In addition to our fundamental temperament
(Stabilizer, Improviser, Theorist, Catalyst), each of us has two other opposing pairs of innate preferences. In
our communications we prefer either Directing or Informing. In our interaction
with others we prefer either Initiating or Responding.
Directing communications have a time and task orientation with an implication
of urgency to get the task done. "Have your report to me by close of
Informing communications are designed to enroll the other in the process
by providing motivation with relevant information. "Your report is
an essential part of our project."
Those who prefer Initiating are more comfortable with making the first
contact and establishing role relationships. They like to engage others in
interaction and conversation and are more fast paced.
Those who prefer Responding are more comfortable letting others initiate
contact and accepting the roles established by others. They are more slow paced and
are comfortable with silence.
people in their relationships naturally give commands or directives,
while others just as naturally give reports. The pair of variants
found in each Temperament distinguishes the Directors of that
Temperament from the Reporters of the same Temperament.
course each can, and at times do, communicate in the other's style; even
Reporters must sometimes command, and Directors must sometimes explain
or describe. But both kinds are usually rather uncomfortable doing
so, for they are acting against their own inherent leaning.
is not, by the way, that the Director characters want to dominate while
the Reporters don't, or that one deliberately seeks to withhold
information while the other does not. There is nothing suspect or
culpable in either style of communication. There is merely a
natural preference for one style rather than the other. Whether
one uses that preference for ill or for good depends on the person, not
Idealists, the Mentors [NFJs], quite comfortably, smoothly, and
spontaneously are prone to tell others what to do. This contrasts
with the reporting Idealists [NFPs], who direct others reluctantly,
apologetically, and uncomfortably. On the other hand, the
Advocates [NFPs], being reporter Idealists, are comfortable telling
others what they feel others want to know, and they do so quite
spontaneously. The Mentors [NFJs], conversely, are reluctant to give
information to others, and when they do, it is with apparent
deliberation and awareness of purpose. So the Advocate Idealists are quick
to inform and slow to command, while Mentor Idealists are quick to command and
slow to inform."
Temperament, by Ray
Choiniere & David Keirsey
is only known by its comparison to war (really!). Lightness is
its contrast to darkness. Music is recognized by its artful use of
silence. Sometimes the only way to "know" something is
to compare it against the thing it is not. Similarly, it is difficult
to comprehend the INFJ's natural communication preferences without
contrasting them against the communication styles they are not.
following is copied from my other website, INFJ_or_INFP?
It illustrates these styles in some depth, which helps to clarify what the
INFJ style looks like on its own. (Also, INFPs and ISFJs possess the same
communication style preferences, in case you are trying to sort whether
your preferences are for INFJ between either one of those two
others. This is the single most reliable way for sorting between
to distinguish between whether you are an INFJ or an INFP is to
determine your 2 preferred communication styles.
(This is part of
another Type model, and it's the most reliable way to sort INFJ
from INFP. If you write me wondering which Type you are, I'm going
to push you to sort on this polarity -- so you might as well do it
now. Spend some time on this page -- in fact, read it TWICE!)
Both INFPs and INFJs
are "responding" types. That's another way of saying
"introvert." All introverts prefer the responding
communication style. This is often a simpler yardstick than choosing
between "gregarious" and "shy," which is how
extraversion and introversion are sometimes defined. The
"responding" communication style simply means that other
people are more likely to start up a conversation with you than you are
to start up a conversation with them. It's all about who goes
first. In contrast, extraverts are
"initiating" types, which means they tend to initiate dialogue
more often than "responding" types do. That doesn't mean
extraverts can only initiate and introverts can only respond -- it
simply reflects what each type is more inclined to do.
Many responding Catalysts often wonder whether they are actually extraverts, because they can
be downright gregarious in certain situations, especially with their
natural interest in teamwork and other people. It's hard to
imagine a Catalyst not wanting to be around people! The question to ask
yourself is whether you have a tendency to initiate conversations, or
wait to respond to someone else's overtures. If the latter,
you're probably a "responding" communicator -- which fits for both
INFJ and INFP.
To sort out whether
your preferences are for INFJ or INFP, investigate whether you possess the directing or informing
style of communication.
that?" you are probably asking. Well, it's a concept that's
nearly impossible to explain via the internet, but I'm going to
try. According to Dr. Linda Berens, the founder of Interstrength
Associates (formerly Temperament Research Institute), each of us is hard-wired to utilize one
style over the other. That means you're just plain born that way
-- it's innate! And it's not only about the words we use; it's how
we communicate our intent (though some of us have been conditioned to
soften or amplify our natural style, depending on our environments and
how we were nurtured).
David Keirsey titles these styles of
communication "role-informing" and
"role-directing" -- which is the same concept with longer labels. And let me
make it clear: directing and informing are on a continuum, and everyone
is capable of doing either one at any given time.
The question is, which
style are you more comfortable with? (And nobody gets to live on
The directing style of
communication is easiest to spot. The extreme form is the style used
by traffic cops, stressed parents, and military commanders. It
includes communications that would be classified as a "direct
order." Examples include:
"Put it over there."
"Clean your room."
The message is
delivered in an authoritative tone of voice. The reason Keirsey
calls this "role-directing" is because the person speaking the
words assigns what roles are to be played in the interaction.
In the examples above, the speaker adopts the "in
charge" role, while the recipient is automatically subordinated. The
listener is expected to cooperate and play the role the speaker has
The informing style of
communication is harder to detect. Sometimes those with the
directing style are simply oblivious to it, not recognizing that a defining
interaction just transpired. Extreme forms of this communication
messages that might be classified as "victim talk." Examples
"I don't have any
"That music is so loud."
I'm not feeling good."
These communications are
delivered in a non-authoritative tone of voice. The reason Keirsey
calls them "role-informing" is because the person speaking the
words is deliberately not defining what roles are assigned in the
interaction. In these examples, the listener gets to choose what roles are to be played -- meaning they
have been granted authority
whether to ignore the remark or act upon it. The critical factor is
that the recipient of the message gets to determine what part they
choose to play. They can act on the information, or not -- the
decision is freely theirs.
The examples I've posed
are those of extremes -- bossy on the one side, victim on the
other. But please don't think I'm painting INFPs as victims and
INFJs as persecutors -- I'm using extreme examples and descriptions to
make my point! In real life, most normal communications fall somewhere closer toward the
mid-point. Perhaps the best example is the simplest one:
Informing communication: The light
Directing communication: Go.
Chances are you've
spoken phrases of both these kinds during various episodes in your
life. Which reinforces the point I made earlier -- everyone is
capable of doing both styles of communication. And one episode of
directing does not define you as having the directing style; nor does
one episode of informing define you as having the informing style.
The appropriate question to ask
yourself is, which style are you more comfortable with?
In this special situation we are
investigating -- meaning our attempt to distinguish a preference for INFJ
-- it can be tricky to discern which communication style one prefers
(compounded by how this is nearly impossible to explain through the
internet). In a nutshell, INFJs are more comfortable telling other people
what to do than INFPs are, despite both being introverts. INFPs
are more comfortable just providing information.
I'll provide a couple
Jerry for specific instructions on balancing the budget."
has some information that might help you balance the budget."
would you find a restaurant to host fifty
people at a banquet in September?"
do we have information on any restaurants that could host a
banquet in September for fifty people?"
See how both columns
request the same outcome, but in entirely different ways?
And here's a domestic example. Let's imagine we have run out of milk. A spectrum of
remarks to a family member might include
We're out of milk.
We need milk.
Would you be able to get us some milk?
We're out of milk and I was wondering if you could get us some?
We're out of milk. Would you please get us some?
Would you please get us some milk?
Please get us some milk.
Get some milk.
Can you find which phrase you're most likely to say?
Asking someone to get milk might seem like a pretty
simple thing, and yet, with all the uniqueness in the world, can still
cause a communication gap! Within this small range of possible
choices, a whole lot of misunderstandings can still
occur. (It doesn't take an extraordinary situation to create
extraordinary conflict.) Depending on one's style and how they
ask, one may think the requestor is being rude or even being
manipulative, or not asking for what they really want. And the way
people cope with these communication mismatches is by labeling behaviors
"passive-aggressive" or "bossy."
According to Linda
Berens in "Understanding Yourself and Others:
An Introduction to Interaction Styles," the directing style of communication has a task/time focus, while the
informing style has a process/motivation focus. The intent of
directing is to give structure; direct. The intent of informing is
to evoke, draw forth, inspire, seek input.
Certain work roles emphasize one style of
communication over the other -- for instance, therapists are taught to
be informing in their communication. It is considered undesirable
to tell patients what to do. However, the military emphasizes
directing -- giving orders is an expected behavior. (One of my
clients served in the military, and all these years thought she had INFJ
preferences. It was an awakening for her to discover her true
preference for Informing!)
The ticket is to look for the thing you
prefer, the thing you do naturally -- not the thing you believe you are supposed
to do or have been trained to do. I have seen plenty of INFPs
employ directing, but they have usually ratcheted themselves up and are
using extraverted Thinking, and it looks stressed and is not
graceful to witness. (I look for how relaxed and natural the style
is in order to uncover the true preference. Sometimes an
INFP will inform and inform and inform, and then they get
"triggered" and the directing bursts out.)
The directing/informing dimension is often
linked to the J/P dimension on the MBTI. People believe that
"J's" have the directing style, while "P's" have the
informing style. But this is not the rule, although it is true in
the case of INFJ vs. INFP. (Examples where it's not true
include how ISFJs prefer the informing style, while ISTPs prefer the
According to Dr. Linda Berens, for people with informing preferences (like
INFPs), it's as if
people are just a leetle bit more important than Task. And for
people with directing preferences (like INFJ), it's as if Task is a
leetle bit more important than people. It's as if one concern is
operating in the foreground, and the other is operating in the
background. So NFJs -- who do care very much about people --
sometimes may seem insensitive when Task is looming and they feel pressured
to accomplish a goal. And NFPs may
not care enough about Task to suit NFJs. (It is impossible to have
equal concern about both at once -- one must take primacy.)
uncomfortable "intruding" on other people's choices -- they
want people to decide for themselves to do things. INFJs may
inform up until things aren't getting done -- and then they direct (and may
even take charge). This may come across as harsh or
out-of-character to others, but it really isn't unnatural. I found
my directing style most clearly when piling my nieces and nephews into
the car, and it was a big contrast to my brother-in-law's informing
style as he gave them information that would make them want to
get into the car. (Unless he gets stressed out, of course, in
which case he manifests a mean and ugly directing style.)
I'll never forget the day my sister put
her wine glass on the floor and a child went stumbling toward it.
My brother-in-law called out, "The wine glass is in the path of the
oncoming child!" I called out "Move your
glass!" Not that it mattered -- wine was spilled. But
how obvious a contrast between the two communication styles.
A good situation to investigate which
style you naturally prefer is seeing how you deal with customer service
people. When you have a complaint to make, do you prefer to direct
or inform? (Unless you are angry, of course, in which case you may
be inclined to do directing, regardless of preference.)
The directing types are
inclined to "tell, ask, urge." They are "moving
forward" and they sound "definite." The informing
types, on the other hand, tend to "inform, inquire, explain,
describe." They are "flowing, open,
eliciting." INFPs sound patient while INFJs sound
impatient. INFPs tend to perpetuate conversations; INFJs often kill them.
INFJs focus on time and task, while INFPs focus on the emergent process.
INFPs can sometimes be longwinded; INFJs can sometimes be short-winded
(both to their own detriments!).
INFJs fool themselves
into believing they only use the informing style of communication
because they dilute their requests with "please," and
"would you mind," and "could we maybe..." They
think this dimension is really about how polite people should be.
(It's not!) By
"softening" their orders this way, INFJs delude themselves into
believing they utilize only the informing communication style, because
their self-image often prevents them from identifying with a
communication style that might be perceived as "bossy" or
"harsh." (I know one INFJ who concedes that she is "refreshingly direct.")
INFJs bristle at being called "directing," especially
when they "only want to help" or "offer some
advice." Their directing tends to include other-centered
remarks, such as, "You should quit smoking," or, "Why
don't you take a vacation?" The question they must ask themselves is whether or not they make clear
what results they want. If it's clear -- that's directing, no
matter who's the focus or how many hesitant "would-you-mind's" and "do-you-suppose's"
are slathered onto their remark. And take a good look at what
communication looks like when a task is "at risk"!
Directing types are sometimes shocked to discover that
informing communications could even be classified
as instruction or contain requests! To them, it just sounds like
unproductive "noise." I myself provide an excellent example of this. I would have gone
to my death insisting I had the "nicer" informing style of communication until I
took a live workshop with Dr. Berens.
During this workshop, I encountered my own directing style -- to the extent that they used my
interaction with an INFP as an example of what extreme directing
looks like! Yikes! But what a wonderful gift of
self-discovery -- to identify and own my innate "bossiness."
(You get to witness my directing style in action all throughout these
articles -- I make no bones about telling readers what to do!)
INFPs, on the other
hand, sometimes believe they have the directing communication style
because they can be tyrannical with some others, such as family
members or close friends -- but tyranny in itself is not
directing! It's often useful to investigate how an individual operates in
the workplace or at school to see whether it's different than how they
relate to people they are intimate with. For instance, if an INFP
invites someone to visit their home, do they tend to be directing or informing
with that someone...?
Sometimes INFPs are in situations where they are
required to give orders, such as to children or students. These directing
episodes are sometimes painfully memorable, so they
assume they display the directing style. In point of fact, they did -- just not
gracefully. Because it isn't natural, it isn't really their preference.
Also, some INFPs believe saying,
"Shoes don't belong on the bed" is interchangeable with
saying, "Don't put shoes on the bed." But it's not!
Here lies the rub -- that's exactly the sort of difference we're looking
for. Can you determine which style is which in those examples? (I
share more examples here.)
Without practice, INFPs
don't appear graceful when they adopt the directing style, and INFJs
don't appear graceful when they adopt the informing style -- both need
lots of practice.
INFJs like to think
they communicate in the manner of INFPs -- flowing, open,
eliciting. INFPs like to think they communicate in the manner of
INFJs -- assertive and self-confident. Both types often delude
themselves around this point, and it can be a challenge to separate out
the truth from idealized self-image. Dr. Berens also says: "My experience has been that INFJs and ENFJs tend to see
themselves as having an informing style, but when you get down to it,
they are rather unhappy if the person [they are relating to] isn't
taking some kind of responsibility and action toward achieving their
potential. In this case, living up to or developing potential is the
task! And they often don't realize that there is a one-up kind of
quality to this having a vision for someone else."
Ironically, INFJs are wont to label
communication as "passive-aggressive" (and it can
be), while INFPs are wont to label directing communication as
"bossy" (and it can be). Neither completely comprehends why the other
communicates the way they do -- but INFPs are perhaps handicapped more, because INFJs (and others) are
often downright oblivious to their style of communication. (Thus
many INFPs complain about feeling invisible.) Sometimes it
takes another informer to recognize when a request has been tendered.
It's like a dog whistle -- some people can't even hear it!
In public circumstances
(like school and work), one's communication style becomes painfully
apparent, and discrepancy
between these styles can create serious problems. INFPs often get
overlooked at work and are sometimes not considered "leaders"
due to their informing communication style, while INFJs sometimes find
themselves in leadership positions they didn't intend, due to speaking
up with a directing "voice" and discovering themselves
suddenly "in charge." I've boasted to my husband that I
can inadvertently "direct" with my little finger, while my INFP friend can
yell "fire!" in a crowded room and be utterly ignored.
That's what Linda means when she talks about the communication style
being "hard-wired" -- it's not only the words we use, it's how
clearly we telegraph our wishes. Don't get hung up on specific
content -- ask yourself whether you're a person who naturally causes people to
jump into action (or cease action instantly), or whether you normally
eschew that kind of delivery.
Below is a 5-minute video that illustrates
hard-wired differences between directing and informing via movement.
You might want to view it multiple times in order to discern the
For the record, I aspire to do sheaves, and yet I confess that my body
seems better suited to chopping. I could have been a flight
attendant or a traffic cop. (I was a cheerleader!)
Don't overlook how directing I am with Pete -- I practically pick him up
to move him where I want him to be. Sigh!
Do not write and
tell me which style is better! If you do, you've missed the
point (although you clearly discovered your preference)! Owners of
either communication style have equally elaborate, hard-wired, ingrained
logic for why their method is superior. (INFJs usually ask why
people can't "spit it out" and just say what they mean.
INFPs explain that it hurts to boss people around, and they could
never *intrude* like that.)
Evolved and mature INFJs may
have learned to soften their directing style, while evolved
and mature INFPs may have learned to strengthen their
informing style until both types nearly meet at the mid-point on the above
continuum. After all, INFJs are not inclined to be shrill harpies,
and INFPs require cooperation too. Modifying one's natural style
takes effort, but it makes it more palatable to those who possess
the contrasting preference. But
discovering and owning your innate styles of communication
preference will help lead you to learn whether you prefer INFJ or INFP,
plus offer you a powerful tool for better understanding human
It can help to observe whether you prefer
receiving directing or informing communication. INFJs would
just as soon be outright told what's wanted of them, while INFPs resent
being "bossed around" that way -- they prefer to be given the
information instead. (However, neither type likes being manipulated by
Informing with an Agenda -- that's another topic altogether!)
By the way, the ideal communication
incorporates both styles -- it simultaneously provides information and
lets the listener know what's wanted of them. Here are two
examples: "Please move the chairs because they're coming in to
vacuum" OR "They're coming in to vacuum so please move the
chairs." Only saying, "They're coming in to vacuum"
imparts insufficient information, while only saying "Please move
the chairs" seems rather high-handed without the accompanying
explanation. Using the two styles together is the perfect blend.
Based on an email I just received, I must
clarify that this dimension is not about being *direct* so much as it's
about being directING. Everyone naturally appreciates and prefers
clear communications -- true directing is role-directing, meaning
a comfort level with telling (directing) other people what to do.
Directing-style people often see
informing-style people as disingenuous and manipulative. Directing-style
people may be accused of being tyrannical, but informing-style people
are sometimes accused of being dishonest. Which is worse? Depends on
your point of view, I guess.
This is the single most reliable of all the dimensions for choosing INFJ
or INFP, so please take the time to figure yours out. (<---
note directing style!)
For more information
about this topic, I direct (ha!) you to:
Understanding Yourself and Others:
An Introduction to Interaction Styles
by Dr. Linda Berens
Understanding Yourself and Others,
An Introduction to Temperament - 3.0,
also by Dr. Linda Berens
by David Keirsey
The following book does
a good job of describing and discussing these two communication styles:
You Just Don't Understand:
Women and Men in Conversation
by Deborah Tannen,
but sadly attributes the differences to gender
I must also share a *cultural*
caveat. People from the South (USA) have learned to use an
informing communication style, whilst people from New York City are
accustomed to using the directing style. So you may need to bear
that influence in mind as you decide which style you *prefer*.
I warn you now that
a live workshop is invaluable for learning this information firsthand. Without experiencing this information interactively,
you may delude yourself about which style suits you best -- it requires
a level of self-awareness most of us just don't have.
My last five clients concluded their preference was the *opposite* of
their true preference until I did a Self-Discovery experience with them
and they found their real best-fit. And both of them were entirely
familiar with this article... So what does that tell you?