Committed to Making a Difference: The INFJ Personality Type

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Some of the world’s greatest leaders of movements to better the world are believed to have been INFJs. We owe a deep debt to these rarest of personality types.

I’ve written a few articles on personality types as categorized by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the popular instrument developed by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers and based on the pioneering work of Carl Gustav Jung:

In those articles I confessed that while I am primarily an INFP personality (being every bit the “dreamer” I describe in my two articles about that type), I am very close to being a T instead of an F on the Thinking vs. Feeling dimension and also close to being a J as opposed to a P on the Perceptive vs. Judging dimension of the instrument. As a result, I have many of the characteristics of the INTP, INTJ, and INFJ personality types. All of these types are fairly rare, with the INFJ being the rarest of all.

If the instrument would allow, I might properly categorize myself as an INFTPJ, as there is little doubt about how solidly introverted I am and how intuitively I operate, but there is also little doubt about how almost equally prone I am to thinking my way as opposed to feeling my way through decisions, and it’s pretty debatable about whether I’m most comfortable with a structured as apposed to flexible approach to dealing with life and its circumstances. But alas, categorizing myself that way simply isn’t possible. For all of its many strengths, one of the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs is the forced choice limitations placed on its type categorizations. The Myers-Briggs is both a well-researched and sophisticated instrument, and in line with Jung’s ideas on personality functioning, it recognizes that each of us has a unique collection of tendencies and traits that go beyond our more “dominant” tendencies. (If you ever have the opportunity to be assessed with the instrument you’ll learn about your primary vs. secondary and tertiary functions.) So, I’m not really faulting the instrument here in any way. But because of the nature of my overall inclinations, despite being mostly an INFP type, I’ve always been interested in delving more deeply into the study of the INTP, INFJ, and INTJ types as well. And inasmuch as I’ve written about both the INFP and INTP types, I thought I’d say a few things in the next two articles about what I’ve learned through study, personal experience, and experience with many clients who are INFJ and INTJ types, beginning with the INFJ type.

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Being primarily introverts and highly intuitive, INFJs are those rare (statistically, the rarest) folks who seem to be unexplainably aware of the hidden meanings of things and of the possibilities that exist. They’re often creative minds with keen, natural insight into how both people and things operate. They’re frequently involved in pursuing novel, innovative solutions to age-old problems. Although they rely primarily on their instincts, and while they’re correct in their hunches more often than not, they sometimes find themselves questioning the validity of their intuition, wondering how they can feel so certain about something they might not have researched in any real depth. Because of their strong value system, they tend to want to use their talent for seeing the possibilities for the greater good. Many gravitate toward the arts, science, or service-oriented fields where they can “make a difference” in the lives of others. They also make good “diplomats” because they’re often inclined to use their creativity to help others find balance and common ground, even in the most difficult situations. They’re often involved in egalitarian pursuits, having a huge sense of right and wrong when it comes to human welfare and doing what they can to rectify inequity.

While INFJs can make deep, meaningful contacts with others, they can also be quite private and guarded about their deepest thoughts and convictions. They make their most intimate connections with those whom they sense know, understand, and respect their values. Again, because of their strong value system, INFJs tend to want to push themselves as well as others to achieve their full potential. Others may see this as a “perfectionistic” tendency as well as a tendency to be demanding and uncompromising. Unlike most perfectionists, INFJs are not generally too detail-oriented. They generally dislike being buried in the minuscule requirements of any project they’re pursuing and when out of necessity they do force themselves to focus on those details they can unfortunately lose sight of their usual high awareness of the bigger picture. While they might very much appreciate it when things are organized and disciplined, they have a tendency to be personally much less organized and disciplined than most “J” personality types.

Harboring a drive to both protect and guide, INFJs make devoted parents. Some of the world’s greatest leaders of various movements (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr.; Nelson Mandela; St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta) are believed to have been INFJs. We owe a deep debt to these rarest of personality types who care enough to want to better the world around them and who use their instincts to do just that.

In a follow up article, I’ll have more to say about the other rare introverted intuitive personality, the INTJ type.

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