Dear kind-hearted INFP, remember that every time you say “yes” to one thing, you’re saying “no” to another.
Although many introverts share similar traits — like in the way we value alone time and prefer to think things through before speaking — each of the eight introverted Myers-Briggs personality types has its own characteristics, too.
INFPs, for instance, are typically known as healers, constantly seeking the best in others, and account for only 4-5 percent of the U.S. population. As part of our nature, we are highly sensitive and in tune with our emotions, as well as the feelings of those around us.
This can certainly be a wonderful quality — when used in moderation — and can make INFPs one of the most therapeutic types to talk to because of our high levels of empathy. Have a problem and need to confide in a trusted friend? That’s us.
Unfortunately, however, this genuine kindness from us INFPs can sometimes be perceived as naivety or weakness, which can lead to folks taking advantage of us. Plus, our keen perception of others’ emotions can lead us to fall into a trap of people-pleasing since we understand and empathize with those around us, sometimes a bit too well.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being there for those in your life and being generous; in fact, being of service is known to be a large driver of happiness in life. The issue arises when this generosity corrupts into a tendency to please others without ensuring our own needs and goals are met as well.
Sometimes we forget we can say “no,” so here are three tips for mediating these tendencies.
3 Ways for INFPs to Stop People-Pleasing
1. Each “yes” is a “no” to something else, so evaluate every request carefully.
One of the most powerful ways to empower INFPs to say “no” is to keep in mind the fact that each “yes” is a “no” to something else. We have finite amounts of time and energy, and by constantly filling our plate with things and others’ needs, we run out of space.
Using this framework, you can weigh the favor you have been asked against the alternatives that you may be passing up.
As I said above, it is not uncommon for INFPs to find themselves with constant obligation to others because of our innate desire to help out. However, we then often forgo the time to do the things that are really important to us.
For example, before I moved to Alberta, Canada, I felt an immense pressure to pack in as many goodbyes and favors as possible to “clear my debt” of helping everyone around me before I left.
What ended up happening, though, is that I took on too many goodbyes and last-minute favors, which made it very challenging for me, time-wise, to fit in some of the most important get-togethers.
This lesson really impacted me. By not saying “no” to some of the folks who mentioned we should grab coffee prior to my departure, I was inadvertently saying “no” to many others in my life who would have been more important to spend quality time with, such as family.
This concept translates to the rest of our lives, too. Maybe you agree to stay late at work one night to help out your boss, and suddenly you are staying late three nights a week and struggling to make your family video chats every Wednesday.
People-pleasing is a slippery slope for INFPs, so it is important to recognize that every “yes” is a “no” to something else, and we can use this other “no” to empower us to do things only out of kindness and authenticity rather than guilt and people- pleasing.
2. Evaluate each decision based on your purpose and values.
Next, I suggest looking at your purpose and value system before agreeing to do something. This way, you can understand what is truly important to you, and if things don’t align, you can politely decline, confident in your life’s mission.
INFPs tend to view the world through the lens of how things “should” be. We see the beauty and potential in almost every situation, and I know at least for me, I have a burning passion to bring those ideals to life in the world around me.
Maybe you can relate, and also have a view of how the world should be? (If so, share it in the comments; after all, dreams take life by being shared!) The reason I mention this is that our dreamer’s view lets us INFPs evaluate what is truly important to us.
For me, understanding purpose — and developing and sharing content related to purpose and fulfillment — is paramount. And if I truly believe that’s the most important thing in this life, then I should take active steps to protect it.
Absolutely, I make time for others and like to help as much as I can, but I also recognize that I need to set some healthy boundaries as to the limits of my time.
For example, when I was writing my book, Seeking Joy, I blocked off the hours of 5:30-7:30 a.m. for months and devoted that time to writing. Other people would often interrupt and need something from me during those hours, but my story was more important to me during that time, so I was able to politely decline and help later. Having the purpose of finishing my book left me comfortable to do so.
So, fellow INFPs, another tactic to stop people-pleasing is to identify your purpose and values, and use them to understand how much you can still take on while serving them wholeheartedly. This mindset will allow you to keep steadfast in your direction and politely defer requests when your time is hard to come by.
3. Understand that if you aren’t at your best, you can’t give people your best.
Finally, I would encourage you to consider the impact that your actions may have on someone who is asking a favor if you aren’t at your best.
Oftentimes, when we are spread too thin, we end up doing many things, but we only do them well, not great. This may very well result in a “no” being a better option in the short-term when asked to do something.
What’s even worse is if you have a specific friend or colleague who is asking for favors repeatedly and you continue to say “yes” — begrudgingly. This can lead to bitterness and tarnish the relationship.
Take my relationship with my parents, for example. I love them both dearly, so I often try to keep them happy and answer my phone whenever they call. I think that by trying to squeeze in a call with one of them between meetings, it will make them happy to have chatted.
In reality, what often happens is I’m rushed and preoccupied with work, and I end up half-focusing on the conversation. This leads to a lackluster conversation with them and often ends in a slightly bitter conclusion that I will call them back after work.
Unfortunately, this leaves both me and my parents in a position of hurt and/or frustration.
Instead, what I have learned to do is simply miss the call and return it when I have proper time and energy to chat. This may leave them slightly disappointed, but by waiting until I am at my best, it ensures we’ll have a positive experience overall.
This small example can stretch to a number of other areas in life, and trust me, INFP, it is much easier to face this issue early and head-on in order to preserve your relationships.
Although saying “no” in the short-term — because you need introvert recharge or alone time — may be difficult initially, remember that you are protecting yourself and the relationship in the long-term. And you can use this understanding to discern between when to help others genuinely or if it would be more beneficial to say “no” and stop people-pleasing.
It is my hope that these three mentalities will leave you empowered to say “no” when the time is right, and to stop people-pleasing out of guilt. Instead, honor yourself and help others from the authentic core you have, and politely decline when you know there are other uses of your time that need to be respected first.
Remember, INFP, you see the world how it should be, so make sure to take the time to bring that world to fruition.