INFJ Personality: Traits, Relationships, Career Matches
Out of all of the 16 personality types, the INFJ is searched most often on Google. Why is there so much interest in this personality type?
In this post, I’ll decode the mysterious INFJ by viewing it through the lens of the scientifically-accepted Big Five personality dimensions.
The INFJ personality type
While personality types are not actually used in modern scientific research, they are still one of the most popular ways that people describe, classify, and understand their personality.
In the 16 personalities or Myers-Briggs types, each personality type is a four-letter code, indicating the preferences of each type: Introverted vs. Extraverted, Intuitive or Sensing, Feeling or Thinking, and Judging vs. Perceiving.
According to this typology, the INFJ prefers:
- Introversion: oriented towards the internal world, rather than the external world
- Intuition: oriented towards learning through internal intuition over sensory experience
- Feeling: oriented towards judging new information by its emotional qualities and impacts, rather than through logical analysis
- Judging: oriented towards organizing, categorizing, and processing new information as soon as it is encountered
Each of these obscure preferences is correlated with a set of well-established, broadly accepted personality dimensions, known as the Big Five. Using these correlations, it’s possible to translate the INFJ personality type into its corresponding Big Five dimensions.
INFJ personality traits
The INFJ personality type can be translated into the Big Five personality dimensions: Openness To Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
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 very 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 fairly 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 higher on Openness to Experience
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 higher on Conscientiousness
INFJs are often highly conscientious.
Conscientiousness describes your planning, impulsivity, and tendency to follow socially accepted norms and rules.
High conscientiousness leads INFJs to be organized and systematic, create detailed plans, are less easily distracted, and more likely to closely follow rules and guidelines across many situations.
INFJs are lower on Extraversion
As you might have guessed, INFJs are usually highly introverted or less extraverted.
Extraversion or Introversion describe 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 are usually higher on Agreeableness
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
Highly agreeable people, like many INFJs, are strongly motivated to maintain warmer and friendlier relations with others, seek to reduce or resolve interpersonal conflict, maintain or increase group cooperation, and control negative emotions around other people.
INFJs vary widely on Neuroticism
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, have 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 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 easy with TraitLab’s free personality test.
Rarity of INFJs
Roughly 1% of people will be classified as INFJ, making it one of the most unusual types in the 16 personalities framework.
Why are INFJs so rare?
Introverted and reflective, but open and curious
INFJs are a combination of several dimensions that are not typically seen together. For example, most people scoring highly on the Introversion (I) dimension tend to score closer to the Sensing extreme on the Sensing-Intuition dimension. INFJs are unusual because they score highly on both Introversion and Intuition.
These relatively rare combinations can also be viewed through the lens of the Big Five personality dimensions. INFJs tend to fall on the lower end of the Big Five Extraversion dimension, but they also fall on the high end of Big Five Openness to Experience dimension.
This is unusual, because these two dimensions are positively correlated with each other. In other words, most people who score highly on Openness to Experience also score highly on Extraversion. INFJs show the opposite pattern — high Openness and low Extraversion.
Warm and empathetic, but socially reserved
Similarly, most people who score highly on the Feeling (F) dimension also score closer to the Extraverted side of the Introversion-Extraversion dimension. INFJs also stand out here, because they score highly on Feeling but also highly on Introverted. This unusual blend might expressed in INFJs as 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, leading to a heightened awareness of the emotional world around them. The higher Agreeableness of INFJs is related to their relatively high compassion, politeness, empathy, and desire to resolve interpersonal conflicts.
INFJs tend to have a complicated (and possibly frustrating) style when it comes to close relationships.
Need for closeness, but not too close
INFJs may truly want emotionally close and trusting relationships, but are often reluctant to completely trust or depend on others out of fear of being hurt. Their belief that they must maintain some distance to protect themselves may lead them to avoid some close relationships.
At the same time, INFJs often have a somewhat negative view of themselves and may seek validation through relationships with other people. This motivation to pursue relationships for self-validation may leave INFJs with the nagging doubt that they value a relationship more than the other person.
Together, the combination of these two patterns — seeking out relationships for validation and being overly cautious about getting too close — can lead to INFJs giving very mixed signals.
Common interpersonal problems with the INFJ
The blend of relatively high introversion and agreeableness in INFJs leads to a characteristic pattern of interpersonal problems around unassertiveness and a need to maintain good relationships with others.
INFJs may find it particularly difficult to be aggressive and assertive towards others, even when it is totally appropriate. They tend to have a a hard time to set firm limits, say “no”, or put their own needs over someone else’s.
They may also be too eager to please, leading INFJs to be easily influenced or persuaded by other people. Because of this, INFJs may appear socially naive or gullible at times.
Lastly, INFJs can be strongly affected by the moods of other people. If someone close to them is upset, an INFJ may be so affected that they try to take on other person’s problems as their own, both to please the other person, and to alleviate their own empathetic distress.
Adjectives that describe the INFJ personality
How do other people see and describe INFJs?
The unusual combination of high introversion and high 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 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 may also be described as diplomatic, tactful, humble, and respectful, but in some cases, also sentimental, soft-hearted, gullible, and unaggressive.
INFJs have diverse career interests with a preference to work hands-on making things or working with complex ideas. INFJs also have an altruistic streak, so they also prefer careers that allow them to directly or indirectly help other people.
INFJ career interests
The chart below shows how the INFJ personality type is related to eight core career interests: Production, Creativity, Erudition, Altruism, Analysis, Organization, Adventure, and Leadership. Your unique blend of these interests has a huge influence on how well a career feels like it “fits” with your personality.
INFJs’ strongest interest is Production, which is why many INFJs will gravitate towards careers that involve building and making things.
People with strong interests in Production enjoy careers that allow them to work with their hands or tools to create, repair, or maintain tangible products and things. Examples include farmers, builders, mechanics, forest rangers, and woodworkers.
INFJs are equally strong in their Creativity interests.
People with strong interests in Creativity prefer jobs that require innovation through artistic and intuitive skills in less structured tasks and environments. Examples include artists, novelists, actor or actresses, musicians, curators, and designers.
INFJs have a strong interest in Erudition, leading many INFJs towards careers with opportunities to read, study, and master lots of new information.
People with strong interests in Erudition enjoy roles that require mastery of complex, difficult concepts and information. Examples include translators, editors, research professors, literary scholars, interpreters, and foreign correspondents.
INFJs have moderate interests in Altruism, so they often prefer careers that directly or indirectly help others through the things they create.
People with strong interests in Altruism fit well in careers that involve helping, comforting, caring for, and teaching other people. Examples include physical therapists, counselors, clergy, social workers, doctors, and nurses.
INFJs do not have a particular preference or dislike for Analysis. They are unlikely to gravitate towards roles that are primarily analytical, but they will also not avoid roles that have some analytical component.
People with strong interests in Analysis enjoy roles that require investigating, researching, and explaining concepts and ideas. Examples include medical researchers, chemists, scientific reporters, and statisticians.
INFJs are moderately disinterested in roles with a focus on Organization.
People with strong interests in Organization prefer careers that involve categorizing, planning, and systematizing information and processes. Examples include financial officers, budget analysts, office managers, database analysts, and systems administrators.
INFJs will likely avoid or dislike roles with a strong Adventure component.
People with strong interests in Adventure prefer careers that involve working outdoors, competition, excitement, risk-taking, and even danger. Examples include police officers, military officers, professional athletes, and bounty hunters.
INFJs’ strongest career preference is a disinterest in Leadership.
INFJs will tend to strongly avoid roles that have heavy Leadership demands.
People with strong interests in Leadership fit well in careers that enable them to influence, persuade, and motivate other people. Examples include sales and marketing directors, politicians and political organizers, and executives.
INFJ career matches and INFJ jobs
With their strong interests in Production, INFJs often prefer jobs that involve opportunities to work hands-on to build or create new things, such as:
- Software Engineer
- Web Developer
- Park Ranger
- Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist
INFJs’ high Creativity and Erudition may also guide them towards careers that involving working with and creating ideas, through more scholarly or artistic pursuits, such as the visual arts, music, or writing. Careers like these include:
- Graphic Designer
- Fashion Designer
- Research Scientist
- Landscape Architect
- Sound/Audio Engineer
- Fine Artist (Illustrator, Painter, Sculptor, Blacksmith)
INFJs may also enjoy careers that both satisfy their intellectual needs and their altruistic interests. Careers that combine blend complex information with helping others include:
- Physician Assistants
- Medical Technicians
- Science/Engineering Teachers
Careers to avoid for the INFJ
INFJs often avoid careers focused primarily on leading, influencing, or persuading people or those with highly conventional rules and regulations. Examples of careers INFJs might avoid include:
- Sales Agents or Sales Managers
- Business or Organizational Administrators
- Human Resources Managers
- Construction Managers
- Personal Finance Advisors
- Real Estate Agents
- Financial Analysts
- Database Architects
- Industrial Engineers
INFJs are unsurprisingly more introverted than most people, but also tend to be intellectually curious, organized, and empathetic. Not all INFJs are alike, however, because personality types are only a very rough way to categorize personality differences.
Remember that knowing your personality type is like only seeing the tip of the iceberg. To get the full picture of your own unique personality, try the free personality test here at TraitLab.
Header photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash
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