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INTJ Tips for Working with INFPs

Saturday April 28, 2018

Relationships with INFPs too often seem like an easy, no-effort-required experience for INTJs. This is because the most prominent INFP gifts float just under our INTJ radar, while INFPs appear to naturally seek out and soak up INTJ advice.

Unfortunately, an INTJ can quickly become overbearing and oblivious in this relationship, and no matter how well things seem to be going on the surface, a sudden negative reaction from an INFP will almost always come as an unpleasant shock to the INTJ ego. Here are some tips to make sure you’re relating for best effect with INFPs.

Establish a baseline of optimism and fun

INFPs quickly become uncomfortable in an environment of cold, analytical criticism. They are sensitive to the human need for simple comfort, optimistic thought, and fun experiences. INTJs can develop a skilled level of “systematic warmth” by harnessing their inner gifts for encouragement, spontaneous fun, humor, and aesthetic comfort. As INTJs integrate these gifts into a planned organizational process, they create fertile ground in which INFPs can sow important creative seeds and contribute their best selves without feeling too much pressure.

Recover at any time

Don’t treat relationship problems with INFPs as if they’re unsolvable. INFPs are very forgiving by nature and typically enjoy the making-up process. To an INFP, a relationship is naturally complex, with boundaries that are anything but black and white. You can demonstrate your humanity (a subject in which INFPs excel) by being persistent and uncovering your past failures by re-exposing yourself and giving things another shot.

Avoid appearing like you’re showing off or not at fault

While this may seem like a good rule for relationships in general, there are some important exceptions and some equally important applications in which a bit of conscious effort is rewarded. For INTJs, the INFP relationship is one of these.

INTJs have a sort of “accept me because I have demonstrated I deserve your admiration” approach to life, while INFPs see things through a different lens, one which could be described as “come as you are.” That means that faults and vulnerability are not just allowed, they are encouraged. While it may be tempting as an INTJ to assume that your Ph.D. or the fact that you can speak five languages would be things that really matter to an INFP, you may actually find that tripping on a curb and laughing at yourself is the single act that seals the deal.

In general, understand that your force-demonstrative behaviors are more likely to be interpreted by an INFP as showing off, and adjust your approach accordingly.

This also applies to situations in which blame may be a factor. The more quickly you accept some blame and explain it to the INFP while asking for their patience and forgiveness, the more quickly you will be able to recover to higher ground where you can work together more successfully. Placing blame is a traditional weak spot for INTJs who are laser-focused on achievement and development. But accepting the permeating nature of fault is really a capstone on a nuanced understanding of human development.

Be careful about dodging their need for relationship processing

  • Them: I’m sorry about the way I responded to your actions last night.
  • You: It’s OK, look, I’m sorry to and I’m over it.
  • Them: Do you want to talk about it?
  • You: No, as long as it’s over, we’re good, it’s no big deal.

Here we have an INFP who was just shut out. The INTJ, though, thinks that things are fine!

This INTJ just completely dodged out on a relationship-processing opportunity, one which would undoubtedly be difficult for an INTJ, but the INFP was gently inviting a “talk” about it, which is INFP code-word for a therapeutic discussion of relationship values.

I would encourage the INTJ to wade right into that relationship talk as humbly as possible. Sometimes it’s better to learn to do a thing, stumble through it, and figure it out, than to ignore it for so long that your relationship partner just gets more and more frustrated over time.

Be careful starting home-improvement projects and other ESTJ things

Within each INFP are the hidden psychological dynamics of the ESTJ personality type. The ESTJ is one of the most capable home-improver types (individuals may differ, but as a group, this is true). So don’t be surprised if you start a home-improvement project and the INFP grows impatient with your excuses for why you’re not getting around to it. Home improvement is a highly sensory area. INTJs can get easily frustrated with sensory work, and I often hear from INTJs who are living with INFPs that the INFP is wondering when they are going to get around to finishing their projects.

Instead of feeling bad or reacting in anger to any prodding, do your best to be co-creative with the INFP. Encourage them to learn to help you out. Act a little dumb about it. Laugh about it. If the wrap-up of the project is delayed, seek the INFP’s help directly, and act as humble as possible. Within their psychology is a home-improver ESTJ that would love to help, or even learn to show you up!

Overall: Learn to be the best INTJ you can. You’re an intuitive, not a sensate personality. So be careful about letting light sensory hobbies explode into huge, ego-bound home improvement projects that you promised to your INFP partner. Chasing down the last 20% of annoying details on a new sun room build-out is far, far less enjoying to most INTJs than relaxing and watching a favorite movie in the background while talking about books with their INFP.

If you are stuck on the sensory project with an INFP wondering when it’ll get done, play with the parameters a bit. See if you work more calmly early in the morning, rather than after a long day at work. Or put on some headphones and favorite music while you work, buying you a bit more time before the inevitable “I’ve f***ing had it with this cabinet” result arrives.

Another thing that ESTJs really don’t like is procrastination. Many INTJs tell me they struggle with procrastination. So be very careful projecting “I’m an amazing person” around an INFP when they will eventually see through to your procrastinator side in some way. They might feel conflicted to discover you are hiding a painful insecurity, an one which they take very seriously themselves.

Be careful with help-you talk and help-you check-ins

When an INFP talks in their typical descriptive mode, it may seem like an opening to help them solve their problems. For example:

INFP: “I need to figure out how to set goals. I’m always failing at it.”
INTJ: “You should totally read this book by Dr. So-and-so. It has everything you need to set achievable goals. The key is to be really reasonable with yourself.”
INFP: “Ooh, sounds like I should read that.”
INFP, a month later at a dinner party: “I love setting goals, but I never achieve them, seriously!”
INTJ (feeling upset): “Seriously, read that book.”
INFP, two months later at the dinner table: “I missed my goal again. Why do I always do this? Argh.”
INTJ (fuming): “Look, we talked about this. Your goals aren’t reasonable. I recommended a book. You haven’t read it. I can’t discuss this right now, it’s like you secretly hate all of my advice.”

In no case did the INFP ask for help; they simply put their thinking out there. It would have been much wiser for the INTJ to ask, “can I help you achieve your goals somehow? What would be helpful to you?”

Going beyond that, the INTJ would be smart to treat follow-ups as opportunities for 1) encouragement and then 2) very gentle check-ins like, “I know I recommended a book, but is there anything else that you think would work better?”

Let INFPs be responsible

INFPs are introverts just like you. Introverts don’t want someone constantly advising them on what to do. They want a listening ear to help them process and maybe analyze what they’re thinking, they want to use to their own creative process of thinking / feeling / intuiting / sensing, and they want that to happen on their own time.

In other words, INFPs expect you to be all over their problems listing solutions left and right just as much as you want them to be all over yours.

Let INFPs be their best introvert selves, and give them time to work on their problems as if you fully trust that they’ll figure things out in the end.

Live, and let them live too

INTJs tend to step too quickly into an “older sibling” role in this relationship. Remember, a relationship requires some sense of equilibrium in order to be successful. Recognize what you, as an INTJ, are gaining from the relationship—things like:

- Full, no-strings-attached permission to be yourself
- Empathy
- A listening ear
- A patient advisor when you have e.g. relationship troubles at work

In return, INFPs want to be able to expect the same. If what they receive is something like this:

- Encouragement to change to be more like you, the INTJ
- Blame
- A didactic fix-it approach to their problems
- An impatient response to ongoing problems

…then you might as well throw in the towel. This is not the INTJ help that anybody needs, even if it’s easy to slip into this mode with a personality type as flexible and permissive as the INFP.

Learn the skill of asking questions

INTJs can help this relationship move along by balancing their directive, judging-centered commentary with analysis and questioning. The analyzer-questioner INTJ is generally a healthy INTJ, so take this as a challenge to improve your efficacy in the world at large.

Conclusion

If you’re struggling in a relationship with an INFP, try some of the approaches and skills above. It’s a different world in some ways, but learning to relate to INFPs is one more beneficial step on the road to balance and emotional maturity.

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