As one of the 16 different Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types, INFJs have their own unique set of characteristics. Otherwise known as The Sage, they are considered to be very perceptive to emotions, empathetic to others and to have a deep sense of idealism. This is due to their unique combination of personality preferences as well as cognitive functions.
But what exactly makes them the way they are? What is the secret formula that gives them their mysterious sense and understanding of others?
This article will go in depth about the INFJ personality traits and characteristics that shape this personality type. We will explain their preferences and cognitive functions, look at their strengths and weaknesses, and explore any prominent differences between male and female representatives.
What Does INFJ Mean?
The INFJ personality type is known as The Sage and is an NF temperament type. Personalities that fit in this category are known for being idealistic, intuitive and emotional. INFJs encompass all of these characteristics but also add a unique twist to them because of their specific combination of preferences. They are quiet and withdrawn, always believing in the good in the world and seeking to better it. They are spontaneous dreamers. Driven by their values, they fearlessly advocate for the causes they believe in. They are very similar in behavior and qualities to the INFP personality, but there are some nuances to their individual traits, and INFJs are actually the rarest personality type.
INFJs are very sensitive and open about their emotions. They like forming deep connections with others and helping their loved ones overcome any struggles they might be facing. They do so with plenty of love and nurturing, which they firmly believe is the way to properly support others. People are often drawn to INFJs because of their sense of mysticism and the calm comfort they provide people with. INFJs want to change the world for the better and are likely to be involved with activities — both in their personal and private lives — that are connected to that.
What makes INFJs behave the way they do? What makes them these incredibly thoughtful and perceptive people? Their bouquet of traits and characteristics is best explained by the unique set of preferences and cognitive functions this psychological type has. In a second, we will go in depth in both these categories and help better shape our understanding for this personality type.
Labeling people is easy but how likely is it for that label to hold true 100% of the time? Not very. However, the MBTI theory, pinpointed 8 different aspects, which work as reference points when it comes to understanding personality. In different combinations, they make up the 16 personality types. These so-called “Preferences” are a way of categorizing a person’s natural tendencies in a wider context. The 8 preferences are the following:
- Extraversion vs Introversion – This describes how people direct their energy — either outwardly or inwardly.
- Sensing vs Intuition – This describes how people receive and process new information — either pragmatically or imaginatively.
- Thinking vs Feeling – This describes how people make decisions – either emphasizing a logic external to the situation, or others’ feelings.
- Judging vs Perceiving – This describes people’s approach to the outside world — either in a structured or more flexible manner.
INFJs have the Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging preferences. Let’s take a closer look at what each of those mean and in what way they shape this personality type’s character.
Introverted personality types direct their energy toward their inner world. They prefer to be alone with their thoughts and use this time to gain more intricate insights about what makes them tick. Social engagement drains introverts quickly, and if they have to engage with people, they prefer to do so in small groups. For them, personal relationships need to be meaningful and have a certain depth to them. To people who don’t know them, they might appear cold and reserved, but underneath the surface, they are good listeners, who are more sensitive to their environment.
Here is a summary of prominent Introversion traits:
- Prefers to spend time alone, or in small groups
- Energized by solitude
- Quiet and not very socially inclined
- Internally aware
- Has fewer friends, with deeper connections
- Not that easy to approach
Intuitive personality types keep their eyes on the future and are immersed in a world of ideas and unexplored possibilities. It’s easy for them to see patterns and connections between broader concepts that others would be oblivious to. They are adept at looking beneath the surface of a situation and extracting deeper meaning. They love exploring the theoretical and are likely to spend hours pondering the question “What if..?” Intuitive personalities aren’t very grounded in reality and certainly can’t be categorized as practical. However, their deep imagination and different perspective can be greatly valued when innovation and creativity is needed.
Here is a summary of prominent Intuition traits:
- Future oriented
- Able to see deeper connections and possibilities
- Good in abstract and unorthodox idea generation
Feeling personality types make decisions based on their personal values and feelings. It’s not that they don’t take facts and logic into consideration – they simply don’t place heavy emphasis on those. Instead, they choose to follow their heart and gut feeling, deciding based on their principles and moral code. Even if no one understands them or agrees with them, Feelers would still be willing to stand up to what they believe in. Another important aspect on which they focus when a decision has to be made is how other people feel about the situation. Often, Feeling people are very warm, compassionate and empathetic. They are very concerned for others and place heavy importance on interpersonal connections. Feeling types dislike interpersonal conflict and aim to create a harmonious environment in which everyone is happy and feels good. They also don’t take it lightly when someone disregards their feelings.
Here is a summary of prominent Feeling traits:
- Let their heart guide them
- Very driven by feelings and emotions
- Empathetic and caring of others
- Dislike conflict
- Sensitive and get easily hurt
Judging personality types have a sequential way of thinking. They greatly value structure, planning and schedule in their lives. The lack of a clear plan of action can make them feel very uncomfortable. Their lives are typically very ordered, with little room for flexibility. To Judging people, work always comes before play and they will make sure that they are finished with their responsibilities before satisfying their other needs. They enjoy completing tasks and will hardly ever start something without finishing it. You should know that if someone has a Judging preference, that doesn’t make them judgemental. It refers more to the way a person deals with their day-to-day activities.
Here is a summary of prominent Judging traits:
- Enjoys planning, scheduling and organizing
- Very decisive
- Good at seeing tasks from start to finish
- Likes closure
- Enjoys being in control of situations
- Likes their life to be structured, with little room for unexpected occurrences
Each Myers Briggs personality type operates through 4 hierarchical cognitive functions. They are expressed by a Preference, combined with how the individual directs their energy — either inward (Introverted) or outward (Extraverted). These cognitive functions follow a strict order in each personality, with the Dominant and Auxiliary ones playing the biggest part in how the MBTI type behaves. The remaining two have their own influence but can only apply to certain situations or scenarios.
Here is a full list of all the different cognitive function combinations:
- Introverted Intuition; Extraverted Intuition
- Introverted Sensing; Extraverted Sensing
- Introverted Thinking; Extraverted Thinking
- Introverted Feeling; Extraverted Feeling
The INFJ function stack looks like this:
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Below we will take a look at each of these cognitive functions and will analyze what part they play in shaping the character of the INFJ type.
Dominant: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Introverted Intuition (abbreviated as Ni) is a cognitive function connected to gathering information. Types that have a Ni Dominant function (including INFJs) are driven by their inner intuition, which often proves right. A prominent personality trait of people with this Dominant function is their preference to focus on the future. They are good at analyzing past events, but they do so only to better prepare for what lies ahead. Dominant Ni people find it difficult to stay in the present, and it’s easy to see that their mind is elsewhere most of the time. These are people who are focused on the big picture and don’t see the point of digging deep into details. They enjoy theorizing and connecting the dots in order to form a bigger picture. Their heads seem to always be in the clouds, but if someone were to peek in their minds, they would find an intriguing thought process.
Unlike Ne types, which are their counterpart, Ni types find it easier to find meaning in the patterns and concepts that they see. They don’t have to think too much about things — everything simply comes together for them, based on their subconscious. This can sometimes seem mystical for the random spectator, but it is simply the way that Dominant Ni types gather information.
Auxiliary: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Extraverted Feeling (or Fe as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to the way people make decisions. Those who have Fe as one of their Dominant cognitive functions tend to associate themselves more with people’s feelings. When making decisions, they are concerned with the opinions of the outside world and whether or not their decision will affect it. People play an integral role with this cognitive function and connecting to them is of utmost importance. Maintaining relationships with others — and doing so in a balanced, harmonious way — is key to people guided by Fe. Sometimes this desire to avoid conflict is so strong that those with strong Fe are willing to sacrifice their own needs and desires in order to please others. This can be dangerous, as they risk losing their individuality or getting too caught up in the feelings of others, absorbing them as their own.
Dominant Fe people are very organized and take caring for others very seriously. They are often guided by a very strong sense of morality and have a good understanding of what is wrong and what is right. However, it’s important for them to remember that not everyone shares their view of the world and not everyone would be willing to act like them.
Tertiary: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Introverted Thinking (or Ti as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to the way a person makes judgements. When they have to make their mind up about something, people with Ti rely on their own ideas and theories, generated by personal insights. If this function is expressed in a more intense level (as a Dominant or Auxiliary one), it enables its user to step away from a problem and assess it with objectivity and minimum personal feeling. These people enjoy learning complex theories and concepts and then applying them to the real world.
When making decisions, INFJs rely most on their Ni and Fe, even more so when others are involved in the process. When alone, however, they go according to their Ti. When under stress, they are likely to again tap into their Introverted Thinking. They would try to think objectively about the situation and run away from their emotional side, which allows them to turn from potential nuisances that can cloud their judgement. This kind of calm resolve enables them to clear their heads and makes analyzing problems much more manageable.
Inferior: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Extraverted Sensing (or Se as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to gathering information. People with this function prefer to live in the present moment and have a “here and now” mentality. They experience the world through what their senses tell them and can’t understand why there are people who space out so often. Se people have quick reflexes, so they can react to any changes in their environment in a lightning-fast fashion.
For INFJs, Se is an Inferior function. This means that they only ever use it when they are under significant levels of stress. Inferior functions are known to be a personality type’s Achilles’ heel and are something that they have to constantly work on and develop throughout their lives. Inferior Se for INFJs gives them trouble living “in the moment,” prevents them from noticing obvious things around them, and makes them unlikely to remember birthdays and names.
INFJ Strengths and Weaknesses
Hopefully by now you have a good understanding of what a true INFJ is like. You have seen how they classify as calm, reserved and empathetic people, who have a deep set of inner values and beliefs. While their emotional intelligence and ability to connect to others are admirable, there are other areas in which they find themselves lacking. But which exactly?
We think it’s important to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of this type in order to be fully able to comprehend it. This is why we made a small summary of both sections below, listing the most prominent traits that INFJs have (or don’t have).
- Empathetic and compassionate
INFJs have a very well-developed intuition. They are very skilled in recognizing complex people’s emotions and are champions in providing them with the exact emotional support they need. Understanding situations with few words is their specialty, which is why they are deeply valued members of any social circle.
INFJs don’t like conflict and will do their best to avoid it, or in the worst case — resolve it. These people have the supernatural ability to mend rifts between people and show even the worst warring party that there is something that unites all the involved people. INFJs are very good listeners who can get into the shoes of almost anyone and can find solutions without judging too harshly.
INFJs often have very deep values and beliefs and it’s not out of character for them to seek to change the world. They enjoy using their energy and knowledge for the greater good — be it to help other people out, or save the environment. They are very concerned with how their actions can impact others, which is why they do their best to act in a minimally intrusive way, while also making a change. This is why the ideal INFJ careers often encompass this idealism.
INFJs often have their own unique view of the world. They are never short on ideas, which naturally translate into music, literature or film. They always give a little extra of themselves in their art, which is clearly visible to the random spectator. INFJs also enjoy finding the perfect solution for a problem, which can often require them to tap into their vivid imagination.
- Difficulty opening up
INFJs are deeply private people. They often don’t give others a chance to experience how many wonderful qualities they have. This also means that they aren’t likely to open up about struggles they are experiencing. They perceive sharing their problems as a burden on others, which is something they definitely don’t want to happen.
The high levels of idealism in the INFJ person naturally lead them to… wanting everything to be done perfectly. While they are willing to acknowledge that not everything can always be perfect, it’s likely that they will put too much pressure on themselves to make it perfect. This can cause them to burn out quickly, which is why they need to find a balance between their noble intentions and selfcare.
- Sensitive to criticism
As we mentioned, INFJs have very concrete values and principles. When someone challenges these beliefs, INFJs are likely to react strongly. They don’t take lightly to someone expressing a different opinion about issues that are very close to their heart, even more so if that opinion is expressed bluntly or rudely. The INFJ’s strong moral compass makes them exceptionally vulnerable to getting hurt, because of their sensitivity.
Difference in Male vs Female Personality Traits
There isn’t much difference in the way male and female INFJs project themselves. While they tend to be very similar in behavior and interests, however, there is an important thing to take into consideration. Generally, there is still a certain stigma around INFJ males as they are empathetic, intuitive and sensitive. In some cultures this is still viewed as stereotypically female behavior, which is unacceptable for males to project.
Below we have outlined some of the most visible differences between the two INFJ genders.
The INFJ male is one of the rarest gender/type combinations. They often have traits that contradict the male stereotype, which is why they are likely to hide those away, leading to them feeling unhappy and unsatisfied. INFJ men need to learn to accept themselves for who they are and embrace their characteristics, regardless of what society thinks about them.
Here are some traits of the INFJ male to help illustrate our point:
- Want close and deep relationships with others
- Are reluctant to approach people and make the first move
- Care about how they look in the eyes of others
- May come across as moody, but are actually very sensitive
- Very understanding and empathetic
- Very nurturing
- In touch with their emotions
- Hopeless romantics
- Internalize their feelings more and don’t let them out in the open as much
INFJ females are widely regarded as being a stereotypical nurturing female. They aren’t afraid of being emotionally expressive and can intuitively connect to anyone around them. They have a deeper understanding of human emotions and can understand others without many words. INFJ females come across as mystical and enigmatic, with a rich depth of personality.
Here are some points to know about the INFJ woman:
- Even though they are introverted, they enjoy spending time with people
- Very emotional, while also being very logical
- Always willing to stand up for their beliefs
- Have a deep trust and belief in those around them, but sometimes struggle to find these within themselves
- Very willing to give, but they have their limits