Sunday, June 1, 2008

Quietness, Sunshine, Friends, and the INFP

I am about to head out to a park with my best introverted friend (a delightful INTP), and our plan is to sit out in the sunshine, on an old blanket, and read and journal and just think through our life and goals and plans, and maybe even contemplate on some guy problems that need sorting out. We've already said we won't talk to each other much.

How funny are we? We PLAN to not talk. But we'll be together. We are being together, alone. Or is it alone, together? Whatever way you look at it, this is the reason why we are such great friends. We thought about inviting some of other friends along, perhaps for some Frisbee in the park, but we decided against it. "I don't want to have to entertain anybody," I said.

She laughed. "I know! Let's just keep it the two of us when we go."

I was cool with that. I like the quiet. I like the thoughtfulness that comes over me when I'm out in nature. I like having somebody next to me, equally lost in thought, so I'm not alone, but I'm not pressured to perform.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The INFP Friend

What is going through your INFP friend's mind?

I never realized how mysterious people think we actually are. They are trying to figure us out by searching for us online, but all they have to really do is stop, listen, and absorb. We tend to glow whatever we are thinking. It might just be a very, very faint glow, but it is there, deep in our eyes. We can't hide it. Which, of course, royally ticks us off. Open books don't like to be read as much as one might think. It makes us squeamish. And it tickles when you turn the pages.

If you're trying to understand an INFP, good luck. If you happen to be another "Feeling" cousin, you'll have a bit of a chance. If you are a "Thinker," be ready for the treasure hunt of your life. We won't make sense to you right off the bat, although we usually do have a rhyme and reason to our actions. We draw from that inter-connectedness that our intuition feeds and our perception points out while our hearts determine how important the connections are to us. We have an uncanny way of pulling something out of the air that is randomly connected to something we just talked about oh ... ten or fifteen minutes ago. The rising price of gas is absolutely relevant to the daisy field we once saw (on a road trip last weekend) which also reminds us that we need to mow our lawn (fields, tall grass, all that) and—oh, yeah!—remember that time we were kids and it rained and you left your Tonka truck out in the sandbox and it rusted and you cried because your Mom made you throw it out? (mow lawn, lawns I used to know, rain makes grass grow, childhood, sandbox, Tonka truck.) And, oh, by the way, you would never vote for John McCain. (Pasty white guy whose skin is the color of sand.)

Ta-da! Oh, the magic of the INFP mind.

When we aren't making such enchanting leaps of our neural pathways, we are contemplating life. For example: Why am I at this job? Is it fulfilling? What have I contributed? Do my peers appreciate me? Is there anything I could do better? Should I join that book club? Did the guy at the coffee shop smile at me because I looked funny or because he was flirting? Wow, the sky is a vivid tone of cerulean blue right now. And that cloud kinda looks like an ostrich. Why don't I care more about the starving children in Africa? I should definitely care more about the starving children in Africa.

It all sounds so selfish. Be patient with your INFP friend when she confides in you again, and again, and AGAIN and asks for your advice ("Should I join the Peace Corp and go help starving children in Africa? Do you think so? Really? I want to. I'm just not sure.") This means she is comfortable with you and is trying to include you in her inner life. It's hard to break out of your inner life. Your inner life is safe. You might beat yourself up, but you don't think you're weird. Or crazy. But, yeah, okay, you know you're a little paranoid. And indecisive. (Dang that indecisiveness!) And nervous. But not crazy. So if your INFP friend is asking your advice ... give it honestly, and gently. And realize you have been entrusted with a precious thing.

But though he might frustrate you, an INFP friend is a wonderful person to have in your life. Why? Well, we:

- Are fiercely loyal to our loved ones
- Aren't jealous (usually)
- Will listen intently when we know you need to be heard (just don't bore us ... we'll stop listening and start staring blankly)
- Pour ourselves into people and causes, without complaint. (Although a word of encouragement or appreciation will fuel a grateful warm fuzzy feeling for days)
- Share willingly
- Let you be you. You don't have to pretend. Just relax; be yourself. It's all good. We like you that way!
- Are whimsical, goofy, geeky, crazy (the good kind).
- Have a child-like enthusiasm for life
- Care. A lot.
- Try to understand things ... even viewpoints different from our own

Yeah, we're pretty amazing. If you don't have one already, go find yourself an INFP friend today! Don't know where to find one? Well ... that is a blog for another day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The INFP Worldview

So, we are introverted. We are intuitive. We feel. We perceive. We are INFP.

As a whole person, we take in the world around us and make connections. We place importance upon those connections. We let the importance sink in, simmer, soak. We let it take up residence. We then decide on a course of action.

When we live in harmony with the importance and with the connections, we are supremely, serenely happy. When we live in conflict with the importance and with the connections, we are unsettled, edgy, and sometimes even angry, on a level that is almost imperceptible to others, but boiling hot and writhingly disturbing to us. We feel it all to keenly at each twist and turn life throws at us.

We seek to understand the world around us and to respond to it authentically. After all ... it's all connected.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

P = Perceiving

[and I'm back!]

Perception is the fine art of acknowledging a fact. A person who is more perceptive than judging can see, hear, taste, feel, smell ... and just let the knowledge, sensation, and "being" of the observed state or thing or action "be" exactly what it is, in that moment, without feeling a need to change it. Perceiving persons have a heightened sense of awareness, but a weaker drive to use that awareness to do anything but observe.

Perception can be easily mistaken for indecision. In fact, I myself am frequently caught in vicious cycles of indecision. However, perception is NOT an inability to act on knowledge. It just likes to keep things open and flexible. A perceiving employee hesitates to make conclusive statements until all options have been explored. A perceiving student exhausts all possible research before writing a paper. A perceiving romantic partner craves spontaneity and open communication, and is reluctant to "box in" his or her love interest to a set standard.

Perceiving is both frustrating and illuminating. Open-endedness can result in shoddy workmanship (the project is never complete) or valuable progress (the project is constantly evaluated against new data, in order to form a more accurate plan of action, relevant to current standards).

Friday, May 16, 2008

F = Feeling

Ooooohhhh ... feelings. INFPs must be lovey-dovey, touchy-feely, starry-eyed and obsessed with cute fluffy kittens and wiggly little puppies. Well, maybe some are--but not necessarily.

"Feeling" in the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator methodology simply means that the person who is identified as a Feeler makes decisions based on personal values more than hard, cold facts. Feelers will follow an inner compass that points "true north" to their true selves. "If I do this, will I be doing the right thing?" is a question Feelers ask themselves. As is "what does this mean to me?" or "what do I really want out of this?". Ambiguity is tolerated in some circumstances, but Feelers are never satisfied with their current state of being. An authentic lifestyle is what a Feeler desires above all else, and he or she will pursue it relentlessly. In relationships, this authenticity is especially important. Feelers long for open, expressive communication with their significant others.

The value system used has been developed by a Feeler over a lifetime. Young Feelers often feel alienated from their peers. "Marching to the tune of a different drummer" is a phrase that describes this situation well. Past experiences, spiritual beliefs, learned knowledge, current interests, future goals, and relational implications all play a part in the constantly developing inner sense of value. Feelers draw upon this inner sense to make everyday decisions.

But what about love, joy, frustration, fear, or anger? Aren't those "feelings" and don't they affect Feelers differently than their Thinking counterparts? Well yes, emotions do play a part of Feeling. Feelers are typically more expressive and more in tune (due to that inner compass) to what their emotions mean. They are also more open to the emotions of others, and tend to take the feelings of others into consideration when making decisions.

At the end of the day, however, Feeling is ultimately a decision-making function and not an indefinite aura of emotive expressiveness.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

N = iNtuitive

Intuition. The term associated with drawing together an impression about circumstances or practices has often been used dismissively in reference to a woman's gut instinct, but when describing a user interface or operator instructions, "intuitive" is ideal. If a program or system is "counter-intuitive," it is difficult to follow and goes against common practices.

So how does intuition affect an intuitive person's perspective on life? It is the fact gathering, connection building, future-looking, possibility thinking function. Intuition, in my own experience, is rarely linear. Point A to point B is all well and good, but the intuitive mind can make leaps to point M and C along the way, bouncing from one point to another like a pinball in a pinball machine, and pulling them into the inter-connectivity of the experience. Cause and effect for an intuitive has multiple variables. Everything is connected, just in varying degrees.
Intuition affects how the intuitive sees patterns, both in a literal and figurative sense.

To an intuitive these connections are like looking into the night sky in a foreign location and seeing the stars in the expanse above for the first time and instantly finding personal constellations by connecting the dots instantaneously in his or her mind. Or finding a dragon in a cumulus cloud. Or hearing a symphony of sound in the traffic of a city. Or recognizing the political trending of a country's population well before the talking heads begin to squawk about war or famine or a burgeoning economy. Or reading about one topic in a paper and immediately and unconsciously associating it with a news story heard the week before on the radio. Or uncannily understanding the motivating factors in human interactions.

In short, intuitives see the big picture. They can't help it. Those little neural pathways won't stop growing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I = Introverted

The first letter describing an INFP is "I". Not "I" as in "myself", but "I" as in "introverted".

Note: Before I go any further into this discussion, let me first point out that there are many quality descriptions of Meyers-Briggs typological theory that have already described each of the 16 personality types in depth. For a good overview of any type personality, has a good selection of summaries for each type, along with links to additional information sites, such as It is not my purpose to either attempt to define the INFP type to such an extent on my own (I am not qualified to do so) or to repeat what has already been stated. Instead, I will describe this element of the type's personality from my own experience.

Let me begin with what introversion is NOT. Introversion is not shyness. Introversion is not the manifestation of anti-social behavior. Introversion is not insecurity. If anything, true introversion is a type of security in "self" to the extent that others are not required by the introvert in order to feel satisfied in his or her day to day existence. As such, it is neither a positive nor a negative manifestation of a person's behavior or social functioning.

Introverts draw their energy from within. They may enjoy being in social environments and may, in fact, have a large circle of friends with whom they stay in close contact, but they will ultimately feel the need to get alone for a period of time in which to "recharge" their energy before going back into another social situation. Introverts may seem reserved or outgoing. Usually this depends on how comfortable they are in the situation observed. At work, in their element, introverts may be strong leaders. When spending a night out on the town with friends, they may be gregarious and social. Or they might withdraw if they feel uneasy or drained, or to simple step back and observe. Introverts are great observers. They pack away facts like extroverts pack away phone numbers of new acquaintances.