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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.

But the truth is that the wrong people don’t value you at all. When we put up a front we attract the wrong people. When we show them the real us the wrong people will leave. But that’s ok because they aren’t our people.

When we show our true colors sooner we will attract the right people from the start. They will love us for who we really are from the beginning and there will never be a day that they tell us that our personality is broken or that we need to change. They will accept us for who we really are and expect nothing more or less from us.

Speak up

The next thing we need to do is speak up when there is a problem. When you are hurt or offended you can’t just assume that the other person knows that you are hurt. You have to tell them that you are hurt. You have to make them aware that you aren’t ok with what happened.

Think about it from their perspective for a minute. If you said something that unintentionally hurt or offended your friend or your significant other would you want to know? Would you want them to say, “Hey, that really hurt my feelings. I don’t like it when you say those things or do that thing.” Wouldn’t you want to know?

I know that I want to know. I have had friends that I have lost touch with and have wondered if there was something that I did that hurt them that I didn’t know about. But if they never say anything, it’s hard to know. And it can be something that you have no idea that would hurt them. It could be something from their past that triggers some terrible memories and associated feelings.

I know speaking up about these things isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. It will show you whether they are your real friends as well. If they genuinely don’t care that they hurt you then it’s best to know that and walk away from them. But your real friends will care and will make it right.

Love and acceptance

The most important thing that you can do to help this situation is to learn to love yourself and accept yourself. This is so important and so difficult to do.

As empaths, we take on the feelings and emotions of others. When we have been in situations where we are not valued or appreciated we take on those feelings too. And if we are not careful we take them straight to heart and they become our truth. They turn into the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, that inner voice that is telling us we aren’t good enough, we don’t belong anywhere and that we are not lovable just the way we are.

Then we start looking for things to change and start making those changes. But we don’t know what the problem is so we never find the solution. Because, ultimately, there is nothing we can do to make those people happy with us. There is nothing we can do to make them love us. Nothing. So no matter what changes we make, nothing will work.

When our only source of love comes from outside we will be chasing self-love forever.

The key is to bring it inside. The key is to find a way to love yourself. And it starts with acceptance. Instead of saying “I’m going to be happy when I lose 20 lbs” or “I’m going to be happy when I get a new job” or “I’m going to be happy when I find a new boyfriend or girlfriend.” Instead of saying those things we need to say to ourselves “I am happy now. I accept myself now, the way that I am, in the place that I am now. I know there are things that need to be improved and I’m working on that. But I’m ok with how things are now too.”

It’s also important for us to separate ourselves from those people who make it feel like it’s hard to love us. They do not serve us. They do more damage than good. You are not hard to love just because you are different than they are. You are not hard to love because you are different than they thought you were. You are not hard to love because that is their opinion of you.

You were made the way that you are for a reason. There is nothing broken or messed up about you. You are perfect just the way that you are. You are worthy of love right now. Right here in this moment, just the way you are.

The INFJ User Guide is all about INFJs. It’s all the things I have spent years Googling and thinking through to figure out my personality. It’s every epiphany from “I’m an INFJ? Yes!!” to “This is how to handle communication problems.” And everything in between.

It’s a must read for every INFJ.

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