INFJ gathering

I assembled and hosted a group gathering exclusive to my own Myers-Briggs personality type.

A couple weeks ago I started a social group for INFJs here in New York City. Our personality type is the rarest of the 16—estimates say that only 1 percent of the world is INFJ.

And that gets pretty lonely.

We see the world through very different lenses than 99 percent of the population. And we spend a lot of time stuck in our own heads trying to make sense of what we see—mainly, how we can put those pieces together to help make the world a better place, and hopefully how we can help the world see things the way we do. We also spend a lot of time thinking about why we are so different. And why so many people seem to think “different” is “weird.” Or why weird is bad.

Our type is the most prone to feeling misunderstood because we are the rarest. And because of this feeling of being misunderstood, we are also one of the types most susceptible to depression. We are conditioned to be extremely private because many times we are mocked or even scorned for our views on the world, or for our ideas on how to make it better. So we learn not to share our minds with many people. (But we don’t voice that, because it would make other people feel bad, and we are altruistic to a fault.)

Because of this, we generally turn to writing to try to articulate our thoughts in the clearest manner possible. We put a lot of effort into formulating just the right combination and flow of words—but this generally ends up causing us to be incredibly verbose. And a lot of times, people don’t even want to take the time to read what we have to say. And it causes us to question whether our words are worth saying, if nobody listens to them.

We spend a lot of time alone in our own worlds, because that’s where someone actually understands us, and that’s where our voice is loud enough to be heard, and that’s where we are accepted. We become our own best friends—and our own worst enemies. And in many ways, even we don’t understand us.

We can get so caught up inside our own consciousness, and so carried away in trying to fulfill our personal missions to better humanity, that we have a very dangerous tendency to forget that the outside world even exists. We can spend hours on end working toward our vision to better the human race. And we can spend days or even weeks doing so, without any human contact, and not even realize it. We have entire worlds going on inside our heads, where we have full fictional conversations in fully realized potential realities. It’s hard to notice the physical world when your mental one is so vivid. And it’s hard to remember that the world you were just in doesn’t actually exist, and that no one else can see it. The reason we pretty much live in the imaginary future and a hundred potential realities, is because we think about how things might happen based on human action. And we know it’s not really healthy to dwell on it in depth, but we also don’t know any other form of functioning. We scare ourselves.

Whatever we strive to accomplish is always about helping people. We need to help ourselves. But we don’t really know how.

An INFJ’s dearest values are meaning, understanding, and harmony—through deep and authentic human connection. That’s why it gets so lonely staying inside your head.

And that’s one reason I started a group for us. I really wanted to know what it would be like to be in a group setting where everyone you met was wired just like you—and where you’d therefore be instantly welcomed and understood on a basal level.

Your personality group-mates think different things, but they think them the same way. And they hold the same values, and those values dictate everything they do. And you get to hear about so many possible iterations of living a life with your unique set of personality traits. And you get to share your struggles with just being you. And everyone you see understands why you are the way you are. And they accept you and respect you for it.

But here’s the thing about people who are introverted and who prefer one-on-one settings:

We hate groups.

Groups get loud, and we prefer peace and quiet because we have so much going on in our heads already. We get overwhelmed when there is also a lot going on outside of it. We also get exhausted by being around a lot of people. And in group settings, everyone seems to stick with small talk, and we want something deeper or nothing at all. What’s more, in group settings the more soft-spoken people are often relegated to the background to let the more dominant personalities take the limelight.

INFJs don’t want the limelight. But we don’t want to be background characters either. We just want to exist equally, and to give everyone a chance to provide value to the conversation.

So how can we meet as a group without exhausting each other, and also in a way that we can reach a deep level of conversation and say things that actually matter?

I figured out a highly successful format.

It’s basically the same concept as speed-dating, but longer, and without any sort of romantic element. I call it Table Talk. We sit at a line of tables and spend 10–15 minutes having one-on-one conversation with whichever fellow INFJ is our table mate. And when the timer goes off, one of us stays and a new INFJ sits down. At the end, we can chat with anyone we didn’t have a chance to sit with.

Today was our first such meetup, to which 8 people RSVP’ed, including myself.

Every single one of them came.

(This is pretty much unheard of, by the way.)

Since the overall group size was still intimate, we were lucky enough to each talk with everyone. We started with 30 minutes of mingling and buffer time (for any late-comers), then spent 10 minutes each for mini deep conversation at our tables. Since there was an odd number for awhile, one person would rotate to sit alone (which of course was somehow a weird treat that we introverts were all jealous of). After the solo time was over, we all sat around and had a group talk session, simply sharing our struggles with our own personalities and basically our own souls.

‘I put such an effort into understanding people because I really don’t get them at all. I don’t understand how they can’t see things the way we do. It’s plain as day. How can they not see how the pieces connect? Sometimes I feel like they’re aliens!’

‘Sometimes I feel like I’m the alien!’

I had 7 deep conversations today with people who want to change the world, generally by loving people. We’re all different backgrounds, all different ethnicities, all different religions—yet we’re all very much the same in our hearts and minds. It was really beautiful to be part of.

So even if I haven’t changed the entire world yet, I changed 7 inner worlds today—ones that have often felt very lonely and misunderstood.

They don’t anymore.

It fills me with immense pride to know that I made a difference. And they all did too, just by being there. I knew I wasn’t alone, but now I have real faces and names to put with the acronym. We are not mythical creatures that everyone hears about but no one can actually find. We are the unicorns of the 16 types—but today, we actually got to meet other people like us. We are no longer anonymous usernames on the Internet. Getting to spend time together in person was kind of like looking into a mirror in a lot of ways. None of us can really believe it.

‘So tell me about your project!’

‘What? … Oh, I forgot, you’re an INFJ! You actually care! Most people don’t want to hear about it!’

One reason we hate the limelight (as I mentioned) is that we don’t like to take credit for things. We see how other people contribute and we don’t want others to go unnoticed. So honestly, I feel uncomfortable saying that I’m the one who orchestrated this experience. It wouldn’t have been possible if they didn’t actually attend.

I also feel odd framing this event as a project, and an experiment, but that’s how it started for me—as an interesting concept that I wanted to pursue. I don’t want to make anyone feel like lab rats, especially not people who already feel misunderstood. I know that people are not experiments, but life is. And we INFJs love to study people and the Human Experience. This idea is something I’ve wanted to try for months now, just to see how it would work. If it could work. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the response and enthusiasm.

‘I looked for something similar to this in D.C. It doesn’t exist. There is nothing like it. I think you may have started a movement.’

I look forward to spending more time with my new friends, and to discovering more kindred spirits. To all my fellow Advocates, we are out there, friends; just keep looking. All you need is a little INFJ-bait.

Thanks for listening. :)

(If you’d like to know more about the struggles of INFJ personalities, this article sums it up.)

I hand lettered a large sign, and placed handwritten cards on the table. Inside each card I wrote a few conversation prompts, just in case the table talk ran dry at any point. Our type can get shy or nervous in large groups.

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