Years ago, I got the Myers-Briggs result “INFJ” on a free personality test.
I have retaken such tests throughout the years – through various sites – and have watched myself gradually “change” from INFJ to INFP to INTP.
This transition parallels my journey over the years toward becoming more comfortable and familiar with my true self, and learning to care less about mirroring other people or projecting a certain image to them (INFJ was the image I portrayed for a while. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being an INFJ! Just that it wasn’t really me).
I finally seem to be settling on INXP (about equally F and T). My most recent results are INTP.
INTP – Some Common Characteristics
As an INTP, I like my alone time. I think best and recharge the most efficiently when I am by myself.
This is true, in part, because I am an introvert, but also because my introverted thinking function desperately needs the alone time to process information.
In general, the INTP:
- Thrives on space, autonomy, and latitude for creativity.
- Often gets drained by social interactions, save, perhaps, with a few close friends.
- May not always be aware of current social or fashion trends (though they often care about looking put-together).
As a woman, society (especially Western society) expects you to be outgoing and fairly talkative. That’s just what girls do, right? They’re the life of the party. It is generally expected that females will engage in small talk, keep the laughter going, dress and act “fashionably”, be tactful and agreeable, and not stir the waters.
Amenability tends to be higher on the list of social expectations for females than it is for males, and the female INTP is usually painfully aware of this expectation. But she also realizes that it may be a struggle for her to meet it. This can result in a lot of critical self-talk and feelings of shame.
Even today, women are expected to be pliable, emotional, to dress in a certain way, to talk about “girly” things (by stereotypical standards) – things like makeup, people, pop songs, pop artists, celebrities, etc. It is anticipated that they’ll be receptive and gentle, and pursue studies such as English, psychology, and music more than math, science, engineering, or technology (and don’t get me wrong, I do find the former three to be very interesting as well as the four latter. There’s nothing wrong with a woman liking English, psychology, or music. I just don’t believe women should be more strongly associated with or conditioned to pursue the former over the latter). Often, the female INTP diverges from these expectations and stereotypes.
The individualistic female INTP is likely to have her own set of culturally-deviant and relatively unpopular opinions about things. Affability is typically high on the list of social expectations for women. Therefore, for the female INTP to express her own opinions is to risk seeming “unfeminine” (i.e. disagreeable or b****y). Most INTP females do desire to maintain or gain friendships, and so, in the hopes of building or protecting such relationships, they refrain in social settings from showing a side of themselves that may, in their minds, cause people to shun, criticize, or dislike them. Consequently, the female INTP may speak very little.
In Nurture by Nature, authors Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger suggest that “Like other strong Thinking types, some INTP girls find themselves even more socially ill at ease than others their age because they are not interested in or adept at conforming to the socially expected “female” behavior and dress of their peers.”
The feelings of self-betrayal an INTP female experiences by choosing to repress those characteristics of her true self – combined with the feeling that she would not be accepted if she were to reveal her true personality and mind – may feed into the depression from which many females of this type suffer.
When they do muster the courage to express their opinions, many INTP females are readily labeled as arrogant, condescending, or even vicious. An INTP female relative of mine has been accused of arrogance, simply because she does not hesitate to speak up when she has a dissenting opinion on a matter. She’s not trying to be condescending or rude, she just feels it’s important to be true to herself and not to be congenial to the extent of sacrificing her viewpoint.
Another reason the INTP (male or female) is often accused of arrogance is that he/she tends to utilize a wider vocabulary than the general population may employ – not necessarily in an effort to show off, but more from a desire to add color and depth to their language. They want to perfectly depict what they’re trying to say, and due to the affinity many an INTP seems to have for reading, they have the power to do so with their treasure trove of descriptive words.
In this regard, I’m a bit of an anomaly. In social, face-to-face communication, my vocabulary tends to come across as excessively infantile.
When I’m around people (especially several people – or someone I don’t know well), my thinking brain turns off. This means that my introverted thinking is suppressed while I employ my extroverted feeling function (which, in Myers-Briggs lingo, is an inferior function for the INTP).
In social settings, I can become very distracted from my thinking world (which is introverted) as I study people and absorb the emotional vibes in the room (extroverted feeling and extroverted intuition). Because my thinking has gone “out the window”, I project myself as dull, bored, absent-minded, or reserved. Introverted thinking is suppressed as I overwork my weak extroverted feeling function. I may also become overwhelmed by all the input from my extroverted intuition, as I try to figure out how to handle or respond to all that information. (Extroverted intuition often picks up on unspoken messages, but the agony for the extroverted intuitive is that you then want to respond to those unspoken messages, rather than the spoken. But to do so [for example, to ask someone why they’re sad when they’re smiling broadly] could present socially awkward situations.)
Another reason my words can assemble rather oddly is that I must consider every possibility, permutation, or possible negative ramification of any course of action, when it comes to anything. This thinking pattern is characteristic of the INTP. So in the course of conversation, when I am trying to speak my mind or respond to someone, I constantly have a filter that’s vetoing everything I want to say, because there’s always a problem (in my mind) with the words I’m about to utter. I conclude that a given phrase will sound less than tactful…too snarky…sarcastic…bossy…insensitive…dumb…delusional…. So I say nothing. Or very little.
I apply the same filters to my demeanor and facial expressions. If I seem too happy and “smiley”, then no one will think me credible. But if I seem too solemn and serious, everyone will think I’m no fun, or that I’m upset all the time (often, men can get away with seriousness – or the appearance of it – more easily than women can).
Once I’ve filtered out essentially every possible thing I could communicate – and every possible way I could communicate whatever’s left to say – I’m left with a very childish, stunted verbal and facial “vocabulary” with which to express myself.
For example, the other day, a friend was sharing some sad news from his life with me. Here is a rough recounting of the split-second mental conversation I was having with myself, plus an abbreviated, rough recounting of my actual conversation with him:
Him: Bad news….
I should express my sadness. I feel really bad for him, and I want him to know that I do. (Although, tbh, I also feel kind of relieved for him, in this case.)
I was actually already aware of the thing he just told me, because I overheard it in his conversation with someone else earlier. So I can’t act surprised and say “Really? Wow!” or “What?!?!”, because this would suggest that I didn’t previously know about his misfortune, and I want to be honest.
Okay, that sounded stupid.
Ask him how he feels about the situation. If he sees it overall as a good thing.
“So are you…happy about it…or…?”
Relieved. You meant to ask if he felt relieved to some extent. Not “happy”. I can’t believe you actually did that! That’s a stupid thing to ask when someone’s hurting!
Smile. You can’t seem too sad. Guys hate it when girls pity them. At least, most guys do. So you should smile and act like it’s no big deal, to send the message that you’re not worried for him, he’ll be fine, you know things will work out, you don’t pity him or think less of him for what he’s going through.
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING, smiling while discussing his hardship?!?!
Speak! Say something! Don’t act like an idiot!
“I’m sorry…but…um…also happy for you?”
You idiot! You already said you were sorry! And ‘happy’ is such a boring, nondescript word. You sound so juvenile!
But…I just don’t know what else to say. All my words have abandoned me.
Look at his face now. He thinks you’re weird. He’s trying not to show it. But he thinks you’re slightly demented. Shame on you. You’ve smiled too much, and sent the message that you don’t care, and you don’t know how to comfort a hurting person. You asked stupid questions like ‘Are you happy?’ See how eager he is to leave?
Interactions With Other Females
In social discourse, the INTP analyzes and dissects everything thoroughly. Not to sound sexist – against my own kind, no less! – but I’ve noticed that in some female circles, this thorough dissection of topics is often not very welcome. The INTP female can be made to feel embarrassed for adding a more “serious” tone or analytical dimension to the conversation. Because of this, she may feel that she needs to alter her natural form of communication, in order to fit in and not feel awkward or make others feel awkward. (And don’t get me wrong – I have a couple girl-friends with whom I connect pretty well, and I really am grateful for their friendship. Not trying to make generalizations about females here.)
Additionally, the INTP usually strongly dislikes drama. This can make her unpopular among some of her female peers, if she does not wish to discuss or engage in the drama. Her choice not to engage can result in the INTP female becoming the butt of other female peers’ jokes (because if you’re not the one picking on people, you get picked on). This is not, of course, to say that all females are high-drama, histrionic, or bully types.
For some reason, the INTP female tends to end up with more male friends (which is totally cool – some of my dearest friends are male). However, she might wish for some female company with whom she can connect as well, but without fear of judgment or of being thought excessively “weird“ for a girl.
Are you an INTP? Share your experiences and struggles as an INTP in the comments below!
Do you know an INTP? Let me know about your experiences with the INTP(s) in your life. What’s your personality type, and what’s it like relating to an INTP from your perspective?
Please keep the conversation cordial and uplifting. 🙂 <3 I reserve the right to delete comments.