INFJ: The Advocate (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging)

An Overview of the INFJ Personality Type

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INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging) is one of the 16 personality types identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Sometimes referred to as the "Advocate" or the "Idealist," people with INFJ personalities are creative, gentle, and caring. INFJs are usually reserved but highly sensitive to how others feel. They are typically idealistic, with high moral standards and a strong focus on the future. INFJs enjoy thinking about deep topics and contemplating the meaning of life. The INFJ type is said to be one of the rarest with just one to three percent of the population exhibiting this personality type.

What sets the INFJ apart is their ability to take their idealism and translate it into action. They are not daydreamers or philosophers who just think about changing the world – they are capable of taking their values and using them to bring about positive and lasting change.

While the MBTI is extremely popular, it has also been the source of considerable criticism due in part to its poor validity and reliability. If you do take the MBTI, use caution when considering the meaning of your results.

You can learn more about the INFJ personality in this overview, but this should not be construed as health, psychological, or professional career advice.

Key INFJ Characteristics

  • With their strong sense of intuition and emotional understanding, INFJs can be soft-spoken and empathetic. This does not mean that they are push-over's, however. They have deeply held beliefs and an ability to act decisively in order to get what they want.
  • While they are introverted by nature, people with this personality type are able to form strong, meaningful connections with other people. They enjoy helping others, but they also need time and space to recharge.
  • While this personality type may be characterized by idealism, this does not mean that INFJs see the world through rose-colored glasses. They understand the world, both the good and the bad, and hope to be able to make it better.
  • When it comes to making decisions, they place a greater emphasis on personal concerns than objective facts when making decisions. They also like to exert control by planning, organizing and making decisions as early as possible.

INFJ Strengths

  • Sensitive to the needs of others

  • Reserved

  • Highly creative and artistic

  • Focused on the future

  • Values close, deep relationships

  • Enjoys thinking about the meaning of life

  • Idealistic

INFJ Weaknesses

  • Can be overly sensitive

  • Sometimes difficult to get to know

  • Can have overly high expectations

  • Stubborn

  • Dislikes confrontation

Cognitive Functions

The MBTI was originally created by Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs in the 1940s based on the theories of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Jung believed that a number of mental processes made up each individual's psychological type. He identified four key psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. Each of these functions then tends to be either outwardly focused (extraverted) or inwardly focused (introverted).

MBTI advocates often utilize what they refer to as a functional stack when analyzing results. You can think of the different cognitive functions as the ingredients that go into making up a personality type. The specific recipe for each type is controlled by how these different ingredients combine and interact. The MBTI itself relies on two key factors that combine in different ways to give us the 16 different types. First is the functions themselves, and second is the hierarchical order of those functions.

Each type possesses a dominant function that is the core characteristic of each type. This is then supported by an auxiliary function which is another well-developed aspect of personality. The tertiary and inferior functions are less conscious and not as well formed.

INFJs tend to rely more on four primary cognitive functions:

Dominant: Introverted Intuition

  • This means that they tend to be highly focused on their internal insights.
  • Once they have formed an intuition about something, they tend to stick to it very tightly, often to the point of being single-minded in their focus.
  • Because of this, they are sometimes viewed as being stubborn and unyielding.

Auxiliary: Extraverted Feeling

  • This characteristic of this type makes INFJs highly aware of what other people are feeling, but it means they are sometimes less aware of their own emotions.
  • INFJs sometimes struggle to say no to other people's requests for this reason. They are so attuned to what other people are feeling that they fear causing disappointment or hurt feelings.

Tertiary: Introverted Thinking

  • INFJs make decisions based on ideas and theories that they form based on their own insights.
  • INFJs rely primarily on their introverted intuition and extroverted feeling when making decisions, particularly when they are around other people. When they are alone, however, people with this personality type may rely more on their introverted thinking.
  • In stressful situations, an INFJ might try to rely on emotions when making decisions, especially if it means pleasing other people. Under less stressful conditions, however, an INFJ is more likely to rely more on their intuition.

Inferior: Extraverted Sensing

  • While this is a less developed and largely unconscious aspect of the INFJ, it does have an impact on personality.
  • This aspect of personality helps the INFJ pay attention to the world around them and stay aware of their surroundings.
  • Extroverted sensing also helps INFJs better live in the present moment, rather than simply worrying about the future.
  • This aspect of personality also helps INFJs appreciate physical activities such as hiking and dancing.

INFJs You Might Know

  • Oprah Winfey, television personality
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader
  • Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Carl Jung, psychoanalyst
  • Taylor Swift, musician

Personal Relationships

INFJs also have a talent for language and are usually quite good at expressing themselves. They have a vivid inner life, but they are often hesitant to share this with others except for perhaps those closest to them. While they are quiet and sensitive, they can also be good leaders. Even when they don't take on overt leadership roles, they often act as quiet influencers behind the scenes.

INFJs are driven by their strong values and seek out meaning in all areas of their lives including relationships and work. People with this type of personality are often described as deep and complex. They may not have a huge circle of acquaintances, but their close friendships tend to be very close and long-lasting.

INFJs are interested in helping others and making the world a better place. They tend to be excellent listeners and are good at interacting with people which whom they are emotionally close and connected. While they care deeply about others, INFJs tend to be very introverted and are only willing to share their "true selves" with a select few. After being in social situations, INFJs need time to themselves to "recharge."

Career Paths

INFJs do well in careers where they can express their creativity. Because people with INFJ personality have such deeply held convictions and values, they do particularly well in jobs that support these principles. INFJs often do best in careers that mix their need for creativity with their desire to make meaningful changes in the world.

INFJs are usually high achievers and excel in academics and the workplace. They can be perfectionists at times and tend to put a great deal of effort into their work. Co-workers tend to feel that INFJs are hardworking, positive, and easy to get along with. Because they are introverted, however, they may find that they need to retreat at times to recharge.

In managerial roles, INFJs can sometimes struggle to exert authority. They tend to lead with sensitivity and are good at helping subordinates feel appreciated in the workplace. Jobs that require a great deal of routine or adherence to strict rules can be difficult or INFJs.

Popular INFJ Careers

  • Artist
  • Actor
  • Entrepreneur
  • Religious worker
  • Musician
  • Librarian
  • Counselor
  • Psychologist
  • Writer
  • Teacher
  • Photographer

Tips for Interacting With INFJs

Friendships:

Because they are reserved and private, INFJs can be difficult to get to know. They place a high value on close, deep relationships and can be hurt easily, although they often hide these feelings from others. Interacting with an INFJ involves understanding and supporting their need to retreat and recharge. People with this personality type sometimes feel misunderstood. You can be a good friend by taking the time to understand their perspective and appreciating their strengths.

Parenting:

Because INFJs are so skilled at understanding feelings, they tend to be very close and connected to their children. They have high standards, and can have very high behavioral expectations. They are concerned with raising children that are kind, caring, and compassionate. INFJs encourage their children to pursue their interests and talents in order to fully realize their individual potential.

Relationships:

INFJs have an innate ability to understand other people's feelings and enjoy being in close, intimate relationships. They tend to flourish best in romantic relationships with people who they share their core values. As a partner, it is important to provide the support and emotional intimacy that an INFJ craves. Sincerity, honesty, and authenticity are all traits that the INFJ appreciates in their partner.

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Article Sources
  • Myers, I. B. (1998). Introduction to Type: A Guide to Understanding Your Results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.
  • The Myers & Briggs Foundation. The 16 MBTI Types

  • Reynierse, JH. The case against type dynamics. Journal of Psychological Type. 2009;69(1):1-20.