You've already discovered your INFJ personality type. Raise your hand if you've also Googled all things INFJ. There's a lot of noise out there, isn't there? I want to help you make the most out of the knowledge of your INFJ personality type. That's why we're going back to the basics over the next few posts.
(This is the start of a 5-part series. Follow the link at the end of this article for part 2).
In my time working with INFJ women, I've seen the positive impacts of the MBTI®. I've also seen the misuse and online trolling that happens when talking about MBTI® personality types. I want to equip you with the understanding of what, exactly, "INFJ" says about you—and what it doesn't. As much as I love MBTI®, there are (many) things it won't tell you about yourself. Depending on your current level of knowledge, you may see things you already know. No matter your level of knowledge, take this time to better understand your INFJ personality type.
Ok, the University of INFJ is now in session! In this post, we'll lay the foundation to understand the MBTI® theory and the INFJ type. Then we'll move on to each of the four INFJ cognitive functions you use over the next several posts. Let's get started!
The basics of what INFJ means
1. You have preferences for INFJ.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment indicates your innate preferences for the following:
- where you get your energy (E or I)
- how you take in information (S or N)
- how you make decisions (T or F)
- how you approach planning and the outside world (J or P)
The MBTI® theory states that you're born with these preferences. Certain environmental factors can mask our true preferences, though. This can happen if you've acted outside of your preferences for an extended period (due to family, work, etc). This experience makes it more difficult to identify your true type.
Think of this idea of preferences in relation to handedness. Are you right-handed or left-handed? You most likely have a clear preference for one or the other. Does that mean you never use your other hand to do daily activities (if you have physical use of both hands)? Of course not. You most likely always favor one side. That side is easier, more comfortable, and more natural.
Because the MBTI® indicates preferences, that means it doesn't determine personality traits. More on the difference in traits and preferences here. The MBTI® does not and cannot tell you how introverted you are. It does not tell you how intuitive you are, or how much of a "feeler" you are. I know—this can be a difficult concept to grasp based on all the information you've seen online. The detailed MBTI® report from a professional MBTI® assessment and debrief does include charts. Those charts indicate a slight, moderate, clear, or very clear preference among the four items listed above. Notice that very clear is not the same as strong. Strong would indicate an amount, or measure, of your preference. MBTI® does not give this information because it doesn't measure traits. In my certification training as an MBTI® practitioner, we were even required to say "I have a preference for ___." In other words, "I have a preference for introversion," or "I have a preference for INFJ." It sounds weird based on everything you read online, but it drives home the true purpose of the MBTI®. I don't write or talk that way as I share things with you about being INFJ, either, because it feels cumbersome. However, it's critical to understand that MBTI® ONLY INDICATES PREFERENCES.
2. You can't be INFJ/P.
Based on the reasons explained in #1, and the information we'll get to in #5, it's impossible to be an INFJ/P or an E/INFJ. This is true for all types with only one letter difference. The MBTI® theory states that you have a preference for one over the other. Granted, that preference may be slight, moderate, clear, or very clear. But, it's a preference nonetheless. I know, I know. Many people will say, "But I'm both." According to this particular theory of personality types, no, you are not.
We all use extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, judging and perceiving. According to MBTI®, you do have a preference for one over the other. There may be some similarities in types with only one letter difference, but each type has their own set of mental functions (see #5). INFJ and INFP, for example, do not share any of the same functions.
I won't get into the idea of "ambivert" here, but you can apply the same idea to this term. "Ambivert" doesn't exist in the Myers-Briggs system. Remember, MBTI® indicates preferences (if your mind is objecting, also see #4).
3. You get to determine if you have the INFJ personality type.
I can help you identify your true type preferences, but it's up to you to decide. If you share that you're INFJ, you'll find people online who will feel compelled to analyze you and announce if you are, in fact, a "true" INFJ. Bleh. These self-proclaimed gatekeepers of the INFJ personality do not understand the MBTI® philosophy.
If you're going to use the MBTI® system, it IS important to identify your true type for your personal development journey. It'll be frustrating and confusing to try to develop as any type that's not your own. Discovering your true type—no matter what it is—is a time for celebration!
4. You extravert* some things.
Just like you use both hands in daily activities, you introvert some things and you extravert some things. You direct your energy inward because you're an introvert. You get energized by being alone. However, the dynamics of your personality type are balanced by the fact that some of your mental functions are introverted and some are extraverted. Everyone has two introverted mental functions and two extraverted mental functions. More on that in the coming weeks. This means that even extraverts have some mental functions that are directed inward (or are introverted). There's no such thing as a "complete introvert" or "complete extravert."
5. You have a "stack" of four preferred mental functions.
Each of the 16 MBTI® types has its own set of four cognitive functions. You'll also see these called a functional stack or mental functions. There are a total of eight possible cognitive functions. The particular function stack for each personality type indicates their preferences. We can use all eight cognitive functions. But each type has a dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior function. The forthcoming editions of The INFJ Life give you a greater understanding of how your mind works by analyzing the INFJ functions.
6. You are unique—even compared to other INFJs.
As much as I love MBTI®, it cannot give you a complete picture of who you are. No two INFJs are exactly like. We don't all act alike or like the same things. There are also healthy and unhealthy expressions of our type. To get a more complete picture of your personality and who you are, it's helpful to look at other assessments that offer further insight. Just like MBTI®, each one has strengths and limitations. Consider the Energy Leadership Index, Enneagram, DISC, Big 5, StrengthsFinder, etc. to further increase your self-understanding. These assessments, especially when used in conjunction with a professional coach, can lead to amazing insights.
Read about the cognitive functions and Introverted Intuition (Ni) in the next post in this series »
* Although extrOvert is commonly accepted in the U.S., I use the spelling extrAvert because Carl Jung introduced the term as "extravert" in 1917. MBTI® is based on his work and also uses the "A" spelling.