Reader Question:

INTJs suck at reading other people’s emotions. They do not reciprocate the emotions/feelings(correct or wrong) people exhibit or rather, none at all. They are bland and create the arrogance that most people perceive them for. They do not believe in small talk, rather to-the-point, being effortlessly rude. Why? And why do INTJs struggle to express themselves?


Yes, INTJs – from the outside – don’t seem to perceive other people’s emotions well. This is perhaps one of the signature defining traits of an INTJ. In fact, an individual who falls at the extreme end of all axises along the INTJ spectrum would be in modern times classified as severely Autistic. As such, my hunch is this has a lot to do with the way a child’s brain is developed during pregnancy. I’m neither well qualified nor interested in the technical dynamics, but for anyone interested there must be a wealth of scientifically sound research in to the causes and manifestation of Autism. One important note is that Autism is a spectrum disorder – people at one extreme are socially dysfunctional, and at another able to easily compensate for their natural disadvantage.

In reality, this is more of a question of motivation than ability. In classic psychological terms this effect is most simply explained by Projection. For an INTJ emotions are secondary (or even tertiary) and so although definitely important in some situations, are not high enough on the attention-priority list to be considered all the time. This tendency would also be projected on to others and viola! The observed effect is that other’s emotions aren’t considered or perceived. Because if they are perceived they would always be considered and acted on, right? Not for an INTJ. Although INTJs are¬† always aware of their internal emotional state (ask any INTJ at any random time what they are feeling and they will effortlessly and instantly respond), how one feels is simply (within reason) not as relevant as other information. As such it is shelved away or outright ignored – with the observed effect of non-reciprocation. Would you react to something you consider irrelevant? Of course not! The distinction lies in what INTJs consider relevant, and what isn’t.

From this point, one can see that what is often construed as “struggle to express themselves” is not a struggle at all – rather it is a natural consequence of not giving as much weight to their emotions as other personality types. It is very important to understand that more/less are relative not absolute: although INTJs are less-expressive of their emotions doesn’t imply that they are emotionless and never do.

As a direct result of judging hard facts to be more important than emotions, INTJs choose to communicate in a style which makes the most sense to them. This is a universal human trait and as humans INTJs share it with all the other Myers-Briggs types. The disconnect is created because of this variance in what INTJs deem relevant vs. other types. Combined with the fact that INTJs are a much smaller percentage of the population at large and this behavior stands out as an outlier instead of the norm. Consider a role reversal: a qualified candidate is not hired because during the interview for a technical position they failed to communicate facts, instead focusing on small-talk and good vibes.

Whether such behavior is considered rude is mostly situational: in a bar the emphasis is on on socialization and exchange of “good emotions”; in a doctoral defense of an engineering candidate the emphasis is on facts. For illustration purposes, going straight-to-the-facts is as much of a blunder as never stating the facts directly “because he/she would feel bad.” Sometimes it’s an appropriate response, sometimes it’s not. I assure you that INTJs are well learned in what to do to get what they need. This shortest-path-to-the-cheese is either deduced mentally and then executed, or quickly learned with appropriate real-world feedback and executed repeatedly.

In the end, concluding that INTJs are repeatedly struggling at something is a logical fallacy. INTJs are naturally driven to research, transpose facts and apply what they learn. As part of a natural learning process there will undoubtedly be bumps and slow-downs, but overall INTJs are very good at scratching their own itch – if they find themselves consistently misunderstood they will experiment until a successful method of communication is found. In my personal experience , I’m rarely misunderstood¬† and I have yet to find a long-term block to getting what I need/want. In that light, the problem with struggling to express myself isn’t actually a problem for me. I don’t loose sleep because someone, somewhere misunderstood me, and I have yet to find an INTJ who does on a consistent basis. I do realize others might find INTJs to be irrevocably scientific in their approach and failing to make sense of such behavior.