The INFJ is quiet, reflective, empathetic, and an idealist at heart.
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In this post, I’ll decode the mysterious INFJ by viewing it through the lens of the scientifically-accepted Big Five personality dimensions. You’ll also see the interpersonal behaviors and career interests that many INFJs have in common.
You can jump straight to any section by clicking the links below. Otherwise, we’ll start with the classic definition of the INFJ personality type.
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In the popular Myers-Briggs or 16-personalities tradition, all personalities belong to one of 16 types. Each type is defined by preferences across four cognitive functions:
INFJs are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging.
Introverted people are focused inwards. They prefer the inner world of ideas and reflection over the external world of people and actions.
More Intuitive people are comfortable with more abstract, ambiguous things and ideas. Compared to those who prefer Sensing, they prefer to focus on the world of meanings, connections, and insights, rather than more direct sensory observation and hands-on experiences.
People who prefer Feeling use empathy, consensus, and harmony to guide their decisions. Unlike those who prefer Thinking, they are less constrained by logic, correctness, and consistency in their decision-making.
People who prefer Judging tend to relate to other people through their decision-making preference, which is Feeling for INFJs. Other people will see FJ-types, like the INFJ, as empathetic and concerned for others.
While the 16-personality framework and its complex cognitive functions are fun and intriguing, they are less useful for predicting important life outcomes, like relationships, health, happiness, hobbies, educational and career outcomes.
The reality of personality differences is much more complicated than 16 types. This complexity is why modern personality science uses dimensions or traits to describe personalities, rather than simple categories or types.
For example, labeling someone as “Extraverted” or “Introverted” is a vast oversimplification. Every individual falls somewhere on a broad spectrum between highly extraverted and highly introverted.
Moreover, a single dimension like Extraversion/Introversion is inadequate for fully describing someone’s personality. In general, several dimensions are necessary to create a complete picture of an individual’s unique character.
Below, I’ll describe how INFJs fit into the modern world of personality dimensions.
In personality studies, scientific researchers often use a trait-based approach to describing the differences between people instead of using personality types. The most well-established method is the Big Five, which describes differences along five broad dimensions:
Personality types are far less precise than getting exact Big Five measurements, but knowing your personality type can give you a rough idea of where you fall on each dimension.
In the graph below, each dot is an INFJ, placed by where they fall on each of the Big Five dimensions. You can see that INFJs can vary quite a bit on any single dimension.
For example, some INFJs fall near the top of the Openness dimension, while others fall closer to the middle or average. However, almost no INFJs fall below the average on Openness. So, we can be reasonably confident that an INFJ will be average or higher than average on Openness, and an INFJ is unlikely to be lower than average on Openness.
Using the same principles, we can profile the INFJ personality type across every Big Five dimension.
INFJs are often highly open to experience.
Openness to Experience describes one’s preference and tolerance for new experiences, ideas, and feelings.
So, INFJs tend to be highly imaginative, curious, have diverse intellectual and artistic interests, and are more likely to have unconventional habits, ideas, or beliefs.
INFJs are often highly conscientious.
Conscientiousness describes your planning, impulsivity, and tendency to follow socially accepted norms and rules.
High conscientiousness means INFJs are organized and systematic, create detailed plans, are less easily distracted, and more likely to carefully follow the rules and guidelines across many situations.
As you might have guessed, INFJs are usually highly introverted or less extraverted.
Extraversion or Introversion describes your tendencies around social engagement and positive emotionality.
As a result, INFJs tend to engage in more solitary activities, avoid highly stimulating environments, and be more passive, inhibited, and reserved.
Aside from the social aspects of introversion, there is an additional emotional component: INFJs generally experience positive emotions less frequently and less intensely across most situations.
In other words, INFJs report feeling of joy and happiness less often than most people, and when they do experience these emotions, the feelings are less intense. As a side effect, INFJs may have fewer public displays of positive emotions, like smiling or laughing.
INFJs tend to be highly agreeable, although a small percentage of INFJs are less agreeable than average.
Agreeableness describes your motivation to maintain positive relationships with others
Like many INFJs, highly agreeable people are strongly motivated to maintain warmer and friendlier relations with others, seek to reduce or resolve interpersonal conflict, preserve or increase group cooperation, and control negative emotions around other people.
INFJs are highly varied on Neuroticism or Emotional Stability.
Neuroticism describes your emotional variability and tendency to experience negative emotions.
Highly neurotic people have more frequent mood swings and a greater tendency to worry, are more easily irritated, and susceptible to anxious or depressed moods.
Less neurotic (or more emotionally stable) people worry less and are less reactive to stress, experience less depression and anxiety, and are generally more easy-going.
Simply knowing whether you are an INFJ tells you almost nothing about your relative levels of neuroticism or emotional stability. Some INFJs score very high and others score very low. This variability isn’t particular to INFJs, but a shortcoming of using personality types in general.
Knowing exactly where you fall on each of the Big Five dimensions is simple with TraitLab’s free personality test.
You are more complex than four letters
No two INFJs are the same. Discover your own unique blend of five core personality dimensions.
There are several exceptional patterns commonly seen in the INFJs:
INFJs are often genuinely interested in the world around them. However, they are usually much more curious about the world of ideas and information than the world of relationships and other people.
These preferences follow from INFJs’ blend of low Extraversion and high Openness, two dimensions that shape styles of exploration. INFJs will happily immerse themselves in new ideas and become fully absorbed in learning everything about them. Yet, they might struggle to find a fraction of that same enthusiasm in most social engagements.
Similarly, most people who score highly on the Feeling (F) preference also score closer to the Extraverted side of the Introversion-Extraversion dimension. INFJs also stand out here, because they score highly on Feeling and Introversion.
INFJs express this unusual blend through their interpersonal warmth and empathy while also being reserved and, at times, socially withdrawn.
In terms of the Big Five dimensions, INFJs display a combination of low Extraversion and high Agreeableness. Again, this is an unusual blend, as these two dimensions are typically positively correlated with each other — people falling lower on Extraversion tend to also fall lower on Agreeableness.
INFJs are characteristically low on Extraversion, leading to less social enthusiasm and assertiveness, and a greater need for occasional solitude and social downtime.
At the same time, INFJs tend to be high on Big Five Agreeableness, with a heightened awareness of the emotional world. The higher Agreeableness of INFJs is related to their relatively high compassion, politeness, empathy, and desire to resolve interpersonal conflicts.
INFJs’ combination of lower Extraversion and higher Conscientiousness often results in a more serious, cautious, and principled nature.
In many different contexts, INFJs will hold back their enthusiasm, preferring to analyze cautiously and carefully. They will often find it difficult to be spontaneous, silly, or impractical, even when the situation calls for it.
How do other people see and describe INFJs?
The unusual combination of high introversion and openness of INFJs leads others to see them as contemplative, introspective, meditative, and inner-directed.
The wordcloud below shows the top 100 words used to describe INFJs. Bigger words describe the more prominent aspects of INFJs.
Because INFJs tend to have a relatively high level of introversion, with the occasional need for social withdrawal and relatively low levels of social enthusiasm, others sometimes describe them as cautious, serious, shy, inhibited, lonely, or timid.
Because INFJs tend to be relatively high in agreeableness, they are often diplomatic, tactful, humble, and respectful, but in some cases, also sentimental, soft-hearted, gullible, and unaggressive.
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You might have noticed that some individuals have a consistent effect on you every time you interact with them. For example, one particular friend might make you consistently laugh and smile more than usual. Or, one reliably passive coworker or classmate may tend to bring out your bossier, more demanding side.
Each of us has a typical interpersonal style. This style influences how others think and feel when they are around you, and in turn, it can affect how they interact back with you.
A classic method of visualizing interpersonal style is using the circular figure below. The vertical axis shows your style in terms of dominance, with a highly assertive style at the top (Assured-Dominant) and a highly passive style at the bottom (Unassured-Submissive). The horizontal axis shows your style in terms of warmth, with a cold and impersonal style on the left (Cold-Aggressive) and a friendly, empathetic manner on the right (Warm-Agreeable).
The shaded blue area shows the typical interpersonal style of INFJs across eight dimensions. Notice the areas where the blue area extends closer to the outer edges of the circle. These are the aspects that most heavily influence INFJs’ interactions.
To summarize the graph above, three aspects most heavily influence INFJs’ interpersonal style:
The chart below shows how the personality traits of INFJs are related to the classic RIASEC career interests: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Your unique blend of these interests dramatically influences how well a career feels like a good fit.
On each dimension, you’ll see areas where INFJs tend to crowd up (shown by the dark blue bars). These are the areas where INFJs are most likely to fall.
But, you’ll also find INFJs the entire range of each dimension. While most INFJs tend to have relatively lower Realistic interests, there are still a few INFJs who score very highly on them.
Most INFJs tend to have the following pattern of interests:
High Artistic interests (Creators): People with strong Artistic interests prefer jobs that require innovation through artistic and intuitive skills in less structured tasks and environments. Examples include artists, novelists, actors or actresses, musicians, curators, and designers.
Average Social interests (Helpers): People with strong Social interests fit well with careers that involve helping, comforting, caring for, and teaching other people. Examples include physical therapists, counselors, clergy, social workers, doctors, and nurses.
Average Investigative interests (Thinkers): People with strong Investigative interests prefer roles that require observation, researching, and understanding ideas. They tend to prefer working with data and ideas rather than working closely with other people. Examples include medical researchers, chemists, software engineers, scientific reporters, and statisticians.
Low Enterprising interests (Persuaders): People with strong Enterprising interests are often skilled communicators and enjoy influencing, persuading, and leading other people. They actively pursue leadership roles and opportunities to bolster their status and reputation. Examples include sales and marketing directors, politicians and political organizers, and executives.
Low Realistic interests (Doers): People with high Realistic interests enjoy careers that allow them to work with their hands or tools to get a job done, rather than thinking or talking about it. They may also gravitate towards jobs with opportunities for working outdoors, competition, and risk-taking. Examples include police officers, military officers, professional athletes, farmers, builders, mechanics, forest rangers, and woodworkers.
Low Conventional interests (Organizers): People with strong Conventional interests excel in roles that require categorizing, planning, and systematizing information and processes. Examples include financial officers, budget analysts, office managers, database analysts, and systems administrators.
Remember that these rankings only describe the average INFJ, and personality types can only offer very general descriptions of career interests. Even if you see yourself as an INFJ, your unique set of career interests may vary from the above descriptions.
INFJs typically have intense Artistic interests, meaning they will gravitate towards roles with opportunities to create, innovate, and experiment. Some INFJs will also have relatively higher interests in Social (e.g., helping and altruistic) and Investigative (e.g., thinking and analyzing) areas.
Examples of careers that blend Artistic, Social, and Investigative interests include:
INFJs are usually less interested in careers with intense demands for hands-on work, leading and persuading others, or high amounts of structure, rules, and regulations. Examples of jobs INFJs might avoid include:
Your personality type only gives you a rough approximation of your underlying traits. As described in this post, INFJs can vary widely in their Big Five dimensions, interpersonal style, and career interests. Just knowing that you are an INFJ doesn’t tell you that much.
So what’s the next step? Skip the types entirely and learn about your unique blend of personality traits, interpersonal style, and career interests by directly measuring them here at TraitLab. Get started for free and see your Big Five dimensions with the Basic assessment.
Header photo by Dollar Gill