I don’t like it when people I don’t know try to speak on my behalf. I resent articles like, “How to Care for Your Introvert/INTJ/Personal Weirdo” because I don’t like being thought of as someone’s pet. How about you treat us like human beings, hmm? Let’s start there.
I get a lot of people coming to my blog after searching things like “how to talk to an introvert” and “how to deal with an INTJ,” so it’s obvious that someone needs my help. In that case, maybe the occasional list might be necessary.
But instead of treating introverts like pets or strange aliens who need to be approached carefully, or telling you how often to water “your” INTJ or how much light it needs, I will offer just about the only general, safe advice you can give regarding INTJs:
How to Keep an INTJ From Hating You
(“But Em,” you might say, “I don’t really care if an INTJ hates me or not.” Then you are missing out on the joys and the challenges of a relationship with an INTJ. There is no hope for you.)
1. Don’t be boring.
Has your INTJ friend/relative/acquaintance asked about your life? Congratulations! That INTJ actually cares about you. Don’t spoil it by giving them an answer full of small talk or meaningless details. Unless there is a deeper significance to it, the INTJ does not want to hear about what you had for lunch, what you bought at the thrift store, or that your sister’s roommate’s hairdresser’s daughter got second place in her gymnastics tournament.
Tell the INTJ about the movie you saw last week that broke your heart. Tell the INTJ about the joys and frustrations of raising a special-needs child. Tell the INTJ why you want to punch this one guy at work in the face. Tell the INTJ about the fascinating sex article you read in the New York Times. If you honestly don’t have a lot to share about your life, move on to another topic and don’t try to dig up something just to have something to say. By then, the INTJ has already gotten bored.
2. Don’t sugarcoat.
When I was in high school, my parents had a next-door neighbor who would bring over some kind of baked good whenever she had a complaint. The proffered cake or casserole was intended to soften the blow of informing them that my stepdad was not disposing of the garbage correctly, or that she saw one of our cats looking through her window and it creeped her out. You could say that was nice of her to try to soften the blow, but here’s the thing: she never came over for anything else. So when she would call and say she wanted to bring over some extra cookies for us, we already knew what she really meant.
To an INTJ, efforts to soften the blow or butter us up are pointless nonsense. We will figure out what you’re up to, and we will not appreciate your manipulative efforts when we do. We appreciate you being straightforward and honest instead, however much of a sting it may carry.
3. Don’t question our expertise.
All INTJs know two things: What they know, and what they don’t know. This can create an air of certainty that can seem like arrogance. INTJs don’t do BS: If we claim to know something, we know it. And, like most introverts, INTJs don’t speak up unless they have given their words some serious thought. If an INTJ shares information with you, trust that they know what they’re talking about. If you ask for their opinion or help, and it’s something they have knowledge of, buckle up. You may get more than you bargained for, but you will get it to the best of their ability.
Does this mean you can’t disagree with an INTJ? Certainly not. But just as INTJs speak only with some level of certainty, they expect–even demand–the same of others. If you disagree with something an INTJ says, and your disagreement doesn’t hold water, you lose the INTJ’s respect. If you can back up your disagreement, don’t hesitate to share it. The INTJ may not like the criticism, but he or she will respect you all the more if you are up-front about it and use logic and good sense to present your side. But don’t dismiss an INTJ’s input out of hand, don’t disagree just to be contrary, and please don’t reply with, “Well, that just doesn’t seem nice.”
If you’re engaged in a friendly debate, definitely present an alternate idea or perspective, and definitely pick apart what the INTJ says. He or she is doing the same thing to you. But if you ask for an INTJ’s advice or input, and then disparage or ignore it, you will have an annoyed INTJ on your hands. While not as dangerous as a bored INTJ, it’s probably not something you want to deal with.
4. Don’t question our lack of expertise.
As I said, INTJs are usually well aware of their own shortcomings. This is actually good: when too many cooks are spoiling the broth, you probably won’t find an INTJ among them. INTJs won’t stick their noses into a situation unless they have something to offer, and so usually don’t get in the way.
Unfortunately, just as an INTJ can seem like a know-it-all, they may appear to lack confidence, or simply appear lazy, when they say they can’t do something. Most INTJs love showing off their knowledge and skills, so when they say they can’t, they mean it. Don’t try to argue that with us, even if you think you’re helping build our confidence. Just don’t.
Ask me for cooking advice, a British costume drama to watch, or to proofread a letter, and I am all over it. Ask me to help you write a song, plant a garden, or recommend a beer, and I got nothing. In the first examples, I’m not deliberately showing off (maybe a little)—I just know what I’m doing. In the second group of examples, those things are simply not in my brain. Saying “You can do it! I believe in you!” to an INTJ who already knows they can’t is basically like telling them you have faith that they can make an omelette without any eggs.
Just because INTJs are known as a cold, unfeeling type doesn’t mean they don’t like to be appreciated. We are still human, after all. A constant spotlight is unnecessary, as is insincere flattery, but any INTJ will be glad to receive recognition for a job well done, or a goal that has been met, or an idea that has been successfully implemented. INTJs can be good about giving credit where credit is due, so we like to get it when we know it’s due us.
(OK, Loki is not actually an INTJ. I just couldn’t resist the joke.)
The problem is that, as a less outgoing type, our appreciation for the recognition may not shine through. But trust me, it’s there. INTJs spend a lot of their time trying to figure out what “works” in a given situation, and then living their lives based on these findings. Input from other people can help, particularly with personal relationships. If you’re in a relationship with an INTJ and they did or said something that worked for you (apply that to whatever context you wish), then communicate that. The INTJ is more likely to repeat something if they know it works. And, as I said in point #2, the INTJ will appreciate your up-front honesty.
Recognition can be particularly important in INTJ relationships because our unique mental processes may lead us to do something that we consider caring and sensitive, but that may not be viewed as such by others. An INTJ may feel scorned when, in reality, the other person just doesn’t understand the meaning behind the INTJ’s actions. This comic is the best illustration I could find:
This comic makes me crack up and go “aww” because I totally get where that guy is coming from. INTJs value efficiency, so taking the trouble to make another person’s life easier is a major gesture of affection. A lack of recognition may make the INTJ question whether it was worth the trouble after all. If you find that “your” INTJ is taking trouble on your behalf, or making some effort to make things easier/cheaper/more efficient for you, let them know you appreciate the gesture, even if you think it’s weird, or it doesn’t fill you with warm fuzzies. However, be sure that you are also following my next bit of advice…
6. Be sincere.
INTJs don’t have a problem with emotions per se. We just don’t appreciate false or exaggerated emotions, except when used in sarcasm. INTJs value genuine emotions, even if we try to overanalyze them. As I said, we are still human–we’re not monsters. We understand the anxiety of job loss, the grief of losing a family member, the pride of graduation, and so on.
The thing is, although we can understand and acknowledge these feelings, we might not be able to share them. Don’t mistake a lack of outward emotion for a lack of sympathy, though. An INTJ may not be sad about the death of your pet, but he or she can most certainly understand why you are sad. This can be a good thing, too: for example, if you are dealing with a problem that needs an objective opinion, but you yourself are swimming in emotions because of your proximity to that problem, then your best bet is to ask an INTJ. Or really, any T. If you only want someone to be as upset as you are about something, well, that’s what F-types are for.
Just don’t blow it out of proportion, and don’t put on an act for anyone’s benefit, especially an INTJ’s. They will probably see through it, and they definitely will not appreciate it. False emotion is just one more waste of time to a personality type that values logic and practicality. There is no need to feign interest in something you don’t care about, to pretend to be happy when you are going through hell, or to say you weren’t offended when you really were. We wouldn’t do it to you, and we don’t need you to do it to us.
Once someone tried to “bring me out of my shell” by pretending to be interested in something I was doing just to get me to talk more. The problem was that 1. I didn’t feel like talking at the time, and 2. I could tell they were exaggerating their interest. Why would that make me chatty? Plus, if we catch you being dishonest or insincere in a small thing, it makes us less likely to trust you with bigger things. Heck, that’s freaking biblical.
7. Don’t intrude on the alone time.
This does not apply to an emergency situation, of course (defined as the appearance of unexpected blood, fire, or invading aliens), nor is it exclusive to INTJs. But INTJs, like all introverts–and even extroverts, to a much much smaller extent–need time alone. This helps them regroup, recharge, and reexamine their life choices. People are exhausting. Heck, for most INTJs, our own brains are exhausting. We need space for ourselves, to sort through our daily data, replay all our conversations and actions to see what does and does not work for next time, and plot our next schemes.
Sure, too much alone time might sound selfish, but it’s for your own good. After all…
So there we go. Once again, I have proven myself a hypocrite by engaging in something I hate and telling other people how to deal with “their” INTJs. But don’t let that stop you from actually following the advice. I’m an INTJ, after all. I wouldn’t suggest it if I weren’t confident about it.
This list, by the way, is not exhaustive. You might end up doing something entirely different that makes an INTJ hate you. But following the advice in this blog will at least help put you on the right track.