According to my blog stats, the search term/phrase that most frequently brought readers to this blog in 2015 was “INFJ lonely”. This is not surprising at all. It seems extremely common for INFJs to report issues with finding like-minded people who really “get” them. I have experienced the same challenge throughout my entire life and recently have been wondering what exactly could account for the fact that so many of us INFJs rarely experience a deep sense of connection with other human beings.
To be honest, the conversations I have with the majority of people leave me longing for so much more, and I often feel like there are several layers of my personality that I must keep tucked away or else I will end up feeling extremely misunderstood. It is rare that I find someone who understands and appreciates my full authentic self. And as bad as this may sound, what seems even rarer than finding someone who understands me is finding someone who I consider intriguing and interesting enough to want a friendship with them. Growing up, I frequently wondered what was wrong with me for having such feelings, but over the years I’ve met a few people who’ve validated that I am not the only one who would rather spend all my free time alone than to settle for the company of people whom I don’t truly like. So again, the question is why do so many INFJs feel isolated and lonely?
First of all, I’ll touch on one of the most basic and obvious reasons why we don’t connect with as many people as we would like, but this reason still does not adequately explain why we struggle to connect on a deeper level. Due to our introversion and sensitive nature, INFJs are naturally reserved and guarded when venturing out into the world. This tendency to hold back isn’t all that helpful if we are lonely and want to make connections with more people. Many of you have probably realized at some point that it’s necessary to come out of hiding and to take risks if you sincerely want to make more friends. A huge INFJ weakness is that we don’t usually initiate conversations and make plans with people we don’t know well. So yeah, we don’t exactly increase the odds of finding like-minded people by waiting for them to come to us and show an interest in being our friend.
So, I wish the solution was as simple as learning to be more proactive at initiating conversations with more people. Unfortunately, I believe the situation is much more complex than that for an INFJ. Here’s the problem that many INFJs encounter: Whether they initiated the conversation or not, many INFJs say that they have felt misunderstood by people when they tried to open up and expose who they really are. If they stay on the surface and force themselves to engage in small talk, it’s possible to maintain a conversation with some people. But the more that an INFJ opens up and tries to venture deeper into the ideas and topics that interest them, it often becomes apparent to the INFJ that there is a sudden disconnect. It may feel like the other person is beginning to lose interest or is clueless about what the INFJ is discussing because the conversation begins to trail off. At this point, the INFJ probably thinks, “Ok, maybe I’m too weird for this person. I’ll just be quiet now or go back to the small talk.”
I am not suggesting that INFJs have the most obscure interests ever, that they possess super strange opinions, or that it’s even necessary for people to have the same exact interests and opinions in order to be friends. The issue here is that by simply expressing their true thoughts, feelings, and opinions, INFJs can intuitively pick up on the fact that many people don’t feel comfortable, interested, or familiar with what they are saying. It’s not that INFJs are speaking a foreign language from another planet (though it may feel that way sometimes), but I think a major part of the issue lies in the fact that INFJs are intuitive thinkers who would rather avoid small talk.
I don’t know how accurate the statistics are, but it’s been suggested that sensors are a lot more common than intuitives. About 70-75% are sensors, and 25-30% are intuitives. Of the four pairs of preferences in the MBTI, I find that sensing vs. intuition is the one that has the greatest effect on the depth of conversation I am able to have with another person. INFJs prefer intuitive thinking, and it only makes sense that other intuitive types would be more likely to understand us. We may not see friendship potential in every intuitive thinker we come across, but INFJs might find it easier to dive into the topics that truly interest them when they are in the presence of another intuitive. What poses a challenge for the INFJ is finding other intuitives. Though they are not considered rare, intuitives are not common.
Now I’m going to create a simplified description/stereotype of each type of thinker in order to illustrate why it could be difficult for an intuitive and a sensor to understand and communicate with one another. Sensors are reality-based, more focused on the here-and-now. They are more likely to trust and focus on what can be experienced directly through the five senses (what they taste, touch, see, hear, and smell). Intuitives are the imaginative, big picture thinkers who prefer to notice patterns, to connect dots, and to think about possibilities, rather than focusing so much on details and on what is currently happening. They often rely on their sixth sense or a gut feeling to pick up information. The sensor is the down-to-earth, practical one who often enjoys a good amount of small talk. The intuitive is the head-stuck-in-the-clouds dreamer who prefers discussions about theories, the future, and the possible deeper meaning behind things. In the eyes of a sensor, intuitives might seem boring, weird, irrational, scattered, and out of touch with reality. To intuitives, sensors might seem boring, close-minded, simple-minded, and stuck in very limited ways of thinking.
I don’t know if it’s a fair or accurate assumption to make, but I see sensors as realistic reductionist thinkers and intuitives as idealistic holistic thinkers. The reductionist prefers to break things down to smaller parts, to study facts, and to hone in on the current situation. The holistic quickly sees a wider perspective of the situation and how various parts interact and affect one another while missing a lot of the details. If you didn’t already understand the general difference between sensors and intuitives, you probably have a better idea by now. And again, these are just stereotypes. Not all sensors and intuitives are exactly the same. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that there are strengths and weaknesses for each way of thinking. If you want to go a little further into that, here’s a blog post titled Why Your Type is Awesome: S vs. N that highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
In my experience as an INFJ, the few people who I have felt understood me best prefer using intuition over sensing. These are the kind of people who I can have long and meaningful conversations with on an extremely wide range of topics. We may engage in a little small talk for a couple of minutes, but our conversations usually shift rather quickly into the interesting ideas and theories we have been pondering lately. It often feels like we never run out of topics to discuss. With sensors, though, I often feel like there are topics that aren’t worth discussing because they don’t seem as interested in exploring certain ideas and subjects that appeal to me. I pick up on what feels comfortable and interesting to them and what doesn’t. Staying in five-sense reality usually keeps them more engaged, but I can become bored and dissatisfied if I have to stick with surface reality talk for too long.
What I am proposing is that in order to feel better understood by others, an INFJ will probably have better luck engaging in conversations with other intuitive types, such as the INFP, INTJ, or ENFJ. Does this mean that INFJs cannot have fulfilling relationships with sensors and should avoid them all? Absolutely not! Although it is possible that INFJs will struggle to feel understood by some sensing types, there could be certain things gained through friendships with sensors that they might lack in their friendships with other intuitives.
Something I have come to realize as an INFJ is just how ungrounded I am prone to becoming when I get so stuck in thoughts and theories that I start to ignore my physical surroundings. Spending time alone and thinking deeply are both wonderful activities, but sometimes INFJs forget that there’s a physical world out there to explore and enjoy. An extroverted sensor who is all about living in the moment and enjoys getting out to have experiences that feed the five senses could help bring more balance to an INFJ who is heavy on introversion and future-oriented thinking. Differences in personalities among friends are not necessarily bad. Although similarities can foster deeper mutual understanding, I don’t think it is always wise or necessary for someone to seek people who have personality traits that are identical to his or her own.
But here’s the truth of it: if you crave those deep and meaningful conversations that stimulate your mind and soul, you’re probably better off talking with another intuitive. Intuitives, statistically speaking, are not as easy to find, though, which might explain why it feels like you can’t find many people who seem to understand you. When you find a good one, cherish that friendship and connection because if you’re like most of us other INFJs, trying to find the right people might feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. If most of your friends are sensors or if sensors are the type of people you encounter most frequently, and you feel that they don’t seem to understand you too well, just know that there are pros and cons to every personality. Sensors can teach you other ways of being, or, at the very least, maybe they can help you stay a little more grounded.
For an INFJ, it is extremely tempting to want the ideal friendship to the point of being closed-off to anyone who doesn’t seem like a perfect match. Not only is it hard to find our kind of people, we seem to be really picky on top of it because we know exactly what we want and expect from others. Settling or faking an interest in others so we can have more friends is not something that comes easy to us. Although I am not encouraging anyone to settle, I will remind you that sometimes those people who behave and think a bit differently can still be good friends who break up the monotony and help us avoid getting too stuck in our familiar habits and patterns because they help us see things from another perspective.
I will be completely honest with you, though, and admit that I find it very hard, almost impossible at times, to readjust my expectations. If I feel like I have to hold back too much of myself, that I can’t talk about my interests for more than a minute or so, and that a lot of effort is constantly required from either me or the other person to keep the conversation flowing, I cannot help but eventually lose all interest and decide that it would be preferable to be lonely alone than it would be to feel lonely talking to another person. While others might be able to remain open-minded and search for a common interest with that person, I usually prefer to move on in the search to find someone else whose company I truly enjoy.If you want to read about other INFJs who are socially bored and isolated because of it, check out this forum thread. As you will see, you are definitely not the only lonely INFJ who struggles to find the right people. Considering that one of our main complaints is that we don’t feel intellectually stimulated enough by most people we talk to, I’m slightly concerned about what that might say about modern society. Is it becoming less common to think deeply and have thought-provoking conversations about the future? Are INFJs and other intuitive types at risk of becoming less and less common? It seems like it might be preferable to have a fairly even balance of all the personality types and preferences, so perhaps a question to investigate another time is what the implications might be of having such uneven distributions of certain personality types.
I’d love to hear from other INFJs on this topic. Do you think your preference for intuitive thinking affects how well you are able to communicate and connect with others? Are your closest friends intuitives or sensors? How do you view sensors and friendships with them? And most importantly, what do you think explains INFJ loneliness?