INFJ Top Ten List: #5 - Socially Inept

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 28 Comments A+ a-


G'morning, friends! I'm switching up my routine today with a hot cup of tea instead of the usual java. My husband decided to give up caffeine (I know...gasp!), and I'm no longer waking up to a freshly brewed pot. So until I figure out the requirements for making a perfect half-pot of coffee, I'll be taking the easy route with a good old-fashioned cup of tea. This one is a blueberry energy blend with a spoonful of buckwheat honey to sweeten it up. Not bad...

So, are you ready for #5 on our list today? Put on your thick skins, people...


5. We are socially inept

While many INFJs can practice and put on a good show, most of us struggle with social norms and routines, especially if we see little use for them. Since, as mentioned before, we find it difficult to put our thoughts into words, we can feel uncomfortable being in situations that cause us to interact in a spontaneous manner, such as meeting someone new.

INFJs spend most of our time thinking through deep and complex matters, therefore shallow and menial conversations of everyday life can confuse and frustrate us. Talks of the weather and local sports are exhausting for us. We would much rather ask for life stories, sincere problems of which we can offer solutions and therapy session-like conversations. When we ask "how are you," we mean it on the deepest and sincerest possible level.


When I read through this, two points jumped out at me. One is that INFJs struggle to adequately express themselves.  The other is that we prefer deep conversations to surface topics. Combined, these two do seem to give us the appearance of being socially awkward.

I also like how the author states that INFJs may have "little use" for social norms and routines. A lot of the extraverted social stuff out there today has no value for me. I can pretend it does, if the situation requires it--we are good actors, after all. But you'll often find me retreating inside my head when the social stuff starts boring me to tears.

Do you struggle to express yourself when you're with others? I know I do. My thoughts are like the ocean--they never stop moving. Connections are constantly being made. And as people are speaking to me, my body is multi-tasking: my Fe is reading their emotional state, my Se is rapidly processing environmental colors/sounds/smells/etc., my Ni is picking up on cues and feedback they don't even realize they're giving, and my Ti is trying to package all of this up and deliver a coherent, intelligent verbal response. Not just any response, either, but one that slices through social layers to drive home a profound point that will ultimately change their lives. You know, like Jesus. Or Yoda :-)

Now all this processing requires a lot of energy...energy that I won't get back right away. So when I'm required to waste it on conversation that has little purpose or value, I get pretty darn frustrated. If I'm talking with someone and suspect it's not going to get any deeper than the weather, I will find a reason to excuse myself. For me, interactions are costly, so they have to be worth it.

And then there are the multiple perspectives. They like to discuss things around the table. Imagine them as a jury, if you will. They take in data, argue points, express their opinions and then vote on the outcome. Occasionally a jury needs very little time to reach a decision, but often it's an extensive process. If I'm with someone I know and trust, I can talk through this process verbally and reach a solid conclusion. With strangers--or people I just met--I stay quiet as the jury deliberates. My thought processes are deep, and I simply lack the charm and quick-witted conversational skills of my extravert friends.

One-on-one therapy sessions, however, can be very fulfilling. When I sense that someone is in need of encouragement, advice, or just a listening ear, I focus all my attention and resources on that person. Helping people has tremendous value, and they are always, always worth it :-)

All INFJs are different, though, so what about you? Are you comfortable in social situations? How do you handle the shallow stuff? Are you the life of the party...or do you scope out the crowd, find the person in need and use your superpowers to bring hope and healing??


28 comments

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Colin Machan
AUTHOR
November 27, 2012 at 1:51 PM delete

Absolutely agree, Meridian. I am lousy at small talk, clumsy with relationships, easily bored with discussions on last night's soap opera or the football game.
At parties I'm the one doing the dishes, waiting on table. At get-togethers at church or work I retreat into tasks. Give me something to do and I'll really enjoy the event. Take all the jobs away and just say 'go and enjoy myself' and it's pergatory.

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Mel
AUTHOR
November 28, 2012 at 4:06 AM delete

As always I enjoyed reading your writing, Meridian :)

I love small talk with NTs and NFs because (1) we keep it short and (2) because we know it's only for fun, a teaser, before we get to "real" conversation. At parties - it depends, but I tend to either be dancing with someone I know, having a D&M or hiding in the kitchen. Today I had a 2 hour drink with an INFJ friend and he was therapy for me, really replenished all the energy that got sucked up by being surrounded by crowds today. (It was the premiere for the movie The Hobbit in my city today... and it was lovely but too crowded at the same time).

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Meridian
AUTHOR
November 28, 2012 at 12:07 PM delete

You should see me smiling over here, Colin...behind-the-scenes is my preference as well. We'd be doing the dishes together (I wash, you dry?).

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Meridian
AUTHOR
November 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM delete

Thanks, Mel - wow, spending time with another INFJ sounds lovely! I'm glad you got to do that. A friend who replenishes is such a treasure. Am still waiting to find one here locally to hang out with. Crowds are just hell on my Se. I avoid them at all costs, lol!

Yay for The Hobbit!! We bought tickets for the midnight premiere...but we have to wait a couple of weeks here. My respite worker and two of my kids are coming with me. We're sooooo psyched to be up half the night taking in more Middle-Earth adventure :-) So how was it????

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Clint
AUTHOR
November 28, 2012 at 2:12 PM delete

One of my obstacles with small talk is that it usually is based on something going on in pop-culture, so while I would be happy to engage in some shallow conversation to make a situation more comfortable, I don't have a broad basis of information because I have no desire to follow the superficial goings-on in pop-culture! So I gave that up years ago and decided to help the world be as comfortable with silence as I am, haha.

I also love how you personify the "perspectives." I don't know if you defend those perspectives as adamantly as I do in an argument, but I tend to defend a "perspective" as if it's a dear friend (much to the consternation of the real-life friend I'm arguing with).

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November 28, 2012 at 2:13 PM delete

I enjoy conversations in social situations, they help me understand the dynamics of people's behavior and every look and glance can tell so much. Yes, I do the talking when I am asked something, but till then I am observing and what you elaborate in this post is very much up to the point. I feel all these events occurring inside my head and it is such a spontaneous process that I could not have described it so well as you. I feel odd when I am there amid strangers, I feel left out and unwanted. However, if it is the people i know, I always have something to say. But still it feels like I am receiving all their thoughts and all their movements are kind of being recorded inside my mind. I could not have explained this in any other way were it not the INFJ categorization. Thanks for the lovely post :)

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Elizabeth
AUTHOR
November 28, 2012 at 2:55 PM delete

Wow, I really related to this post. I am so glad to have a regular online "place" to go to hear the thoughts of a fellow INFJ. I am liking this blog series!

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Meridian
AUTHOR
November 29, 2012 at 8:25 AM delete

Hi, Clint - most of the time, I'm pretty oblivious to pop-culture as well. When conversation wanders in that direction, I just listen and ask questions (because people seem to enjoy bringing me up to speed on that stuff). Having teenagers in the house has helped, though. If we're talking Bieber or OneDirection, I can kinda keep up, lol :-)

And YES - my perspectives are like dear friends, and I'm very protective of them! But I don't like conflict, so I tend not to argue with people :-) I'll defend them if they are under attack, though. I just don't feel like I'm good at verbally sparring. You sound like you're good at it - I'd love to hear more about the kinds of debates you have with people!

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Meridian
AUTHOR
November 29, 2012 at 8:50 AM delete

Aarthi - isn't it funny how much you can pick up from others when you're having a conversation with them? When you mentioned receiving their thoughts and recording their movements, I was reminded of "The Mentalist" TV series (my daughter is crazy about that show). The Mentalist guy picks up on the most minute details and can figure a person out in minutes, making him appear psychic. The crazy processes going on inside us give us a pretty good image of people. Understanding how those processes work and why is the key to living with them (and not going insane, lol).

I'm with you on being able to talk more with people we know. Familiarity gives the multi-tasking a break and frees us up to be ourselves. It's such a relief to be with someone who looks/smells/sounds consistent!! :-)

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Meridian
AUTHOR
November 29, 2012 at 8:58 AM delete

Thanks, hon!! I was pleased to stumble across the list and present it out here. It's interesting to see the wide variety of responses and viewpoints. We're all very similar, and yet we have our own unique twist on things. Don't know about anyone else, but this is a fantastic learning experience for me. Sooo glad you're enjoying it as well!

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Clint
AUTHOR
November 29, 2012 at 11:53 AM delete

Oh well when I say, "friend" I mean it in the most INFJ sense of the word. I have two close guy friends (one of whom is an ENTJ...woah) and with them I'll engage in some deep hypothetical discussion, but I'm not good for long bouts. After a couple of minutes I'm exhausted from analyzing my side, his side, and the myriad potential sides and just let it drop. This is always fine with him, because an ENTJ can't lose an argument, though they will consider everything you said later.

One thing I've noticed that makes me terrible at debating, or even writing, is that I get to the ultimate conclusion in my head, after all the silent, internal analyzing, and then can't put on paper or in words how I got to it. Reading that that is a normal aspect of our personality was really very helpful to me. At the very least it allows me to avoid expending energy figuring out WHY I do that, and just try to make some maps for myself along the way because I KNOW it's going to happen.

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Meridian
AUTHOR
November 29, 2012 at 8:39 PM delete

No kidding on the "woah" - I've only had one run-in with an ENTJ, and he made my head spin. He literally never quit talking, though he did ask my opinion on things--only to debate it as soon as it left my mouth, lol.

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people seem to think in linear fashion. A leads to B, then on to C, and so on. The INFJ, however, thinks more like a tree. We start with one idea and begin branching out. Those branches develop their own branches, and it just spreads far and wide. Sometimes branches will intertwine, connect with other branches elsewhere. Maybe this is why it's so exhausting to try and explain our conclusions?

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Mel
AUTHOR
November 30, 2012 at 3:45 AM delete

Yes, I think I have learned this year that I definitely strongly detest crowds!

Hobbit - I didn't go to the premiere itself, so I'll be catching the film in a couple of weeks! I met three people who worked on it (including one who is in it) - so definitely looking forward to seeing it :)

P.S. I LOVE what you wrote in a comment below - "The INFJ, however, thinks more like a tree. We start with one idea and begin branching out. Those branches develop their own branches, and it just spreads far and wide. Sometimes branches will intertwine, connect with other branches elsewhere. Maybe this is why it's so exhausting to try and explain our conclusions?"... oh my word, I have just been thinking that today! I hung out with another INFJ friend today and we had several branches going everywhere. Fascinating conversation but yes... ALL OVER THE PLACE!

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Clint
AUTHOR
November 30, 2012 at 9:43 AM delete

I'm lucky to have a very self-actualized ENTJ friend, who's conscientious of the pitfalls of his personality. He actually married my sister who's also an INFJ and credits her with softening him up.

I like your tree image. I kind of feel like I often think in a REVERSE tree pattern. I start up in the branches, and quickly narrow everything down to the root of the matter. And it's that root that I end up speaking aloud, so all the color that was the leaves, and the trail of thought that would be the branches gets lost in the neat and compact solution!

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H2
AUTHOR
December 5, 2012 at 4:24 PM delete

What's up? How are the kids? How's the weather? What's for lunch? Are you getting stressed out?

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Meridian
AUTHOR
December 6, 2012 at 11:00 AM delete

Hey, buddy - doing pretty good. My husband is home, so I get the day off. Am out at a coffee shop writing. Kids are fine - really busy and getting more independent by the day (which is good).

Lol, looks like the soup of the day here is Roasted Red Pepper w/Smoked Gouda. Sounds yummy, right? I'll be diving into a bowl of that later.

Nope, not stressed. Feeling pretty darn ambitious, actually!!!

You?

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H2
AUTHOR
December 6, 2012 at 1:00 PM delete

That was my attempt at the social routine of small talk and seeing if it would cause you to retreat inside your head. But, if you had, how would I even know you retreated or...just didn't read the post. :-(

Epic fail on my part.

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Meridian
AUTHOR
December 6, 2012 at 4:07 PM delete

FYI - the social ineptness only occurs in person!! Even so, with a close friend the small talk doesn't bother me at all. I enjoy it :-) Surface convo with a stranger, though, makes me want to run away screaming...

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H2
AUTHOR
December 7, 2012 at 12:27 PM delete

We had our work Christmas party in the office yesterday. One of the secretaries who doesn't normally attend office functions went. She tells me this morning that she can't stand these functions. She doesn't feel comfortable in them. She doesn't want to talk to people there. She would rather be the bartender or someone serving food instead of being a guest and trying to mingle.

I told her I totally get that. My friend Meridian can probably relate.

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December 20, 2013 at 9:33 PM delete

"Do you struggle to express yourself when you're with others? I know I do. My thoughts are like the ocean--they never stop moving. Connections are constantly being made. And as people are speaking to me, my body is multi-tasking: my Fe is reading their emotional state, my Se is rapidly processing environmental colors/sounds/smells/etc., my Ni is picking up on cues and feedback they don't even realize they're giving, and my Ti is trying to package all of this up and deliver a coherent, intelligent verbal response. Not just any response, either, but one that slices through social layers to drive home a profound point that will ultimately change their lives. You know, like Jesus. Or Yoda :-)"
This has to be the most satisfying paragraph I have ever read to date! This explains my social awkwardness precisely. Thank you for taking the time to put this into words. I am very, very grateful!

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Orchid Rose83
AUTHOR
March 19, 2014 at 2:21 PM delete

I can agree with the actual content except the socially inept label. I would sooner call it being socially eccentric, lol. INFJs are sometimes mistaken for being extroverts because we like to connect with people more than other introverted types. "Inept" denotes a deficiency of some kind..the type of person who might just stand there and "stutter" with "umm's", feel afraid of people, or look like a deer caught in the headlights when meeting someone new. just because we dislike small talk or speaking about the weather doesn't really say ineptness to me. We are capable of carrying meaningful conversations, the small talk just bores us to death. :-)

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Liana Mary
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September 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM delete

This is perfect! Its amazing being you and finding out that you are normal after all. This and every other thing i have read on this blog captures it aptly.

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October 30, 2014 at 10:11 PM delete

Described my social life😅

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Anonymous
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January 2, 2015 at 11:21 AM delete

Haha purgatory. So true!

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Anonymous
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July 13, 2015 at 11:00 AM delete

Even though I maybe a good actor as you mentioned I have my limits and every action is a genuine feeling that I try to show to others. But most of the time I purposely become socially awkward for the simple fact that most conversations and greetings of others are very fake which causes me to become fustrated with most people. I consider myself to be very unfair because one day I could be ingaged with a person and have this great connection and another day I brush them off because of the fake energy I sense from the person. Inauthenticity has much to with my social awkwardness.

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May 20, 2016 at 4:07 AM delete

I think I'm a rather outspoken and assertive INFJ. There are just so many thoughts and ideas inside my head that I verbalise often. Perhaps it's been a result of training in social settings and school but I've typically been forthcoming with my opinions, especially things that interest me. I think it's the Ni function on overdrive that is compelling the Fe function to work as well. But I definitely struggle with a few things said here. First, I find it hard to maintain tact at all times, reading subtle social situations as I am completely focused on getting my point across. Perhaps interacting isn't my strength; and thus my mind is wholly trained on getting just the talking right. Also, I tend to withdraw inside my head when it comes to Se matters like the weather or nitty gritty gossip (who ate what, where) but I'm improving on that.

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Meridian
AUTHOR
May 20, 2016 at 10:34 AM delete

I totally get this. I'm rather quiet, but can be assertive when it's a topic I know a lot about, and sometimes it's difficult to remain tactful when you'e trying to make a point. The Se matters drive me inside my head, too (where life is much more interesting), and so I try to minimize situations that require a lot of small talk.

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