Like most introverts, INFJs hate small talk. One question in particular makes us cringe more than any other superficial query. Unfortunately for us, this loaded question is inescapable. It’s asked at nearly every opportunity:
“How are you.”
Being an INFJ myself, I thought it would be fun to express on Introvert Spring’s INFJ forum what goes on inside my head when I get asked how I am. I imagine all people struggle with this question to some extent, but for overthinking INFJs it can feel even more intense.
Here are 6 thoughts that can happen in a fraction of a second when an INFJ is asked “how are you?’
1.Do you want the truth or a cliché?
The truth is that I’m probably overwhelmed with emotion because of the goings on and imaginings inside my head. But I’ll likely answer with the clichéd “good” and a smile.
2. Can you handle my intense emotions?
Sometimes I feel an intense sense of loneliness, call it existential despair, or chronic sadness that comes from a deep sense of not knowing where I belong. I often feel out of place, so I get lost in life and lose the answer. It’s not just sadness I feel intensely.
Sometimes my heart is giddy with joy. I feel like a simple answer won’t do justice to that emotion either. Sometimes I may not answer with the clichéd “good” and a smile. Why must I smile when I don’t feel like it? Why is that not okay by societal standards and codes of conduct?
3. That’s a complicated question.
It’s not that I’m confused or unbalanced when it comes to my feelings. It’s just that for me, it’s a complicated question to explore. Yes, I could be deliriously happy and existentially sad at the same time, but how can I express such big emotions under the constraints of small talk?
4. Where’s my invisibility cloak when I need it?
I could also be having an inconspicuous day. A day that cannot be met with bubbling enthusiasm. A day, which needs no “try harder” lectures from perpetually perky extroverted personality types. Yes, I can have a day filled with quiet happy moments and the susurrus sounds of silence. I may not be loud. Or have one exciting experience after another. I’m serenely happy on those quiet days, in my own INFJ way.
5. Do I really have to answer that question?
Can’t it be okay for me not to answer that question if I don’t feel like it? Maybe I can simply nod and smile instead.
6. There are too many ways to answer that question!
At my core, I’m an over thinker, so when you ask me that question, many things come to me all at once. For instance, I feel great you cared enough to ask me that question. But when you don’t that’s all okay by me too.
It’s not that I don’t see the snowflakes, feel the sun burning my skin or see the oranges, blues and purples. I observe, feel and experience and also spend a lot of time inside my head.
I can have a conversation but are you willing to listen to how I truly feel? I can listen to you but are you willing to tell me your deepest secrets? Are you willing to tell me how you truly feel?
Why must we trust each other? As a herd animal, our primary instinct is to be suspicious of each other’s motives but as an evolving species must we not blindly trust every stranger and be who we are in that moment instead of just saying “fine”?
What I wish people knew before asking “how are you?”
As an INFJ, I tend to experience things intensely. I don’t know why, but I am wired this way. Just because I express a great interest in self, doesn’t make me uncaring. However, I also realize that spending more time inside my head than outside, and not being able to answer this question honestly at all times, does not equal apathy. I also truly, deeply, madly care about other human beings.
So, now it’s my turn.
How are you?
Feel free to answer in your own honest INFJ way. 😉
If you’re interested in connecting with other INFJs from around the world, join Introvert Spring’s private INFJ forum. We are truly a buzzing community! You’ll gain access to unique and 100% private discussions, INFJ blog posts, member events, and videos.
Someone asked me this yesterday, and I hesitated long enough that they asked what was wrong. I took a chance and actually told them, and it turned into a really good conversation. Most of the time, though, I dread this question. I never know how much people want to know, and so I usually just say, “Good, how are you?”
I always “cop out” and turn it around. “How are you” “Good, how are YOU?” or “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh not much, what did YOU do?” I have yet to find someone who notices my short answer. Turns out most people love to talk about themselves, so using this method I both avoid answering for myself while giving them an opportunity to talk about themselves. Works every time!
The statement “I could be deliriously happy and existentially sad at the same time” resonates with me so well. I can be joyful, happy but sorrowful and sad. While working on a project or a task, I can still feel a wealth of emotions going on all at the same time. It doesn’t affect my work. I will daydream and be productive simultaneously.
Yes, yes and YES! This is exactly how I feel. I agree with Jared, usually I just turn it around and get the person to talk about themselves because: (a) they will and (b) 95% of the time they were just asking to be polite and don’t really want to know because they are walking away as they ask the question. Most of the time I just wish people wouldn’t ask unless they really want more than a one word answer…
It makes me wish that we didn’t use “how are you?” as our meeting phrase. In Japan, it’s “how is the weather near you?” and in Botswana, it’s “did you sleep well last night?” “How are you?” is reserved for honest questions about well being. Why don’t we do *that*?
I totally do the “good, and you?” almost every time.
I think I come across as being impolite when I don’t ask someone how they are in a text or a phone call. I feel annoyed by both asking and answering the question. I like to get straight to the point of why I am texting or calling and wish others would do the same.
I used to have an ENFJ friend who would repeatedly ask me how I was until I gave an honest answer. My answer was always a bit complex. Usually I am a combination of emotions, a lot of which have much to do with how those I am closest to are fairing at the moment.
I sometimes make the mistake of actually trying to explain “how I am” – but only to good friends now. Even so, I can see that I often burden them with nuanced detail and they don’t know how to respond. But I usually reply with “Not too bad, thanks,” – as it kind of covers the range of options I’m really thinking, and turn the conversation back to them.