kerravonsen: Four images of Avon: INTJ (Avon-INTJ)
[personal profile] kerravonsen
So... INTJs are apparently scary and sinister. I've pondered this on and off for a while, since I am an INTJ and absolutely not scary or sinister (though I can produce a rather good Evil Laugh). I was prompted to get back to this subject by this article, which points out, among other things, that in fiction, INTJs are usually cast as villains... because INTJs make very good villains on the surface: cold, rational, solitary, brilliant... masterminds. Of course, calling the INTJ type "The Mastermind" reinforces this impression.

But the impression is WRONG. In real life, INTJs are no more likely to be villainous than anyone else. No less, but also no more. As the article says, "In real life, do-gooders like Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton were INTJs. Jane Austen and CS Lewis were also INTJs."

So why do people get it so wrong?

Cold & Rational

Many people mistake the rationality of an INTJ for robot-like lack of feeling. I've even seen it argued that Severus Snape, for example, couldn't have been an INTJ because "every single thing he does is motivated by emotion"(1). Well, duh! Of course it is. Everyone is motivated by emotion. If one has no emotions, one does not want anything, and if one does not want anything, there's no point in moving, no motivation. Without emotions, there's no difference between walking onto a bus and walking under a bus. The distinction with INTJs is that, while we are motivated by emotion, we are not dominated by it. Emotion may provide the "why" of our goals, but once that goal is there in front of us, we will pursue it with clear-eyed rationality. To get back to the example of Snape, sure he was motivated by his love of Lily to protect her son... which meant that even though he loathed Harry Potter as a person, he did not let those feelings get in the way of his goal to protect Harry.

Not only do INTJs not let our feelings get in the way of our goals, we don't let them get in the way of the facts. INTJs seek truth and speak truth, with no regard for our own or others' feelings. The truth is the truth, whether it is palatable or not, whether it hurts someone's feelings or not. INTJs are so blunt that others may take it as rudeness. It isn't intended to be so; it's just that polite nothings are seen as inefficient and thus a waste of valuable time. But again, this gives us a reputation of coldness, of not caring. It isn't that we don't care; it is that we consider it more efficient to rip off the bandage of ignorance quickly, than to prolong the pain by pretending that nothing is wrong.

INTJs do like being efficient.

Very Intelligent

INTJs are intelligent, often brilliant. I think one of the reasons for that is that we never stop thinking; we can never shut up our brains, except when we're asleep, maybe. We are thinking, thinking, thinking; wondering, questioning, analyzing. Smart enough to be scary. We may be methodical, but there is madness behind that method. A non-INTJ really wouldn't be able to follow our train of thought. Not so much a train of thought as a stampede of monkeys; endlessly curious, madly free-associating monkeys going in every direction, crying out an unceasing chorus of "Why? Why? Why?"

We need the defence of logic to sort it all out.

We live in our heads, and may not pay that much conscious attention to our immediate surroundings. Unconscious attention, yes; but more on that later.

Solitary & Independent

The INTJ is one of the most independent types. I suspect that part of the reason many people find INTJs scary is because one can't make an emotional appeal to someone who doesn't think with their heart, someone who won't be swayed by "common decency", cowed by authority, or shamed into conforming. While the INTJ type is called "The Mastermind", I think a better appellation for the INTJ type is "The Engineer". Why? Because the plumb-bob against which we measure the worth of something is "Does it work?" If a thing doesn't "work", we will either fix it, or dismiss it as a waste of time and space. Hence, "The Engineer". As I said above, INTJs like being efficient.

Our desire to make things work, and our confidence in our own understanding, means that we'll just go ahead with our plans (our brilliant plans) without needing reassurance, recognition, or permission. We are very difficult for others to control. We do have heaps of self-control, however. An INTJ will not be manipulated; we will detect the attempt and quite possibly do the opposite just to thwart you, because we loathe and detest manipulation.

An INTJ, being Introverted, does not feel the need for a lot of company, tends to be a loner, finds social interaction best enacted one-on-one rather than in crowds. Does that make us anti-social? Probably. Does it make us sociopaths? No.

The combination of brilliance, independence, and dismissal of the importance of feelings can make us look arrogant, however.

Uncanny & Unpredictable?

One would think that someone who is as cold and rational as a robot would also be as predictable as a robot, but INTJs are not predictable at all, which doubtless contributes to our scariness. The INTJ can be almost preternatural in insight, which again can be scary because people don't understand us, don't get where all this is coming from. And it doesn't help that the INTJ can't always explain where it's coming from, either.

Why? Intuition. The INTJ has a very strong "introverted intuition" (Ni), which in MBTI terms, means that we pay the most attention to impressions, to the meaning and patterns in the data we perceive. We may not remember all the details, but we spend a heck of a lot of time and energy processing them. And not always consciously, either. It can often be the case where we get the end-result of the processing without knowing the steps between - I have experienced this as, for example, a feeling that "something is wrong about XYZ" without being able to articulate why until a few days later, when my reasoning has caught up with my intuition.

How can someone so rational trust something so irrational as intuition? Isn't that a contradiction in terms? It would be, if I trusted my intuition at the expense of my reason, but instead, I apply my reason to my intuition. The intuition is like a flag saying "Hey! Pay attention to this!". So I then focus my attention (and my reason) on "this", whatever it is. Sometimes I figure it out quickly, sometimes I don't. Experience has given me trust that my intuition does point to something true, and that I will understand it eventually, even if I don't understand it right now. An INTJ's intuition isn't so much irrational as nonrational; it doesn't contradict reason, it goes alongside it.


INTJs are goal-oriented. It ties in with our desire to make things work. This makes us pragmatic. It can also make us ruthless. Pragmatic, however, is not the same as being amoral, though some would claim that ruthless practicality must surely lead to amorality. It can do so, yes, but I don't agree that it must do so. Why?

A. It depends on what the goal is. INTJs can work towards good and noble goals as much as anybody else. (Note, however, that one person's noble goal is another person's evil-that-must-be-stopped.)
B. Anyone who thinks that the end justifies the means is a fool. INTJs are usually not fools. Indeed, INTJs do not suffer fools gladly.

So why should an INTJ be moral rather than amoral or immoral? How can you trust someone who is pragmatic about morality? Here we get back to the value system of an INTJ: "Does it work?" Does this moral system work?

Look, I can't speak for other INTJs on this -- because we're all so terribly independent -- but INTJs are long-term thinkers. And in the long term, being evil is just dumb. I'm not even talking about Heaven/Hell/Afterlife consequences here. Even in this life, even if there isn't an Afterlife, being evil is just plumb stupid(2).

1. The longer one does evil stuff, the less likely one is to get away with it. Short-term, yes. Long-term, no.
2. Doing evil doesn't make one happy. Short-term, it might; long-term, no. (I remember reading a Star Wars story once, where the main character gave the Best Ever Reason for not turning to the Dark Side: "Why would I want to be angry and miserable all the time?")
3. Being selfish does not make one happy. Which means one needs to be careful in what manner one pursues happiness, for if one chases after happiness itself, it will vanish like a soap-bubble.

All I can fall back on, though it may not convince you, is that selfishness and evilness just don't make sense, because they make the world "not work". And INTJs want things to work.


It has been said that most INTJs are obviously atheists because we are so rational, and it's irrational to believe in God. Apparently some have even said that if you aren't an atheist, you can't be an INTJ. Funny, that poster-boy for Christianity, C.S. Lewis, was an INTJ; one that was converted away from atheism, no less. But still, I can see where they're coming from. If the only grounds for believing in God are (a) indoctrination, (b) conformity, (c) authority, (d) fear, (e) euphoria, or other feelings or non-thinking motives, then of course an INTJ isn't going to go along with that. We aren't swayed by feelings, we don't bow to authority just because it is authority, we don't feel a need to conform to the beliefs of others; we're terribly terribly independent.

But as a terribly terribly independent INTJ, I'm not going to be swayed by the opinions of other INTJs that I can't be a theist, either. I'm not going to let anybody tell me what I'm supposed to think, thank you very much. Not even fellow INTJs.

So what do I think? My reason tells me that the Bible is true; a true account, a historical document, events that happened, things that were said. My non-rational conviction tells me that God is with us. I could no more disbelieve in God than I could disbelieve in gravity. And I'm an INTJ. That means I'm willing to listen to non-rational convictions - to intuition. That I expect that reason and intuition working hand-in-hand will lead to truth. That truth is not something to be afraid of, but pursued, with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me." (John 14:6)

(1) "Snape: Absolutely not an INTJ. Every single thing he does is motivated by emotion. Every. Single. Thing. From joining the Death Eaters, to both loathing and protecting Harry."
(2) Note that "stupid" is one of the highest insults an INTJ can give, when they are so exasperated they can't be bothered with a more creative insult.
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kerravonsen: (Default)
Kathryn A.

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