INFJ Top Ten List: #3 - Open Minds

Thursday, December 06, 2012 10 Comments A+ a-


Hey, guys! Am ecstatic because I get the day off today! My husband is working from home and told me to go write to my heart's content. He's being very generous with me due to the fact that I want this book done. I love working on it, enjoy my characters and have no end of fun putting them in intense, awkward situations that they have to fight or think their way out of.

But I'm really wanting to wrap things up and find closure here. Like any good INFJ, I struggle with bringing my creativity to a screeching halt. My only comfort is that the saga won't end - the second book is almost completely written inside my head, and the third one is constantly shaping itself as well. Lol, this is madness, I tell you...madness!!

So I'm taking a break from the novel to write about the next item on our list:

3. We are very open-minded

INFJs have an amazing ability to think abstractly. In our minds, it is easy to see gray areas and blurred lines. While we tend to have strong principles and passions, an INFJ can usually see another persons point-of-view on any situation. Whenever there is a difference of opinion, an INFJ is very driven to ask questions and seek information about the opposing side in order to understand the different perspective. This part of our personality leads to deep compassion and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.

I agree with this whole-heartedly. INFJs are open-minded, abstract thinkers. It's one of our finest traits! Our ability to see/intuit more than what's right in front of our faces gives us a marvelous perspective on the world around us. We can envision multiple meanings behind concepts and grasp patterns beyond the obvious. This makes us excellent problem-solvers! And being able to see (and empathize with) other viewpoints enables us to counsel and mediate in situations that need it.

On the other hand, I've experienced some genuine frustration with this ability, usually stemming from non-INFJs who don't understand it. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me to "be realistic" or "pick a side." These experiences have led me to be selective about the opinions/suggestions I offer up during a conversation. As an intuitive who doesn't like conflict, I try to figure out how well the other person will respond to my objective thinking before I put my two cents' worth in.

The ability to think abstractly while also possessing a bedrock core of standards can make for an interesting mix. The INFJ has a dual-natured temperament. We can be strongly principled yet liberal, immovable yet compassionate, all at the same time. We walk around with a firm foundation that keeps us grounded, giving us the freedom to explore the abstract and consider other people's points of view without getting lost in the chaos.

You know what's funny? People often see the abstract without realizing the bedrock is there. Most of the folks telling me to pick a side don't realize that I already have. I'm just not focused on defending my position as much as I'm trying to validate theirs :-)

Being open-minded gives the INFJ a true compassionate edge. Thinking abstractly helps us bring a rich, creative aspect to everything we engage in. Do you find that most people appreciate this about us? How do these traits transform your daily routine??

Let me know!

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Clint
AUTHOR
December 7, 2012 at 8:48 AM delete

This trait is often (and has always been) a double-edged sword to me.

Personally, I see it as a tremendous benefit, not only to myself, but to my friends and family. After all, the best conclusion is one arrived at after considering all possible conclusions. If you include me in the decision making process, you can be sure that not only will no stone go un-turned, but also that all turnable stones will be identified.

In this regard I do find that people are very appreciative. I love being asked for advice and the more I embrace my intuition the more I find myself sought out for just that.

The edge of the sword that tends to cut back at me is that there are people who fill roles in our lives that need us to just be on their side. Our need to be thorough and explore all facets of a problem tends to leave them feeling alone and unsupported. In an emotional crisis, I see it as analogous to the friend who is supposed to be helping you move a heavy piece of furniture, but instead whirls around the house unpacking boxes and organizing.

Through much trial and error I learned that as wonderful and helpful as my personality makes me, sometimes it must to be put aside to meet the need.

Thank you for another great post, Meridian.

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SloanZone1230
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December 9, 2012 at 10:36 PM delete

Its frustrating to me that the bedrock is overlooked. People don't or won't tell me something because they only see the part of me that is compassionate, which they see as fragile. I end up feeling like my opinions or points of view don't matter to anybody because they don't care to ask and because I'm not a rude intrusive person I don't tell them.

Is there something I should do to help that bedrock side of me to be better noticed?

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Meridian
AUTHOR
December 10, 2012 at 8:38 AM delete

You make a really great point here, Clint. The INFJ can be both mediator and counselor - and those are vastly different roles. This is where our intuition must come into play and determine how we can best serve the needs of the other person. There are occasions when the one we're talking with just wants us to listen (as opposed to presenting other sides of view) and be encouraged/supported.

Thanks for bringing that into the light :-)

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Meridian
AUTHOR
December 10, 2012 at 8:49 AM delete

Hey there, Sloan. You're right that this can be terribly frustrating. And I don't have an answer to your question. I wish I did! My family is aware of my bedrock, and perhaps a few close friends. But still...I often feel like that part of me is kept secret. Maybe it's my fault, since I'm reluctant to share the deeper parts of myself with most people.

I feel like the INFJ is sort of an iceberg. You see a little on top, but there's way more underneath that no one really takes notice of (until their ship runs into it, of course, and gets their attention). Let me mull this over a bit...and at some point I'll try to do an iceberg post after this series is up. Perhaps some other INFJs out there can share some advice.

Until then, know that God sees that part of you beneath the water. To Him, ALL of you is precious :-)

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Clint
AUTHOR
December 10, 2012 at 12:44 PM delete

Like Meridian, it's my family and closest friends who know me well enough to want my advice. Even so, not 100% of them want it. My girlfriend, for instance, is an ISFJ, and sees the world so differently from me that my viewpoint is nigh inapplicable to anything she's perceiving. We've been exploring typology together lately, and she's now fond of reminding me that she "lives in a concrete world," and my gray areas are not welcome there, haha. It's possible that the personalities closest to you are simply not the types that want INFJ advice.

I think it's interesting that you pointed out that people see you as compassionate, and therefore fragile. American culture tends to echo that viewpoint, and maybe humanity at large. It's deeply frustrating that a characteristic that takes such strength to practice could be seen as a weakness. Personally, I direct a lot of energy into combating that viewpoint with the people I care most about. I'm fortunate that we all subscribe to Christianity which provides a basis for my argument, but it is still an uphill battle because it's so contrary to human nature.

You asked if there's something you should do to help the bedrock side of you be noticed, and so I'll offer a personal anecdote for you to consider. Several years ago I went through a divorce; my wife was unhappy in our relationship and made some bad decisions. My family naturally rallied around me, and in the divorce proceedings wanted desperately for her to suffer as much as they knew I must be. I have always been a compassionate person, however, and refused to be unfair to her. I spent as much time battling my family in those months as I did my wife, and all along I made sure they knew what motivated my compassion. I consider the whole ordeal to be a tremendous blessing now, because without that being forced upon me I would never have been so vocal about how deeply I held my convictions.

I say all that to say some personalities get all the attention and esteem they need by tooting their own horn loudly and often, but for us quiet types, we've got to seize the rare occasions that we have a good excuse to be in the spotlight. When you do, people will notice, and they'll want your advice on how to handle their own struggles. Whether you choose to share your secrets is up to you. :)

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Anonymous
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December 20, 2012 at 10:35 PM delete

Meridian, Clint, thank you both very much for you encouragement.

Clint, from you specifically, I really enjoyed the anecdote you shared about your divorce. I appreciate the vulnerability and honesty you've set forth. What you said about seizing the "rare occasions that we have a good excuse to be in the spotlight" in conjunction with that example seems to be just what kind of advice I was yearning for. It is uncompromising and packs a powerful punch without being trite or offhanded. As a result of what you said, I've been swishing the idea around in my head of how I can put myself into more of those situations intentionally to show what lies beneath without completely demolishing them with my, as you put it Meridian, iceberg.

I guess a way to do that well is to "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" and "put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" as the verse my wife and I chose as our marriage verse so aptly states (Col 3:12-14). Being Christ-like is hard.

Another thing you said interested me Clint. My wife, like your girlfriend is an ISFJ as well. My wife has a bit of trouble with my gray areas as well, especially when she's tired out. She does listen to me expound on them patiently, though she may not fully follow what I say. Sometimes, because I know she needs to be fully prepared and energized to enter the gray world, I ask if she's up for it or not. This approach seems to have saved us some unnecessary strife and I encourage you in that direction as well.

I've taken so long to consider what the both of you have said because there was so much shared. I'm very thankful for the advice and encouragement you've both given. I'm glad there's people like you all to bounce this sort of conversation off of and its quite a relief to have someone who can relate.

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SloanZone1230
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December 20, 2012 at 10:36 PM delete

Oops, I didn't mean to post that anonymously...

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jonathanrenck
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December 25, 2012 at 10:01 PM delete

This is the part of me that always seems to provide me with the most fun and frustration. I have always been able to see both sides of an issue, and fairly easily at that. Living in a family closely tied to a Christian college and raised in a Christian home I've been able to see the gulf of difference between my family and the "regular" Christians. Much of it is our open minds, now not all of my family is INFJ, but my parents encouraged this behavior in both myself and my sister. I found that I am too liberal to be a conservative, too conservative to be a liberal, and if you look at the many other ways that we divide and label each other, I usually fall near the middle of the pack. Not from a lack of convictions, indeed far from it, but that I am usually not going to die on the hill of such philosophies that inevitably cannot cover every contingency and I have no problem if I am proved wrong and must shift my position.
I think perhaps the most interesting part of it is that my natural open-mindedness lets people who know I'm a Christian to have conversations with me knowing that I'm not going to be judging them because they fail my standards. I think this is perhaps one way that INFJ's have a better chance of living Jesus to the people around us. We can see, accept, and love a person who doesn't think or act like we would have it and they recognize our concern as true and honest. That is when they finally realize we're not some scary silent monster.

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Meridian
AUTHOR
December 27, 2012 at 12:55 PM delete

Jonathan - I like how you say this issue provides you with both "fun" and "frustration" :-) Me, too. I actually enjoy being able to see both sides of an issue. But it does set us apart. A lot of folks can't see past their passion and want us to side with them rather than just listen and understand. I can't be like that, though. My open-minded nature keeps me from diving blindly into a perspective and sticking to my guns without good reason. Like you, I admit when I'm wrong and will change my bedrock if necessary. But most people aren't like this. It gives us a unique role to play, that's for sure.

Yep, you say the word "Christian" and a lot of people will slap the evangelical label on you and give you a wide berth to avoid judgment. But I believe the open-minded INFJ can slip wisely into an interaction, meet the person where they're at, and share their own spiritual truth with compassion and intelligence. When people realize we can do this--and aren't going to run at them with a cross and beat them over the head with it--they can feel safe sharing their thoughts and feelings. Again, a unique role for us. Thanks for pointing this out!!

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Katie
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December 22, 2013 at 8:45 AM delete

I came across your blog this week looking for relationship help regarding one of my daughters (she is either ESFJ or ESTJ, but I think ESFJ). All your posts resonate with me, and this one was especially comforting. Since I got on Facebook, I have had the hardest time with people being so black and white on issues when I can see all the faces of a mountain, so to speak. (I guess I successfully avoided this type of conversation before FB. Plus my friends-of-different-belief-systems-and-lifestyles tend to stay separate in real life.) Anyway, I eventually learned not to ask the hot-button, many-faceted questions, and instead view FB as an interesting place to learn about people.

Another reason I found this post comforting is that seven months ago I was at a small women's retreat and we had some deep discussion about our past lives-- college, how we met our husbands, etc. It felt like a safe place to open up because I had known and worked closely with most of these women for a couple of years. I told a story in which I explained my thoughts as, "On the one hand this, but on the other hand, I can see his point..." and one of the newer members exclaimed, "Girl, you need to decide what you think!" I mean, very, very blunt and very loud, and right out there. It bothered me so much. I had spent the year feeling guilty about not wanting to be around her, trying and failing to 'get' where she was coming from. This was the culmination of a year of wondering why others valued her input so much. However, I have been concerned for almost a year that I might really be a wishy-washy waffler!!! After a comment from a person whose opinion I don't even value, very strange. She is gone from the group now, and when she left, I was glad-- although I feel somewhat guilty about my strong gladness that she is gone. But I just couldn't relax around her.

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