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The Manipulative INFJ

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

INFJs are masters at being manipulative. We have an amazing intuition that we use naturally to help us read people. We know what they want and need automatically. While most of the time we use this power for good, there are times when we can use it for not so good.

Let me tell you a story

Last week I wrote a blog post about the INFJ Mean Streak. I’ve been going through a situation that is all too familiar for me recently. I had a pleasant relationship with someone who I did business with. I went out of my way to be nice and polite to them. But they took that as me being weak and tried to manipulate me when they didn’t get their way. So I pushed back hard. And they got really upset. They even went so far as to call me hostile. 

I thought it was kinda funny, but it got me thinking. Why does this happen to me? Because it happens a lot. Not just with people I work with but with friends and acquaintances as well.

I poured all of it out to one of my friends and her response was spot on. I felt more understood than I have in a long time. She also called me out a bit, but that’s what good friends are for.

So here’s the answer to this problem. Are you ready? Because it’s a whole thing and it might hurt a little bit.

INFJs are GREAT manipulators

As INFJs we are great at reading people. We can tell very soon after meeting them exactly what they want and how best to interact with them. We go so far as to tailor our personalities to theirs, so they see us as a certain type of person. We give them what they want.

We are also people-pleasers who put a great deal of thought into making people happy and keeping the peace around us. Sometimes we go to extremes with this.

Because of these 2 things we put up with a lot from people. We deal with people we can’t stand in a pleasant way. Often times they have no idea that we can’t stand them. Even when we have issues with people that we do like we tend to let things go rather than bring it out in the open. I know I would much rather deal with being upset myself than talk to my friends about how they upset me and why.

Yes, I know this is not healthy. But knowing it’s a problem and changing it are two very different things.

So, when people do things that upset me, I don’t say anything about it. I just deal with it. A lot of times I blame myself for the issues and figure that they are my fault.

Yes, another thing that I know this is not healthy. But knowing it’s a problem and changing it are two very different things.

So what happens is all of those little things build-up and keep building up until I can’t take it anymore. And there’s an explosion.

That combined with this special personality that I’ve made just for them. It’s not me. But it’s who they think is me. So when the real me comes out and I explode at them they get really confused. They have no idea what’s going on or who I am because all of a sudden I’m not acting like the person they know.

Unintentionally manipulating

One thing that my friend pointed out to me is that I am unintentionally manipulating them from the start. By creating this exclusive personality just for them and giving them exactly what I think they want, I’m manipulating them.

Now, I want to be clear that everyone does this to some extent. Every personality type puts their best foot forward when they meet someone new or start a new job or are trying to make new friends.

The difference is that we, as INFJs, take it to an extreme. If my co-workers and my friends and my family got together and compared my personality they would come up with 3 different people. In fact, if 3 of my co-workers got together I bet they would also come up with 3 different people. I’m different with almost everyone I know.

This turns into a real problem at times because the real me is a whole lot different than who I try to be to make these people happy.

Here’s typically what happens. I go to an interview and project my best self. I land the job and start work, anxious for people to like me and to do a good job. My friend told me that I present a very subdued and weak presence, which is why I end up with so many narcissistic bosses who try to push me around. By being so agreeable and ready to help I look like a pushover that can be bossed around in any respect.

But then they try to push me around. Sometimes it’s subtly and it takes a while for me to resist it. Sometimes it’s much more blatant and I lash out pretty quickly. And I’m called disrespectful in the first week of work. It always happens at some point.

They see the real me and they get confused and then they start telling me how wrong I am and how terrible I am and some of them even tell me my personality is inherently messed up and I need to change it.

As an extremely sensitive INFJ I am completely offended. I’m offended that they don’t see the effort that I’ve put into being nice to them and giving them all that they have wanted for so long. I’m offended that they don’t recognize everything that I’ve put up with so quietly and obediently. But I’m most offended that they think that my personality is broken. I take that straight to heart and it hurts. It must be true because they said it, right? And the more that is happens the more that it’s true because so many people have said it over and over and over again.

How do we fix this problem? How do we make it stop?

Here’s the fix

There are a couple of things we need to do:

Be who you really are

The first thing is to be real from the start of every relationship. You have to show people who you really are from the beginning. I know this is not easy, believe me I know. Just the thought of it makes me nervous.

As INFJs we rarely show our real and true personality to anyone, for any reason, even our closest friends. It’s like a secret that we only share with those we value the most. We have been trained, by so many bad experiences, that people don’t value us and we need to hide.