Developing the “Harmony” process as an INFJ
INFJ: 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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Thank you for your comments regarding INFJs retreating to Accuracy, and for showing what that looks like. I was bullied nearly every day in school, and did just that by the time I hit Middle School. If I could pretend to be detached, what people said and did, or my perception that they hated me and I was different, wouldn’t hurt so much, or so I thought at the time. I’m so used to using Accuracy that I mistype as an INTJ very often. Being « logical » was also highly valued in my family growing up, so it reinforced my tendency to go to Accuracy. Time to work on Harmony. I was taught not to value Harmony as highly, right up until I realized by being an exchange student in a place where social rules are well-defined and easier to follow that I actually valued it very highly.
Wow. Holy smokes… Spot on. Yes, in the past I exhibited those “negative” behaviors as a defense mechanism.
I really like (and it stood out) to me the statement you made about Oprah clarifying her “public” persona because you don’t know how she is in private.
One of the most challenging in my experience as an INFJ is not throwing out the “baby” with the bathtub and one of the things that was most helpful was understanding (and knowing from personal experience) that a persons behaviors do not always equal the person. In other words, separating a person and the behaviors that person is exhibiting.
Let’s say that someone is exhibiting an unhealthy behavior and an INFJ decides to approach them in an attempt to bring healing… I would ask them a thought provoking question and usually one of two things will happen… Either I get an answer or the person may attack me, attempt to project on me, blame shift, or divert the conversation in some way. I am still learning but for the second one I would choose to no longer invest anytime or energy until a point at which the situation changed.
I don’t know how exactly to express what I am trying to say other then I really hope that I am making the right cuts when it comes to people I do not know that well. There sure seems to be a lot of “cuts” but then again I have never been more focused, energize, or sure that I am on the right path. Actions speak louder than words but at the same time some of the most intelligent and most gifted people are homeless, oftentimes using drugs to escape the pain of being rejected.
For me, the most important lesson to learn is setting boundaries. The book “Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no to take control” by Henry Cloud was enormously helpful in this regard. There is also a video series of talks which make for a good group project. Through the course, I learnt to keep out negative emotions like anger, jealousy, contempt and fear, while welcoming in feelings like enthusiasm, hope, warmth and courage. I know that my lack of sensitivity to negative emotions isn’t cold detachment because I genuinely care about getting people’s needs met, and because I still do experience very deep feelings of heaviness when it comes my intimate friends and family members. Still, this knowledge came slowly and with considerable struggle because I so didn’t want to lose my compassion and become hardened to other peoples’ emotional challenges.
For me, finding out I’m an INFJ fundamentally changed how I perceive myself. I honestly had no idea why am I so different in my reactions from everybody else.
Now that I know more about my different cognitive processes, I can not only except myself better, but develop my unique abilities.
As far as finding methods to create healthy boundaries, and taking care of myself – this is very new to me.
I started from the very basics. Even if I’m home alone and making dinner only for myself – I will make it a great dinner, just as I would prepare it if my spouse was home. This feels great.
Another little example concerning basic needs, I started to take more little 2-5 minutes breaks at work, instead of “being perfect” and never grabbing myself a bite or a glass of water or taking a little walk outside unless everything is completed to my full satisfactory.
This also led to me not feeling like everyone is slacking off at work but me.
I’ve been trying to meditate every morning. I haven’t figured it out completely yet, but I do feel that alone time with my thoughts, prayers, goals, gratitude – is doing me really good. Writing my goals and my process of obtaining these goals also helps me a lot.
When it comes to disapproving others, not out of a place of accuracy, but of harmony, is what I find the most refreshing to me. It honestly never occurred to me that the same people that see fault in my actions, I can maturely point out what fault I locate in their actions and discuss it like adults, and not as a victim and villain. I don’t need to fear of their reaction to me, I can just as easily disapprove of them, if need be.
Not sure yet how to implement this disapproving, but for the time being, just having this thought – that is is possible- is refreshing to me.
This is how I felt at work for an entire year and I had a hard time, everyone started relying on me to do their work, me being a busy body loved to stay busy and my day goes by faster because I have plenty of work to do. But seeing them stand around all day and have an easy job annoyed the sht out of me. I never took breaks either. This is all a bit new to me, I have only recently discovered I am an INFJ and I am understanding myself better than ever and it blows my mind sometimes. I feel I am on the right path to self discovery and establishing a bit more control over myself.
Thanks so much for this post. I was wondering, as an INFJ, is it possible to be a terrible at Fe? While I do think I’m very good at combining my Ni with Fe in the sense of ‘feeling the room’ and having a gut sense of what people feel and are about, I’m also pretty socially awkward and don’t really make others feel comfortable. I would have assumed that having Fe as a co-pilot, I would be better at putting people at ease, or does the Ni/Ti combo make this less the case?
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.
Shelby, your comment touched my heart. As an INFJ male, I can relate to your personal journey a lot. I grew up with Social Anxiety, but now I have much better control over that. I’m 25 now and just now feel like I’m living my best life after years of living in fear of others’ judgment and losing myself to their wishes. I highly recommend the work on this sight to grow your Harmony copilot. It’s helped me a lot! Also, as someone coming from the mental health field, I recommend therapy and medication (perhaps an SSRI) for your Social Anxiety. That helped me the best at first so I could get to a point of opening up and socializing. It’s a hard journey but so worth it in the end!:) I’m proud of you Shelby for choosing life. Keep up the work of being your truest INFJ self.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the comment, Mel! I’m glad you have found the information useful. Be kind to yourself. 🙂
Thank you everyone for putting your personal inner struggles and solutions here for us other INFJ’s to read and learn through. Carla, I thought it was just me who needed the quietness of a morning to pray and vision (just learning to do so, the guilt of not being up cleaning etc is still being worked through) but when I do, the strang and unexpected things that come into a day, doesn’t bother me, I can flow with it, give what others were expecting, all peacefully. It was lively to read your experience too.
I have the problem of an extremely extroverted husband though, (ENTJ) he wants the home to be a welcoming, drop in, party type home. I think I’m going to have to extract a promise of more alone time to make this work for us all.
Thanks again everyone, you make me feel less misunderstood and weird! Lol
thank you for this 🙂 much appreciation. this is very helpful! 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Jes! I’m glad you found it helpful. 🙂
I totally approve what you said about the strategies that an INFJ use to deal with the negative effect of absorbing people emotions. For a long time, I thought that everybody was like me and that it was my fault not to know how to deal with it. I developped the first strategy for a long time. I was mistyped as an INTJ. Then, for no reason I know, I turned lately to the second strategy. Finding this article and all this site in general really helps. I totally confirm that the first important step is to set bondaries.
Thank you very much !
Thanks for the feedback, Emma! I’m glad you have started setting those boundaries. Life becomes much easier to bear when we start to take control, doesn’t it?
For a long time I was really puzzled by the Fe ability. I was also lucky to have a close ENFJ friend and the things she managed to pull of with it were simply miraculous. Gee, I wished I could do that, instead of living in my head most of the time 🙂
Then I happened to read one little book published by Arbinger Institute which has really opened my eyes to the subject. Their works are based on the philosophy of Martin Buber. In my opinion, it captures the very essence of what Fe is and how it really works (though it has nothing to do with MBTI directly). Can’t recommend it enough to everyone.
Consider just this one line from it and see if it resonates with you: “To the immature, other people are not real.”
Thanks for the comment Tamagochi! Can I get the title of that book? It sounds interesting.
Great quote, btw. Antonia and I were discussing just that point the other day. I was complaining about some extraverts that came into a peaceful park and completely destroyed the serenity for everyone else. She told me that wasn’t an example of extraverts, but people who are just generally myopic.
Since she pointed that out, I see it more and more. I call it being two-dimensional or obtuse. They don’t really seem to care that there are other people in the world being impacted by their behavior. It happened to me in a bookstore the other day. These two young girls came in and discussed every author and book as loudly as possible. It was all I could do not to start chucking books at them.
Yes, these are good examples of how people being unaware about other’s needs can create all sorts of conflicts around them.
What was most fascinating to me, that my friend would go those bratty people, speak a few kind words and they would just shut up. She did not look intimidating in any kind nor did she even get angry at them. Looked like magic to me.
The title of a book was “Leadership and self-deception”. Stumbled upon as recommended reading material at infj.com. The quote was from another book of the same company “Bonds that make us free”.
Thanks! I will check them out! 🙂
Great article as always. I am testing as an INTJ but this ESP of feeling the emotions of those around me hits home.
I had some hard experiences and came home from Iraq with PTSD and ended up on some heavy meds for about 7 years. They helped tons but I didn’t feel anymore. My emotions…gone. Others emotions…gone. Now that I have been feeling again for a couple years I have been leaning even harder on analytical pursuits to avoid the feels. They hurt.
I have become very Te. It is the cognitive function I identify with the most. Is it possible that my self preservation kicked in and my functions are all developed out of order now?
If so, am I going to be able to correctly type myself? My best fit type is ENTJ as I try to recall what my thought processes were from before Iraq and how I developed as a kid. Any advice for an oddly developed individual? Do other types have the ESP pain? If I experience that, does that automatically mean I am an INFJ and I can stop deep diving and start moving forward into self- improvement?
Thanks for the comment, Kim. In a traumatizing situation, where structure meant the difference between life and death, I can see why you would be very Te. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is authentic to you because many of us are the product of our environment. The question is, when you are making things happen and organizing people and resources to accomplish goals does it bring you excitement and fulfillment? Or do you just do it because you were trained to do it? Are you a natural at delegating and talent scouting? Or do you struggle with objectifying people and instead feel the need to connect with others?
Thank you! That was really really helpful and those were wonderful concrete examples! As I’ve gotten older, I have started to do many of the same things. I still feel guilty though sometimes, as family members and friends don’t always understand, and i feel like a stick in the mud for not being more lively/outgoing/social, bc on some level I do want to meet people, but on the other hand, I’m very selective, so it creates a disparity and I have trouble accepting who/how I am as an INFJ. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Thanks for your comment, Steph!
As an INFJ myself, I have found a great deal of freedom in learning to accept my gifts and limitations. One of those limitations is the need to avoid large (or loud) groups. My home is a place of serenity and I find that the environment I function the best in. As a Harmony co-pilot, my growth comes from making sure everyone (including myself) is getting their needs met. I find I focus better in small groups and prefer more intimate circles.
Don’t feel guilt or shame for being you. If necessary, explain yourself to friends or family if you think they need an explanation. Be open, but don’t apologize for who you are. Learn to love yourself. You will find greater peace of mind and inner contentment when you learn to work with your gifts instead of against them.
Antonia, could you elaborate on setting boundaries by giving some examples? Maybe a few more concrete ones and some of the specific ones that seem to be important for INFJs? I understand it in theory – and it’s been something I’ve been trying to work on, but some practical examples would go a long way in helping me (and others I’m sure) in better understanding how it will look and work in everyday life.
I am a 53-year-old woman who is an INFJ. Here are a few examples of boundaries that seem to be important to me…
I regularly need time alone. To reflect. To lay out all that’s going on in my head. To sort it all out. To see what I need to pay attention to. And what I don’t. This is when my aha moments occur. When I connect the dots. When I discern themes. Or see metaphors. When I am inspired. And when I often know the next step I need to take.
I do this by free-form-journaling three pages. Followed by reading/reflecting and responding to a passage of Scripture. I do this every weekday morning. I used to feel guilty about the time I took to do this. I felt I should be more productive and get more things done first thing in the morning. But I have found in order to be my best self, I need this time to engage with my interior life. FIRST. Only then am I better with other people and my environs. I had to share this with my husband. Of course, he doesn’t have the same bent I have. But he sees the difference in me when I have this time for myself and so he honors it. I created a basket with everything I need in it for this ritual… journal, writing stuff, Bible, several books on virtues and transitions, a box of kleenex… It is a physical object that reminds me (and my husband) that I take this time seriously. I don’t have this personal quiet time on weekend mornings; those days I make smoothies, drink coffee and visit with my husband. This is an example of how I meet my needs first, every weekday, and have enough “fuel” to meet the the needs of my husband on the weekend.
I view my personal quiet time as Self Care… and actually any form of Self Care is a chance to practice setting boundaries… exercise, good sleep habits, nutrition, medical care, attending weekly worship, time to read/learn, getting outside every day, taking a long bath, etc… I find my pendulum swings wildly with how good I am at taking care of myself. Usually there’s some kind of “wake-up call” that if I don’t attend to myself I am going to pay some huge consequence.
My home is another example of a boundary. It is a haven where I recharge and refuel. I do not have a “drop in anytime” lifestyle. I think I communicate that mindset to others in that I never “drop in anytime” to their homes. I am intentional about who I invite over and when. I am my best when I’ve given myself lots of margin to prepare for visits SO THAT when people are in my home I can minimize my attention to logistics and maximize my attention to them. Most of what I host are family gatherings… and I communicate details, ask for input, etc… through a group e-mail thread… where it is all documented if any questions arise. How people FEEL in my home is VERY important to me and is what drives all my decisions in hosting. The best compliment I can receive is someone sharing with me how comfortable they were in my home, what a good time they had, and that they can’t wait to come back. I, on the other hand, always need a day or two to “recover” from a gathering.
Because of my organizational abilities I am often asked to help with a project or event. My style of setting boundaries then always starts by saying I’m honored they would ask for my help, and follows up with asking them to brainstorm what they need/want/see happening. I pay attention to how my gut feels during this time. Do I feel excited? Do I feel like I “want to” or that I “should” do this? Do I feel dread? Do I have the time or energy or ability to do this? If my answer is no I say that I don’t see it working out for me because “it doesn’t fit in to my schedule” or “I don’t think I can give it what it deserves”. If my answer is yes I say “I’m pleased to help” and “this is how I see it playing out”. If I don’t know I say “I don’t know” and that I will get back with them. I must say I still struggle with accurately predicting how much time something will take or how much energy it will take. I’ve spent many a all-nighter completing something and then not being able to fully enjoy the event, etc… because I am exhausted. But I tend to get a rush out of the push as well.
I see the “What are your expectations? These are my expectations.” conversation playing out over and over in my life with others in regards to boundaries. These conversations center around trips, projects, events, holidays, schedules, money, sex, etc… At their most successful, these conversations occurs BEFORE. But there are many times they happen AFTER as well. As in AFTER a misunderstanding has occurred.
I feel my most settled and peaceful by communicating via e-mail. This is a boundary. I can take all the time I want to or need to to share my thoughts. I am my best when even one-on-one get-togethers are scheduled… to meet for coffee or a drink… I often choose not to answer my phone and listen to someone’s voice-message instead… another example of a boundary. But during an emergency I am 200% focused and devoted to the person/people/cause and my personal needs take the backseat. Where I get in to trouble is when I don’t move my personal needs back to the front seat after the crisis has passed.
I guess I also want to share that over-riding all this I view boundaries as fluid. There have been too many times I’ve said, “I’ll NEVER…” only to eat my words. On paper, it might look stupid to do something but in real life it’s just “the right thing”. I use the phrase “Divine Interruption” in my life. I might have had my day or plan all figured out… BUT THEN… And I pay attention to that. Those are the moments swirling with the mystery and grace and glory of messy and beautiful LIFE. God forbid I tamper with the privilege of bearing witness to and experiencing those moments. And THAT is where my thoughts in this “Reply” sort of wrap back around to my first point… the importance of spending time alone every morning where these miracles seem to reveal themselves to me. I hope these kind of examples were what you were looking for, mckinzie… but I have immense respect for Antonia and look forward to her insight to your question!
Thank you! That was really really helpful and those were wonderful concrete examples! As I’ve gotten older, I have started to do many of the same things. I still feel guilty though sometimes, as family members our friends always understand, and i feel like a stick in the mud for not being more lively/outgoing/social, bc on some level I do want to meet people, but in there other hand, I’m very selective, so it creates a disparity and I have trouble accepting who/how I am add an INFJ. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Hello Steph Em!
I do not know if your comment/question was in reply to Antonia’s awesome post or to my comment… so forgive me if I’m responding to your question when you intended for Antonia to! 🙂
Philosophically speaking, part of accepting myself as an INFJ has been recognizing ALL temperament types have strengths and challenges. It puts me in the same boat of humanity along with everyone else. If I wasn’t an INFJ I’d STILL be faced with how to live with a different temperament’s strengths and challenges. So I might as well spend my energy becoming the best INFJ I was created to be instead of wishing I was some other type.
I view Pride and Poor Self Esteem as two sides of the same coin and have spent a fair share of my life vacillating between the two. One side of the coin says I’m better than everyone else and the other side of the coin says I’m worse than everyone else. The antidote to that is, again, being and becoming who I was created to be. To be authentic. Resources like Personality Hacker are like FUEL to help me on that mission.
As I’ve discovered and accepted who and how I am as an INFJ I’ve also had a sense of “coming home”. As I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin, I mostly attract those who want to be around someone like me, boundaries and all. Those who don’t sort of naturally fall away. There’s little need for confrontation.
Practically speaking, there are ways of engaging and not engaging that honor both others and yourself. For me, it all comes down to priorities and energy.
I ask myself questions like:
Is this something I HAVE to attend, whether I want to or not? (If so, I have to suck it up and go and find ways to care for myself before/during/after.)
After the event, will I be glad I went?
After the event, will I regret not going?
What will I do if I don’t attend? Will I do something that rejuvenates me or escape in to some shadow behavior?
If I wasn’t afraid of offending/hurting someone, what choice would I make?
What would my calendar tell me to do? (Am I over or under booked? Both can be a drain on my energy.)
If I need to tell someone I will not be making it to a gathering/event/etc… I always start by saying things like, “Thank you for asking… for thinking of me… for including me in the loop…”. Then I say things like, “Unfortunately, my body/calendar/other obligations/etc… is telling me it won’t work for me to make it.”
Depending who I’m talking to, my response can range from a simple “It won’t work out this time” to sharing why. To my family and close friends I can say things like, “I know I won’t be my best self if I go; it’s best for me to refuel so I can be decent to be around.” 🙂
What will happen OVER TIME, is that you will instinctively know when to bow out and when to push yourself. Your family and friends will respect your yes and your no, because they will see your best self when you do choose to attend.
Of course, I fail spectacularly at all of this, but I give it my fair shot. One last thing that helps me is to know that if I go to something I really don’t want to (or participate in something I really don’t want to) I will end up feeling bitter and angry towards other people. That is the OPPOSITE of my best self. My best self is someone who empathizes and cares for people. But I cannot give away what I’ve not given myself.
Sorry for my long-windedness. Best wishes to all of us INFJs!
Carla – Thank you for your well-thought out responses. I strongly resonated with everything you said and have found the same habits work for me. The important thing, I have found, is to always maintain those boundaries and make sure I am listening to my intuition. If we ignore it too much it will stop communicating with us.
Bravo on finding what works for you! And thank you for sharing your wisdom with others. 🙂
Charis, Thank you for your timely and kind reply; It makes it feel like a “real” dialogue. 🙂 I totally agree about listening to one’s intuition and maintaining one’s boundaries. When things run off the road, I can always track it back to not taking the time to listen to my gut or follow through on what it told me. It’s amazing how important the ORDER of our functions is. If I try to please people, judge the situation, or distract myself through some sensory pleasure BEFORE touching base with my intuition… it’s a big fat fail every time. Thank you for providing the infrastructure through which to share and learn.
Everything you said really resonated with me, Carla, but this one, whoa!:
“If I wasn’t afraid of offending/hurting someone, what choice would I make?”
I can see that being a HUGELY high-leverage question for me to ask myself.
Thank you for all that you shared.
This response is 3 years after your post, but I hope you will be notified and read this.
Thank you for taking the time to so thoughtfully articulate what boundaries look like for you as an INFJ and at your age and stage in life. I am so grateful to receive this wisdom. I’ve longed for examples of life lived well as an INFJ, especially as a Christian. You write beautifully. Your words are like a balm to my soul.
There is a lot of content online and it’s wonderful but as a 43 year old INFJ I am especially interested in the real life experience of those who have lived longer than I have – those who have entered the afternoon of their lives with grace and a sense of wholeness.
Thank you! And if you have a blog or something please let me know. I’d love to read it.
Wow! As I read all of these comments, I see a lot of myself in so many of you that are commenting. Thank you all for sharing and I look forward to learning more about myself and how to be the best I can be through your shared experiences.
I need to work on boundaries and would continue to appreciate hearing how you all better develop your “boundaries”.
Question — I work with someone who comes into work tired and depressed every single day. I struggle as I pick up on those feelings and try so hard to change her mood in order to continue on with my day. Do I need to approach this person? How do I set this boundary? This person also shows up late on a daily basis, leaves early regularly, spends a lot of time on the phone and calls in sick a lot. I am the supervisor, yet feel taken advantage of, but at the same time don’t like conflict so say very little in order to keep the peace. Open to any INFJ suggestions.
What a challenging situation for any conflict-avoiding INFJ!
I would encourage you, as this person’s supervisor, to view this situation as an opportunity to use your unique INFJ strengths to influence this person for good. We’re put on this planet to see the potential in others and help them become all the were created to be.
I don’t know specifics of your situation, but here are my INFJ thoughts…
Find a time to meet individually with this person. Make sure it is a formal meeting, not a chat in the break room. You are the supervisor, not the buddy. If this conversation could be part of a formal evaluation that would be great. If not, it could be framed as a “check-in”.
Show your Fe by saying you felt the need to check in and hear how this person is doing. Mention your concern for their well-being. State what prompted your concern… showing up late, leaving early, calling in sick, spending a lot of time on personal calls… Then LISTEN, which we INFJs are great at doing.
Your response will be different depending on if this person is going through a rough patch or if this person is just not interested in pulling their own weight.
It is good to be caring and empathic by saying things like, “Your plate is really full” or “That has to be really hard.” AND it is necessary and appropriate to say things like, “Part of my job is to help you be successful in your job. What do you think needs to happen so you can be on time, stay your full shift, not have to take so many sick days, and not spend work time making personal calls.”
In other words, have THIS person brainstorm what needs to change. Fill in with your own ideas. Ask them if there is anything specific you can do to support them. Come to a mutual agreement and set a time to check-in again. Take notes.
Be a good example of calm and steady under stress during this meeting. That’s really what you’re asking this person to be… calm and steady at their job despite what else is going on in their life. Don’t bring up that you feel taken advantage of. Stay objective. State how this person’s behaviors are impacting the work environment as a whole.
Again, not knowing your work situation I don’t know if you should talk with your own supervisor before having this meeting. Usually, things like this progress from 1:1 to 2:1 and from check-in to formal warning, etc…
Re: this person’s tired depressed mood… part of the INFJ’s challenge is how to protect oneself from others’ negative states. Part of the check-in might be naming those behaviors as part of your concern, “You seem tired. You seem down. I know that impacts your workday. Which then impacts everyone’s workday. What could help?”
Again, have them brainstorm ideas and fill in with your own like Employee Assistance Programs if they exist, etc…
For yourself personally, spend time taking care of yourself so you have a bank of energy from which to withdraw in your role as a supervisor. Figure out what is the threshold of time and energy you can spend on this employee without turning resentful and feeling taken advantage of. You might think you can handle their behaviors long-term in order to avoid conflict, but trust me, you can’t. If you leave this unaddressed, there will come a point where your Ti and Se will express in ways you regret.
Your employee is fortunate to have you as their supervisor!
Thanks for the article. It is very helpful and made me feel better.:)
thankyou for the article Antonia
Ive been keeping up post in the message area of the tao of badass and find the thing you spoke of regarding accuracy to be something I struggle with and do go into a defensive strike pattern be it through a cheeky remark
I have been aware of dehumanising people and try not to re-act unconsciously but I do feel inside an ouch if you could call it that and sometimes I dont know how to place it so I do go on an offensive strike at times which is guise under big picture metaphor if that makes sense so I can have my say without being to overt about it
Im learning heaps from this article
I’m glad it’s helpful!
Thanks, Antonia. This is really interesting and helpful.
i do not fully understand your third point, though. As an INFJ, I can be perfectionistic, overly analytical, and a little dense about social rules. The Simpsons character I am most like is Lisa. INFJs (and let us consider Lisa one) are frequently on the receiving end of other people’s negative assessments. Lisa gets shouted down at town hall meetings in Springfield fairly often, when she is the only one speaking up for a cause or the only one who sees the cravenness of a Burns or Quimby scheme. How can she both harmonize and analyze in these situations?
Lisa’s character is most likely an ENFJ, so it makes sense you’d identify with her (since INFJs and ENFJs are similar in many respects).
However, as an outspoken Extraverted, Lisa (and other ENFJs) are more likely to gain attention to their less popular opinions. Lisa’s desire for truth isn’t typical of her type – in fact, it’s only very well developed ENFJs that understand the limitations of social truth and are willing to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.
A better model for an INFJ is Ghandi, and in many people’s minds, Jesus of Nazareth. Both of these characters ended up drawing a lot of attention, but they rarely shouted from the rooftops about social change. Instead, they encouraged change through relationships, and inspired people to follow them. It was their effectiveness, not their method, that ended up causing so much trouble for them.
If you feel you are perfectionistic, overly analystical and dense about societal expectation, then you are most assuredly relying too heavily on Accuracy. You may feel good about calling truth for what it is, and that’s awesome. Like Ghandi and Jesus, though, you will have far more success by cultivating and understanding people on a one-on-one level and using insight into how society operates to turn its rules on itself and create progressive sedition. :p
Thanks for the elaboration, Antonia. I appreciate it. I might feel better if the two models you mentioned were not people who died by violence because of their beliefs. I get your point, though. Accuracy does not build relationships… and relationships are the key to building change.
I don’t know if it would change your answer, but I may be on some strange borderland between INFJ and INFP.
Thanks again for all your insights. Your posts and videos are always really fun and thought-provoking.
I might sound very Te now (still confused whether I’m INTJ or INFJ) but how could developing the harmony be useful in getting ahead in life? For example, in a corporate world, how could developing this skills get infj to be promoted, or at least be useful at work?
This is a very old reply but thought I’d chiime in.
Harmony works by understanding and getting needs met. What a better way to get ahead in a corporate world than to understand the needs of your boss (even ones they might not be aware of) and meet them? Why is networking such a powerful tool in getting jobs? How come we build our resumes with the jobs (and people) we are applying for in mind, instead of just showing off our skills on a universal, non-personalized level?
It turns out one of the best ways to get ahead in life is to understand just how powerful social structures are in how “ahead” someone gets. A genius who can’t communicate his ideas will be thought of as a mad man or buffoon by everyone, but a moron who can communicate very well to his audience can sell his ideas and be thought of as a genius. Being able to understand and play into the needs of others I would argue is the fundamentally most important factor that allows you to climb the ranks in the corporate world. Yes, it is results driven – but where do those results come from? Needs from others.
Ni+Fe can actually be a pretty nasty combination when used “incorrectly” because of this. It is what allows us to manipulate people, because we understand who they are so well and know how to get to them in ways that benefit us. Most INFJ’s would be appalled to do this regularly and I’d be surprised to find one who wouldn’t be, but I’m sure you can think of times in your life where you used your Harmony process to gain something for yourself, perhaps unaware you were doing so.
There is a reason why “It’s not what you know, it is who you know” is such a strong phrase in the workplace. And Harmony helps being able to navigate social waters to really take advantage of that phrase.
Of course, if you are an engineer this applies less. But most positions of leadership, most design roles, most “white collar” positions in the world aren’t acquired by being the best at a technical role. And even then, the engineer will have a very stagnant career if they don’t use their harmony process in the workplace ever.