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INTJ Anti-patterns You Should Know About

Friday July 20, 2018

Lately I’ve had an influx of INTJs here. You guys are awesome. Here is some recent feedback:

  • I advised one of you to procrastinate your project until the last minute possible, and you let me know that this approach worked great. (I’m starting with the craziest piece of advice here, but sometimes crazy advice is good advice)
  • I told another one of you that, like many INTJs, your activities and attitudes indicate that you are super competitive. This competitive drive will push you so far toward a sort of cold independence that you are likely to find yourself in an uncontrollably dependent situation as a result, longing for intimate companionship. You looked back at your past experience and said “holy ****, you’re right.” (This was fun feedback for me :-)) In the ensuing conversation we discussed what that meant and some possible next steps.
  • Another one of you INTJs wanted my feedback about your medication. And: I’m not a doctor. You know that. But I gave you some new tools with which you can evaluate your medicating-system, as you work with your actual doctor. Tools for measurement, tools for analysis. You told me this really helped you. (The same approach helped me too; I’m no longer on medication for anxiety or depression, having been pronounced cured years ago)

I’m concerned about the rest of you, and I want to make sure you get the best help possible. The world does not always respond well to INTJs who need help. We are usually looking for information and we get frustrated when we get only empathy in return, or only someone else’s observational analysis of our thoughts. Or we are invited to get emotional, which is an extremely low-leverage tool for an INTJ.

So today, let me offer information about a few things that are going to hurt your chances of making progress. Stuff you can avoid, because INTJs are good avoiders.

And when you get a chance, flip back through some of my older posts. I often spend more time editing and updating old posts than I do adding new posts.

Intro to Anti-patterns

As an INTJ, I find that I sometimes learn more quickly from “don’t do this” messages than I do from “definitely do this” messages. In the tech world, there are lots of anti-patterns articles, and I sometimes find these really helpful.

(By the way: The corresponding risk in taking anti-patterns too seriously is that they become an excuse to avoid & shy away from new practices or new areas of work. So let’s use these avoiding-strategies to inform our actively-not-avoiding-life strategies; do we have a deal?)

Anyway, here are a few anti-patterns for you.

Anti-pattern 1: Closing yourself off to new experiences

For intuitive introverts, closing ourselves off to new experiences is really dangerous because it’s so darn easy. It’s easy to think rather than do, rather than think-and-do. A traditional weak point of the INTJ is actually experiencing things, as opposed to intuiting about them inside the INTJ mind. The more deftly you can balance the two (experiencing and intuiting), the more lucky you’ll be in life, the better your plans will work out, and the more patient other people will be with your criticisms.

Please don’t misinterpret me though: Intuition is still huge for INTJs. You should probably be using it more, and in better form, than you do currently. It’s a question of balance.

As an example, let’s say you’re in a corporate training meeting, and a trainer invites you to do some specific thing. As an INTJ, there’s a good chance your psychology will want to respond with, “well, I can see that thing really helping me out, but I can also see that it might be a waste of time because I’ll get a result like it did the last time I tried something similar”. It’s important to allow yourself to hold onto that thought, save it for later, and test out the suggestion in real life, rather than stopping because your intuition tells you to. If things don’t go well, let the trainer know! Get more feedback. But at least try it—again and again, if needed.

Your INTJ intuition is only as wise and well-developed as your past experience. So it’s really risky to rely on our intuition alone, unless you have literally experienced everything and everyone there is to experience. You simply don’t, and can’t, know it all. You can view this through the lens of the cognitive functions: Ni (introverted intuition) is concerned with visualizing outcomes beforehand, while Se (extraverted sensing) is concerned with actually experiencing the thing, diving in. These two functions are opposites, and each has its strengths in a given situation. In order to get the best from your problem-solving abilities, be sure to use them both, or make sure you’re not using one to the exclusion of the other. Plus, when you experience things through Se, your intuition grows in maturity and strength.

When you criticize something after you’ve experienced it, people will take your feedback more seriously. Also, there are many, many people of different personality types who are naturally biased to think that the INTJ’s tendency to foretell is kind of ridiculous and unnecessary. If you can’t take flexible position and tone down your intuitive language for them, they may decide they don’t like you. It would suck if that person could have been a good friend, or a key ally. One personality type, the ESTJ, is a really good example of this. INTJs can usually work pretty well with ESTJs, but we can also exert tremendously uncomfortable pressure on them (unknowingly) when we speak from our intuition to tell them how we see things turning out. Ni is a common ESTJ blind spot, and if they don’t know that, they may do just about anything to shut you out of their project or work space.

You never know exactly what’s going to happen, because each situation really is different, is a common way people of other types think about this stuff. And they’ve got a good point! Being aware that these people exist can help you be more successful in working with them. Even saying something like “I have some big hesitations, but let’s see what we can learn as we try it out” can help your workmates or family members protect their own vulnerable psychologies while you communicate that you are already receiving some potentially-helpful, if potentially negative, insights. Taking our own insights too seriously can cause unneeded trouble for INTJs, just like it can for any personality type.

Anti-pattern 2: Relying on other people’s ideas or theories too much

Relying on others’ invented ideas is a really funny kind of blind spot for INTJs. I hope to offer some training on inventing for INTJs soon. But really, if you read this far, you’re probably an incredibly creative person. And you’re also probably not inventing enough of your own theories. Or maybe you haven’t yet learned how to do that (there’s a method, and it works well).

Some of those theories can be really mundane, like “what’s a nighttime routine that would help me?” Other theories will shake the world, I guarantee it. Don’t miss out on those! You have a chance as long as you’re breathing, because these are INTJ gifts, they’re already built-in.

Usually when INTJs get into creative mode, they make this “one common mistake” (I smile here because I feel like I’m writing ad copy, but really this is sincere): They make art, instead of making new self-technology.

Both of these are creative undertakings. So do both. Art is awesome and I love to make art myself. But I have learned that art can also be an avoidance tool, or it can keep us from developing other creative extensions, things that help us really feel like we’re on top of the world.

When you make art as an INTJ, do you just copy others’ work all the time? No way! You want to make your own thing. Maybe you do a bit of copying here and there, or use it as inspiration. But the goal is to create your own stuff.

The same goes with your work processes, your life strategies: If you can learn to make them your own, you’ll move faster and more effectively. You’ll realize your favorite self-help books are no longer as effective because you’ve moved beyond that stage and your own technology is superior, because it was designed by you, to fit you.

Take a look at How to Think Better as an INTJ. It’s very much related.

(One way I can tell an INTJ spends a lot of concern on others’ ideas: They recommend lots of books to me. I love it, but I want to see it balanced with another set of personal tools.)

As an idea- and theory-giver myself, I try to use that energy to help INTJs become more independent.

Anti-pattern 3: Soliciting too much feedback from people whose psychology is far different from your own

I hate it when I hear about this: An INTJ goes to someone of another personality type, and that person tells the INTJ “in order to be happy, you need to…”

Guess what the answer is?

“…be like me.”

They don’t actually say those words to the INTJ, but that’s the substance of their message. Maybe an ENFJ tells you to do things that an ENFJ is good at, or an ESFP tells you the solution is more badminton, or something. It happens lots. (There’s no reason to be upset with those individuals about this, it’s just a thing that happens to all of us)

Sadly, the world is full of people who have pushed themselves to be like just about every other type except their own. I know many INTJs who fall into this category.

Some of this is healthy: We seek balance. But some of us shoot way beyond the mark, and instead of balance we emerge with an incredible debt of stress and stressors. Pushing yourself to be an extravert in some context can leave you with one heck of a big introversion problem on your hands, even if you are an INTJ.

So: When you solicit feedback, see if you can use a mental model (like a personality type model) to help you measure and lend that feedback a proper amount of gravity, or no gravity at all. I find most of the personality type models, from MBTI to the Enneagram to Socionics to Temperament and Interaction Styles to DISC, are very helpful with this.

Conclusion

That’s all for now. Get in touch if you want to talk more! The customized advice is always better, but I hope this article has been helpful.

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