The evil mastermind INTJ is so common in fiction and so often brought up in Myers-Briggs® discussions that it’s become a sort of dark running joke. It can even be difficult to find fictional INTJs that aren’t portrayed as villains. Worse, that stereotype can support other misconceptions about INTJ personality types.
For example, some people think INTJs are manipulative.
I’m a writer and teacher by trade, so before we go any further, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page with what “manipulative” means. If you Google the definition, Oxford Languages provides this: “characterized by unscrupulous control of a situation or person.” That’s not a description of INTJs (or any other specific personality type). That’s a description of how someone who’s selfish and/or psychologically unhealthy might treat others.
In real life, however, we don’t always mean pathological manipulation when we describe someone as manipulative. We might just mean that this person usually convinces people to do what they want or that they’re good at making situations turn out in their favor. In this sense of the word, INTJs can be manipulative (and so can people of other personality types).
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Why Do Some People Think INTJs are Manipulative?
INTJs are often blunt, straightforward people who can come across as intimidating. Many also “believe in truth over tact” (to quote Susan’s INTJ type profile). I honestly wonder if some of the people who think INTJs are manipulative are just not used to people bluntly describing things the way they see them and asking for what they want/need.
If an INTJ says something like, “If you don’t do your homework, you’re going to fail this class” it might come across as a threat, but it was likely meant as a simple statement of fact. If they say, “That’s a stupid idea, and here’s what I think,” that’s not a very nice way to phrase feedback but it probably wasn’t meant to manipulate someone into thinking the same way they do. Or if they say, “I need you to do this for me,” an INTJ is likely just phrasing the request in the sort of straightforward way they’d prefer to have someone tell them things.
While any personality type can be manipulative from time to time, I suspect a lot of the times when someone thinks an INTJ is acting manipulative that impression is based on a misunderstanding. None of us think exactly alike (even if we have the same personality type) and we’re not mind-readers. That’s why it’s so important to take the time for clarifying communication with other people.
What Do INTJs Think of Manipulation?
So, here’s the thing that’s “funny” about this blog post. INTJs typically hate manipulative behavior. It’s fake. It’s unfair. They can usually see right through it. With that being the case, I’m picturing some of the INTJs reading this post getting irritated. People misinterpret them regularly, but it’s still got to be frustrating to hate manipulative behavior and yet be accused of doing that very same thing.
However, INTJs might see a difference between emotional manipulation and manipulation of a situation. The first is distasteful, the other can be strategic. Control over people isn’t something most seek, but they do enjoy having control over situations.
In terms of manipulating people, INTJs can certainly be polite and act diplomatically when there’s good reason for it and they’re willing to offer advice, but they hate playing emotional games. They might even actively avoid situations where they’d have the ability or authority to manipulate others. Manipulating other people is something many INTJs could do, but it goes against the deep value they place on personal autonomy, fairness, and justice. For many INTJs, emotional manipulation is something they simply won’t do.
In terms of manipulating situations, though, INTJs might see that simply as common sense. If you can manipulate a situation without taking away others’ free will or imposing your viewpoint on them, then why not try to work things out so there’s a good outcome in the end? Strategic, long-term planning comes naturally to many INTJs.
What Are INTJs Really Like?
Let’s think about some of the personality traits that most INTJs have. Typically, INTJs are independent people who like to work on their own or in their own way. They’re insightful and intuitive, especially about facts, patterns, and details. INTJs enjoy problem-solving, planning, and seeking new knowledge and understanding. They often choose careers or hobbies that let them do those things as part of everyday life. With their ability to recognize patterns and solve problems, they’re often great at turning their observations into theories and predictions that can be very accurate.
Those personality traits don’t stack up to make someone who’s hard-wired to manipulate other people. However, you could still meet manipulative INTJs. Whether to try and manipulate people is a choice individuals make; it’s not dictated by personality type (manipulation isn’t any type’s default state). The people I’ve met who were maliciously manipulative weren’t INTJs, but there are some manipulative INTJs out there.
If you’ve known healthy INTJs, then you probably know that they’re not usually manipulative. You’re far more likely to describe them as intelligent, honest, independent, efficient, loyal, and maybe a little intimidating. I’ve even heard people describe INTJs as “nice” or “wonderful” (a description that may puzzle the INTJ).
The truth is, INTJs are so much more than just their personality type. We all are. A Myers-Briggs® type describes how your mind functions. It’s like the toolkit you’re working with or the canvas you’re painting on to build your whole personality. Knowing your personality type or the types of other people is a starting point for understanding, not the end.
So no, INTJs aren’t naturally manipulative. Some can be, but mostly INTJs are creative, independent, no-nonsense, loyal, pattern-observing, and honest. If they try to manipulate anything, it’s usually a situation rather than a person. A healthy INTJ is far more likely to act with fairness and support other people’s autonomy than to try to manipulate them.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you agree with this article? Do you have any insights, thoughts, or perspectives? Let us know in the comments!
Find out more about your personality type in Susan Storm’s eBook, The INTJ – Understanding the Strategist!
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About the Author:
Marissa Baker is the author of The INFJ Handbook (available in the Amazon Kindle Store). You can find her online at LikeAnAnchor.com where she blogs about personal growth and development from a Christian perspective.
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