Ask INTJ: ISTJs, INTJ Arrogance, and Getting a Girlfriend
You know, it’s funny to me when people can’t get a handle on the ISTJ type. To me, they always very definitively stand out from the other types. Though, that could just be because my father and youngest sister are ISTJs, so I’m intimately familiar with them.
I’ve already written a bit about ISTJs before, so you may want to check those out as well.
So, let’s start with the ISTJ’s cognitive functions:
Si (Introverted Sensing)
Te (Extroverted Thinking)
Fi (Introverted Feeling)
Ne (Extroverted iNtuition)
From this we can see that they’re going to be very literal, present-thinking contingency planners; not particularly emotionally expressive; systematic, careful, and detail oriented.
Most other types hate to have ISTJs as their boss. Not because they’re bad at their job (they’re generally quite good in managerial positions, actually) but because they believe in the system and are unrelenting rule followers. I don’t mean that they generally tend to keep to the rules. Most types are rule followers to some extent; the only types that will buck the system just for the sake of bucking the system are ENTPs, ENTJs, and particularly feisty ESFPs. To ISTJs, though, rules are law; they are not to be broken under any circumstance. A rule isn’t working or doesn’t make sense? Well then you can submit a formal proposal and qualified individuals will discuss whether there needs to be a policy change, but that doesn’t change the fact that you broke the rule. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your reasoning was, an ISTJ will hold you to the letter of the law every single time.
ISTJs rely on structure to make sense of the world. If they were in Star Wars, they would be for the Empire, because rebellion is chaos and the world needs order. Where an INTP will question everything to see who has the answers and how every thing works together so they can manipulate the system, and an INTJ will tolerate a certain degree unnecessary bureaucracy in the name of ultimate pragmatism but disregard superfluous, inefficient systems that exist solely for the sake of micromanagement, an ISTJ will side with whoever has the most clearly defined and organized structure.
ISTJs do not react well to unexpected changes. If a problem arises and they don’t have a set of guidelines to follow to fix the problem, they may panic or simply defer the issue to someone they consider to be of higher status (this could be at work, among the family, or within their social group. ISTJs have clearly defined power hierarchies in place for every situation.) Nothing can stress an ISTJ out faster than an unforeseen complication making them late for another commitment. If they call in sick or cancel plans, you can be sure it’s because they are on death’s door or there was an emergency that absolutely could not be ignored, and they will still feel bad about not following through with their commitment.
To use an example from my own life, I drove my parents absolutely up the wall when I was in school because I never did homework. I just didn’t see the point. If I could pass all my classes and do well on the tests without doing a bunch of tedious busy work in my free time, what possible motivation could there be to actually do homework? Eventually my father — an ISTJ — would catch wind of the fact that I wasn’t doing half of the assigned course work, so he would go on a campaign to try to make me do the missed work and turn it in whether I would get credit for it or not. He was never successful in this, because I am an INTJ and will not be forced to do anything I’ve decided I’m not going to do. If it was unnecessary to do the homework when I would get credit for it, then doing it when it would have no impact on my grade was absolutely pointless. However, from his perspective, if it was assigned then it needed to be done, no exceptions, as a matter of integrity.
It might sound like I’ve done nothing but criticize ISTJs so far, but that’s not my intention. These are just the aspects of ISTJs that are most noticeable to other types because they tend to chafe. These personality traits, while occasionally deeply irritating to other types, are also the ISTJs strengths.
The fact that they won’t negotiate their standards makes them the most fair minded of all the types. Generally speaking, people want things to be unfair in their favor, which is why they may attack ISTJs as being on a power trip if the ISTJ won’t make an exception for them. You can be sure that anything an ISTJ does is in the interest of being consistent, responsible, and just. They don’t play favorites, which means they don’t unfairly punish people either.
They’re also the most reliable friend you could ever hope to have. If they agree to do something for you, it will be done, no matter what. If you ask them to keep a secret, they won’t even hint at knowing the information you’ve shared with them. They don’t hold grudges. They’ll never try to manipulate anyone to achieve their own ends. They don’t have many people in their inner circle, but for those that are there, they are fiercely loyal. They generally try to consider everyone’s point of view, even if they sometimes lack the social prowess to do so effectively. They are not prone to being irrationally emotional and won’t get their feelings hurt unless they feel like they’ve been betrayed, exploited, or unfairly attacked.
Like all thinking types, they place a high value on feeling and being perceived as competent. However, ISTJs are unusually sensitive to embarrassment. Because they don’t have dominant Intuition to help them out of unpredictable situations, they feel like they need to be prepared in advance for anything that could happen. They feel defeated if it turns out they were not adequately prepared.
They’re very literal people, so sentiment and symbolic resonance is often lost on them. In my experience, their sense of humor is also pretty awkward and they may miss language-based jokes (e.g. puns, innuendos, or double entendres,) but that’s not necessarily true across the board. If they are particularly fond of a quote, song, or book, it’s because of what it says not how it is said. If they stand in awe at the sight of the Grand Canyon, it’s because they’re impressed by the sheer amount of geological activity that had to have taken place to create such a thing, not because they are suddenly struck by how insignificant they are in this big, beautiful universe. If they are religious, it’s because they like having a clear set of guidelines for moral issues, not because they had a poignant and moving spiritual awakening.
Because they are so linear and uncompromising, they rarely rise to positions of ultimate authority. You’ll see them in jobs such as safety regulation officer, accounting manager, or in minor governmental positions, but rarely as property managers, CEOs, or senators. They may be the Lancer in their social group, but never the team leader.
You know, I think a lot of that is a defense mechanism. It’s like when people who are self conscious about their weight become hyper-critical of other people’s bodies (in the “REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES” sort of way.) They’re criticized and ostracized for an aspect of their personality, and rather than trying to find a middle ground with people, they turn it into a source of stubborn pride and criticize other people for not being more like them.
Generally speaking, I don’t think INTJs are actually as arrogant as they’re made out to be, though I think they can easily be perceived that way. INTJs are confident and straight forward, and don’t have much patience for emotional games. They feel like if they speak the truth and that hurts someone else’s feelings, well, that’s the other person’s problem. For example, if they’re at work and have a list of things they need to complete with their co-workers that day, the INTJ might say, “I’m better at this than you, so why don’t you go work the phones while I do this.” The INTJ thinks they made a pure statement of fact, but the other person feels like they were just told, “You suck at your job. Go do this unimportant thing while I do the real work.”
INTJs know exactly what they’re good at, and aren’t shy about expressing their abilities. Unfortunately, we live in a society that expects people to be self-effacing. Socially, you’re not allowed to just say you’re really good at something without either pointing out one of your flaws or praising someone else’s skills. Objectively, this is nonsensical and inefficient — two things INTJs loathe, so they may refuse to participate in this game.
The flip-side, that people often either misinterpret or miss entirely, is that INTJs are equally aware of their own weaknesses. In a random set of circumstances, they’re just as likely to say “I’m really good at this” as they are “I really can’t do this at all” (though, in a practical sense, INTJs are going to tend towards areas and activities in which they know they’re skilled.) If an INTJ expresses that they don’t have any skills in a particular area, people will jump in to comfort or compliment the INTJ because they think these are self-defeating comments that come from personal insecurities. In reality, the INTJ is just stating the simple fact that they aren’t good at something. They don’t feel bad about it — nobody can be good at everything.
As far as social inadequacy goes, INTJs typically detest emotional games one is required to play in socializing. They feel like everyone would save a lot of time and frustration if everyone were just honest and didn’t get their feelings hurt over so many tiny, insignificant things. Dealing with people is exhausting, time consuming, and there’s no consistent set of rules a person can follow and get the same results every time. It isn’t rational, reliable, or measurable, so why bother? I’m going to be who I am, and people who don’t like it can piss off. It doesn’t help that INTJs have difficulty finding people they genuinely like, so now it seems like they’re expected to waste a bunch of time an energy to capitulate to people they don’t even want to be around in the first place.
So, I understand the INTJs that cling to the arrogant and socially inept labels like a badge of courage. Even I do sometimes, but your life is going to be less frustrating and more rewarding if you develop the ability to work with people on their level. Eventually, you’ll find people that are willing to work with you on yours.
(And to the Anon that sent this ask: thank you for your comment! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.)
Oh honey, I am not the person to ask about this sort of thing. As a pretty but emotionally crippled girl, I mostly just stare hungrily at people and hope someone else makes the first move. Then, in an attempt to not be clingy, I usually over-correct and give the other person the impression that I’m completely uninterested. None of this is because I’m an INTJ, by the way. I’ve just had such acutely horrific romantic relationships that whenever I find myself in a romantic situation I turn into a weird, scary version of myself that can’t function as a human being.
That said, I can tell you what I’ve observed to be successful for other people and allow you to learn from my mistakes.
I’ve already written a post about making emotional connections with people, so read that first.
1. Be direct.
As an INTJ, this should be obvious, but those that have not developed their Feeling functions can become a bit overwhelmed by emotional situations. They’ll try to strategize their way into a romantic situation (I’ll invite her out to the bar with a bunch of my friends, and then, at the end of the night, I’ll sit next to her in the car, and if she’s tired or drank enough, maybe she’ll lean her head on my shoulder, then I’ll hold her hand!) instead of just asking someone out and being clear about their intentions.
1a. When asking someone out, actually use the word “date” at some point. Don’t say, “I’m going to see the Avengers on Friday. Do you want to come too?” People (across the board, not just INTJs) do this because then they can easily back-peddle if they get turned down and say, “What? No, I was just asking because you said the other day you wanted to see that movie, not as a date.” The problem with this is the person you’re asking out might not realize they’re being asked out, and think you’re just wanting to hang out as friends. The ambiguity here works both ways.
1b. Define your intentions early. If you drunkenly make out with someone that you genuinely want to be with, don’t just let the situation hang in limbo. Say, “Hey, I had a lot of fun at Orville’s party on Friday. Maybe we could do that again, but less intoxicated?” Or, if you’re not interested, clear that shit up as well. “Hey, Orville’s party was crazy, right? I just want to make sure there’s not any weirdness between us now.”
2. Coffee dates are your best friend.
Seriously. They’re low pressure, you can arrive separately so there’s no “who’s going to pay?” tension, and they last an undefined amount of time. You can hang out for half an hour then leave if things aren’t working, or you can sit an talk all night. It’s also really easy to turn a coffee date into a something else date. “Wow, we’ve been here for awhile. Want to go get something to eat/go to my friend’s party/go to a karaoke bar and make fun of the would-be American Idols?”
3. Learn to read the signs.
INTJs are not Fe users, so they can find it difficult to read how other people are reacting to them if it’s not stated outright. It will really enhance your relationships with people if you learn to interpret non-verbal cues. The most useful book I’ve ever read is The Definitive Book of Body Language. I reread it at least once a year, and regularly look over particular passages that are relevant to my life situations. This is training your Ni and Te to act as Fe.
4. Lead with your lips, not with your hips.
By which I mean talk to the other person. Don’t go straight from admiring from a distance to asking them on a date. Don’t come up behind a girl at a club and start grinding on her. Make an actual audible connection before you start putting on any moves (even if that audible connection is just “Do you want to dance?”)
On average, it takes a girl between two hours and three weeks to decide if she is willing to date or sleep with a person. Implement your moves during that time frame.
5. Everyone is nervous and self conscious: make the first move.
In my experience, people think of themselves as far more unwantable than they actually are. There are a surprising number of people who are willing kiss/date/dance with/cuddle with/sleep with you so long as you are the initiator.
I don’t know how helpful this was for you, and it’s not particularly MBTI based, but I tried my best. Hopefully it wasn’t completely useless.
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