systems thinking
Who am I?Interests Projects Politics
Pictures Favorite BooksFavorite Articles Writing/Creative
Humor Favorite Music Favorite Movies Favorite Quotes
Favorite Links Blog Contact Support Me
Subscribe to Get
My Free Newsletter

Sign up below to receive my free email newsletter. It's full of ideas to help you develop greater understanding and insight in many areas of life.
Share This Page


Hire Me for Coaching, Consulting or Training

Recommended Books,
Music & Video


Book, Music, Video,
Product/Service &
Website Reviews



Subscribe to Blog

 Blog Feed
 Blog Comments Feed

Subscribe to Blog by Email's Most Popular

Personality Types
Evolutionary Psychology
Inner Child Healing
Borderline Personality Disorder
Hypnosis in Medicine and Psychiatry

Recommended Products

Hostgator IconHostgator Web Hosting

Fastmail IconFastmail Email Service

NamecheapIconNamecheap Domain

Long Tail Pro IconLong Tail Pro
Keyword Research Tool

Relative Pitch Ear Training IconRelative Pitch Ear

Mega-Memory IconMega-Memory

View Sitemap


All About the INTJ Personality

INTJ is my basic personality type on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), currently the most commonly used personality type system. The MBTI categorizes individuals as 1 of 16 types based on four variables that measure how they process energy and information, make decisions and structure their lives.

INTJ is one of the rarest of the 16 types – some say the rarest - estimated to make up only around 1% of the population.

The letters denote that I prefer:
  • Introversion (I) [refreshing my energy in solitude] over Extraversion (E) [refreshing my energy among people]

  • Intuition (N) [perceiving information primarily from within my own mind and imagination] over Sensing (S) [perceiving information primarily from the external world]

  • Thinking (T) [making decisions based on consciously weighing pros and cons] vs. Feeling (F) [making decisions based on gut instinct]

  • Judging (J) [living a structured, planned life] over Perceiving (P) [living a less structured life open to spontaneous events]
Like all four of the types that share the combination of the N and T preferences (INTJ, ENTJ, INTP, ENTP), the INTJ is a member of the Rational group, which excels at logic, conceptualization, strategy and abstract, symbolic thinking and most highly values truth, knowledge, competence and autonomy.

Learning that I was an INTJ in this system was a very eye-opening experience for me and it concisely explains a great deal about how I behave and view the world, as well as about others' perceptions and misperceptions about me. It was also extremely interesting for me to find that many of my closest friends were also INTJ’s and that we had somewhat naturally gravitated toward each other. I have since gone on to discover that I am not a pure INTJ, as my Thinking preference is balanced, in certain contexts, with a very strong complementary Feeling preference. However the basic traits of this type still aptly characterize a great deal of my personality.

Names for the INTJ

Various authors have assigned different names to the INTJ type in the Myers-Briggs scheme. Together, they offer a broad overview of what the type is, at its core, all about.

Author Resource Name for INTJ
David Keirsey Please Understand Me II Mastermind Portrait of an INTJ The Scientist
Sandra Krebs Hirsh and
Jean Kummerow
Lifetypes The Freethinker
Linda V. Berens and
Dario Nardi
The 16 Personality Types, Descriptions for Self-Discovery Conceptualizer Director

Characteristics of the INTJ

In the next several sections, I’ve described some of the most important characteristics of the often-misunderstood INTJ personality. These descriptions synthesize information from many other existing INTJ profiles, as well as from my own personal experience both as an INTJ and in relating with and observing other INTJ’s. Therefore, they are not based on purely objective or scientifically-derived data (which, as we shall see, is itself somewhat atypical of an INTJ).

However, many such profiles already exist and some of them are linked to toward the end of this page. Instead, I have sought to provide my own unique viewpoint on what life is like for many INTJ’s, sprinkled with just a few suggestions and recommendations about tools and fields that might help the INTJ understand and cope with some of their unique challenges. Not every INTJ will exhibit or experience all of these traits. But I believe that most INTJ’s will relate to a good deal of them.

INTJ Strengths

  • Exploring and Investigating the World to Build Systems and Models of Knowledge – I had named this site and been intrigued by Systems Thinking long before I found the MBTI. So I was amazed, when I was first learning about MBTI, at the uncanny accuracy of various profiles of my type that specifically described INTJ’s as “Systems Thinkers.” Later, after identifying the mission of my company and much of my writing and work as optimizing human systems, I was surprised again when I reread David Keirsey’s profile in Please Understand Me II and noticed his explanation that INTJ’s are often drawn to building “human systems,” something I had overlooked in previous readings. It was such surprisingly precise identification of core interests as key to my type that originally sold me on the value of the Myers-Briggs system.

    INTJ’s are driven to intensely analyze and penetratingly question many or all aspects of the world around them. They are then driven to synthesize and organize the information they glean, to discern patterns, universal principles, relationships and interconnections between the various levels of data, and to piece all of these elements together in a coherent way that generates a complete and consistent puzzle. When the INTJ comes across an experience or piece of information that doesn’t fit – that is inconsistent with the rest of the puzzle – it becomes a great challenge for them to find its place or re-imagine the puzzle to accommodate it and restore coherence to their worldview.

  • Ability to Learn Very Quickly and Effectively – The INTJ’s constantly evolving models and systems of knowledge serve as structures within which new knowledge can often be immediately organized according to its relationships with existing understandings. Thus, as their models and systems grow to encompass more of the world, the INTJ can often learn new information faster and faster. When new data does not fit any existing model or system, the INTJ, more rapidly than most other types, can quickly devise a new one or rearrange an existing one to accommodate it. These skills often lead INTJ’s to be one of the most successful types academically throughout their school years.

  • Strong Confidence in the Organized Knowledge that they Possess – Because they spend a great deal of time and energy analyzing information and building their systems of knowledge, INTJ’s greatly trust their insights into topics on which, as a result of those systems, they possess expertise. People of other types that are less secure in their own knowledge may either envy this quality of the INTJ or may perceive the INTJ as arrogant or as a “know-it-all.” Usually, however, the INTJ is very aware of the limits of their knowledge and will openly admit those areas in which they are ignorant. It is on those topics that they have contemplated at length that the INTJ will express great confidence in their views. However, this is a distinction that people of other types often overlook.

  • Commitment to Vision – As the INTJ accumulates and organizes knowledge, he or she develops a strongly held, vivid vision of how the world works and of how they believe it should work. INTJ’s may differ vastly on the content of their particular visions, but the tendency to develop some vision is common among them. Often, this is a vision that, despite its seemingly obvious clarity in the INTJ’s mind, most others can’t see and share with them. This can greatly frustrate and confuse the INTJ, especially if the INTJ is unfamiliar with the individual differences described by personality type schemes like the MBTI and the Enneagram that explain why this is the case. Regardless, even in the face of strong opposition from others, the INTJ will usually remain committed to their vision unless it is disproved based on credible evidence. Because the INTJ’s vision often begins to unfold and finally be shared by others years later, the INTJ can come to feel that they are “ahead of their time.”

  • Applying Knowledge Toward Constructive Ends – The INTJ is not only intellectually committed to their vision. They truly wish to see their vision become reality. David Keirsey has said “INTJ’s live to see systems translated into substance.” This stands in contrast to the very similar INTP who often seeks knowledge and builds models and systems in the same way the INTJ does, but who enjoys generating these abstract constructs for their own sake. The INTJ, more so than the INTP, may become very frustrated if that knowledge is not, in the form of some type of project, eventually applied constructively in the world.

  • Strategic and Contingency Planning and Coordination – In addition to their strong desire to make their ideas come to life, INTJ’s possess many of the skills needed to do so. They are blessed with the ability to simultaneously maintain a clear vision of a whole system, as well as of the various interrelationships between its elements. This capacity underlies their talent for defining goals and mapping out plans that specify what steps must be taken, and, equally importantly, in what order they must be taken, in order to achieve those goals.

    Meanwhile their natural understanding of systems principles helps INTJ’s wisely identify sometimes elusive leverage points and recognize counterintuitive potential hindrances that might fool others as they design the necessary abstract structures to support those plans. In all of this, to reduce vulnerability to unforeseen obstacles, they are driven to prepare for various contingencies, proactively planning for each of the many potential twists that the operation may take. Because they are so committed to their vision, the INTJ is likely to continue pursuit of their goals even at challenging stages in the process where others might lose sight of the big picture. But, they are always ready and armed with their backup contingency plans if conditions dictate that a change in strategy or tactics is necessary.

    Given these propensities, it is easy to see why INTJ’s relate to Benjamin Franklin when he states in The Morals of Chess that “…life is a kind of chess.” And, in fact, the chess board is often, appropriately, used as a symbol of the INTJ.

  • Independence – INTJ’s are very self-motivated, drawn to working autonomously, and often do their best work when simply left to their own devices to undertake a particular project or task. They do not need to be, or enjoy being, watched over closely or micro-managed. Some say that the INTJ is the most independent of all of the 16 types.

  • A Discriminating Irreverence – In The American Claimant, Mark Twain famously wrote that "A discriminating irreverence is the creator and protector of human liberty." INTJ's highly value autonomy, as well as effectiveness, and, because at its worst it may threaten these ideals, are very skeptical of authority. While they very much respect authority figures who they see as having achieved their position based on merit and competence, they are unimpressed by titles or degrees and resent the power of those who they see as undeserving of their status. While this can make it difficult for INTJ’s to work in certain hierarchical environments, it also protects them from blindly taking unwise orders or following unhealthy or ineffective traditions that others may fail to question. It also can drive their innovative spirit as they continually challenge entrenched habits enforced by those currently in power and seek better ways of doing things.

  • Hesitant but Talented Leadership – Another surprisingly accurate aspect of the INTJ profiles that so impressed me early in my study of MBTI was their depiction of how the INTJ relates to leadership. INTJ’s, as mentioned, highly respect authority figures that they see as deserving of their positions. Hence, an INTJ is very happy to follow a leader that they perceive as competent. However, as also mentioned, they disdain poor and unmerited leadership, and when they see incompetent leadership, INTJ’s may feel driven to take over that leadership position when that option is available.

    Given their clear vision of systems principles and their skills in strategy and coordination, they often do a great job in leading. But even when they do lead, INTJ’s often prefer, when possible, to remain in the background rather than visibly out in front. They relate to the image of the “wizard behind the curtain” successfully directing from behind the scenes. When required, the INTJ may step forward publicly temporarily and then recede back into the background again.

    This description reflects exactly my own experience with leadership in a number of situations throughout my life. For instance, when I became interested in Instant Runoff Voting, I looked to others to take leadership on the issue. I gladly deferred to capable, experienced national leaders on the issue such as those at Fairvote and sought their counsel. However, when nobody in the area seemed willing to take a local leadership position, I gradually moved into it. I coordinated the Ferndale for Instant Runoff Voting campaign from behind the scenes, for the most part, allowing others to take the more public roles. Yet, when necessary, for example when I was the best suited person to have a public debate or be interviewed, I would step forward for the moment, before going back to my behind the scenes role.

  • Freethinking – Just as they refuse to blindly respect the unmerited authority of certain people, INTJ’s also refuse to accord unearned respect to ideas. INTJ’s will question everything from social rituals to religions to laws. Anything and everything, regardless of tradition or political correctness, is at least open to debate. For this reason, some consider the INTJ to be the most open-minded of any type. Along with their irreverence, this helps them constantly remain primed for discovering new and often improved ideas.

  • Evidence-Based Epistemological Standards – There is an interesting paradox involved in how others view the INTJ as a result of the way in which they reach conclusions about what is true. On one hand, the INTJ, as mentioned, is extremely freethinking, recognized by many as the most open-minded of all the MBTI types. They question everything, and for this reason, some may see the INTJ as too open-minded and perceive them as endlessly seeking for its own sake. However, the fact is that the INTJ very much wants to come to clear conclusions. They simply maintain a high standard for when they are willing to finally accept something as true and thus may need to seek for longer than others on some issues.

    On the other hand, in some situations, people may mistakenly perceive the INTJ as being too closed-minded. Without confirmation, they will not accept an idea as true, which means that some, who are not in the habit of logically supporting their statements, may find that the INTJ rarely, if ever, agrees with them on any controversial point. Yet to conclude that this stems from an overall closed-mindedness is also a mistake, since the INTJ is actually quite willing – in fact compelled – to shift position if an alternative view is adequately supported.

    The root of these paradoxical perceptions is that the INTJ’s epistemology demands a strong basis in evidence for their beliefs. They are open-minded, and may indeed continue seeking answers to a question for as long as it takes to find an explanation supported by evidence. But, once they find those answers, they will build them firmly into their system of knowledge and hold tight to them until more solidly supported explanations challenge them. And they will indeed reject an endless number of ideas, regardless of traditions, customs or the social status of the source if those ideas are not shown to be useful and effective on the merits. They expect others, without personal defensiveness, to back their views up with evidence. But this is not because they are closed-minded, but rather because they are skeptical and wary of being fooled. The INTJ knows well the potential counterintuitive price of sacrificing critical thinking simply to please someone in the short term.

    Although these qualities can lead the INTJ to be misunderstood and can sometimes annoy others, it also makes them less gullible. In a world full of misleading marketing and public relations and sales ploys of all kinds, the INTJ’s skepticism can often prevent themselves and those around them from buying into foolish, mistaken ideas that may ultimately prove costly. This is not to say that the INTJ cannot make grave errors in judgment. Like anyone, the INTJ may misconstrue purported evidence in various ways. But because they at least demand it in the first place, they are less easily fooled than many of the other types.

  • Problem Solving – With their rare way of thinking, innovative talents, and proclivity for seeing situations in a way that others can’t, INTJ’s can be very successful at solving problems. They may especially enjoy the challenge of solving particularly complex problems. No doubt it was these traits and interests that attracted me so strongly to Systems Thinking, a field designed specifically to provide the guidance and terminology necessary to solve problems too complex to otherwise resolve.

  • Innovation – With their imaginations unconstrained by tradition or social norms, the freethinking INTJ is willing and able to imagine possibilities that others might never consider. Combined with their understanding of systems and their strategic, coordination and planning skills, this renders the INTJ capable of conceiving often novel concepts and solutions.

  • Reliable High-Quality Work – Just as they maintain a high standard for truth, the INTJ also maintains a high standard for their own performance. Their self-motivation stems from the fact that they put a great deal of pressure on themselves to live up to that standard. As a result, they can usually be counted on to consistently produce very high quality work.

  • Efficiency – INTJ’s have a strong drive to optimize the systems with which they come into contact. It is in keeping with my personality that doing this, especially with human systems, is the stated goal of my company. Meanwhile, we have seen that INTJ’s require evidence in order to accept a belief. So what is the evidence that an INTJ requires to assess a system as optimal?

    A great part of the standard against which the INTJ compares a given system is that of efficiency. The question they are constantly asking is whether the system does what we want it to do with the least waste possible. Regardless of how long the system has been in place or how uncomfortable others may be with the change, if the system is not accomplishing the desired goals or doing so efficiently, the INTJ will strongly want to improve it.

    This desire for efficiency is part of why the INTJ so dislikes unmerited leadership, which often underlies inefficiency, and why they may feel driven to take over that leadership if possible. It is also part of why, even when they do lead, the INTJ does not spend a great deal of energy on what they see as frivolous self-promotion or unnecessary image-focused efforts.

    The INTJ has a great distaste for wastefulness whether in regards to time, money or any other resources. And due to their strong organizational and strategic skills, when in a position to do so, they can help a system accomplish more with less.

  • Dry Sarcastic Humor – I grew up loving Seinfeld because his brand of comedy focused dryly on the absurdities of life and exposed many illogical, but entrenched, cultural norms. I believe that Jerry’s humor is very typical of the kind that appeals to and often emanates from an INTJ. A lot of humor’s foundation is based on viewing something from a unique and surprising angle, something at which INTJ’s, with their uncommon manner of thinking, are adept. Therefore, many INTJ’s possess a biting, wry wit that others may view as quirky and quite funny.

INTJ Challenges

Many of the INTJ’s greatest challenges, which can be especially pronounced when the INTJ is at an immature stage of development, stem from the very same qualities that, in other situations, represent their greatest strengths. By becoming conscious of these issues and working to better account for them, without compromising their core principles, the INTJ can become a more whole individual.
  • Unwillingness or Inability to Conform within Inefficient Hierarchies – In an environment marked by secure leaders who are open to new ideas and improvements, the INTJ will be trusted with autonomy and their innovative thinking and willingness to challenge norms will be welcomed. In such a setting, the INTJ may thrive and help generate meaningful optimizations to the system. However, in strongly hierarchical environments, insecure leaders may micromanage, asserting their authority to pressure the INTJ to submit to a system in which they do not believe. Forced to conform to inefficient procedures, go through the often wasteful motions of unnecessary meetings or sacrifice authenticity for political correctness, the INTJ, in such an environment, may encounter great frustration.

    This frustration may be amplified further by the fact that the INTJ can clearly, and often accurately, envision feasible strategies through which more constructive, efficient operations could be generated, but be unable to implement them due to “irrational” features of the system, such as the self-interested reluctance of those in power to change. Irreverent, skeptical and unwilling to authentically respect the power of undeserving leaders, in such a situation, the INTJ, despite their actual desire to improve the functioning of the system for all, may instead be viewed merely as a threat to the status quo, leading to conflict.

    Confronted with these circumstances, the INTJ, content to play a background role when in a more effective structure, may feel driven to take on greater leadership within the system. If allowed to do so, the INTJ may offer valuable insight and guidance in creating a more integrated, efficient system. However, within today’s hierarchical power structures, stricken by the Peter Principle and in which leadership positions are often pursued and assigned based on concerns of social status rather than actual coordination skills, the INTJ may find him or herself unable to attain an office of adequate power from which to effect the deep changes that they vividly imagine would improve the situation. Being trapped in an unnecessarily inefficient, ineffective system designed to serve the whims of those in unmerited power and being unable to make the changes they envision is one of the most frustrating situations in which an INTJ can find him or herself. Resigning him or herself to such circumstances can be disheartening for an INTJ. Yet, in a hierarchical culture such as ours, this is a common occurrence.

    It is no surprise that, as an INTJ, I have been powerfully impacted by authors like Daniel Quinn, Derrick Jensen and Richard C. Schwartz who penetratingly reveal the dysfunctional effects and necessary responses to unhealthy hierarchy in our culture. While remaining watchful for the perception-skewing effects of projection, I’ve come to view extreme hierarchy marked by unmerited authority as one of the most destructive influences on health and sustainability for all of us, regardless of personality type. However, the INTJ often more consciously suffers the inevitable pains of living and working in such structures.
  • Failure to Undertake Effective Self-Promotion – At times, the INTJ’s position of inadequate power within hierarchical systems may stem from a lack of interest in or talent for self-promotion. Preferring independence and autonomy, and focused on substance over style, they may find the marketing, glad-handing and politicking necessary to rise in the ranks tiresome or even unsavory. Unfortunately, this can lead to the INTJ missing out on opportunities to attain positions in which they could beneficially impact those systems in ways more preferable to themselves, as well as healthier and more effective for others.

  • Failing to Take Action Due to Perfectionism – In approaching activities, the INTJ experiences what can sometimes be a paralyzing combination of inner forces. The INTJ maintains a very high standard of achievement and places a great deal of pressure on him or herself to achieve that standard. This reinforces a strong desire for clear, reliable strategies and structures for enacting plans to achieve their goals. Thus, the INTJ is vulnerable to perfectionism both in terms of setting goals and choosing the path to reach those goals due to their own challenging benchmarks.

    At the same time, the INTJ, more than perhaps any other type, foresees the many contingencies associated with pursuing their vision both in terms of relatively more or less desired outcomes, as well as obstacles or challenges that may arise to those outcomes. Thus, compelled to determine the very best plan of action, the INTJ may feel obligated to postpone any final decisions or bold actions until they have intelligently analyzed this range of possibilities and developed a plan about which they feel rather certain.

    Such a process, applied within reason, can help improve the chances of effectively generating a satisfactory outcome. However, if taken to an obsessive extreme, beyond the range within which it is constructive, the process may serve more to inhibit than to facilitate accomplishment of goals. In some cases, the INTJ, mired in perfectionism, may even fail to take action at all.

    This is why, for me, it has proven important to incorporate anti-perfectionism approaches such as Ready-Fire-Aim (see Rule #15) and Microtasking into my work regimen. Such approaches can serve to keep the INTJ from falling into an increasingly pressured vicious cycle of perfectionism, paralysis and failure of achievement.

  • Actual or Perceived Judgmentalism – INTJ’s often expect a great deal from others around them just as they do from themselves. They can be very critical, and even thrive on assessing others and taking on the critic’s role as a core aspect of their identity. This tendency, combined with their great confidence in their knowledge and understanding, can lead to the INTJ being seen as intimidating by others.

    I have always been struck deeply by David Keirsey’s highly astute statement:
    “Their fellow workers often feel as if a Mastermind can see right through them and often believe that they find them wanting. This tendency of people to feel transparent, and even incompetent, in their presence often results in working relationships which have some psychological distance.” – Page 200 of Please Understand Me II.
    When others resent the INTJ’s expectations or fail to live up to their standards, it can lead to conflict and a perception of the INTJ, accurately or not, as snobby and arrogant.

    The INTJ’s desire for effectiveness in themselves and others can be a constructive one. But it is important for them to become more conscious of the motives behind their judgments of others and to realize that the changes they desire are more likely to be realized not through harsh criticism alone, but through a nurturing approach starting from a state of appreciation, empathy and respect for the experiences of others. Furthermore, the INTJ must understand that while their own organizational and informational talents are extremely valuable, they imply co-existent weaknesses that can be complemented by the different, yet similarly valuable, talents of others in the creation of a system that functions as a working whole. Learning about personality types and Appreciative Inquiry impacted me greatly precisely through helping me better internalize just such important leadership lessons.

  • Actual or Perceived Stubbornness – INTJ’s tend, as mentioned, to be very confident in their systems of knowledge, and often rightly so. They don’t easily accept new information without strong evidence to support it. To some, this can make them seem stubborn and unwilling to question themselves or their beliefs.

    In reality, INTJ’s highly value the accuracy of their models and are quite open to modifications when shown that a model is incorrect or incomplete. The problem, however - and the reason that others may find them unmoving - is that they may, for several reasons, sometimes overlook or too quickly reject information that, in fact, offers an opportunity to discover some of those inaccuracies.

    For example, the INTJ quickly notices patterns and may jump to the false conclusion that a current challenge to their model is the same as a similar one that they have already refuted in the past, even though, upon further examination, they would have found that subtle, but important differences actually exist between the past and present data. Another example is that if a person challenges their model, but does so in a language more typical of their own type than of the INTJ’s, the INTJ may fail to perceive the valid concern that lies within the other person’s possibly imprecisely stated communication.

    Behaviors like these underlie the paradox in which the extremely open-minded INTJ may be viewed by some as too closed-minded. The INTJ is quite open to new, challenging evidence, but may fail to recognize that evidence if it is presented in an unclear manner. The INTJ can benefit from learning to take the time to more patiently and deeply consider new data before dismissing it and to question whether a kernel of truth may exist within otherwise seemingly misguided communications before rejecting them.

  • Insensitivity to the Importance of Emotions and Relationships in Systemic Change – Another paradoxical aspect of the INTJ is that, while they possess a tremendous talent for seeing and understanding systems, that talent often fails to apply itself to some of the most important systems of all: human emotional and relationship systems. In their view of life as a chess game, the INTJ may come to view other people as just pieces in the game, obstacles to or tools for efficiency, rather than human beings with whom to fully relate. Such a view not only unethically objectifies people, but, even within such an objectifying paradigm, fails to account for the psychologies of attraction, motivation and persuasion so central to dealing efficiently with people.

    This is why learning about fields like Emotional Intelligence, Internal Family Systems, Neurolinguistic Programming, Imago Relationship Therapy, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and Personality Types can so greatly enhance an INTJ’s effectiveness. These fields provide an understanding of the often baffling behavior of fellow humans couched in the systems language so familiar to INTJ’s. While it may come naturally to those of many other types, the INTJ may need such training to learn to view others not simply as obstacles to or tools for efficiency, but as themselves parts of systems whose sometimes irrational feelings and experiences cannot be avoided, but must be acceded to as themselves leverage points for efficient and constructive dealings. Eventually, when the INTJ begins to recognize the paradoxes and self-fulfilling prophecies familiar from other systemic processes in the repetition compulsions and defense mechanisms of other people, as well as themselves, they can begin to develop and grow into the diplomatic talents that, second only to their strategic talents, come most naturally to them.

  • Unwillingness to Accept Appropriate Incremental Change – Because of their frustration with inefficiency, and their ability to clearly visualize a more optimal state and the strategic steps necessary to achieve it, the INTJ may, when functioning within an ineffective system, be extremely eager for change. This eagerness may lead them to expect or demand immediate change. When others around them are open to that change, this attitude can expedite improvements. However, the INTJ often fails to recognize when circumstances call for a more incremental approach to change.

    This is especially likely when the brake on the rate of change stems primarily from the emotional defenses of the other people in the system. The INTJ, prone to overlooking the importance of applying their systemic understanding to certain aspects of human systems, may fail to recognize that addressing the fears and apprehensions of relevant individuals is not simply a distraction from their strategy, but rather, itself an important – sometimes the most important – strategic consideration.

  • Difficulty Effectively Communicating – In order to achieve goals within a human system, it is imperative to be able to convey one’s vision and strategy in a way that others can understand. However, INTJ’s, especially when immature, may have a difficult time doing this and experience confusion and frustration in response to others’ inability to grasp what seems obvious to them.

    The INTJ thinks in a rather unique way, often full of abstract imagery and a focus on patterns and principles. It can be difficult to share this inner world with others who tend to think in a more concrete manner, which can lead the INTJ to feel misunderstood and isolated.

    The INTJ’s style may also focus on logic with minimal regard for the emotions that drive most people in our culture. Thus, when the INTJ attempts to communicate directly, sticking to facts and reason, about thoughts they see as innocuous, with the aim of seeking knowledge and constructive solutions, they may be astonished and frustrated by the personal and defensive responses they receive.

    This is why practicing communication techniques like Nonviolent Communication or Intentional Dialogue from Imago Relationship Therapy within the context of an understanding of personality types can be so beneficial to the INTJ. These fields allow the INTJ to recognize and understand the different communication styles of those of other personality types and develop an ability to translate between the languages of those others types and their own.

  • Insulting Sarcasm – Many people find great humor in the INTJ’s witty manner of pointing out absurdities. But when that wit that underlies the INTJ’s often clever humor is turned on those around them and used as a passive-aggressive defense in lieu of openly expressing frustrations or employed to avoid taking the time to honestly address others’ feelings, it may hit close to home and be a source of pain to others. And the immature INTJ, focused on their autonomy and valuing their utilitarian goals above the quality of their relationships, may, as we are about to see, simply ignore this effect or fail to recognize it.

  • Unawareness of or Indifference to Their Effect on Others – All of the other challenges INTJ’s face are made worse by the fact that, when immature, they may remain indifferent to or unaware of the way they affect and are subsequently viewed by others. The INTJ sees their vision clearly and may truly believe that its realization is in everyone’s best interest. Thus, they may see any pain caused to others as they challenge cherished beliefs and, sometimes unknowingly, push through sensitive trauma-related defense mechanisms in pursuit of their goals, as justified. Alternatively, they may not recognize that such hot buttons and defenses exist at all.

    Coming to understand defense mechanisms, their role in perpetuating irrationality and the importance of addressing them during attempts to stimulate change can make the INTJ a more sensitive person and a more effective change agent. Even in cases where they ultimately decide that the pursuit of that change does merit triggering discomfort in others, at least that decision will be made consciously after careful consideration of all of the factors involved – emotional, as well as logical.

  • Losing Themselves in Irrelevant Obsessive Thought – In addition to biting sarcasm, another tactic the INTJ may use to distance from the outside world is escaping into their own mind. With their ability to see contingencies and explore possibilities, there is a virtually endless buffet of material available for an INTJ to ponder. And while the INTJ may usually be frustrated by meaningless abstract thought decoupled from constructive action, they may, when stressed, take great comfort in remaining deep in contemplation as an avoidant defense rather than as a step in the pursuit of meaningful goals in the world.

    This is the particular defense mechanism that most links many INTJ’s to the Type 5 in the Enneagram.

  • Isolation – In their desire to escape from outside stressors, the unhealthy INTJ may retreat not only mentally through perpetual abstract thinking, but even physically. At the extreme, the INTJ may become almost completely disconnected from the outside world around them.

  • Lack of Interest in Day-to-Day Mundane Logistics – The INTJ may experience the day-to-day tasks of living – paying bills, cleaning, shopping – as extremely boring or even threatening distractions from the intellectual deliberations and engaging projects that they perceive as more important and meaningful. When very unhealthy, they may eschew these activities as much as possible while escaping into the much more exciting and stimulating realms of their imagination and autonomous work.

  • Affinity for Unhealthy ESFP Traits – As mentioned, the INTJ often attempts to escape from the outside world by retreating deeply into their own mind and space. However, eventually, if their mind and space themselves becomes too stressful, they may seek to escape just as extremely back in the other direction. At such times, the INTJ may begin to engage in impulsive, excessive and addictive behaviors usually most typical of the unhealthy ESFP.

    This observation meshes with a pattern recognized by the Enneagram. Many INTJ’s, including myself, identify, in the Enneagram system, as Type 5’s. In that system, the Point of Disintegration – the other type that a given type may mimic when most unhealthy – for Type 5 is Type 7, the type that often includes those identified as ESFP in the Myers-Briggs system. Thus both Enneagram and Myers-Briggs practitioners corroborate the existence of an important connection between individuals of these general types.

    Moreover, in addition to acting like an ESFP under stress, the INTJ may be drawn to ESFP individuals in unhealthy ways. As will be discussed in the "INTJ Relationship Dynamics" section, the ESFP, who represents the exact opposite preference on every MBTI attitude and function, often serves as an ideal canvas on which the dis-integrated INTJ may project his or her Shadow. Coming to terms with their relationship, both internal and external, to the repressed ESFP aspects of the personality may be a required growth step for many INTJ’s.

  • Lack of Acceptance of Female INTJ’s – Many of the core traits of the INTJ – logic, stoicism, scientific thinking - are, however unfairly, often considered stereotypical of men in our culture. In fact, these traits are so closely associated with men in the minds of many that I have even had people tell me that they doubted female INTJ’s could possibly exist. Their doubt notwithstanding, many female INTJ’s do exist and they may experience a unique set of challenges.

    Some of them may have a difficult time developing a comfort level with their identity since it so strongly challenges traditional gender roles. They may feel a great deal of conflict between their own inner drives and social pressures in regards to employment, relationships, parenting and other life areas. However, when an INTJ woman matures enough to embrace her natural personality traits regardless of the opinions of others, she can thrive and will find that there are many who enjoy the gifts of independence and uniqueness with which they endow her.

INTJ Relationship Dynamics

As one might imagine, the various traits and challenges of the INTJ enormously impact the way they relate with others. Discovering that I was an INTJ, learning what that meant, and coming to understand how my personality type interacted with the personality types of others gave me a great deal of insight into both my past and subsequent relationships. Below are some of the common features of relationships involving INTJ’s.

General INTJ Social Issues

The INTJ’s unique style can have varied effects on others. Some find their manner of speaking and behaving strange and feel uneasy around them. Others are attracted by those same factors, especially those drawn to the apparent solidity and confidence that stems from the INTJ’s strong belief in their knowledge. Such individuals might include those that have repressed their own intellectual and philosophical confidence, for whom the INTJ may represent elements of their Shadow.

One of the greatest relationship challenges for the INTJ is their frequent awkwardness with and disdain for traditional niceties, such as small talk, that commonly lubricate social interaction. Because these activities are not based on logic and superficially seem to serve no clear purpose, the INTJ may view them as inefficient and pointless. Furthermore, since, the INTJ’s abstract big-picture thought process does not lend itself to improvisational facility with the concrete issues that make up most basic social conversation, they may find it extremely difficult. This, again, is why INTJ’s can benefit so much from fields like Emotional Intelligence, Imago and NVC that can translate relationship issues into terms that the INTJ can understand.

Another challenge for the INTJ in social settings is their tendency to be misunderstood. Often lost in thought, the INTJ may seem aloof or uncaring when, in fact, they are simply focusing on the powerful stream of information constantly barraging their imagination. And because the INTJ is skeptical of whether others can accept or understand this intricate inner world, they may hesitate to share it with others until their trust has been earned. The INTJ, in relationships, is often skeptically searching for that rare person that they feel safe bringing into their vision due to a foundation of underlying shared worldview elements.

All of these factors can make it difficult for the INTJ, especially outside of academic or intellectually-focused settings, to make deep connections. When someone does manage to breach these barriers, however, and gain access to the INTJ’s inner world, it can be an exhilarating experience for the INTJ. Deep down, the INTJ often longs to share these aspects of themselves with others and, when they finally feel comfortable to do so, can form close bonds. Although the INTJ may not seem so, at their heart, they are often quite sensitive and, in the right situation, a relationship can reveal that.

INTJ Romantic Relationship Issues

All of the social challenges that generally face INTJ’s in the area of relationships apply to an even greater extent in the course of pursuing or engaging in romantic relationships. As such relationships begin to surface even more intimate emotions, the influence of irrational elements, so confusing and disconcerting to the INTJ, tends to increase. The overwhelming forces generated by romantic attraction and connection can be difficult for even the most social of personality types to fully grasp. For the INTJ, they can prove downright baffling. Thus, the INTJ may especially benefit from fields such as Imago Relationship Therapy that help elucidate their peculiar logic.

Typically outwardly emotionally detached, the INTJ can have a very difficult time connecting intimately with others. This detached attitude is embodied in the systematic manner in which an INTJ may view romance. They may be drawn to actual systems designed to help facilitate romantic connection, and may maintain a methodically developed list of traits against which they compare romantic prospects.

The INTJ tends to value a mate who is strong and independent and can “hold their own” in discussions and dealings with the INTJ. Especially when immature, the INTJ may be intensely and mutually drawn to the freewheeling, fun-loving ESFP, each the other’s exact opposite on every preference, and a powerful representation of many elements of each other’s Shadow. However, the INTJ’s strong rational side will quite often prevent the INTJ from impulsively committing to such a spontaneous emotionally-driven choice. Often, as the INTJ matures, they will become more attracted to partners of another type.

According to and David Keirsey in Please Understand Me II, the ideal match for the INTJ is the ENFP. The passionate, idealistic, personable, creative ENFP complements the detached, rational, strategic INTJ, balancing their preferences on the E/I, T/F and J/P dichotomies, while preserving a shared abstract communication style, so helpful in sustaining intimate connection and attributable to their common preference for Intuition (N).

When the INTJ does engage romantically, allowing another rare access to the depths of their inner sanctum, it can be an extremely intense experience for both partners. Nonetheless, the INTJ’s partner may still complain that the INTJ is not openly affectionate enough. This may stem from the fact that the INTJ often sees their intimate relationship as yet another project or system to optimize and make more efficient.

The always visionary INTJ may have a clear image of their ideal relationship in mind, rife with romantic and sexual symbolism and, just as in other areas of their life, may be exhilarated or frustrated based on the extent to which the reality of the situation matches their imagined ideal. Where the relationship falls short of this ideal, the INTJ may, typically, feel driven to develop strategies to close that gap. This approach can make the INTJ a very committed partner, eager to work with their lover to make the relationship the best it can be, but may also leave their partner feeling more like a science experiment than a loved human being.

INTJ Family and Parenting Issues

The INTJ may bring the same systematic mindset to the operation of the family as a whole. They may study and compare various approaches to operating a home and parenting and apply the particular philosophies and systems that they find most efficient and reasonable. As a parent, the INTJ tends to value instilling autonomy and independence in their children so that they can think for themselves and develop their own unique identities.

INTJ Career Issues

Learning about the traits of an INTJ also sheds light on why they are drawn to certain career options and repelled by others. Obviously they are most comfortable in fields that take advantage of their strengths while respecting their preferences for autonomy, independent, evidence-based thought and efficiency. Regardless of what career an INTJ finds themselves in, these general preferences are always likely to influence their performance and feelings about the job.

INTJ’s are often attracted to the academic world, especially in areas involving specific technical knowledge. That technical knowledge may range from the minutiae of legal doctrine to the subtle distinctions between various schools of philosophy. INTJ’s are particularly attracted to science and technology, areas with well-defined experimental methodologies that drive a passionate, evidence-based pursuit of highly applicable knowledge. Thus, they may thrive in fields such as medicine or computer science.

In any of these areas, the INTJ may enjoy and excel at research, which offers more opportunity for solitary thought and analysis than many other careers, and enables the INTJ to pursue meaningful discoveries that can generate valuable changes in the real world.

The INTJ brings to any of these fields their talent for understanding and optimizing systems. This talent can be applied not only to comprehending the workings of organ systems as a doctor or computer systems as a computer scientist or network administrator, but also to success in the business world. An INTJ may perform remarkably well when placed in a position to shape the vision of and craft strategy for an organization.

Fields that tend to be unattractive to INTJ’s and less often suited to their talents are those that focus on style over substance. These might include careers in entertainment or fashion, for example.

Other INTJ Profiles

There are many resources available that describe in great detail the traits of the INTJ. They include:

Some Famous INTJ’s

Many resources offer examples of famous INTJ’s. I find some of the examples listed on these various pages accurate and others far off the mark. Here are some of the examples that I feel are indeed most likely to be INTJ characters. Note that it is not the particular content of their belief systems that links INTJ’s with each other, but rather their predilection for systematizing at all. INTJ’s can be very conservative, very liberal, very religious, atheist, and anything in between. It is their similar method of thinking and behaving, despite their often very different specific conclusions and beliefs, that connects them.

I relate to the overall manner and personality of each of these figures, though I don’t necessarily agree with their particular views or conclusions on all topics.
  • Ayn Rand
  • Isaac Newton
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings series

Meet Other INTJ’s

I enjoy meeting people of various types. But it is an especially interesting experience to meet other INTJ’s (and INXJ’s for that matter) who share many of these somewhat rare and defining traits with me. We usually find our interactions quite engaging.

There are a number of resources available where you can meet other INTJ’s. These include:

Other INTJ Resources


Since I first learned about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator years ago, and certainly since I was a teenager, I have developed certain traits that differ somewhat strongly from those of the typical INTJ.
  • I tend to be more emotional and more openly sensitive in some settings than many more pure INTJ’s.

  • In certain situations, especially in close relationships, my emotions can override my logic more than is true of many more pure INTJ’s.

  • While certainly sometimes emotionally detached, in other situations I am actually having to work at developing greater detachment.

  • I am focused not only on truth and knowledge, but very strongly driven by the types of principles and ideals usually associated with the NF Idealist personality group.

  • While I highly value autonomy, I also – as I explained in “My Scheme Team Dream: Partners Wanted for Shaping and Changing the World” – crave partners to work mutually with on meaningful projects (though in typical INTJ fashion, it is very important to me that we have a shared worldview on some level that bonds us).
As a result of these and other traits, in many circumstances I can come to resemble an INFJ as much or more than an INTJ.

To some extent, this state might be explained simply by the fact that INTJ’s often harbor hidden qualities which they don’t always outwardly express. For instance, David Keirsey claims that INTJ’s, under the surface, may be more romantic, deeply emotional and sensitive to rejection from loved ones than they let on. I can attest that, even in the days when I was less expressive of such characteristics than I am now, I did harbor some of these traits under the surface.

Another possible explanation is that these developments represent a relatively typical INTJ growth path. Often at midlife, the INTJ’s Feeling function becomes more pronounced and integrated into the personality. It is possible that this process simply began a bit earlier for me and that I remain an INTJ that is evolving.

However, some of the characteristics associated with the F preference and the NF Idealist personality group are, and on some level always have been, so strong in my personality that I am tempted to believe that I really am fundamentally a mixed personality, rather than just an INTJ with hidden traits or who has undergone growth. If this is the case, then - in the notation often used by MBTI practitioners to describe a person who prefers the two options on a given function in the system relatively equally - I could be described as an INXJ, indicating that I exhibit traits that blend those of the INTJ and INFJ.

I must say that the blend of INTJ and INFJ traits in me sometimes creates quite an inner battle. And there are plenty of moments when the INFJ side wins. It is those moments that lead me to consider whether, in fact, I am actually a “true INFJ” that has become a “reactive INTJ” and am working my way back to my true type as an Idealist.

This phenomenon of inner conflict is just one of many reasons I have become more and more attracted to the Enneagram system. In that system, with its concept of wings, this battle between INTJ traits and INFJ traits is captured more easily within its framework. Defining myself as a 5w4 in that system helps explain this situation with much less confusion than I find when trying to reconcile it within the MBTI framework.

In the end, the relationship between my INTJ and INFJ sides has proven defining for me and the interaction between the traits of the two types explains well my attraction to the particular projects and activities, interests and social groups that have received most of my energy and focus in recent years.

If you found this page helpful, then:
Subscribe to My Free Newsletter
Get bonus content full of ideas to help you develop
greater understanding and insight in many areas of life.
Share This Page Donate Support Me

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Page | Personality Types Page
Interests Involving the Mind | Main Interests Page

View Sitemap

Copyright 2003-2017, Howard