INTJs and You: A Guide To Understanding The INTJ In Your Life
By Rob Lowrance
Note: To any INTJs reading this. If these things don’t describe you, take it as a challenge to write your own guide to give to the important people in your life.
Why would you care about what INTJs are like? Well, you are currently involved with one. And since you haven’t run screaming into the hills, perhaps you would like to know what to expect from your INTJ and how the two of you can make it work out.
What do those pesky letters mean?
If you are not familiar with the personality types, you may be wondering what INTJ actually means. The letters themselves mean Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging. However, this doesn’t really explain what it means.
Effectively, personality type can be determined by answering four questions. (This is not to be confused with a personality test, which may use many questions to answer these four.) The four questions are:
1. How do you tend to obtain your energy?
2. How do you prefer to perceive information?
3. How do you prefer to make decisions?
4. How do you tend to organize your world?
The first question determines whether you are an Introvert (I) or an Extravert (E). Introverts tend to recharge by turning inward and not interacting with others. Conversely, Extraverts tend to recharge by turning outward and interacting with others.
The second question determines whether you are Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S). Sensors prefer to perceive information primarily through their senses. i.e. They perceive the here and now. Conversely, Intuitives prefer to perceive things abstractly or how they could be. i.e. They perceive what can be or what will be.
The third question determines whether you are Thinking (T) or Feeling (F). The Thinker tends to be more objective in decisions. i.e. Thinkers are analytical and tend to not allow emotions to affect decisions. The Feeler is more subjective in decisions. i.e. Feelers tend to be sensitive to how decisions will affect self and others.
The fourth question determines whether you are Judging (J) or Perceiving (P). The Judger tends to have a plan. The Perceiver tends to be more spontaneous.
Just because someone is categorized a particular way does not mean that they cannot work outside of this category. So, an Introvert can enjoy being around people. It is just that in general, an Introvert will not be energized by situations and will probably need some time alone. Likewise, an Extravert is generally recharged by being around people, but that Extravert also has moments when he or she needs to be alone.
How the letters interact.
Hold onto your seat, because things are about to get more interesting. J
The first and last letters of a personality type determine how the middle two are expressed. However, not just the two letters given by the type are expressed. More on this in a moment.
The first letter (I or E) determines whether you Introvert or Extravert your dominant function. (The dominant function is the one you use the most naturally.) The fourth letter (J or P) determines which of the middle two letters you show to the world. The second letter corresponds to Perceiving (P) and the third letter corresponds to Judging (J). So a J will Extravert his or her Judging function (T or F), while a P will Extravert his or her Perceiving function (N or S).
So, now we discover that the Perceiving and Judging functions can also be Extraverted or Introverted. So, there are two types of Intuition, Extraverted Intuition (Ne) and Introverted Intuition (Ni). This is also true of Sensing, Thinking, and Feeling. And each of these functions is expressed differently depending upon whether it is Introverted or Extraverted. While Ni and Ne are related, they are not the same. For instance, Ni tends to focus intuition on one area (or a few) very deeply, while Ne would tend to touch on many areas without as much depth.
Putting it together for the INTJ.
Effectively, the INTJ perceives the world through Introverted Intuition (Ni). That is, the INTJ has a model of the world in his or her head. New facts about the world are compared to this model and constantly being added to it. If something doesn’t fit the model and is verified to be correct, then the model itself is modified. This in part explains why INTJs need time alone. We need time to process new material and to explore new connections between things.
For this INTJ, at least, the intuitive process can be quite rapid, but takes place in symbols that cannot be easily expressed in words. (An INTJ friend of mine says that her brain processes almost everything in words.) This introduces Extroverted Thinking (Te). Te seeks to logically explain what Ni symbolically (and instinctively) grasps. What can take seconds for Ni to perceive may take hours or days (or longer) for Te to translate. What Te translates is then taken by Ni to make sure that it fits the internal symbolic vision. Ni and Te thus can cycle back and forth until the Ni vision has been truly translated by Te into words that others can understand.
Ni is the dominant function and Te is the auxiliary. There are two more functions, however, that we must now address: Introverted Feeling and Extraverted Sensing. Introverted Feeling (Fi) is the Tertiary function for INTJs. Fi can be very underdeveloped in INTJs, especially when they are young. Even when they are older, INTJs will tend to be reserved. (Exceptions do exist, of course.) Fi is tightly focused on things (such as relationships, beliefs, and values) that are important to the INTJ. Thus, the INTJ may become animated when talking about a certain topic or when around a particular person. Finally, the Inferior function of Extraverted Sensing (Se). While Se is last, it is often developed earlier than Fi, because of its usefulness in pulling information from the world for Ni to work on.
We will address more of these things later. For now, just remember that INTJ translates into Ni-Te-Fi-Se.
Some initial problem areas.
INTJs do not tend to be terribly expressive emotionally. This can cause us to come off as cold. INTJs generally feel as strongly (or even more so) than others. We have trouble expressing emotions sometimes and tend to not want to share emotions with any but those closest to us. And even with close friends and family we may struggle. If you are wondering how the INTJ in your life is doing, ask.
Facial expression does not equate to mood with INTJs most of the time. We tend to show the world one face nearly all the time. If I am very happy, I will have a small smile on my face. You have to be observant to see it. (I’m not talking about my camera smile, which is just pasted on.) If you can see negative emotions on my face, it is because I am feeling them very strongly. In general, my face will not tell you much of what is going on inside. Although, if you stick around long enough, you may learn how to read other signs.
In general, INTJs do not seek physical contact except with those who are closest to them. If your INTJ initiates a hug, then he or she cares about you a lot. Physical space is quite important to an INTJ, so if he or she allows you into personal space, consistently, he or she really likes you. If your INTJ gets touchy/feely with you, it is almost a given that you are the only person he or she is doing this with. Not only do INTJs not do touchy/feely, they are incredibly loyal. So, if they do get touchy/feely with you, they really are yours.
INTJs need a lot of down time. Just because your INTJ doesn’t want to be with you all the time does not mean that he or she no longer likes you. If you are wondering, ask. INTJs can only withstand so much socializing. It is very wearing for us. If your INTJ is willing to go to a party with you, it means that he or she really likes you. Don’t be offended if he or she needs to leave early or refuses to go. The problem is not with you but with your INTJ. What is energizing and fun to you may quickly become painful to the INTJ. Again, if he or she does go with you, it means that you mean a lot to them. But since INTJs are so independent themselves, it will probably be ok with them if you go without them. So, go and have fun, and then come back and spend time with your INTJ.
INTJs can be tactless. This has to do with Fi being the Tertiary function and often underdeveloped. An INTJ may ask something or say something without considering how it may affect others. This decreases as the Fi develops, but can remain an issue. If you ask an INTJ a question, you will get their honest opinion. If you want flattery, you should ask someone else. If we do say something that you like, it isn’t flattery. It is what we really think. INTJs tend to not lie.
Do not lie to your INTJ. First of all, most INTJs can see a lie a mile away. But if you are one of those people who can pull off a lie well, don’t. If your INTJ discovers the lie, you will never be trusted again. And we do tend to find out. Personally, my Ni coupled with Te and Se, is very good at discovering things that people are trying to hide. We remember what you do and what you say. It’s better to just be honest with us in the first place.
INTJs can come across as arrogant. However, at least generally, it isn’t arrogance but extreme confidence. What an INTJ knows, he or she knows very well. Perhaps even better, we know what we don’t know. If your normally quiet INTJ chimes in, especially if it’s with a great deal of animation, know that this is probably a topic that he or she has thought about a great deal.
INTJs have a difficult time with small talk. However much we may wish this were not the case, it is the way things are. The same thing with flirting. An INTJ will probably not get it. Instead of small talk, talk about something deep. Instead of indirect communication like flirting, try direct statements. Your INTJ will appreciate both. Personally, I’m not sure why I can pick up on things people are trying to hide, but just can’t seem to see the things they are trying to reveal.
When your INTJ is quiet, he or she may be thinking. If he or she is staring off into space, it’s not because he or she is angry with you. Rather, he or she is deep in thought. It can be quite difficult to switch from that internal realm to outside reality. It is also possible that your INTJ really can’t hear you right now. So don’t expect an immediate response. If your INTJ is angry or upset with you, he or she will most likely tell you. Remember, honesty is very important to us. But, if you aren’t sure, you should ask. Preferably sometime when we aren’t deep in thought. J
INTJs can get stuck in an intuitive loop at times. First, what is an intuitive loop? It’s like the infinite loop a computer can get into, where it just keeps doing the same thing over and over and can’t get past something. For the INTJ, this can be caused by a problem that the INTJ knows (or thinks) should be solvable, but where the answer won’t come. This can be Ni just working on the problem itself, or perhaps Ni and Te cycling with each other, trying to find a solution. This can be quite distressing. As an analogy, envision a snake eating its own tail. It is not useful. It is eventually painful. And if it progresses long enough it is destructive. Your INTJ may need you to help break him or her out of such loops from time to time. This is perhaps best done by helping them switch from the internal realm to external reality, at least temporarily. If this is a purely Ni loop, your INTJ may not be able to even explain in words what is wrong. But your support will always be welcome.
INTJs are quite intuitive and can often determine what is coming next. This can lead to abrupt interruptions, when the INTJ decides to answer before you can finish your question or statement. If this bothers you, be upfront with your INTJ about it. If they care for you, they will try, not always successfully, to let you finish before they answer.
INTJs can be very sarcastic. If you can’t handle sarcasm, don’t start a sarcastic exchange with them. If their sarcasm hurts you, be honest with them about it. If they like you, they will try to be careful.
INTJs can be quite hard to read. If you are wondering about something, ask them. If you are wondering if they like you, a variety of things already mentioned are indicators. Here is another, if your INTJ is doing a lot of things for you, he or she likes you.
INTJs always do things for a reason. They are not just thinking about now, but about the future … about multiple futures. Their decisions are tempered by intense consideration of possible consequences. If you don’t understand why we make the decisions we do, it may be because you can’t see what is coming and we can. If you are wondering, ask. But give sufficient time to actually get the answer. And if your INTJ says that it’s too complicated to explain, it may just be that the explanation would take days.
INTJs plan everything. This can lead to issues if you are always insisting on being spontaneous. Ideally, you will rub off on your INTJ and vice versa. You will begin planning more and he or she will become less rigid. Be aware, I am not joking about having a plan for everything. The plan may never be written down, but it is there. Whether it is a plan for the day, or the next month, or even the next decade, it exists to varying degrees. Give you INTJ as much time as possible to contemplate changes to schedule. Again, as your relationship proceeds, he or she will (hopefully) become less rigid. But it will not take place overnight. INTJs do a lot better with an established plan rather than a constantly changing future. (See above.) If the present does not line up with an INTJ’s projections, then those projections will have to be constantly updated and reevaluated. This process is time consuming and if the changes are happening too quickly or too often it can be exhausting. This doesn’t mean you have to give up being spontaneous. Just realize what could be happening to your INTJ’s brain.
INTJs have a lot of layers. If your INTJ is letting you in, please realize that you are one of the only, if not the only, person on earth that is getting to see these depths. If they are letting you in that far, they truly like you and they are truly yours. It will take time, because they have probably never revealed these layers to anyone else and may never have expressed some of these things in words. But because they do have a lot of layers, it can be quite difficult to actually get to know an INTJ. Don’t give up! Your INTJ will appreciate it and you might be surprised by what you find.
INTJs often take criticism well. We can look at ideas, even such things as worldview, critically and without getting our emotions involved. Depending on what the criticism is, though, you should make sure that you are right. If an INTJ says something, it is generally something they have thought about from all the different angles they could find. You may have new information, which would definitely be accepted thankfully. But you may bring up something that has already been considered and rejected. In which case, you need to be prepared to have your ideas analyzed in a logical manner. If you can’t take that, perhaps you shouldn’t bring it up. Or perhaps you should remind your INTJ to be gentle. J
INTJs tend to be harder on themselves than others. Our standards tend to be so high that we can often not attain them. So, even extraordinarily good work can depress us, because it didn’t reach the even higher standard that we had set. If your INTJ is depressed because of something like this, gently, but firmly, remind him or her that it is ok to lower the standard to something that can actually be achieved. J
Some more about Introverted Intuition and INTJs.
Ni helps to create a very complex internal model of the world. This model incorporates much (or maybe even all) of the knowledge the INTJ possesses. This model is intuitive in nature and so has connections between things that some people may not see as similar. This is also probably the source of the INTJs love of analogy.
Ni (at least for the INTJ) is also forward looking. Ni can see the future as a branching tree of possibilities. With enough information, Ni can even determine which potential future is the most likely. From finishing your sentences, to seeing how a movie’s plot will unfold, to seeing that a relationship is about to fail, the INTJ is rarely surprised. Because surprise is so rare for us, it is hard to determine how we will take it. So, if you do happen to surprise your INTJ, it is hard to say how he or she will take it. Hopefully a more mature INTJ will take it in with delight.
Remember above how I said that INTJs have plans for everything? That is Ni at work (along with Te), navigating to a foreseen future which accomplishes multiple goals at once. This is part of why INTJs don’t like surprise. First, a surprise was not predicted. But second, a surprise will often interfere with plans, that while not stated, the INTJ has made internally. With maturity, this will hopefully be less of an issue. But it is wise to give your INTJ as much advance notice as possible when something may change his or her plans. Since these plans are often unstated, it may be a good idea to talk with your INTJ about them and get him or her to elucidate them for you.
Ni uses a lot of symbols. Thus, your INTJ may do a great many things that are symbolic. Or perhaps this is just a quirk of mine.
Ni is attracted to the mysterious. Thus, INTJs often love puzzles of various kinds. He or she may see you as a puzzle. Please don’t be offended.
Ni can offer very quick solutions to problems. While your INTJ may have an answer to your question almost immediately, he or she may not be able to express it in words for quite some time afterwards. Be patient. Hopefully you will find it worth the wait. On the other hand, if the answer is one that your INTJ has thought about a lot, he or she may be able to give you an understandable answer immediately.
Some more about Extraverted Thinking and INTJs.
Te is the logical face that the INTJ shows the world and is probably the reason that I felt such an affinity to the half-Vulcan, Spock, while growing up. It is the faculty that the INTJ uses to interpret the answers from the irrational symbols of Ni into rational language. Te also puts a check upon Ni, helping to constrain intuitive answers to reality. Hence, a loop may form between Ni and Te, with each informing the other until a logical product exists which can be shared with others.
Answers given by INTJs tend to be impersonal and non-emotional. These objective decisions can come across as quite harsh at times. As Fi develops, this can be alleviated to an extent.
Te (combined with Ni) is generally quite good at creating and implementing plans which can be quite comprehensive in scope and aimed at progressing towards multiple goals at once. INTJs tend to excel at planning and contingency planning because of their Ni and Te working together. Te can make INTJs quite decisive when they see a clear path to an objective, or better yet, objectives.
Te (combined with Ni) is quite good at argumentation. INTJs tend to be quite good at destroying (probably without malice) ill-conceived ideas. We can intuitively see the holes in a bad argument (using Ni) and then marshal logic (Te) against it.
Some more about Introverted Feeling and INTJs.
Fi feels. It is subjective and compassionate. Where Te is objective and analytical, Fi takes people (or things) into account. As Fi develops, the INTJ can become more considerate of the way decisions and the way things are said may affect others. The more mature INTJ may thus be more likely to be tactful in speech and action.
You may be able to help your INTJ develop their Fi by reminding them to not just look at things objectively and analytically but to also take subjective elements into account. You will probably appreciate them learning to use and develop their Fi in your relationship.
Fi is less critical than Te. Where Te will not only judge things, but also the standards against which they are judged, Fi will tend to only judge if things match up with already held standards. The INTJ, functioning primarily with Ni-Te can be quite antinomian, because the rules themselves are also scrutinized and sometimes (or often) rejected.
Some more about Extraverted Sensing and INTJs.
Se is focused upon the present and action, unlike Ni. The primary function of Se for the INTJ is to pull information from the world for Ni-Te to work on. While using Se, the INTJ can be quite aware of what is going on. When not using Se, the INTJ can be lost in his or her internal world.
I have had instances where I have been so lost in thought, that I couldn’t see or hear people who were talking to me. When talking to your INTJ, make sure that he or she is really ‘present’ and not lost in his or her internal world.
On the lighter side:
You might be an INTJ if …
1. your mother ever made you come watch TV with the family.
2. you realize a year later that a girl (or boy) had been flirting with you.
3. you won’t allow your daughter/sister/female friend to date anyone whom you have not thoroughly vetted.
4. you answer Yes/No questions with, ‘It depends …’
5. your eyebrows are the most expressive part of your face.