is having a course of action to follow. People of this style focus on
knowing what to do and keeping themselves, the group, or the project on track.
They prefer to enter a situation having an idea of what is to happen. They
identify a process to accomplish a goal and have a somewhat contained tension as
they work to create and monitor a plan. The aim is not the plan itself, but to
use it as a guide to move things along toward the goal. Their informed and
deliberate decisions are based on analyzing, outlining, conceptualizing or
foreseeing what needs to be done.
* * *
The Interaction Styles model was developed by Linda Berens, PhD, founder of the
Temperament Research Institute (now Interstrength Associates). This model builds on David Keirsey's Temperament model and its subcategories.
There are four possible
pairings of communication preferences,
which naturally create four Interaction Styles. They are:
- In-Charge (Directing and Initiating). Typically taking quick action and focused
on results, they drive the team to achieve the goal.
(Directing and Responding). Typically knowing the plan and what needs to be
done to reach the goal, they focus on keeping the team on track.
(Informing and Initiating). With a focus on interaction, they act as a
catalyst using information, enthusiasm, energy and excitement to persuade
and involve others.
(Informing and Responding). With patience and a calm, quiet style, they
focus on understanding and accommodation to lead the team to the best
A cautionary note: there is a great deal more to this rich and powerful
model than what I've shared here. It would be a disastrous mistake to jump to any simplistic conclusions based on
this brief introductory description. An interaction style is not a simple
"combination" of the preference descriptions; each is a dynamic whole
with many other elements to consider. It is based on the concept of
"Social Styles," which spawned the well-known DiSC©
instrument. By delving into the theory underlying Social Styles, Dr.
Berens discovered where the styles correlate directly to Type/Temperament, and
introduced her Psychological Type-friendly variation. Her version
correlates directly with these other models, and she named it "Interaction
Styles," because it describes HOW we innately prefer to interact with other
How exactly does the Interaction Styles model relate to the Temperament model and the
16 personality types model? Each Interaction Style features one subcategory of each Temperament. Using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator©
four letter code for the 16 personality types as convenient shorthand, the
relationships map as follows:
In-Charge (ESTJ, ENTJ,
Chart-the-Course (ISTJ, INTJ, INFJ, ISTP)
Get-Things-Going (ESFJ, ENTP, ENFP, ESFP)
Behind-the-Scenes (ISFJ, INTP, INFP, ISFP)
More to come...
copied from my INFJorINFP
site. Original material will replace when I get
to it, but for now this will give an idea...
This next section
discusses interaction style patterns, sometimes
called "leadership styles," since it represents the way we work with
others. As with Temperament, there are 4 different patterns --
but this model maps to Type quite differently. One interaction style
pattern will represent all four Temperaments.
is an unusual way of grouping the 16 types, you might find it helpful to sort
by -- and it's a powerful way of distinguishing INFJs from INFPs.
If you want to know
more about the origin of Interaction Style Patterns and how they relate
to the other two personality type models discussed here, an article by
Dr. Linda Berens may be found here.
In a nutshell, this idea is based on the "Social Styles" research,
of which the DiSC instrument is probably the best known. Well.... this
is Berens' answer to the DiSC -- and I like it better because it MAPS to type,
whereas the DiSC does NOT.
Of the four possible
interaction style patterns, I
will only discuss two in depth, as germane to our current investigation.
INFJ / Chart-the-Course
INFJs possess a
"Chart the Course" interaction style pattern. This suits their dominant
function of introverted iNtuition quite appropriately, because INFJs are
driven to ANTICIPATE.
Chart-the-Course theme is about having a course of action to follow. People of
this style focus on knowing what to do and keeping themselves, the group, or
the project on track. They prefer to enter a situation having an idea of what
is to happen. They identify a process to accomplish a goal and have a somewhat
contained tension as they work to create and monitor a plan. The aim is not
the plan itself, but to use it as a guide to move things along toward the
goal. Their informed and deliberate decisions are based on analyzing,
outlining, conceptualizing or foreseeing what needs to be done.
INFJs are more task-focused than
people-focused. They like to take
themselves "out" of a system so they can get a better look at
what's going on. They become stressed when they don't know what is
likely to happen. In stressful circumstances, they tend to
disconnect and withdraw in order to think things through and put their introverted iNtuition
to work on
perceiving a solution.
INFJs have the belief that IT'S WORTH THE EFFORT TO THINK AHEAD TO REACH THE GOAL. A
good image for them is a telescope, representing their need to look ahead.
It's useful to point
out that this is not what you might want to do, or think you should do, but
what you naturally and automatically do, without thinking very consciously
INFP / Behind-the-Scenes
INFPs possess a
"Behind the Scenes" interaction style pattern. This suits their auxiliary
function of extraverted iNtuition quite appropriately, because INFPs are
driven to INTEGRATE.
The Behind-the-Scenes theme is about getting the best
result possible. (It does NOT mean that INFPs only ever work behind the
scenes and are never found leading -- "Behind-the-Scenes" is a
style name, nothing else. Dr. Berens states, "most of the
leaders in the book Good
to Great show evidence of this style.") People of this
style focus on understanding and working with the process to create a positive
outcome. They see value in many contributions and consult outside inputs to
make an informed decision. They aim to integrate various information sources
and accommodate differing points of view. They approach others with a quiet,
calm style that may not show their strong convictions. Producing, sustaining,
defining, and clarifying are all ways they support a group's process. They
typically have more patience than most with the time it takes to gain support
through consensus for a project or to refine the result.
INFPs are more people-focused than task-focused.
They like to
"connect" with others in a system so they can integrate and
harmonize. They may become stressed if they are pressed to decide
too quickly. In stressful circumstances, they may become quiet and
agreeable while they feel things through and open their
extraverted iNtuition up to perceiving a solution.
INFPs have the belief that
IT'S WORTH THE TIME TO INTEGRATE AND RECONCILE MANY INPUTS. A good image
for them is a clipboard, representing their need to capture all the relevant
It's useful to point out that this is not what you might
want to do, or think you should do, but what you naturally and automatically
do, without thinking very consciously about it.
So how does this manifest in reality? Let me use again the
example of email lists. INFPs will sometimes email other list members
privately to gain or express consensus for a viewpoint they resonate with.
I know one INFP list owner who would frequently write various list members privately
(off-list) to solicit their opinion and share
his point of view -- perhaps suggesting someone not post too much
on a particular topic because it was getting tedious, or commiserating frustration
about another member's viewpoint. He was always working toward achieving
onlist harmony, and was willing to devote the time and energy needed behind the
scenes to achieve that goal. He tended to be circumspect in
regarding administrative decisions that affected the entire list. His
interaction style pattern was clearly
"behind the scenes," despite his prominent leadership position and his
chatty persona onlist.
It's interesting that when this list underwent the change to
this INFP's ownership, one INFJ continually challenged him publicly to clarify
the "vision" of the list and explicate the list's goals in the vein
of a mission statement, rather than just "going with the
flow." It was very stressful for the INFJ to participate in a list
that appeared to lack clear purpose and direction, so she departed in
frustration when her needs went unmet.
It is difficult to pinpoint these differences in behavior
via the internet, but it's fairly easy to discern them in person. Once
you get conversant with this model, you can actually "feel" the
different "energies" that radiate from the various interaction
styles. INFJs tend to operate at a faster pace than INFPs do and crave
"movement" toward goals. INFPs will operately more slowly, and
want to stay "open" to whatever happens. INFJs generally appear
intensely focused, while INFPs generally appear easygoing and
involved. They even walk differently!
They have different goals, and work toward different
outcomes. INFJs tend to be "people-builders," while INFPs tend
to be "culture-builders." INFJs tend to talk about specific
persons, while INFPs tend to talk about generalized situations.
In stressful circumstances, INFPs will usually "adapt" to the
situation until matters improve, while INFJs usually "distance"
themselves from the situation until they can chart a new course of action.
(This may show up on email lists by INFPs lurking until the situation improves,
and INFJs unsubscribing because they need some distance.)
To view a matrix displaying the four Interaction Style
patterns, follow this link.
To further use Interaction style patterns to
distinguish between INFJ and INFP, Dr. Berens explains how she would
approach the challenge:
I go to whole Interaction Styles descriptions and
compare the Chart-the-Course versus the Behind-the-Scenes. Notice if
they get antsy when a meeting doesn't have an agenda (CtC) or is there
concern (more of a worry) that people don't have and aren't getting
enough information (BtS). Do they want a plan of action before something
(CtC) or is preparedness about getting input from a variety of sources?
I think I've seen some interaction style differences in the
way INFJs and INFPs handle money. INFPs tend to "go with the
flow" in their spending, sometimes relying on credit to get them by,
while INFJs like to know ahead of time just how something will be paid for,
and they prefer to have enough in their bank account to cover everything
(including braces, cars, or property!) in advance. (If they don't have
the money on hand, they may save up to buy it.)
I have some extra personal examples of my own experience
with the INFJ interaction style to share, and I'm looking for good
counter-examples for the INFP interaction style.
I am always seeking the "points of reference."
It's a subconscious drive. I tend to be a sign-reader, and I
listen to PA announcements. In fact, I get cranky when the PA system is
poor and I can't hear what's being said. (By the same token, I get
cranky when somebody is blathering a PA announcement, such as some longwinded
pilots on airplanes who want to tell you their life story and I'm trying read
or watch the movie.) But if I'm somewhere public and they start
broadcasting, I'm gonna ask people to be quiet so I can hear what they're
saying (because I assume it's really important for them to be doing it.
This tendency becomes a problem when there is a TV set in the room, because I
keep tuning in to it until I look like a total TV addict).
When I was in college, I was one of six chorus girls in a
show. At one point in the show, two male characters would get into an
argument, and then they would begin playing music and the girls would start
dancing. Well, nobody could ever hear the music begin under the
argument. Except me. And they couldn't turn the music up, or it
would drown out the actors. So the choreographer noticed that for some
reason, I always heard the music, so she made it my job to verbally count it
off so the other girls would start dancing on cue. Ever since I
learned about "Chart-the-Course," I figured that was me being
sensitive to a "point of reference" (because it sure wasn't due to
my musical abilities!).
Last example: during high school I was the co-captain of
the girls' drill team in a very small community. My co-captain was the
popular blonde girl who smiled and carried the flag and looked cute in her
uniform, and I was the one who designed all our drills. With no previous
training or faculty support, I would graph out on paper what the drills could
look like, and then I would rehearse the team to execute my designs. We
would march in various geometric patterns around the gymnasium floor or along
parade routes. I confess it was an interesting challenge to come up with
fresh ideas (always striving to find something original to do, but not so
complex that the girls were uncomfortably challenged!), and then see them
actually executed in real life. In this particular case, I would say
that I literally charted the course for the drill team to follow.
What I notice in my INFP clients is this drive to
"integrate." When we do the self-discovery process, they are
taking everything under consideration, and meticulously fitting it with
what they already believe or know about type. I can almost hear them
putting a gigantic jigsaw puzzle together in their minds, and until EVERY
PIECE is put down, they'll try to hold off deciding.
When INFPs are sorted into groups for activities, they
invariably want to go around their group and get to know everybody -- but not
for social reasons! They want a sense of where the expertise is, and
what each individual might uniquely bring, and they seem to like getting that
firsthand (rather than from a book, say). So if they're asked to design
a poster, they like to know who in the group has a background in graphic
design, so they can draw on that knowledge and apply it appropriately.
Where I see my INFP clients struggle is around trying to
reconcile incompatible data. So take, for instance, selecting their
best-fit pattern. They tend to be highly sensitive that our culture is
biased toward Thinking-Judging. So it seems they experience a lot of
pressure to choose those "letters" for their type code, even when it
doesn't precisely match their real-life behaviors. I always sense this
internal struggle between who they are, who they want to be, pitted against
who they sense they "should be" or are "supposed to
be." No wonder many INFPs are mis-typed! Determining their
best-fit type is no easy process for them. And some of them get very
involved in the field of type, perhaps eternally trying to reconcile all the
What I do notice is that INFPs often complain about feeling
"invisible" -- which seems to be a reflection of the
"behind-the-scenes" interaction style across the board.
Berens ideas for INFJs:
to do it "right" the first time.
themselves out of a situation in order to see the big picture and "chart a
course" toward success. This may make them seem detached, remote, not
involved, even if they are.
types are not as physical as the other interaction styles. We're less
likely to hug and touch others.
types often beat themselves up for not knowing things ahead of time. When
something goes wrong, we heap coals on ourselves and cry, "I should have
thought of that!" or "I should have known that would happen!" as
if it is a crime when we are not omniscient. Last week a leak sprung in
our washing machine hose and the dining room was flooded -- it looked like a
lake! It's going to cost over $3,000 to repair the damage (not including
replacing the carpet!), and I can't stop beating myself up and thinking
"I should have known it was going to happen!" (as if I could!)
* * *