onlinegentlemanINFJ: Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeler, Judger

I recently received a question from one of our INFJ clients about developing the Harmony process:

“I am very keen on personal development and very interested in developing my co pilot, Extraverted Feeling, “Harmony.” Struggling to understand how I develop this to a skill. I find that I learn quite well from examples and then practice them in everyday life. (I am a dentist and just wondering how I can practice this skill in my job and day to day life). Any examples or advise would be welcomed.”

That’s a GREAT question, and VERY high leverage for an INFJ personality type.

The INFJ type is easily the most sensitive of all the types. And by ‘sensitive’ I mean in the “ESP” sense. Whenever I’m profiling a person and suspect they may be an INFJ I ask, “Do you unconsciously absorb other people’s emotions?” And they generally respond with “all the time.”

This is usually considered a curse to most INFJs and they develop a couple of strategies to deal with it.

First, they retreat to their 10 yr old process of Accuracy to create some psychological distance from other people. If you’re constantly picking up other people’s emotions – and those people happen to be negative, angry, or depressed – running to a mental process that turns everything a little cold and analytical (which Accuracy does) is a nice reprieve.

Unfortunately, this also encourages the INFJ to be judgmental of others, since that’s a good platform for gaining distance.

The other most common strategy is to go to an overly people-pleasing demeanor. Using this strategy, the INFJ becomes eternally long-suffering and puts their wishes dead last. The goal is to make sure everyone else feels good all the time – if you’re going to be picking up their emotions, may as well make sure their emotions are always happy and chirpy.

Unfortunately, the INFJ now loses themselves in their relationships, unsure who they are or what they want until it’s too late.

When an INFJ develops the skill of Harmony they learn three things:

1) When getting everyone’s needs met, you as an INFJ are part of “everyone.” Making sure you’re getting your needs met is equally important (if not more!) as getting others needs met. You can’t run on fumes all the time, and you can’t heal others if you’re perpetually sick.

2) Well-developed Harmony understands the need for and how to establish boundaries. Harmony is the process we use to create and maintain unspoken social contracts. Contracts are designed to know each others expectations and honor them (if we agree with them, of course). Build the skill of knowing your boundaries and creating contracts around them. That means you’ll have to communicate them to the people in your life, make sure they fully understand them and agree to them. In a moment where you feel taken advantage of or ‘thrown under a bus’, ask yourself which of your boundaries has been broken and if it was you or the other person that broke it.

3) You are not only on the receiving end of approval/disapproval – you also give approval/disapproval. Retreating to Accuracy for an INFJ is almost always a defensive strike. They believe they are being judged or attacked in some way, and they run to Accuracy to ‘prove’ to themselves that it’s actually the other person at fault. So the interaction goes: I feel disapproved, so I’m going to disapprove of you. When an INFJ understands they aren’t on the receiving end of approval/disapproval – meaning, they aren’t just victims to other people’s opinions – they are far less likely to react in kind. They are also less likely to see a single behavior or painful emotion as ‘the person’. (Accuracy has a tendency to dehumanize other people when not used well, and INFJs use Accuracy to judge the entire person in a dehumanizing way. Makes sense – if the person isn’t a human, they can’t foist their icky emotions on to me.) Instead, when an INFJ knows they have the same power as everyone else to give approval/disapproval, they take each behavior on its own terms and keep the humanity of the other person. “I don’t like how that person is behaving” is a very different story from “I don’t think that person is a good person.” This also keeps the INFJ from being reactionary, but instead they are responsive to these small triggers. They control their judgments instead of being controlled by them.

A great example of a Harmony celebrity is Oprah Winfrey. She has turned getting others needs met and keeping in touch with current culture into a massive business. Her public persona is actually a great example to pattern after. (I say her public persona since I have no clue who she is in private.)



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  • Caroline
    • Caroline
    • April 5, 2018 at 1:44 am

    Hi Carla,

    This response is 3 years after your post, but I hope you will be notified and read this.
    Thank you for taking the time to so thoughtfully articulate what boundaries look like for you as an INFJ and at your age and stage in life. I am so grateful to receive this wisdom. I’ve longed for examples of life lived well as an INFJ, especially as a Christian. You write beautifully. Your words are like a balm to my soul.

    There is a lot of content online and it’s wonderful but as a 43 year old INFJ I am especially interested in the real life experience of those who have lived longer than I have – those who have entered the afternoon of their lives with grace and a sense of wholeness.

    Thank you! And if you have a blog or something please let me know. I’d love to read it.

  • Eric
    • Eric
    • October 25, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Wow. Holy smokes… Spot on. Yes, in the past I exhibited those “negative” behaviors as a defense mechanism.

    I really like (and it stood out) to me the statement you made about Oprah clarifying her “public” persona because you don’t know how she is in private.

    One of the most challenging in my experience as an INFJ is not throwing out the “baby” with the bathtub and one of the things that was most helpful was understanding (and knowing from personal experience) that a persons behaviors do not always equal the person. In other words, separating a person and the behaviors that person is exhibiting.

    Let’s say that someone is exhibiting an unhealthy behavior and an INFJ decides to approach them in an attempt to bring healing… I would ask them a thought provoking question and usually one of two things will happen… Either I get an answer or the person may attack me, attempt to project on me, blame shift, or divert the conversation in some way. I am still learning but for the second one I would choose to no longer invest anytime or energy until a point at which the situation changed.

    I don’t know how exactly to express what I am trying to say other then I really hope that I am making the right cuts when it comes to people I do not know that well. There sure seems to be a lot of “cuts” but then again I have never been more focused, energize, or sure that I am on the right path. Actions speak louder than words but at the same time some of the most intelligent and most gifted people are homeless, oftentimes using drugs to escape the pain of being rejected.

  • Leanne
    • Leanne
    • September 24, 2017 at 8:38 am

    For me, the most important lesson to learn is setting boundaries. The book “Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no to take control” by Henry Cloud was enormously helpful in this regard. There is also a video series of talks which make for a good group project. Through the course, I learnt to keep out negative emotions like anger, jealousy, contempt and fear, while welcoming in feelings like enthusiasm, hope, warmth and courage. I know that my lack of sensitivity to negative emotions isn’t cold detachment because I genuinely care about getting people’s needs met, and because I still do experience very deep feelings of heaviness when it comes my intimate friends and family members. Still, this knowledge came slowly and with considerable struggle because I so didn’t want to lose my compassion and become hardened to other peoples’ emotional challenges.

  • Mel
    • Mel
    • September 14, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    For me, finding out I’m an INFJ fundamentally changed how I perceive myself. I honestly had no idea why am I so different in my reactions from everybody else.
    Now that I know more about my different cognitive processes, I can not only except myself better, but develop my unique abilities.

    As far as finding methods to create healthy boundaries, and taking care of myself – this is very new to me.

    I started from the very basics. Even if I’m home alone and making dinner only for myself – I will make it a great dinner, just as I would prepare it if my spouse was home. This feels great.

    Another little example concerning basic needs, I started to take more little 2-5 minutes breaks at work, instead of “being perfect” and never grabbing myself a bite or a glass of water or taking a little walk outside unless everything is completed to my full satisfactory.
    This also led to me not feeling like everyone is slacking off at work but me.

    I’ve been trying to meditate every morning. I haven’t figured it out completely yet, but I do feel that alone time with my thoughts, prayers, goals, gratitude – is doing me really good. Writing my goals and my process of obtaining these goals also helps me a lot.

    When it comes to disapproving others, not out of a place of accuracy, but of harmony, is what I find the most refreshing to me. It honestly never occurred to me that the same people that see fault in my actions, I can maturely point out what fault I locate in their actions and discuss it like adults, and not as a victim and villain. I don’t need to fear of their reaction to me, I can just as easily disapprove of them, if need be.
    Not sure yet how to implement this disapproving, but for the time being, just having this thought – that is is possible- is refreshing to me.

  • Confused
    • Confused
    • June 2, 2017 at 4:23 am

    Thanks so much for this post. I was wondering, as an INFJ, is it possible to be a terrible at Fe? While I do think I’m very good at combining my Ni with Fe in the sense of ‘feeling the room’ and having a gut sense of what people feel and are about, I’m also pretty socially awkward and don’t really make others feel comfortable. I would have assumed that having Fe as a co-pilot, I would be better at putting people at ease, or does the Ni/Ti combo make this less the case?

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