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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  • Shelby Nicholson
    • Shelby Nicholson
    • May 14, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Hi Antonia, I am a 58 year old Ni-Fe, who still cries over stories of people losing their dogs to death (happened to me this morning), and I’m still truly sensitive (last night I ordered my boyfriend to turn off the song "American women get away from me, " because I took the lyrics personally. So yes, I understand the Ni-Fe need to set boundaries. During my thirties I had a relationship with an insincere ESTP and lost myself in the relationship. It prompted me to withdraw from the world for twenty years. It was a wonderful twenty years of learning self-acceptance, but it’s time to rejoin the human race, and I want to learn through this course how to blend, how to be one with the gang. I have Social Anxiety. I automatically think I can’t contribute to conversation… I have a history of clamming up in social settings and feeling very very awkward indeed. I had the opportunity about two weeks ago to speak up for myself in a van full of business colleagues wherein I felt I was beginning to lose myself again. I forced myself out of my shell, and I was rewarded. They accepted me and were kind, unlike other times where I didn’t say anything, and I felt immediately happy with myself for asserting myself. I’m gaining some leverage over this, but it’s been hard. Very hard indeed. And it makes me sad. Or happy, depending on how you look at it!! Was your mother an INFJ? Then she knows…. I can tear up easily when I talk about this.

  • F Elizabeth
    • F Elizabeth
    • April 26, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    I really appreciate this read! I am finding that I am living on accuracy mode based on my past experiences that you so perfectly described:

    “… to go to an overly people-pleasing demeanor… 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… the INFJ now loses themselves in their relationships…”

    I waiver in and out of accuracy mode frequently, because based on unfortunate past experiences (specifically in relationships with toxic people) I find that I am fearful that my harmony mode is making me way too vulnerable. So for the past year or so, accuracy mode feels like a comfortable protection in the moment, although it feels incredibly out of character. Yet the guilt and regret that comes after “standing up for myself” or “voicing my opinion” ends up having a significantly worse impact on myself and my relationships. My choice to abandon harmony is having a very harmful effect on my very special relationship with my sweet ENFP boyfriend, and this article (along with the article by Charis Branson) gives me so much hope that I can actually get back to being in touch with what is a healthy version of myself.

  • Ark
    • Ark
    • February 21, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    I’m in a situation where I’m feeling resentful of my team (colleagues at wireless work including my manager). I feel in the only one suffering in this injustice. My work partner ( we cover each other in our absence) has a very lax work ethics, maxing or her MCs every year. 70% of her absence are urgent leaves meaning she gives very short notice. My manager either doesn’t care or pretends she doesn’t know this has been a pattern for years because she doesn’t personally suffer from it since she knows I’m more than capable to cover this colleague’s duties. Another colleague in my team (there are only 4 of us) doesn’t care either as she doesn’t not need to cover for her so it doesn’t freaky affect get either. So I’m the only one wiho is affected by this. Yesterday my manager announced that from now on we can take time off work to attend to personal matters without having to submit any leave request. We just need to notify her. I asked if there is a limit to how many hours this time-off is. She says no. Then i asked “even if it’s a whole day?” She said yes! On the surface this sounds great for everyone (except me). This is just going to create deeper problems for me and increase my resentment. Others think that i can always do the same but i can’t because it is against my work ethics. So now this colleague had just been given a free pass to unlimited time off without having them come out of her annual vacation leave days and sick leave. Which means I’ll have to pick up double the slack. I’m so sick and tired of this injustice which no one else in the team cares about because they’re not the one picking up the slack. My resentment grows everyday.

  • Charis Branson
    • Charis Branson
    • January 11, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Mel! I’m glad you have found the information useful. Be kind to yourself. :)

  • Mel
    • Mel
    • January 11, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    I deeply appreciate this information. I am an INFJ who is currently struggling with balancing boundaries, repeatedly feeling rundown, and fatigued. You have helped me to finally understand that in order to be successful, to honor my truth, help others, and work toward the ideal, I must pay attention to how I am feeling. As I understand it, I must be sure my needs are met in order for me to be my best, which is when I am seeing patterns, making connections, and helping others. Thank you all! I so appreciate all of the suggestions and personal reflections that help me to learn how to put into practice actually doing this! I am a new to this. At least now I understand why it is important for me to do so.

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