Words to Describe Your Characters: The NFs

woman reading a book on a park benchCPP Blog Central has posted a series on words associated with each MBTI personality type. If you’re an author, and you know your characters’ MBTI types, these articles are a great resource to generate ideas on how to describe them. Or, if you don’t know the character’s type, these lists might help you figure it out!

The NF types (Idealists) share several words in common, such as creative, compassionate, and caring. For more specific descriptions for each type, check out each individual article:

Are there any words you would add to these lists to describe the types?

Related posts:

ENFJENFPINFJINFP

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When Success Feels Like Failure

Perfectionism takes a toll on the psyche.

I remember, in kindergarten, the first time one of my worksheets was marked wrong. We were learning to write by tracing over numbers, the same number repeatedly, before moving on to the next. I got caught up in the rhythm and missed a transition, writing one too many sevens when I should have written an eight.

I was so ashamed, that on the walk from the bus stop to my house, I balled up the sheet of paper and tossed it into a ditch, hoping my parents would never find out I had made a mistake.

I was four years old.

My entire life, perfection has been the only standard that mattered. Excellence was a low bar to me. It never felt like success.

Graduating first in my high school class didn’t seem like success. It’s what was expected of me. Graduating second would have seemed a shocking failure.

I never aspired to become class valedictorian. During my thirteen years of public education, I was a good student without much effort. And that easy success inured me to any sense of accomplishment.

And so it continues today.

In true INFJ fashion, I create visions in my mind of how things could be. But execution never lives up to imagination. How could it? So instead of seeing the things I did well, I’m mortified by the things that fell short, even if no one else can tell the difference. After all, they didn’t see what was in my imagination. They don’t know how much better it was supposed to be.

The one place where I feel a true sense of virtuosity is in my writing. Through the magic of editing, I can craft a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter until every word is perfect. Or at least, until it feels perfect to me. That’s the gift that creative writing gives me.

In a blog post on Writers and Doubt, author James Scott Bell suggests that doubt is inevitable in any novelist worth reading. But creative writing is the one place where I never feel doubt. If the manuscript is flawed, I can fix it. If I don’t know how, I can learn.

I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life than I have on my novel in progress, now nearly complete after an eight-year-journey. And no effort has been so rewarding. I know the novel will never be perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. Novels aren’t about perfection. They’re about humanity—our common struggles, failures, contradictions, self-sabotage, and rare brilliant moments when we grasp the longed-for and near-impossible prize.

I was born to write. That’s the positive part of my INFJ personality. The negative is that when I’m speaking with people, I feel barely competent to string words into sentences. And afterward, I obsess over all the things I could have done better. I keep trying to edit my life.

The four-year-old inside me still wants me to be perfect. But the great God-force inside me asks only that I share my gifts with the world. And if I’m grateful for those gifts, I must also be grateful for my limitations. They’re two sides of the same coin.

So when the doubts of my life feel overwhelming, I retreat to the one place where I always feel sure. The one place where struggle is the best teacher and failure the source of deep insight. The one place where I can get it right the fourteenth time instead of the first, and no one will ever know the difference.

I write.

It’s Not Me, It’s You: When Conflict Is Unavoidable

All of us are faced with conflict in our personal and professional lives. INFJs like me are naturally diplomatic, and they tend to develop good conflict resolution skills. They can often see conflict coming, and will try to head it off. Sometimes, though, conflict is unavoidable. Because some people, as my husband would say, are idiots (bless their hearts).

INFJs look for the good in people. We want to help them reach their potential. When we suspect that someone might be going off track, we want to step in and help. And when other people fail, we ask ourselves, “What could I have done differently to prevent that from happening?”

But sometimes people fail because they’re incompetent, or because they’re not very bright, or because they’re too proud to ask for help. And I can’t do anything about that.

Feeling types don’t like to admit to themselves that people—especially people they like—aren’t up to the task. It’s somehow easier for us to say, “I’m cranky and impatient. I’m not providing the necessary guidance.”

But I’ve come to realize that sometimes, I am not the problem. If you’re a feeling type, here are some signs that the other person may be at fault for the conflict:

  • They don’t ask for help when they need it. Feeling types may be sensitive to people’s needs, but we’re not clairvoyant.
  • They get upset if you communicate in a business-like rather than a friendly way. Sometimes the Thinking part of your personality may emerge. That’s OK. You can’t be expected to coddle people all the time. If they don’t develop a thicker skin, then life will inevitably leave them bruised.
  • They do stupid things. I can’t define what that means, but you’ll know it when you see it. You can’t anticipate every stupid thing a person might do, and then tell them in advance not to do it. It’s up to them to make a practice of not doing stupid things, so that their lives go more smoothly.

Feeling types want the world to be a harmonious place. When conflict erupts, it upsets our sense of balance. We may even question our own competence. But all we can do is our best. If another person doesn’t do the same, then we are not responsible for the consequences.

Related posts:

Temperament and Leadership: One NF’s View
The INFJ Personality and the Search for the Perfect Relationship
The INFJ Writing Personality: Eloquent Vision

Dreamcatchers: Introverted vs. Extraverted Intuition

Japanese fan unfoldedThe protagonist in my novel-in-progress is an ENFP. With her dominant extraverted intuition, she’s constantly looking for new possibilities. A defense lawyer, she’s driven by a desire to help her clients make a better life. Her concept of reality is fluid: she moves effortlessly between what is and what could be. She can entertain contradictory ideas at the same time. She  envisions many different ways in which a scenario could play out. Before she makes a decision, she consults her family and friends to winnow her ideas.

In some ways, my protagonist is my alter ego. I’m an INFJ, so my dominant function is introverted intuition. Introverted intuition is also fueled by possibility. But unlike extraverted intuition, it seeks to build a unified internal vision, then make that vision a reality. I understand the world by looking for connections, by taking seemingly disparate ideas and combining them. I’m excited by those “aha” moments when I find the missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle and the picture becomes clear. I zealously pursue my new understanding and seek to incorporate it into my life. Like ENFPs, I also see reality as fluid, but I limit myself to adopting one version of it. I find too many choices to be immobilizing. I generally make decisions on my own, or I may consult one other person if I’m really struggling.

To my mind, extraverted intuition is like opening a Japanese fan, and introverted intuition is like closing it. Introverted intuition looks at all the possibilities and homes in on the one likely to produce the best outcome. Extraverted intuition starts with a single point then fans out, pulling ideas from all directions.

All types use intuition, including those who prefer sensing. Types with an NJ or SP preference have introverted intuition, while those with an NP or SJ preference use extraverted intuition. When intuition is not in the dominant position, it plays a supporting role, bringing a new perspective to old ideas.

Related Articles

What’s in a Name? Introverted vs. Extraverted Thinking

Personality type affects how we communicate, sometimes in unexpected ways. When talking about the MBTI personality types, people generally think in terms of the preferences. But everyone uses all four cognitive functions, including the nonpreferred ones. And personality type is affected by whether the function is introverted or extraverted.

My husband is an INTJ, while I’m and INFJ. He communicates with the world through extraverted thinking, while my thinking function is introverted. Here’s a typical conversation we might have on a weekend.

Hubby: Want to go with me to the hardware store?
Me: Which one?
Hubby: The blue one.
Me: You mean Lowe’s?
Hubby: I guess so.

I used to find it incredibly frustrating that he seemed to pay little attention to the names of things. After all, isn’t it possible that there’s more than one blue hardware store? How could I be sure which one he meant without knowing the name?

He, on the other hand, considers names extraneous, and often difficult to remember. Names, he says, get in the way. They create barriers between ideas. For instance, it’s clear what the relationship is between “the blue hardware store” and “the orange hardware store.” Calling them “Lowe’s” and “Home Depot” obscures that connection.

Introverted thinking is all about classifying things. It likes to give them names and put them in little boxes. Extraverted thinking is more conceptual. It looks at how things relate to one another. So while introverted thinking focuses on separating things into their unique parts, extraverted thinking focuses on organizing things into a unified whole.

Given my introverted thinking function, I can’t understand something until I put a name on it. Until I could articulate that my husband thinks in terms of “concepts,” while I think in terms of “names,” I had a devil of a time comprehending his aversion to calling things by the same words everyone else uses. Now, I can enjoy his innovative use of language—for instance, calling the wisteria bush “the hysterical bush” because it grows out of control. The name fits the concept.

Wondering whether your thinking function is introverted or extraverted? FJ and TP types have introverted thinking, while FP and TJ and types have extraverted thinking.

Related Articles

Temperament and Leadership: One NF’s View

coffee breakAn article on the OKA website is titled, What, and Where, Is Power? A Look at Leadership through the Temperament Lens. I read the article with some surprise. It seemed spot-on for all the temperaments except mine—the NFs (Idealists). The article refers to NFs as “The People People.” This is out of step with how I see myself as a very highly expressed introvert. The article focuses on the NF’s feeling preference but does not, in my opinion, give enough attention to the intuition preference.

Granted, the two extraverted types in this temperament (ENFJs and ENFPs) may indeed be “people people.” Perhaps even the INFPs, with their dominant introverted feeling, might fit that description. But INFJs, like me, with dominant introverted intuition? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong. INFJs are intensely interested in people. We find them to be fascinating subjects of study. Our dominant intuition focuses on concepts and patterns relating to human behavior. But our interest in personal relationships is generally limited to family and a small circle of close friends. If coworkers become friends, that’s great. But we don’t seek it out. A business environment isn’t conducive to the deep emotional connections that INFJs find meaningful. We’re happy to maintain businesslike relationships. We don’t expect that everyone we work with will like us, nor do we expect to like everyone we work with.

NFs seek harmony in their professional relationships, as in all relationships. They prefer a business environment that is collaborative rather than competitive. As leaders, NFs foster personal growth rather than the zero-sum game that competition engenders. NF leaders genuinely care about the well-being of those on their team and want to help them build their skills and improve their performance. They’re likely to acknowledge when someone does well and to offer encouragement when someone is unsure how to proceed. And if things go badly, NF leaders are unlikely to criticize; instead, they’ll look for mentorship opportunities and examine the environment for obstacles to success.

Mere “compliments” or “a pat on the back” may be regarded by many NFs (particularly the introverts) as hollow and insincere—and in fact, they can be demotivating for some NFs. The perfectionist INFJs and INFPs strive to perform well as a matter of personal integrity. To be complimented by their manager in front of their peers can be mortifying and can undermine their accomplishment in their eyes. Singling out one person, when the entire team is working hard, can demoralize others—and NFs know this. They don’t want to be praised. They want to be consulted. To show that you respect their abilities, ask for their expertise.

NF leaders exercise power by harnessing the abilities of their team. Their feeling preference focuses their attention on meeting the needs of their employees, while their intuitive preference drives them to constantly look for ways that everyone on the team (including themselves) can improve. They respect the individual while working for the common good—and they expect their employees to do the same.

Looking for more information on temperament and leadership? The Keisey.com website offers articles on getting along with your boss, based on temperament. The site also offers articles on presenting to a boss with a different temperament than yours.

From Data to Knowledge: The Value of Psychological Type

BeakersAssessments of psychological type, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument, rely on self-reporting rather than clinical observation. Respondents answer a series of questions, and based on their answers, receive a report of what their likely personality type is. In fact, one of the MBTI ethical principles is that only the respondents are qualified to determine which type best fits them. The role of the MBTI practitioner is to guide them through the process.

What, then, is the value of psychological type? If you’re just relating things you already know about yourself, how are you learning anything?

To answer this question, it’s useful to consider the knowledge pyramid model. One version of this model proposes three different levels of understanding: data, information, and knowledge. The answers to the questions on the MBTI assessment are at the lowest level—data. But data, on its own, isn’t meaningful. It doesn’t contribute to knowledge until it’s combined and organized with other data, so that context and patterns emerge.
Continue reading “From Data to Knowledge: The Value of Psychological Type”