I have a love/hate relationship with INFJs

I hate them because they are so judgy. As an ENTJ I am too uncaring to spend time passing judgment on INFJs. But there’s a hierarchy of influences on our personality and autism trumps personality type, so as an autistic ENTJ I spend a lot of time expressing my knowledge about INFJs being judgy, and then I can understand how INFJs say they aren’t judgy they are just saying what they notice.

So anyway, two days ago I was coaching an INFJ and it went like many coaching sessions with INFJs. I said, “To get started, what’s is your personality type and how old are you?” The person answered, “I’m an INTJ and I’m old.”

I said, “You’re an INFJ. An INTJ wouldn’t bother summarizing their age like that.”

So she told me her age. And then it turned out that she told me about her divorce. And she was defensive and shut down and I said, “We can’t get anything done if you are defensive and shut down. Why are you like that on this call?”

And she said she felt stupid for marrying someone as poor a choice as her husband and she hates having to tell people.

She is having the classic INFJ problem that she judges everyone else so she assumes they judge her. But I realized something terrible: I have the same problem as the INFJs. I shout all over the Internet about how there is no reason to get a divorce and people who get a divorce are lame, and I’ve had two. And I can’t stop talking about how stupid I feel. And I can’t stop rehashing in therapy why I failed twice.

But talking with an INFJ I realized that if I would be more sympathetic to other people then I could be more sympathetic to myself. And more than that, the world doesn’t want to have to deal with me feeling shame. Shame doesn’t get people anywhere.

This is a problem I’ve been struggling with for years. And making no headway, and I pretty much solved the problem by talking with an INFJ.

55 replies
  1. Mairzy
    Mairzy says:

    Hello Penelope, I have not heard from you in years. What a pleasure to see your email land in my inbox. Now I have to go to your website and see what you’ve been posting over the past 10 years that I missed. Keep well.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m so happy to hear that! I moved all my email to a new company because I was convinced that it wasn’t getting delivered! You confirm this hunch. I’m happy to hear from you. Nice to see an old friend.

      • Joe E
        Joe E says:

        I was reading a Brene Brown book today about shame and vulnerability and I thought to myself, “Why don’t I get emails from Penelope anymore? I wonder if something terrible happened.” So I went to your blog and now I have 6 months’ of catching up to do, which is a huge relief, because it means you are hanging in there and now I have new things to think about and learn.

        Spot on about the INFJ personality. I love how you parsed/dug deeper into what “judgy” means to an INFJ and why we are this way—and you are 100% right.

  2. Caralyn
    Caralyn says:

    I just started working with an INFJ and retook a test that said I was that, too, not ab ISFJ. But I am judgey. I notice everything. And I want to improve some of it. 😊 Can someone tell me a way to spot the difference between the two types so I can sort myself out? 😆

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      An ISFJ wants to accomplish something while they’re at work. An ISFJ gets stuff done and wants to be noticed for being efficient at getting stuff done that matters to people. And INFJ would rather manage, organize, plan. Does that help?


      • Caralyn
        Caralyn says:

        Gosh, Penelope, thank you for answering.

        It’s a great answer but I’m still not settled. I make a great worker, want to (quietly) be noticed, but ultimately I cannot stand not being in control and think I could do a better job (and, actually, usually do). i also prefer out of the box experiences that most people wouldn’t change their life for (so I homeschooled in the early 2000’s for 15 years) because ultimately I knew I was providing a more unique and interesting educational experience for my kids.

        Maybe I AM an INFJ and not an S. That is a surprise.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          An. INFJ likes to be inside reading and an ISFJ likes to do stuff. And ISFJ will say, well I like to do stuff and I like to read. But an INFJ likes to read so much that they will read instead of eat. They will stay inside for days reading if people would leave them alone. An S really needs to move things, in the real world, to feel like they have actually accomplished something. And INFJ needs to just move things in their mind — that’s enough for them.

          When I lived on the farm I had an N and and S working for me. The N would tell me where I should be when and what to do and she’d try to get a system to make me not forget. The S would just do it for me instead of trying to get me there. And she’d try to make a system to not have to deal with me.

          Also, an N never thinks they are an S but an S often thinks they might be an N.

          Now, what do you think? S or N?


          • Caralyn
            Caralyn says:

            Oh, ok, this is tricky for me. About half of the N’s and half of the S’s described me. I thought I may be an S, but the farm description of the N would be me. I must be an S, because of my vacillation and I originally felt I was an S.

        • Devora
          Devora says:

          As an Aspie/ASD, I wonder if you are also one of us, and it may answer your other questions. Personally, I’m happy to be an Aspie (just self-diagnosed and professionally confirmed within the last year), because it comes with super-powers that I no longer have to feel shame for or confusion for others’ being offended. If they’re still listening, I just let them know that my expert-diagnostician skills are not absolutely infallible and they don’t come with social stigma from me.

          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            WHOOHOOOOO!!!!!! This is a great comment!!!! I feel this way too. And I hope a million people read this comment and feel like they have permission to tell their kids and get them help and stop worrying about stigma.


          • Caralyn
            Caralyn says:

            Devora, I just saw your reply to my comment – it could be true that I have Asperger’s. Penelope suggested it in an email correspondence 7 years ago and her last post has me really wondering. Will I ever pursue official diagnosis? Likely not, since it seems high functioning females are hard to spot. But, if I am, it explains a number of things, and allows me more grace with myself. I see myself with empathetic eyes, and maybe the lesson is I don’t need a diagnosis to be gentle with myself. It certainly is making it hard for me to decide if I’m INFJ or ISFJ! :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I realized a while back that the only good blog posts are when I’m learning something during the process of writing. If I am discovering something about myself then the reader will probably feel like they are discovering something as well. I never get sick of my blog because I always push myself to learn something new. And I never get tired of coaching people because the best coaching sessions are when a person is genuinely experiencing personal insight. And if they are doing that, right in front of me, then I experience personal insight right along with them.

      So I’d have to pay everyone, really, because I learn something about myself from almost every coaching session I do. Often, at the end of the session, I find myself telling the person something like, “Thank you for working so hard on this phone call. I know this is not what you expected, but I really appreciate your bravery.” And I mean it. Those calls inspire me as much as they inspire the caller.


    • Dana
      Dana says:

      I forgot to mention my bff is an ENTJ and I sometimes have a love-hate relationship with her, also lol. We balance each other out.

  3. Dana
    Dana says:


    Do INFJ’s make good project managers and program analysts?
    My mother is an ISFJ and I concur, they need to to be validated for the help they provide which is understandable, but sometimes they can go overboard with it and the help feels transactional (maybe that’s just my experience).
    Yes, we INFJ’s are very observant and borderline judgy. Good point about having sympathy for others. I’ll try to remember this so I can give this to myself, too. I hope you and Melissa are good and you haven’t pissed her off to which she’s taking a break.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      INFJs make good project managers.
      Why do you think I’m taking a break from Melissa? WTF nothing is secret here. How can you tell from one single post that Melissa is not editing? I didn’t have her edit because she makes the bar so high that I never post. I can’t ever decide what that means. And if it’s my problem. So I just decided to post. I just can’t get over that you are asking that. How???

      • Ellen
        Ellen says:

        I also had a feeling Melissa didn’t edit this one. Because I’m an INFJ. And I’m perceptive.

      • Dana
        Dana says:

        My Bff is an ENTJ like you and we sometimes grate each other’s nerves so bad that a break is needed. We love each other to death. I thought maybe you two may have the same dynamic. I didn’t know Melissa didn’t edit this post but the post felt like you were missing your friend or reflecting, etc and I immediately thought of Melissa.
        Anyway, welcome back! I’ve definitely missed your posts.

      • Tina
        Tina says:

        Penelope, I noticed the lack of editing and it’s because of the end of the post. It just sort of ends without a true conclusion, at least that’s what I felt.

        As an INFJ, I can see where I judge people. But a lot of people judge people. You write incredibly judgmental things on this blog, but don’t seem to consider yourself “judgy.” Probably what you are feeling from INFJs is that we are more sensitive and too often what you write and say comes across as an attack.

        I had a coaching session with you several years ago and it was really hard for me because I felt very attacked by you because I disagreed with your assessment of the situation. I spent a lot of time soul-searching and pondering your advice. I did find some nuggets there, but it was also very painful.

        You say that you also learn from your coaching sessions, maybe you could consider how you approach people (INFJs specifically) because I feel Ike you engaging in the same types of activities that you accuse INFJs of doing in this post: being judgmental when you see it as being direct.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Tina, I really appreciate that you continue to have a conversation here even after I hurt your feelings. When I was coaching a guy who is a longtime reader — like since 2006 — he told me “Just because you can see everything about me and what’s going to happen in the future doesn’t mean you have to tell me. I already know you can see everything. That’s why I read you. I wanted to talk with you so you could tell me what I need to know right now.”

          That was shocking to me. I really just thought everyone wants to know everything I can see about them because it’s so easy for me to see. But after that guy told me that, I try to be quiet more, and listen more. And, I can’t remember if I have written about this before, but I coached a guy who was French. And when he lived in the US I could understand his English, but when he moved back to France his English was really hard for me to understand, and I ended up not talking very much because I couldn’t always understand everything. It turned out that he wanted me to listen more, and me not understanding got me to listen more, and he was happier that way.

          So little by little, I think I get better at coaching people. But I’m probably a slow learner. Like all Autistic people, it is hard for me to learn the lesson that life is about more than knowing the right answer.


      • Graham
        Graham says:

        I had to laugh when you wrote “she makes the bar so high that I can never post”. That’s how I felt working with you. I’d write something I thought was great and you’d edit it down to one line. Having said that I learned so much working with you, not least to be less sensitive to criticism. Thank you.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        I hope Melissa lowers the bar a little bit so you post more often. It’s a good post. What makes it even better is the number of times you have posted here in the comment section. I think you learn as much here on the blog as your coaching sessions.

  4. Kate
    Kate says:

    I am also an INFJ and I am also old, lol. On top of that, my sun sign is Virgo (labeled as judgy). When you post Penelope, I also view your observations from an astrological perspective because I think they overlap so much. I have a list of labels I place on myself to try and understand myself better. I am a virgo, I am an INFJ, I am a enneagram 4, and I am also probably on the spectrum…
    I like thinking about the judge as my observer. I am training my observer to release the notion that anything is good or bad. If I can keep my very developed and keen observer in the middle of the road, and not swing to either extreme, my life is easier.
    I alway enjoy your posts very much.

  5. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    Penelope, while I don’t relate to the specific example, I relate to the principle that helping another person helped yourself. I find it can be easier to help others than myself; also if I help (lead by example) for the sake of others, then I help others and myself too.

    I am thinking of the person in AA who was distrusting of others, while being dishonest to others (manipulative) herself. Her sponsor told her to practise “rigorous honesty” which meant she came to know in her bones that honesty was possible… and then became more trusting of others.

    I don’t know where I’d be now if I hadn’t been kind to others along the way.

  6. Rebecca Stafford
    Rebecca Stafford says:

    Dear Penelope, I DON’T agree that if you were more sympathetic to others you’d be more sympathetic to yourself.

    And that’s because it’s the other way around (as someone pointed out to me when I made the same error).

    When we are sympathetic/empathic to ourselves, we have the capacity to be those things to others.

    When we judge ourselves, we live in fear of judgment.

    However, I completely agree we don’t need shame. By all means take responsibility, but guilt and shame are simply blocks to growth.

    Very best wishes

    • Graham
      Graham says:

      I agree with this. There is a saying that I always assume everyone knows even though many people seem not to. “It’s impossible to love someone who doesn’t love themself.” If there have been truer words spoken I’d like to know what they are. (Aside from, “Boris Johnson was the worst Prime Minister in UK history by some distance).

    • Minami
      Minami says:

      I agree with this. I think INFJs are hard on other people, and we feel it’s justified because we are even harder on ourselves. But I’ve found that when I give myself more grace, I’m better able to extend more grace to others.

  7. Blandy Fisher
    Blandy Fisher says:

    ENTP here. The Ss and Fs can drive me bananas. I’m sure I do the same for them. :)

  8. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    Yes, its ironic how we put ourselves in the same judgemental straitjackets / jail-cells / boxes that we put other people into. And vice-versa: put others into the same judgemental box-cells that that we put ourselves. Be careful what u judge.

  9. Logan
    Logan says:

    As an ENTJ myself I personally like INFJs…they usually have high emotional intelligence. But 9 times out of 10 when I clash with someone it is of the ISFJ or ESFJ personality type, I find their controlling and rigid behaviours really irksome. They’re also slow to change and never admit responsibility. For those reasons, we just get on each other’s nerves…

  10. Kitty Kilian
    Kitty Kilian says:

    I am an IWTF. Really.

    Guys, much as I love P. and all of you, these personality types are just constructions. They are like the DSM5: to be taken as a mild suggestion.

    We all judge. It’s our job as humans.

        • Cheryl
          Cheryl says:

          Hee hee!
          I’m an INTJ and tested that way twice over my life.
          I bought Penelope’s intj class video recording recently and it was more useful than all the other things I found on intj combined.
          Penelope’s analysis and the chat section were great–I found my tribe!

  11. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    It’s as if INFJ’s hold up a mirror so you can see yourself.

    I was the first person in my family for several generations to get divorced. I had a lot of feelings of failure after that. But then I thought about what I would tell a good friend who went through exactly what I did, and I found myself having a lot more compassion and forgiveness for them than me. So I turned that around on myself and I felt a lot better.

  12. L Black
    L Black says:

    Penelope – I have been married and divorced twice. I don’t look at it as failing – I think people change, sometimes grow. Getting out of something that is not healthy or happy is a strength. Many people stay and become depressed or couch potatoes. My life isn’t perfect but, it’s pretty damn good and I’m steering my own ship. My house and life are serene. I fill it with stuff I want to do. and enjoy doing. Having a partner is overated if you aren’t happy.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m going to tell you something: only someone with autism says this stuff. Having a partner is absolutely not overrated. Steering one’s own ship is overrated. Wanting to do everything how we want to do it at the cost of making compromise to share life with someone else is the definition of autism. I know you are going to tell me that there are people who want this who don’t have autism, but I’m telling you that there are not. And that the human race would not have survived if it were normal to want these things.

      Also, remember I am telling you this as a person who has made your decisions. So I definitely understand your point of view. And I’m still telling you that it’s disordered.


    • L Black
      L Black says:

      You always have interesting replies, thank you. I think it’s true it may be a disordered way of thinking, but I honestly think it comes from having a very narcissistic/borderline mother where I learned in childhood that emotional chaos was normal. Thus, I picked two husbands where emotional chaos was normal. Then I got sick of feeling emotionally drained most of the time and got out. Since then I’ve navigated carefully to protect my serenity. In therapy again now to expand my thinking around this and more. I don’t think I’m autistic. I think I’ve learned to protect myself and now need to learn that I can choose people who don’t create emotional chaos around them.

      • Cheryl
        Cheryl says:

        I’ve lived alone most of my adult life.
        My childhood was marred by having parents and siblings who suffered from inherited mental illness.
        They caused unending emotional chaos, and I didn’t learn what a good marriage looked like.
        I too picked a husband who provided emotional chaos, and we divorced after a year and a half.
        I never remarried.
        Since I didn’t emotionally mature on time–I’ve been doing the maturation work in middle age.

  13. Emily
    Emily says:

    As an INFJ I have a love-hate relationship with other INFJs too – especially overly preachy ones online. I want to shake them and tell them to get over themselves! But I guess you spot it you got it haha. Typed myself as INFP for so long because I did not want to be a self-righteous stick in the mud INFJ but lo and behold…

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Something I’ve found is that everyone really does just love being their own type. When you look at the other types — the good and the bad of each type — we are much more willing to have the bad of our own type than the bad of someone else’s type. When I think someone has mistyped themselves, I point out what is the bad part of each type, and then the person knows exactly which type they are.


  14. harris497
    harris497 says:


    Empathy is a gift to the giver and to the receiver. The most important thing (to me) that you said is, “I realized that if I would be more sympathetic to other people then I could be more sympathetic to myself.”
    By you helping someone in need, you show them another way of being. The fact that you are willing to go above and beyond and listen empathically, with no expectation of remuneration, is the highest form of appreciation/respect you can show to another human being. And you deserve all the good things that come as a reward for that action.

  15. Maria Killam
    Maria Killam says:

    I love this post. I’ve recently reconciled with my sister and I realized that I had no judgement left when I’m with her but that’s what held me back from being able to be friends with her in the past. I’m old now, I have way more compassion and understanding for everyone including me. Thanks for always looking at things in the way that you do, it helps everyone! Love you Penelope! xoxo

    • harris497
      harris497 says:

      Your post is interesting. It makes me think that it takes time to learn how to love. Youthful passion yields the way to mature compassion. We should all be so lucky…

  16. Bernadette
    Bernadette says:

    What about her being an INFJ was helpful in solving your problem? I’m curious since it sounds like you could have had this conversation with anyone who had been divorce, unless I’m missing something. Is it that her judgement towards herself made you realize that you have the same judgement towards yourself?

    Asking as a judgmental INFJ ;) though I don’t think I’m judgmental! I just think I’m observational, which is exactly the problem. Ha!

  17. Anna
    Anna says:

    I just have a story to tell. I am married to an INFJ. For years, I assumed he is an INTJ because he likes to read and study and is doing a PhD and was finishing a master’s degree in something pretty dry when we first got married. But after many, many long sessions listening to him talk about details about interpersonal situations and talk on the phone hours per day with friends about their interpersonal issues, and seeing him try to connect people he knows so they can get to know each other, and emotional reactions to things and judging every second sometimes about everything around him, it became clear to me that he is not a T at all and he is most certainly an F. He got “counselor” as the career he would be good at, and maybe teacher. As an INTP, I was in freefall for so long trying to get past all these interpersonal — what I would call — distractions and boring annoyances (if it could even rise to the level of such a response from me, to actually be annoyed… more like zeros on the interest radar, unless I can relate it to some interesting theoretical apparatus, which you can only do for long with all the routes of conversation). Then when I realized a couple of years ago that he is an INFJ, all this relief came to me and I stopped trying to make sense of him as an INTJ. So many things started to make sense. That is my story.

    • Anna
      Anna says:

      “which you can only do for long with all the routes of conversation”

      …meaning eventually the paths of conversation run out of room to theoritize upon and the patterns repeat, and then it’s just interpersonal stuff.

      But I love the way he is like an engineer. He doesn’t get tired of these problems. He sorts them out very well and helps people see more clearly what they need to do. I do enjoy a problem being solved. Listening to these long phone conversations while I’m doing something else in the room is very soothing–seeing him isolate the foundation, test it, separate out conflicting debris, separate what is inconsequential from what is important, then the person can walk out of the snare on their own after he has cleared the debris, repaired a faulty foundation, etc. Mostly one major thing he does is shows people where they are living beyond their means, whatever kind of currency is on the table–whether it be financial, gender roles, clarity of purpose and what will crack that or support that purpose. It’s fun.

  18. Jenny K
    Jenny K says:

    The type discussion in the comments has been interesting. I go back and forth between testing INFP & INFJ – trending more J over time. My life has been absolutely transformed for the better by Penelope’s course on Asperger’s (ASD).

    The thing I’m wondering at the moment – my husband claimed that there isn’t research validating the Myers-Briggs types:
    I know that the types were “made up” by two women….. so let’s assume they were autistic and that they were documenting their observations of personalities. They didn’t base things on official research, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t accurate.

    So is there any research that invalidates the MBTI?
    No research validating it could just be because it works so well no one will fund double checking it.

    I’ve also been practicing identifying being judgmental, mainly through a lens of behavior. “Good and bad” are judgements, “is or is not” is an observation. Ex. “The weather is terrible today.” is a judgement, “It is rainy, windy and cold today.” is an observation. Oops, “cold” is a judgement! “It is rainy, windy and the temperature is 50 degrees.” Even rainy and windy as adjectives are somewhat judgmental. “It is raining, the wind is blowing and it’s 50 degrees out.”

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thank you for this great quote, Jenny. I don’t want this to get lost in the fray!

      “My life has been absolutely transformed for the better by Penelope’s course on Asperger’s (ASD).”

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