“I’m an INTJ.”
— 99% of people who are not.
Everybody wants to rule the world. Hence, everybody wants to be an INTJ – the MBTI type best known as the archetypal Mastermind. Everybody wants to be an intellectual fount of strategy and analytical power – except most INTJs. It’s a point of irritation for me, watching so many people claim the title of INTJ when they so clearly are not. I understand wanting to be one on the outside. There are definite pros to being an INTJ. But first, let me sit you down and tell you a story.
My soul-sister is an INTJ. I don’t mean she’s a relatively smart person who really, really wishes she was one – she is one. She is the physical embodiment of this type, and as a female INTJ, she is in an extreme minority. Read: 0.8% of the population.
“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”— Harlan Ellison (or, the most INTJ quote I’ve ever seen)
They possess the following characteristics:
Ni: They will not do anything – and I mean anything – without turning it over, studying it in various shades of light, and using a magnifying glass. Before they take action, they will be sure to take action in a way that gets them the desired result. They do not do things willy-nilly, nor are they pansters. They will have everything planned out, down to the tone of voice they’re going to use when they say ‘hello,’ and what temperature the room will be when they say it. (This is only a very slight exaggeration.)
Te: If something is wrong, they will fix it. They will not do this as a group project. They will take the flaw they find, sit down in the corner, and do it alone because it’s easier, faster, and they can probably do it better than you. (This is not an exaggeration.)
Fi: Or the ‘Feels Box,’ as Arielle and I call it. I have the key to this one. It’s where INTJs store their feelings, emotions, and personal values. This is an important component of an INTJ, but they sometimes overlook it, which is why it’s important to remind them via sticky note or possible 2×4 over the head, that it exists for a reason.
Se: This is a quirky bit, as INTJs are hyper-aware of people’s auras and vibes and will read between lines that aren’t even there, but they can also be so hyper-aware that they boomerang and shut themselves off from the world. This isn’t always a bad thing – they need alone-time, they need to recharge and think. But if an INTJ seems aloof – well, they probably are. (I didn’t say they were perfect.)
If this sounds contradictory, that’s because INTJs are walking paradoxes. They’re brimming with dreams and ideals, but cynicism (because let’s face it: people can be awfully thick) often gets the better of them. This often leads to a ‘I’m the only one I can trust to do anything right’ mentality, and separates them from the rest of the pack as more of a lone wolf. This places them in a leadership position (no INTJ is happy following the herd), but also easily creates an independence bordering on that of a hermit. If you know an INTJ, let them be the leader they are but don’t let them hole up in a cave for thirteen years. Make sure they get some sunlight and food.
INTJs hate rules, restrictions, and regulations. This is often because they simply don’t work the way other people do – they need flexibility. They also want what they want when they want it, and find it hard to tolerate situations where they don’t get whatever they want immediately. They can be demanding and impatient, but a healthy INTJ will learn to tolerate mortals – um, humans – and even learn to work with them and speak the language conversationally. Which leads me to the subject of FRIENDSHIP.
An INTJ will have friends, but not many. They take George Washington’s words – be cordial to all, but intimate with a few – to heart, and it’s rare if they’re intimate with more than two or three people (not including family members). Even then, it’s very rare you’re seeing more than the tip of the iceberg. If they allow you to see the seventh level (of seven, not including purgatory) it means you have earned their trust, respect, and love. I’m honored to have reached this level with my resident INTJ, but it was not easy and it was not overnight. Respect their need to take things slow and make sure you’re worthy. It’s worth it.
An INTJ will not care about normal, social constructs of friendship. They will prize loyalty, intelligence, wit, and creativity in a friend, someone with whom they can hold stimulating conversations without feeling as if they’re ‘dumbing themselves down’ to be more accessible. INTJs want to be able to be themselves with someone who actually understands, which is not easy to find. If you don’t understand them at first, keep trying. They’re puzzles, but they’re highly rewarding puzzles and they will make you grow and learn and deepen in ways you didn’t think possible.
INTJs aren’t usually big on physical contact, so if they state they would be fine hugging you or touching you affectionately, congratulations! You’ve unlocked a new level. It means a lot. In fact, an INTJ will say many things that Mean a Lot, and you need to train yourself to be aware of them. They’re designed to be subtle and slip under the radar. Vigilance is recommended.
INTJs are extremely strategic and Machiavellian in the way they go about things. They pride themselves on their minds and work very hard to continue learning new things. They work out mentally – all the time. 24/7/365. Even in their sleep. (I’m not kidding.)
An INTJ will trust their own intuition above all else. If you reach a point in your relationship with an INTJ where they are willing to take your view of things over theirs, that is a Boss Level achievement and is, quite frankly, amazing. (Note: if an INTJ ever tells you ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ or something else implying you gave them a new thought or may have a better view of something, they have just paid you the highest compliment they can.)
AN UNHEALTHY INTJ will not want to talk to you if you disagree on any point. A HEALTHY INTJ will want to talk to you and find out new angles and new perspectives. If you run into the first kind of INTJ, don’t judge the rest of their kind by that one encounter. INTJs grow and learn and change just like the rest of us, and often they take more time because they analyze every teeny, tiny dust-mote of information to death, and then they have to sign it in triplicate and then re-analyze it to make sure they didn’t miss anything.
COMMON INTJ WEAKNESSES mean that they are often…
Arrogant: INTJs have little tolerance for ‘lesser minds’ and are very confident in their mental abilities, which means they can come across as stuck-up much of the time. Note: though INTJs can be truly arrogant, they are also often mistaken as such simply because they do know more than you and they are probably better-informed and have given any given subject more thought than the average person. Often they don’t mean to come across as arrogant, it’s a by-product.
Judgmental: Imagine trying to hold an argument with Spock when he knows he’s absolutely correct and you know he is, yes, but he’s also missing the Human Element which is kind of important. Spock isn’t quite understanding this, because he has the Facts, and he has Logic on his side, which means his more rational view is by definition Correct. You’re pretty sure Spock thinks you’re stupid. You might be right. Now try and look at this situation from Spock’s point of view, and you’ll see why INTJs can be so judgmental.
Overthinking. E v e r y t h i n g. Some things need overthought. Sometimes this is a blessing, not a curse – but sometimes, your INTJ needs to just let it go, because they’re beating a dead horse that cannot possibly get any deader. This is where you need to intervene, take the stick, and help your INTJ focus on something else. Anything, really. Bury the horse corpse and move on.
Rule-breakers. Granted, ‘well-behaved women rarely make history,’ but say an INTJ sees a fence. And that sign says ‘warning! Electric fence!’ What will the INTJ do? Will they think ‘ah, okay,’ and move around it? No, they’ll wonder ‘but is it really electric? Why is it there? What is the property owner trying to keep out? Are they up to something?’ and they’ll proceed to test the fence, and see if it really is electric, and if so, will it kill them to climb over it?
This pretty much sums up the cons to having an INTJ personality, in a very abbreviated way. Most problems INTJs have can be traced back to one of these four roots. But again, each of these ‘flaws’ can be a strength – given the right situation. IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE: An INTJ is still a human being with emotions and feelings. They aren’t impervious to insecurities and anxieties – if anything, they’re more prone because of their tendency to overanalyze and overthink everything. Be understanding and know that when speaking to an INTJ, you are not speaking to a cold-blooded reptile or a heartless Sphinx. Emotions are somewhat baffling to INTJs and they really aren’t always sure why emotions exist in the first place. Because they don’t really get them as easily as most people, they’ll often act more confident than they really are, providing a shield for the part of themselves they feel least-confident handling.
A FEW MORE TIPS
When dealing with INTJs, an important thing to remember is instinct. INTJs have many instincts, and most of them are not social. When an INTJ is in distress, their first thought is not ‘get help,’ it’s ‘push all help away, I’ll handle it.’ An INTJ’s idea of ‘handling it’ usually means ‘I’m going to pretend I’m fine, while simultaneously eschewing all meaningful human contact. Don’t mind me, I’m just spiraling into the Pit of Despair because I don’t want to appear WEAK.’ The way to work around this? Refuse. Put your foot down. Drag your INTJ into the light kicking and screaming if you have to, but you must sometimes take drastic measures for their own health. They don’t want to talk about what’s bothering them? Pester them until they open up. They say they’re fine when they’re obviously not? Call BS openly and tell them you know they’re lying. They need direct, blunt, up-front honesty. You can’t be subtle. If you try to be subtle and gentle with an INTJ in distress, you will get absolutely nowhere. Only after they’ve opened up and are beginning to handle things better can you ease up on them.
Another important point: INTJs may seem like they have no sense of humor. This is not usually true. They do have a sense of humor, but that sense of humor is buried down beneath several layers of ‘My Humor Is Too Brutal For Most People,’ ‘I’ve Been Told I Sound Mean,’ and ‘I Don’t Know If This Is Actually Funny, Or If It’s Just Me.’ Once you get past all these layers, chances are good you’ll find a delightful sense of humor. Buried treasure, mates. Buried treasure. (In fact, most things about INTJs = buried treasure. You dig, you get rich. Plain and simple.)
My last point is this: all relationships work in stages, but an INTJ has very distinct stages taking you from distant acquaintance up to friendship and beyond. Arielle is not only my soul-sister, she’s the Lewis to my Tolkien, the Peter to my Edmund, the Dae-Young to my Shi-Jin, the Jonathan to my David, and my work-wife. She understands my soul in ways nobody else does, and we are the most unlikely MBTI pairing available (myself being an INFP). We have many nicknames for ourselves, but we often call ourselves yin and yang. You can be friends with an INTJ – you just have to understand how they work.
Step one: the INTJ will talk to you. This doesn’t really mean anything except they’re willing to trade words. They’re feeling you out.
Step two: the INTJ will initiate a conversation with you. This is good. It means they were interested in what they saw, and they’re actively working toward seeing if you’re compatible.
Step three: the INTJ will enjoy talking with you, and will open up a little so you can better exchange ideas and thoughts. Be sure you open up as well – INTJs are excellent at reading people, but they need you to be as honest and open as you can. They do enough mental work already – don’t make yourself a chore.
Step four: you talk all the time. You agree on most things. You have stimulating, intellectual conversations on a regular basis.
Step five: you talk all the time – about personal things. You can go from stimulating, intellectual conversations to dumb jokes, catchy songs, etcetera. Once you realize you can talk about any subject and your INTJ is still interested in you, you are officially friends with the INTJ.
Step six: the INTJ wants to co-rule the world with you. This is a prized position and can only be held by one other individual, so if your INTJ offers you this position, you’d better take it. (Take it. Take it for your own sake and for the sake of preventing total despotism. That’s why I did. Well, that and the riches.)
I’ve seen many people attempt to pass themselves off as an INTJ, but I have sent the entirety of this article to Arielle for proofreading, and the response I received was this – “If I didn’t love or trust you so much, I’d be terrified right now and revolving ways to get rid of you.” This is a seal of INTJ approval, meaning I know what I’m talking about. I know an INTJ when I see one. (And do you know how many INTJs I currently know, out of many, many people? Two.) And I especially know a female INTJ when I see one. (Cleopatra is dead and doesn’t count.)
If you have an INTJ in your life, I hope this was helpful to you. If you do not have an INTJ in your life, I’m sorry and I hope you get one at some point, because they are invaluable and I don’t know where I’d be without mine.