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Like all Catalysts, INFJs prize relationships.  They're the most vital things in the world to us!

And yet, ironically, this is where we often sell ourselves down the river.  We may give our souls over to "time and task" rather than allow ourselves simply to "be" in relationship with people who are important to us.  We sell out our needs for relationship in favor of "getting something done."  Without realizing it, our directing communication style may turn people off and cause them to reject us.  We are more invested in doing rather than being.  (As in, can you take a day off and just "be" for a time without feeling anxious?)

When we're not doing those relationship-cancelling behaviors, we're evaluating our relationships on the basis of how much we feel "needed" (sometimes a euphemism for "codependent"), and if we feel we aren't "necessary" or "contributing" significantly to a relationship, we'll issue marching orders for ourselves.  Sometimes we need to feel pretty enmeshed before we think we're fully invested in a relationship.

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, "it ain't easy bein' INFJ."

I woke up one day to the realization that, for all the times I had sought out a relationship to "take care of me," once I got into a relationship, all my effort went into "taking care of" my partners -- to the extreme of supporting some of them as we teetered on the brink of poverty!  This was a cruel hoax I repeatedly played on myself.

As you may have discerned from reading other pages on this site, I recently became a CPCC -- a certified professional co-active coach.  Let me share a little about that journey.

It started with the idea of coaching.  I assumed I could coach people -- after all, I've been "coaching" people my entire life.  (Now there's a euphemism!)  For example, I remember vividly when my college boyfriend wanted to become a novelist and write a book and then that would be optioned and turned into a screenplay and then -- only then -- a movie would be produced and he would follow in his father's footsteps. 

Well, that didn't make sense to me.  I remember looking him in the eye and asking, "Why are you taking the long way around?  Why doncha just become a screenwriter?"  It seemed like such a "duh!"

And so it was.  He became a screenwriter (or rather, WE became screenwriters), and around 10 screenplays were born, and approximately 7 films/videos -- all a product of our collaboration.  I think it's safe to say this boyfriend benefited from some darn good "coaching"!

The subsequent relationship featured a boyfriend who was unhappy with his figure.  So I "coached" him to fitness by concocting a game plan to get him in shape.  As soon as I bullied him into following my game plan, we were on the road to success.  Last I heard, that game plan has persisted for over a decade, despite our romance ending and a myriad of other life changes.  Pretty good, hunh?

So hey, I figured I could coach.  I could come up with a game plan, pronounce what clients should do, and voila!  I would be coaching.  I *love* giving people advice, and I give super GOOD advice!

The shock came when my coach training program didn't allow for that approach.  Not at all.  See, they had this philosophy they called "co-active."  That meant you didn't dish out advice.  You didn't get to IMPOSE.  You had to assume your client wasn't "broken," and you had to design a game plan TOGETHER.

MAN WAS THAT HARD!  I never knew something could be so hard!  How could I get by without my usual resort to codependence and/or unilateral control tactics?!

Every fiber of my being resisted this "co-active" thing -- and YET I realized it was the absolute very best approach.  I even had first-hand experience of how the other approach to coaching wasn't effective.  See, one time I had a coach who tried to come up with a "vision" for me, and even hinted that she would impose that vision once she figured it out.  And you know what?  I ran like hell the other direction.  I found it REALLLLYYYY offensive that someone would even consider imposing their vision on me.  It provoked an immediate allergic reaction.  (The recognition of knowing this coach likely had INFJ preferences was painful.  On some level I became uncomfortably aware that I was looking in a mirror.)

Through this experience, I got it firsthand in a big way that I didn't like having something imposed on me.  I realized how I much preferred to be on the RECEIVING END of *co-active* instead.  (I feel pretty compelled to have some say in my own destiny!)  So the logic for me was Golden Rule-ish -- if I wanted to be treated co-actively then I'd best learn to treat others co-actively myself.

So this co-active thing -- I worked at it and worked at it and worked at it.  Guess what?  I'm STILL working at it!  (I don't think I'll ever STOP working at it, and I fail at it frequently.)  I remember telling MY coach one time how I thought perhaps the INFJ code was synonymous with "attachment" because I get REAL attached to my intuitions and hate to let them go.  (Can you say "resistance" to the very idea??)

Then, last week I got an email from an INFJ telling me he was "emotionally intelligent" and he just "knew" things about his girlfriend.  And my hackles went up.  WHOA!  Danger! Danger!  And it burbled up for me that he was on the most dangerous turf that any INFJ can be on.  Have you done this one??  He was a "know-it-all."  UH-OH!  NOT THE DREADED KNOW-IT-ALL!

And yet, isn't that the curse of INFJ?  Being the dreaded know-it-all?

It's not that we set out to be a know-it-all, but it's how we sometimes impact other people.  After all, with our DomNi, we just "know" things, and we're very attached to our knowing -- naturally.  So how do we lighten up on being a "know-it-all"?  How do we avoid the stigma?

This is something I suspect NO INFJ ever really gets over.  We can't help it.  We are know-it-alls.  And that's the ongoing struggle I face in being a coach!  I don't WANNA be a know-it-all coach, despite my tendency to be a know-it-all person.  How do I overcome that little achilles heel?

So last weekend I attended an advanced coaching retreat, and I was describing where I hoped to achieve mastery as a coach.  I enumerated a few goals for myself with my team.  And an ENFP looked at me and asked, "What about the shared experience?"

I gotta tell ya, my jaw dropped.  The reaction all over me was like, "What 'shared experience?'  What is that?  Why do I care?"  (Later, when I re-told the story to myself, it became, "What 'shared experience?'  INFJs don't DO 'shared experience!'")

And that's when I got it.  I got it!  This was a big "aha" for me.  I realized how an antidote to being a know-it-all is by creating shared experience -- the last thing I'm normally inclined to do!  And yet, that dynamic lies at the very heart of "co-active."

So what does that look like?

Right now, what that looks like is staying in the realm of perceiving while it's still raw data, and steering clear of judging.  It's about releasing attachment to my perceptions and not pushing them on somebody.  Sometimes it just looks like "hanging in there" instead of giving up or writing someone off.  

With a client, that may look like my saying, "You sound hurt.  Did this situation affect you in a meaningful way?" RATHER THAN SAYING, "It sounds like you need to dump that jerk out of your life."  Can you see how many miles could be traveled between those two positions?  The former remark leaves room for the client to say, "It wasn't that meaningful; it was more about reminding me of an old pattern"; OR the client could say, "You know, I hadn't thought about it before now, but I really AM feeling hurt.  I think it affected me more than I realized." 

In the latter, we are now dancing together, creating "shared experience" as we debrief the painful experience.  It's about taking baby steps together, rather than me LEAPING to conclusions and pronouncing judgment, which the former remark set in motion.

Does this come naturally?  NO WAY JOSE!  It does NOT.  It is NOT easy!  And yet, once you have the courage to step into this space and try it out, you begin to notice the benefits that accrue from being in this energy.  You release judging people, and people release judging YOU in return!  It's amazing.  No more yucky "know-it-all!"  Best of all, I don't have to make anybody "wrong" when I'm in this space.

It's not the "knowing" that's the problem -- it's the "having to be right" that's the problem.  (That's where the "know-it-all" label comes from.)  And it's the judging that makes us want to be "right."  We don't like to share our perceptions until we think they're "right" -- and that's where we get in trouble.

The muscle required to do it is to get transparent with intuition -- become comfortable verbalizing aloud some of the things we're thinking.  Sometimes it means naming something before it's fully crystallized, such as saying, "I get a vibe about...." or "It seems to me...." or (better still!) "Could it be that.....?"  In this way, I get to use my own best process to great advantage, and the client benefits as well -- BUT they retain veto power.  (And yes it's hard for any INFJ to grant someone else veto power.  That's something you eventually get over.)

So the upshot of this (breaking my own rule now!) is to advise other INFJs to step away from from advice-giving, step away from being "right," being a know-it-all -- and try out the related notions of "co-active" and "shared experiences."  More than anything, I suggest this approach will effectively preserve that all-important framework called "relationship," without anyone feeling pressured to become something they're not (on BOTH sides of the equation!).

Let me know how this lands for you.

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