Anyone who knows anything about Myers-Briggs is probably quite familiar with all of the stereotypes that are often made about the various types, online. ESFPs are flighty goofballs; INTPs are emotionless robots; INFJs are whimsical mystics; and ESTJs are militaristic administrators. None of the 16 types have escaped having their essence greatly oversimplified into a caricature – my personal favourite being the description of my own type. INTJs are typically described as the Emperor Palpatines of the MBTI – cold, calculating, hiding behind the scenes, emotionless, and plotting schemes which they delegate to someone else because they hate people. The recommended occupations for my type (other than Emperor of the Empire) often include scientist, executive, policy maker, and researcher, to name just a few. However, I personally know several INTJs (myself included – assuming that we are not all mistyped) who have occupations that don’t appear to match their type. Occupations such as author, psychologist, restauranteur, and travel agent, to name a few. I, myself, work in social justice and have worked in this field for over three years. I have done so with no more difficulty than anyone else, and in fact, have found some aspects of the job easier than some of my other colleagues. In what follows, I plan to try to explain why I think that my type HELPS me to be an effective social justice advocate.*
Before I begin, let’s take a quick look at the INTJs mental function stack:
Dominant function: Introverted Intuition (“Ni” for short). This function is focused primarily on perceiving underlying meanings, trends, and abstract connections.
Auxiliary function: Extraverted Thinking (“Te” for short). This function is focused primarily on using logic to create efficiency and effective systems in the outside world.
Tertiary function: Introverted Feeling (“Fi” for short). This function is focused on individual ethics and values.
Inferior function: Extraverted Sensing (“Se” for short). This function perceives the outside world and all the concrete details within it. It reacts quickly to spontaneous events and focuses on the present moment.
Why INTJs Make Great Social Justice Advocates
1) I’m good in a crisis: When the world is burning and there is a huge crisis occurring (violent client, missing client, public safety, etc.), I can calmly hear out the situation, and make a quick decision. Because Ni and Te are my dominant and auxiliary functions, I usually have about 4 contingency plans running for any situation (thought of in advance), and have no issue taking charge of the situation, delegating tasks as needed. However, I don’t jump in unless I am certain that it is needed, giving people space to figure it out on their own before assuming that they can’t without me. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because I have no heart, but rather because life has handed me its share of learning opportunities, and I understand that people have their own abilities to solve their problems as they see fit. When I was “in the grip” in the past, I would dive in and solve the issue uninvited; however, I have learned that the best use of my tertiary Fi and inferior Se is to trust in the ability of others to solve their problems, while inviting connection and offering emotional validation.
2) I understand the systems well: With Ni being my dominant function, I often get what I call “vibes from the universe” on what changes could be coming down the pipeline given the socio-political climate. I have used this information to role-play with clients, and have them walk me through what they would do if the unexpected was to occur. This auxiliary Te function problem-solving has received a lot of positive feedback as clients felt that they had options should things go wrong. If people are aware of what the possibilities are, then they can be truly empowered to make an informed decision.
3) I will go to bat for you: Anyone who says that INTJs are not loyal to people and are not able to work with them has never met one tasked with protecting people being crushed by the larger systems mentioned above. Because I can see the systems so clearly (dom Ni), and because I understand their mechanisms, I will 100% fight to the death for someone who is being unjustly treated at no fault of their own. Client advocacy is one of my strongest skills, and in fact, one of my former bosses called me a tiger when I was “on a mission” as I would argue with authority and point out all of the ways that the systems failed the people with whom I worked, all while holding the organization tasked with supporting my client accountable. That justice switch (tertiary Fi), when filtered through Ni, and brought to light through Te can be an intense, but as long as we all leave with viable solutions/action plans, it is all worth it.
4) I’ve done a lot of my own work: One of the greatest culprits of folks burning out in my field is that they have not dealt with their own “stuff”. People will over-identify with clients because of their own past wounds, or could seek external people to support to avoid their own pain. Trust me, I have been there – I understand the murkiness of life all too well, and the immense pain (and joy) that is inherent in being alive. However, because I am wired to problem-solving, I tend to face my problems head-on and delve into self-help regardless of the awkwardness it may bring up for me because my Ni and Te tell me that if I don’t fix the issue, that I may struggle with it again. Therefore, I have done the work of figuring out my feelings, and have learned coping skills which help me when I am under stress. I think that the motivation to do my own work has enabled me to erect good boundaries with clients (and other people in my world) as well as establish a healthy work-life balance. When you have helped yourself, it sets you up better to understand others’ perspectives, and to be truly be there for them in an authentic way.
In writing all of this, I do want to say that I recognize that my type is under-represented in this field, and that it is not the world’s easiest fit – who wouldn’t love to be a researcher?! However, it was important for me to write this as I have read several articles regarding INTJs which made it sound like it was impossible for anyone of this type to work with people as it would require exclusive use of Fi and Se, both of which are lower in the cognitive stack for us. I sincerely hope that I shed some light on a possible career path for INTJs out there who could potentially have the opportunity to, not only work with incredible people, but also to effect change in the socio-political climate. What INTJ wouldn’t love that?
This is a guest post by M. Levy
*A social Justic advocate is a person who works to effect change on the macro, meso, and micro levels with systems, organizations/communities, and individuals, respectively.
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