Like many INFJs, I grew up feeling very different from my peers. I felt as if no one understood me, and at times, I wondered if anyone really knew me. I have a small group of people who I consider to be close friends, and an even smaller group (only two or three people) that I feel I can truly be “just me” around.True to INFJ behavior, I keep most of my thoughts, opinions, dreams, and feelings to myself. I crave “true love” and friendships with deep, profound connections. Yet I shy away from group gatherings and of course, the ever-dreaded small talk.
(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)
In theory, I want relationships with no boundaries. For people to know, understand, and love me, knowing every detail and secret about me — and me about them. So why does opening up to someone seem so incredibly impossible?
Based on my experiences, here are four reasons I think it can be hard for INFJs to create the meaningful relationships they crave. These reasons aren’t exclusive to the INFJ personality type, but I believe INFJs (and other sensitive introvert types) will especially relate.
Why It’s Hard for INFJs to Find Meaningful Relationships
1. We’d rather not make the first move.
Approach someone first? No way. This can feel next to impossible for the INFJ. We prefer to have people come to us in order to engage. As natural people-pleasers, we never want to make anyone feel “put out” and will go to great lengths to ensure this doesn’t happen. So we simply prefer to watch and learn first. Since the INFJ is very intuitive, observing others’ nonverbal cues and habits allows us to better understand what makes them tick before we approach them.
In large social gatherings, INFJs might be found “faking busy” by fidgeting through their phone, playing with the dog, standing next to the snacks, or stuck like glue to the one person they feel most at ease with. Anything to hide the fact that many of us feel incredibly uncomfortable surrounded by large groups of people.
INFJs are not exactly chatty… well, at least not at first. We tend to ruminate over what we will say and how others will respond, until we either land on the perfect line or retreat in exhaustion.
2. We need time to open up.
Even when INFJs make a new acquaintance, we’re likely to have difficulty moving beyond that stage. Enter our tendency to be reserved — coupled with our desire for authenticity — and we get stuck in a cycle where the relationship can’t advance. We don’t share much of ourselves if we don’t consider someone to be in our inner circle, yet we find small talk and surface-level conversation to be draining and insincere. It’s a catch-22, so the cycle continues.
3. We mistakenly assume that everyone can read people as well as we can.
INFJs read people like open books, noticing every facial expression, dart of the eye, and even the things that are left unsaid. Because reading people comes so naturally to us, we automatically think that everyone works in a similar manner. However, the INFJ is the rarest personality type, and not everyone is as sensitive to others as we are (although some other introverted types, such as the INFP, ISFP, and ISFJ, share our superpower).
The INFJ tends to be a type of few words, and that’s okay. However, this tendency of ours can backfire when we assume that others understand our nonverbal cues and see into our hearts and minds as readily as we see into theirs. As a result, we may come across as reserved, mysterious, calculating, and even a little cold — even though what we’re really trying to do is connect.
4. We shy away from conflict.
Whether it’s a “friendly” debate about sports, politics, or current events, or addressing an ongoing issue in a relationship, INFJs tend to have a case of “conflict phobia.” Being nicknamed “the advocate” and “the confidant,” the INFJ possesses a strong desire for harmony in their relationships. This desire can be so strong that we often bottle things up, sweep them under the rug, or internalize our negative feelings when something bothers us. As introverts, we find safety in retreating into our mind.
The problem is that conflict rarely gets truly resolved, merely put aside temporarily to satisfy our need for peace. Although more patient and forgiving than many other personality types, as conflict builds up, even peace-loving INFJs will eventually explode, potentially leading to the INFJ’s distinctive trait of door-slamming. The door slam happens when the INFJ’s patience has been entirely expended, leading them to cut someone out of their life when they believe the relationship is beyond repair.
How to Get the Relationships You Want
So what’s an INFJ to do?
If you don’t feel comfortable approaching others and striking up conversations, taking an extroverted friend or partner with you to social events can help you push yourself to find the connections you desire.
Or, you can draw on your auxiliary function, Extroverted Feeling, and “play the extrovert” for a time. Meaning, INFJs can use Extroverted Feeling to comprehend others’ emotions and frame of mind, as well as manipulate the general mood of the moment. This ability makes us seem very sociable and (falsely) extroverted. This wonderful INFJ skill can be utilized to branch out and meet new people, dig in, and get to know others. However, as INFJs are true introverts who don’t enjoy calling a lot of attention to themselves, this tactic usually only works in small groups.
Finally, check out our resources on making friends who truly “get” you, as well as tips on how to turn small talk into deep talk and to make more high-quality friendships.
Embrace Your Small Circle of Friends
INFJs will probably never be extroverts who make droves of soulful connections. So what? We’ve all heard many times over that quality outweighs quantity, and this couldn’t be more true than when referring to friendships. Sure, extroverts appear to have no problem making new friends everywhere they go, but are those surface-level friendships really what the INFJ wants? Absolutely not.
True friendships take time, commitment, and effort to establish and maintain regardless of personality type. I used to be hard on myself about my lack of friendships, constantly thinking there was something wrong with me. That is, until I discovered I’m an INFJ. I finally understood myself and have chosen to embrace my unique personality type. Now I realize just how fortunate I am to have a couple of really close friends with whom I can really be myself.
And that, my fellow INFJ, is something to celebrate.