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INTJ Tips for Working with INFJs (The H3 Interaction Model)

Friday October 14, 2016

(Click/tap to enlarge image)

Currently I have four INFJ clients with whom I’ve spent a significant amount of billable time over the last 10 years. Thinking over our relationships and past projects, here’s what I recommend in order to make the most of the INTJ-INFJ relationship.

Introduction: Conflictors in Type

INFJ Characteristics

  • The INFJ has a deep need to create something that is special.
  • The INFJ will find examples of others being special, and use those for inspiration.

INTJ Characteristics

  • The INTJ has a deep need to create something that is effective.
  • The INTJ will find examples of others being effective, and incorporate the techniques.

Furthermore, the two types base their communications on these principles. The INFJ expects an amount of deference to the fact that they are special. The INTJ expects an amount of deference to the fact that they are effective.

For this reason, conflict can easily occur as each struggles to get more of what they want from the other, for whom that need is in fact a blind spot (INTJ Fe & INFJ Te).

INTJs should be especially careful not to assume that just because they can’t see any relationship conflict, it doesn’t exist. INFJs are often extremely good at hiding their true feelings on the matter at hand. They may do this in order to preserve relationship harmony; hover, no matter how much harmony is gained by repressing one’s feelings, such behavior on its own will probably not be able to support the constructive problem solving required of an INTJ-INFJ team.

For that reason, it’s best for the INTJ to help uphold their role in the relationship in the most proactive way possible. The tips below can help you do exactly that.

Minimizing Conflict with the H3 Interaction Model


This is my personal INTJ framework for working with INFJs. For convenience, I’ll call it the H3 Interaction Model, and treat it as a whole body with three layers. Those layers are:

  1. Help
  2. Harmonize
  3. Heal

If Harmonize and Heal seem uncomfortable to you, that’s normal for an INTJ; read on and try to keep an open mind.

H3, Part 1: Help

Helping is the core of this creative process. It is crucial to dive in with the intent of helping the INFJ, rather than producing something for yourself, or for your team. The difference in mindset should help an INTJ understand that their task also has a group or social dimension, rather than a simple work product. It is crucial to begin to gain permission from your partner or group, and this can only be done by speaking their language.

Help is useful as a first stage for INTJs, because INTJs are usually excellent at providing the more concrete assistance that an INFJ might need in implementing an idea.

  1. At some point, you can probably help the INFJ by emphasizing that they can be very direct with you.
    1. “Just so you know, I’m kind of dense sometimes and can miss really subtle hints, so please be really direct with me if you don’t feel like I’m hearing you.”
    2. If you beat yourself up a bit, you are giving them permission to be vulnerable. (Don’t worry, the damage to your ego won’t last. :-))
  2. Try to be an order of magnitude less direct with your own language.
    1. INFJs have told me: “Words mean everything to me.”
    2. Be gentler than you think you need to be.
    3. “What I’m kind of hearing [from you] is [thing], is that right?”
    4. Instead of “Just do X,” consider language like, “I don’t mean to try to fix all your problems for you, but have you considered something like X?”
    5. Instead of “Stop doing Y,” try “if there’s any way we could do Y differently, I’d really appreciate that—I don’t mean to be a pain.”
    6. Why do all this? Because they’re probably doing it for you! That’s how INFJs typically operate. If you can give some of that back to them, you’ll gain more of their trust and confidence.
  3. Listen to the INFJ as if you are assuming they are correct. Keep your mind mostly open and give your inner critic some time off—for now.
    1. This is not the same as agreeing with everything the INFJ says
      1. If you disagree, simply note and hold onto that thought for now.
    2. If you can’t stand it, don’t do it—but it’s worked well for me.
  4. If at all possible, put their ideas into place first, then give your feedback.
    1. So rather than letting your intuition explain to the INFJ right up front, “that’s not going to work,” go do it, or part of it, or think about it, then come back and relate your experience of it working or not working.
    2. This is hard if your intuition is really dominant in the discussion, but remember it’s healthy to use your secondary objective measurement skills as a problem solving aid. Intuition + measurement = success, very often. Intuition by itself can lead to groundless arguments and alienation.
  5. Try to see things from their POV.
    1. INFJs will often pull original concepts—sometimes surprisingly original concepts, out of a hat.
    2. But: Original concepts can be really fun, even if we do put effectiveness aside for a little bit.
      1. Remember that you’ll be measuring effectiveness anyway, as a good INTJ, so it’s not like you’re giving away your baby here.
    3. They still value your input. They may not speak the language, but they want to hear it!
      1. It’s worth your time to learn to empathize with INFJs and call out their feelings.
    4. INFJs will tend to punish themselves, and nobody wants that. Letting them have their way will often make them more conscious of the fact that you aren’t getting yours. They’ll feel prompted to ask for your input, and will try to find ways to harmonize.
  6. Allow extra time for getting the INFJ to let their feelings out.
    1. They usually need help with this, as their key cognitive problem solving method is the expression of feelings.
      1. Example: “I got the feeling you weren’t happy with the last one we worked on.”
      2. Example: “You seem so inspired, this is great!” (listen to their response and engage with it)
      3. Try not to talk about yourself very much; they will sometimes latch onto this and attempt to encourage you to do more of it, to their own detriment.

H3, Part 2: Harmonize

The help you give (in Part 1) needs to take place under a layer of relationship harmony, or you risk coming off as fake or even harmful to the creative process. The INTJ will need to begin to communicate their own needs or thoughts, and for maximum effect, this should be done with the goal to harmonize as much as possible while meeting the needs of everyone in the group, including oneself.

If the INTJ’s needs are e.g. “my way or the highway,” this may not work, of course, so it’s good to be aware of the risks of relying heavily on Ni as a convergent problem-solver.

  1. Give all feedback in a sensitive way. Example:
    1. A website design created by the INFJ is not realistic or effective in the ways the company needs, and will alienate huge chunks of its audience and harm SEO because it doesn’t contain any text, just abstract imagery.
      1. “You know, this is a beautiful one-page website. The colors, everything just works. The only thing I’m feeling is a sort of disconnect with our audience—those who really want to read all about us and what we do. Is there anything we can do about that?”
      2. Stay away from “we need to” statements as much as possible.
      3. Remember that a criticism of their work is a sensitive spot (inferior Se) to an INFJ and an INTJ both. Use very light language, explain how you feel rather than saying how it is.
  2. When it’s time to implement their ideas, post-discussion, feel free to add in your own.
    1. INFJs are not huge detail people. As long as their vision has been captured, add-on ideas will often go either unnoticed or uncared about.
    2. In this way there is often plenty of space for a compromise.
    3. This may in fact be the only way you feel it is possible to implement your ideas given the sensitivity of the situation, so you might as well try it out if that’s the case.
  3. Allow for the INFJ to act as irrationally (as it appears to you) as they need to. Remember that their logic function is very subjective, and builds from the ground up rather than building on existing frameworks. While you may not enjoy the way it has to reinvent the wheel all the time, this is how some of the world’s best thinkers have developed extremely solid frameworks throughout history.

H3, Part 3: Heal

Healing is the outer shell that needs to surround this entire process or experience. Regardless of how uncomfortable it may sound to a novice INTJ, a healing environment simply provides ongoing affirmation and appreciation that helps the INFJ understand their important role and feel they have the INTJ’s permission to be their own best self.

  1. Remember that your key leverage points with an INFJ will involve extraverted feeling—putting yourself in their shoes. You may see the relationship as a work project or work experience, but it’s a relationship, first and foremost. Let’s try some of these things:
    1. Example: Noticing their mood and asking how they’re doing. Listen actively and draw out more when you can.
    2. Example: Noticing when the INFJ is getting you to talk about you for a long time, and calling them out on it. Ask and make it your job to turn on their problem-solving, feeling-expressing verbal skills.
    3. Example: Remembering their birthday and saying something about it
    4. Example: Reminding the INFJ at some interval that you have been thinking about them, or the project, or a shared experience.
    5. Did the INFJ take a big step? Thank them. Tell them you were impressed. Help them know that their contributions are noticed.
      1. It would be most useful to drop any perfectionism to which you hold yourself, during this process.
    6. You may find it useful to employ a spreadsheet or calendar reminders throughout this process.
  2. Make sure you are making time in life to use your own gifts.
    1. Is there a creative project you’re working on, away from this project?
    2. What are you learning from the INFJ? What kind of research could be done to expand that?

Tempering Your Approach to Fit Your Comfort Level

Most INTJs will feel more comfortable with Helping than Healing. The model intentionally reflects this, as you can see by the Direction of Personal Growth indicator in the graphic above.

INTJs should feel free to go as far as they’d like in applying the model, keeping in mind the benefits to pushing themselves (personal growth) and risks to pushing themselves too far (irritation, anxiety, etc.).

I believe it would be most helpful to keep a log or a journal for the purpose of reflecting on one’s own comfort or discomfort in using the various stages of the model.

Additional Tips

  • Probably don’t jump in to tell INFJs what their personality type is, if you ever considered doing that without a proper introduction and monitoring of their feelings about it. INFJs sometimes feel violent opposition to the idea of type, due to their inner need to affirm the uniqueness of each and every person. They may be very attuned to the negatives of what they see as “labeling.”
  • Use your INTJ objective thinking by measuring the results you are getting. Are these efforts working?
  • Use subjective thinking to make and refine your own framework. This will make you more efficient should you need to work with this person or type of person again.

These are principles and techniques that I definitely have not mastered yet, but I feel a huge sense of relief now that I am aware of them.

There is a lot of potential for conflict between INFJ and INTJ, but if we work to understand and refine our approach, I believe we INTJs can help make things go much more smoothly.

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