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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, dear INFPs.

My best friend is an INFP. I've known him for five years, although the first two we didn't talk much. But the thing is, despite knowing him for such a long time, I feel like I really don't know anything about the "real" him. It's like he has this shield around him. He doesn't even seem to express his real opinions about stuff, instead he pretends to hold some fucked up opinions for shit and giggles (and probably to hide his true opinions)

And well, this is really starting to bother me. It makes me feel like he doesn't trust me enough to open up, something people usually have a really easy time doing with me, being an ENFP. I know I shouldn't take it personally since I know he's like this with everyone, but it still frustrates me.

Does anyone have any advice on how I should be handling this? Could an INFP explain the reasoning being this behavior? I mean, I know he's doing it to protect himself, but still... I feel like I've only gotten to know his "mask" during all these years, just getting a tiny, tiny glimpse of the real him. :unsure:
 
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Not sure about how you'd 'handle it', but maybe I can give some perspective as I can relate.

Your friend is probably Enneagram type 9, which means his biggest fear is separation. 9s (like myself) repress their opinions to avoid any disagreement or conflict, which could lead to separation (it's irrational of course, but a fear nonetheless). They also by repressing their opinions repress their own feelings behind any opinions, so often times (at least for me) we actually aren't aware of our own opinions at all, so it isn't just that were not expressing our opinions, its that we don't have them at the ready (they still exist, we just lose touch with them). I can almost guarantee your friend tries to express himself to you and fails.

you could also substitute interests in for opinions in that paragraph ^^^


Other than that, INFPs are notoriously private and hard to get to know, so it isn't that he doesn't trust you enough, so dont get annoyed about that lol

My advice is to tell him he doesn't express himself very much, and advise him to express his opinions and interests more. I think that persistence on his part may be the best way forward. But you need to make sure he's aware of this about himself and then he'll hopefully work on it, it could be a long journey for him though just saying.

Hopefully that helps :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@raminan: Thank you for your honesty. I'm not sure if he sees me as his best friend, and if he doesn't I don't really mind. I get easily attached to people, I don't expect others to do the same. I do wish he would show me a bit more of his real self, though. The joking around part, though, that's true for me and my friend. We have a great time joking around, I kind of get swept up in the "pretend-to-have-crazy-opinions"-thing when I'm with him, and have a lot of fun doing it, but now that I think about it, that probably just reinforces the behavior and prevents him from being real with me. Hmm.


@pearslug: Thank you! That actually sounds a lot like him. I introduced him to a female friend of mine way back, and they started to hit it off. But it took TWO YEARS of them being really flirty and obviously into each other, if I recall correctly they even had sex quite often, until they finally decided to officially become a couple. It felt like my female friend was just afraid of commitment, while my INFP friend was more afraid of being hurt. They've broken up now, and holy shit that ruined him. He hadn't been in love for a long time.

So yeah, I really see the "fear of separation" thing, seems a lot like him. The advice to talk to him about it is really sound, I just need to muster the courage to do it. I'm so afraid of hurting people's feelings, I don't want it to seem like I'm criticizing him. :unsure:
 

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@Yuusha

I am 4w5 and act this way around people I feel insecure with but value at the same time.

One of my closest friends complains that he never knows what I am thinking or what I want. It's honestly because I'm intimidated by aspects of him, don't trust him fully, and don't understand why he can't read subtle body language. He is an ESTJ.

I do not share my values when I feel they'll be open to criticism so I am a professional deflector and bullshitter. A "shield" of this extent isn't typical to all INFPs but it's not uncommon. I believe it will lessen as I age and become more, ah, I don't know...secure? laid-back? But who knows. It's how I operate and has it's advantages and disadvantages.

On another note: You seem like an awesome friend. You're INFP friend is lucky.
 
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@raminan: Thank you for your honesty. I'm not sure if he sees me as his best friend, and if he doesn't I don't really mind. I get easily attached to people, I don't expect others to do the same. I do wish he would show me a bit more of his real self, though. The joking around part, though, that's true for me and my friend. We have a great time joking around, I kind of get swept up in the "pretend-to-have-crazy-opinions"-thing when I'm with him, and have a lot of fun doing it, but now that I think about it, that probably just reinforces the behavior and prevents him from being real with me. Hmm.


@pearslug: Thank you! That actually sounds a lot like him. I introduced him to a female friend of mine way back, and they started to hit it off. But it took TWO YEARS of them being really flirty and obviously into each other, if I recall correctly they even had sex quite often, until they finally decided to officially become a couple. It felt like my female friend was just afraid of commitment, while my INFP friend was more afraid of being hurt. They've broken up now, and holy shit that ruined him. He hadn't been in love for a long time.

So yeah, I really see the "fear of separation" thing, seems a lot like him. The advice to talk to him about it is really sound, I just need to muster the courage to do it. I'm so afraid of hurting people's feelings, I don't want it to seem like I'm criticizing him. :unsure:
Maybe start by asking him more questions about his preferences to the point of being pushy and that'll either get him to open up more in itself or give you some more justification to talk to him about it. like ask him what music he likes etc, or if you're going out somewhere make him choose where you go stuff like that. Take baby steps as even they could be tricky for him
 

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Have you tried being vulnerable yourself? I know I won't start opening up to people until they've shown me that they can be vulnerable with me as well. The few times I've opened up to someone (because I was desperate) I sensed that they felt uncomfortable with me sharing these thoughts and feelings with them. All they wanted to do was give me advice and while that's fine, I also felt like I was just being belittled and judged. I feel most comfortable around people who are empathetic.

Sometimes it's not enough to be vulnerable though. If you are the type of person to go around complaining and gossiping about other people then I will not open up to you. It would make me wonder what kinds of things you would say about me when I'm not around. I had a room mate who would gossip and she would also say that she felt like she didn't really know me. While I understood what she meant and liked her okay, I could never feel comfortable opening up to her. Instead I would just joke around with her and and talk about surface level things. It was an empty relationship. Maybe you don't do that, but maybe you do something else that makes him think he can't trust you.

This is one of the reasons being an INFP can be a real pain because we really want to feel that closeness with people, but at the same time it's very difficult to find someone who we feel we can open up to. Heck, I don't even have that closeness with any of my family even though they are good people and I have, of course, known them all my life.
 

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Like other people said, I do that with 99% of my "best friends" and friends. What happens with people is that for some reason they develop this attachment to me, and I am incapable of feeling that attachment with them. I don't trust them (or anyone in the world), and it doesn't matter if they are my best friend. I've done your bff's behavior with every single best friend I've had. I don't think thre's any way you can handle this, "handle" in the sense of "there's something to be done and the issue will 'be fixed'". If you've been bffs for like 3 years and he still wears a mask, then that's just how your relationship is and the chance of him dropping it is so low it's below Russian subway level.

Btw, don't listen to the enneagram thing. People don't know your friend, there's no way to tell his enn. Also, I'm 4w5 and behave exactly like you described.

I've had a couple ENFP friends, and I always left them because they wanted to be sooo close to me. Nothing wrong with that ojectively, but they were too much, too intense, and I could not handle them. I thought "Omg this person is so so so so lovely, I wish I could handle them" but I just couldn't. I'm not saying this is your case, but just explaining a bit my emotional process with my ENFP friends. I know they suffered a lot because of me, because they couldn't get past a wall. They tried and tried, but they wouldn't have traspassed it in a million years. I didn't want them to. Their intensity triggered my anxiety.

One piece of advice I can give is don't be pushy under any circumstances. If you call your friend and he doesn't reply, ignore him. Go do something else, hang out with other people. Don't insist. Beyond this, I'm clueless, because I honestly think there's nothing to be done.

The reason my friends made me feel like running away was because I was deadly intimidated by the consequences of being too close to them. And they might sound like stupid things to think about, but they affect me very much, and maybe other INFPs think along the same lines:
1. They had a gigantic social circle and they invited me to group lunches and grup dinners and parties and bbqs and cocktails with people I didn't know. Their socializing was non-stop, and they wanted me to be part of it. Now, here's the issue --> Every time I refused to go to their hangouts, they would express disappointment, and when that happens it goes like this:
What they say ---> "Ooowww :( But I adore you and I really really really want you to be there, I mean it just won't be the same without you, because you bring so many fantastic ideas to the table, and I think my friends will absolutely love you because you're amazing, and this is so saaaaad"
What I hear ---> "This is so important to me and you are ruining my day for not coming. I am unhappy because of you"

(See how they are showering me with compliments but I don't process any of it. All I hear is what resides between the lines: you cause me pain, you are pain personified)

Now, after a few months of this dynamic, I ended up feeling like the Mayor of Bitchtown, like I was a horrible person, and eventually I thought they would be better off not having me in their life at all. This way they could forget about Miss Disappointment and lead a happy life.
I think that being pushy or expressing that the INFP is not fulfilling your desires can make them clam up even more.

2. They had no problem asking me favors. Their meaning of friendships was "friends are there for you always, you can call them at any hour any time and they will pick up your dry cleaning or do copywriting for your business or anything you need... becoz friendz". Too many obligations. My definition of friendship does not include daily favors because I see favors as burdens. However, my friends saw favors as a bonding experience that strengthens the friendship. I was like fuck this. As I explained in 1, I would say No, and what comes with that? "Oooowwww okay, you don't have to do that, it's okay, but I really really really needed you to do that, ow damn what will I do, I'm desperate"
What I hear --> "You make me unhappy, you are a horrible person"

There's something very deep going on with your friend's mask -obvsly- and a lot of times differences are insurmountable. What I can guarantee is that your friend is at least 95% fearful of your judgment if he tells you stuff. That's all I know. So... when he finally tells you stuff, be open, don't even joke using sarcasm or anything, just nod and smile, hold the space, accept.
 

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His feelings behind the opinions need to be enticed by positively reinforcing them when they just begin to surface, because this gives them validation. In time when some comfortable ground has been established the need for reinforcement will fade and interactions will be more playful and light (So long as you don't get too pushy).
 

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although different, I think the above answers have all had something to think about, and what is true in your case only you and your friend can really tell.

It is frustrating, wanting to know someone better, and not being able to.

I agree with entheos that being too pushy probably isn't a good idea. I think it could still be an idea to somehow still tell him that you wish to know him better than you do, but trying to find a way to do that that doesn't make it a complaint, or put him under pressure to imediately open up more. It is possible he wasn't aware he was that private.

Opening up yourself could be an idea, sometimes trust creates trust, but not always, it is also a somewhat less pushy way of giving him a chance to talk about things without direct questions. I think I tend to use this method when I want someone to let me know them better. To be honest it hasn't worked all that well always, once I ended up telling and telling and not getting very much back, making me feel vunderable and the other person perhaps like they were under pressure to share more than they wanted/felt comfortable with. Another time the other person didn't understand what I was doing and thought I was just interested in talking about myself and never asking questions about them. But sometimes it works.

Sometimes I sort of test people's ability/want to understand by embedding what I want to express in something, or dividing it up as a puzzle over time. Things that they ought to notice if they cared enough, and if they didn't I wasn't ready to share that yet. I realize this might shound like playing games, and in a way perhaps it is, but I prefer to see it as a language, my language, and that as people get to know me, they'll become more and more fluent in my language, and able to read the stuff I write between the lines, that way they'll know me when they are ready to know me and when I am ready to be known :) . The things that matter most to me, I am most comfortable with expressing indirectly. This might not be at all how your friend works, but perhaps you could think about if it is possible he expresses his real self in some indirect way, that you need to put some effort into understanding.
 

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Even with friends I've had for many years, I have to remind myself to open myself up because I am always upholding a certain image to strangers and acquaintances, it takes conscious effort to let down the guard with closer people in life. While it could be your friend may not trust you enough, it could also be his constant effort to uphold a certain persona to everyone else and forgets to let that go.

I agree with the other posters that if you aren't showing him your vulnerable side bit by bit. Even with friends, it's so scary to show true emotions, worrying that he or she might unintentionally hurt them and not knowing how to address it. As the other posters mentioned, I subject my friends to a lot of little "tests" in my mind. For example, does she gossip about others behind their backs? No - check. Does he still treat other people nicely when he's upset? Yes - check. It could be in your friend's mind, you're great, but he doesn't know how to vocalize that.

Also, is there a pattern to which subjects he avoids giving his true opinions? If so, then those certain topics may be more sensitive than others to him. While it could be he doesn't feel comfortable talking about them with you, it could also be, he doesn't want to talk about them in general because he hasn't come to terms with his feelings.

In my own experience, I only shared my true opinions and feelings with a friend when I understood how to deal with conflict with him or her--that if I told my friend what was said hurt me, the friendship wouldn't be jeopardized. I had always feared if I told my friends if I disagreed with them, they'd be upset and not be my friends anymore. Maybe he could be thinking same thing? If that's the case, introduce some ideas in which you and he would disagree to show him that opposing ideas won't destroy a friendship.

I understand how frustrating it can feel to have a barrier between you and him.
My advice is:
1. If he's closed off, it's okay to ask why, but remember to not pry too hard.
2. Notice if there's any topics he avoids or whether his behavior applies to everything discussed.
3. Let him see your vulnerable side in a way he can understand because we all communicate differently.
4. If he fears conflict and hence his defenses to avoid it, approach that in tiny steps.

If he is still sticking around and making efforts to be your friend, he most likely values you. :happy:
 

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I think I am so predictable and feel open to people emotionally, so much so that I can feel rejection at the drop of a hat. But I guess this high sensitivity really leaves me elusive, so that I am not really responding, only absorbing, and others are not even aware of that. In short, I may appear unaffected and guarded even if I dont feel that way. My current friends say I take years to open up, as much as 5 years to move past the casual acquaintance stage.

So a few things....your friend's openness may simply be one-sided in that he absorbs more than he puts out. Because of so much absorption, there is a sensitivity that causes a wariness to reveal himself. He sees all the inconsistencies, fickleness and unfairness in human nature and knows alienation can occur when one is "too honest". The best way to ease this is to affirm the inconsistencies - acknowledge them in yourself, accept them in others, as well as embracing human flaws in general. INFPs can beat themselves up for not being perfect and not even meeting their own ideals nor society's protocol. This may come as a surprise to those who have the notion that INFPs are one-dimensionally "authentic" all the time, opinions of others be damned! In reality, INFPs can be hypersensitive to judgement from others (sometimes an inferior Te thing, a sense of "not measuring up"), and they can be harsh on themselves, and being withdrawn is a way to protect exposing yourself to such judgment. You know that saying, "Better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." If the INFP feels ill-equipped to defend themselves in a comprehensible and non-alienating way, then they may choose to not reveal themselves at all and not have any need of an argument.

You also mentioned him expressing messed up opinions as cheeky jokes (if I understood you correctly). Sometimes this is not a "mask", but a way of testing the water with people. Can they handle this? Do they not get all uptight over it? If so, then maybe they can deal with the actual feelings, especially ones quite foreign and hard to grasp, ones which may initially disturb some people because it asks them to totally shift their view of reality. In short, these seemingly flippant expressions may have a grain of truth, but they are shrouded in humour as a protection against negative judgement. You don't want to take them too seriously, because then you may attribute wrong feelings to the INFP, but you may not want to dismiss them as a total joke either. True, it may just be passing witticism, but other times, something real may be lurking beneath the surface. It is more likely hyperbole than a sheer act. You may try to coax it out gently by showing you get the humour but see some of the "truth" also.

Personally, I will not agree with nor express an opinion that I do not have at all, unless it is genuine sarcasm. I am likely to stay quiet rather than rock the boat, not out of fear of confrontation, but more an expectation of being misunderstood and maligned for it.

Of course, I do say this from the enneagram 4 perspective, and I find the 9 expressions here very enlightening. To me, a similar theme of not wanting to be alienated appears, although the nuance of it is quite different.
 

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When you are with him and you are alone, in a relaxed atmosphere try this. Shut up, calm down, stay calm and relaxed. When he says things, look his way and smile. No judging, no joking, no comments unless he asks you for an opinion. You can tell him you wish you knew him better. Remain quiet and calm. Begin to tell him of a vulnerability you have. Perhaps an emotional wound from childhood that still affects you. It has to be genuine. I don't mean you have to do exactly this, but I'm trying to illustrate an idea.

I'm sure he loves being around you because you are fun and enjoyable, but...his needs are different. We move at a slower pace than you when we are being ourselves. We need time to absorb and reflect upon our sensory inputs.

I think when he's around you he has to use his Ne a lot to play off your input. I bet he has a quick whit and makes associations and connections that surprise you. He can't be genuine when he is in that state. There isn't time.
 

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I have to agree, he may not be your best friend and you should accept this.

However, I don't think you should at least try. I think he may have been hurt when he opened up about his true feelings about something once, and I think opening up to him about this would be beneficial.
 

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Get him alone (wow that doesn't sound stalkery already :rolleyes:). Ask open ended questions about things he's passionate about, and listen. If you can let him rant (INFPs, quiet most of the time, or talking your ear off) he might trust you more. I hold back IRL because I don't know how much of my inside-dream world/whatever makes me look like a tin-foil hat wearer. Once I trust people can listen to me, I'll talk.

Or (unpopular opinion alert) buy him a beer somewhere :).
 

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Wow. This is super interesting. @entheos really hit the nail on the head though.

My closest friend I am afraid to really let know me because I'm afraid he won't like what he finds. He'll talk about other people that act out behaviors that I wish I could act out. He'll say things like "What kind of queer watches Anime shows about young girls who go to school. I can't stand those people" What he doesn't know is I'm one of those people.

What is even further fascinating is he THINKS he knows me. The other day we were talking about what was the school system, and he told me "Well you're a Libertarian so you probably think the school system is fine the way it is." I don't have a strong political stance, I go for the options that best fix our problems, so that could be democratic, could be republican, could be tea party, I don't care. However, no matter what I told him, he continually pigeon-holed me into the Libertarian party.

Honestly, I don't know whether to drop my current friends or to try and start being myself. But every time one of my friends makes a negative remark that someone made which is also a mistake I've made, I hear "You're one of those people, I hate you". I had a friend that did this a lot, and I decided to call him out on it. I asked him "Why are you so negative toward others?" he exploded "It's only negative if you think that!!!" is what he told me. I had to leave my apartment and we haven't talked sense.

Back to my closest friend again. He moved from a big town to my small one. To this day he talks crap about my home town and the "dumb ******* southern accent farmers" not realizing that my family has a heavy southern accent and are farmers. So every time he does that he is literlly telling me "I hate the way you talk, I hate where you come from, and I hate your family and upbringing."

It's hard to trust any one with an INFP's true self. Often it's taken advantage of and misconstrued, so we are almost FORCED to find a way to hide it. INFPs just want to be loved, so if that means acting slightly different, so be it.

There's only one person I've really been opening up to lately, and that's my ex. I think the only reason I can open up to her is because I don't care if she hates me (she broke up with me years ago). So now when I talk to her, I don't care if she doesn't like what she hears, she already left. It's strange but I think we're actually becoming better friends because of this. I'm trying to get to a point where I can do this with my other friends as well, but they're male. As soon as my feeling come into light, they get weird and the homophobia starts. Plus, most of them are thinkers so they have a hard time figure out my "irrational" thoughts.

If you want to try to get to your friend's heart and learn about who he really is, he needs to feel safe. You have to do EVERYTHING to make your friend feel like they can open up without being ridiculed or losing you. The last thing an INFP wants is to upset the apple cart, unless it is absolutely necessary. You'll have to watch what you post on social media, what you say, what others say, etc. Your best option is to spend a lot of 1 on 1 time with them and just opening talk about stuff. Bring up things you truly seriously believe that isn't the norm. Once you open up about yourself, you can encourage them to do the same. Equal trust. That's the key and the thing you never have to worry about is trusting an INFP. :happy:
 
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@Yuusha I saw these videos and they seem to have some some good information that I think you'd find useful in your situation, and this guy certainly seems to know his stuff, and I agree with what he says.

Skip to 9:12 on this video (Extroverts and INFPs):


And skip to 13:50 on this video (Getting to know an INFP):


Hope they help you :)
 

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@Yuusha It sounds like your friend is very insecure around people. He has been hurt in the past by people, betrayed even. I also think he is hurting from the break-up with his girlfriend. An insecure person hides, he doesn't want to be noteworthy, he expresses opinions that are shared by the majority or he doesn't share them at all. A person like that will be into soccer when he is amongst soccer fans and he will all of a sudden like country music when he is hanging out with cowboys. He just wants to fit in, he doesn't want to be judged.

There is nothing much you can do sadly. You won't even break his vault with the biggest crowbar you have ever seen. So don't push him into expressing his opinions, he will not like it and he will be tempted to stop talking to you all together. All you can do is make him feel comfortable when you are around him, let him know that you appreciate him and that you see him as a friend. When you do that he might realize that you are trustworthy and perhaps he will open up. No guarantees though. Some people are just so guarded that you will never get to know him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you for all of the advice.

I want to clarify some things. The thing is, he basically has this "tough guy" act. It's obvious to me that he's a really sensitive guy, and sometimes he shows it, but most of the time he has this tough guy act. Like, sometimes he starts referring to women as "bitches", including his ex, generally acting really misogynistic. But I see right through it, I know that's not him, and sometimes he just turns 180 degrees and shows regret about acting that way. He also does this racist act, very jokingly, and that's also clearly not really him.

He's really... back and forth. He actually opens up to me about some pretty big stuff, like the break-up with his ex. He lets me know that he's hurting and asks for my support. So he's open with me with a lot of stuff, but then he closes up again. The thing is, even his ex expressed this very same thing to me, that she had trouble breaking through his shell. She even seemed to see it as a kind of game, breaking through his shell. I have a feeling the reason she broke up with him might actually be that she finally broke through his shell and lost interest... and if that's the case, that probably made him close up even more.

I'm sure he likes me a lot. He's actually the one who puts the most work into our friendship. He even asked me to move in with him recently. I sometimes feel guilty because he's always working hard to maintain our friendship and I just keep forgetting to keep in touch and asking to hang out because I'm all wrapped up in other stuff. But I'm trying to get better.

Gah... I dunno, I guess I should just give up on breaking through his shell. He seems to be this way with everyone anyway... :frustrating:
 
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