Why INFJs might be indecisive
Many INFJs begin their journey of understanding about their personality type with vigorous research. This makes sense because an INFJ's dominant mental function is a perceiving process called Introverted Intuition, which means it's interested in learning and taking in information.
One issue with this obsessive research, especially at the beginning of our journey, is that much of what's written online about the INFJ type is based on behavior (and is sometimes wrong). The Myers-Briggs® personality types are not categorized based on behavior. Instead, they're based on the way your brain is wired (your mental functions).
There are often similarities in behaviors between two people of the same personality type. However, many factors can influence the expression of a person's type and the way a person presents themselves to the world. One area in which I frequently see differences among the verified INFJs I've coached is in decision making.
An INFJ's decision-making function is extraverted.
INFJs are part of eight MBTI® types (all types ending in "J") that use an extraverted decision-making function. This means that your decision-making function is oriented toward the outside world. For INFJs, that function is an extraverted feeling function (like all types ending in "FJ") and it's located in second place in our stack of mental functions.
I've witnessed both decisiveness and indecisiveness as I've coached INFJ women, and this auxiliary location of our decision-making function explains why. Let's take a look at why an INFJ might struggle to make a decision.
INFJs are wired with a preference for taking in information first before making decisions. This is explained by having a perceiving function in the dominant position (see graphic above). This process of taking in information is also introverted which means it happens internally. As an introvert, you prefer this internal world to the external world. It's more real to you than the outer world. This explains why INFJs love to spend time in their inner world. It's a cozy, comfortable world of endless interest.
When it comes to making decisions, INFJs are built to use their next most powerful function of Extraverted Feeling. Because it's oriented toward the outer world (extraverted), it requires getting out of our heads to make decisions. Since the outer world is not the preferred one, INFJs might experience resistance to using this function.
Resisting your Extraverted Feeling leads to indecisiveness.
If you're struggling to make a decision, a key factor might be an avoidance of your most powerful decision-making function of Extraverted Feeling (Fe). Are you spending too much time in your head and in your information-gathering function of Introverted Intuition (Ni)? That makes sense because that's your preferred place to be! There's no judgment or shame here because that's the way you're built. Yet you're also built with a partner or co-pilot to your dominant function. Using this partner can provide balance to your Introverted Intuition, which can help you get unstuck and make a decision!
How an INFJ can use Extraverted Feeling to be more decisive
Your Fe function makes decisions by looking at how your decision will impact yourself and others, and how it will honor a set of values. Here are a few practical ways you can activate your Fe when trying to make a decision:
1. Identify your feelings and express them in the outer world.
You can do this in a variety of ways including visual art, writing, and talking. If you gravitate toward one (like writing, for example), try expressing yourself through color with paint or markers. Try talking out loud and recording yourself, or asking a close friend to simply listen as you talk. Therapy can also provide a safe space to express your feelings.
2. Identify the impact of the possible decisions you could make.
What are the possible decisions you could make? Identify the impact each decision will have on others (and you!) If you have trouble with this, imagine someone else in the same position. What would be the impact of their decision on themselves and others?
3. Identify the values that need to be honored by your decision.
If your decision is related to your personal life, use your values as a filter for decision-making. If your decision is related to a group or an organization for which you work, remind yourself of the group or organization's values. Values are simply what's most important to you. They're the things you prioritize, whether you realize it or not. If you want help identifying your own values, take a look at this free Values Assessment to get started.
If you've resisted your Extraverted Feeling function for a long time, the fix may not come quickly. It will feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. It's part of who you are, too, though. Give it a chance to work for you. Growing and developing takes time and concentrated effort. As you regularly activate your Fe using the ideas above, it'll get easier and faster over time.
To take action this week: identify one decision in which you're experiencing indecision. Pick one of the three options above to activate your Fe and try it out. After this experiment, identify any insights you gained. If you're still indecisive, try one of the other options.
While all the ideas above can be helpful, I've witnessed an INFJ's willingness to express themselves out loud as a path to clarity on many occasions. This frequently happens in coaching when my INFJ clients allow themselves to talk about everything swirling in their mind. The act of putting it out in the world in this way brings clarity so often! They hear what they're saying, or hear it reflected back to them, and suddenly they've gained a surprising amount of clarity that wasn't there before. I share this to encourage you to give the "talking out loud" part a try if you're an INFJ who feels great resistance to this option.