFPs, who might appreciate your comments.

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