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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey there. I was hoping to gather some advice/perspective on being an INFP in the business world.

One of my biggest personal struggles is feeling like I am an emotional person who communicates almost entirely in emotions and metaphors, yet spends 5 days a week in a place where these communication styles don't belong.

I almost want to ask:
"Is there a good way to "fake" logic til you "make it?""
but that sounds kind of ridiculous.

My INTP s/o always tells me emotions don't belong in the business place... I've internalized this but also realized it has paralyzed me.

Currently I've adopted a bland, robot-like personality, which was great for making sure I keep things business-like, but over time I feel like people get the wrong idea and think I have no interest in them or their situations.

On perhaps a more personal note (perhaps not INFP related), I also struggle with boundaries... which I think is intensifying my problems. I'm poor at expressing my own boundaries, which makes me overcompensate by giving others more space and privacy than they ever asked for, probably to the point of looking uninterested. Even realizing these issues, I can't find a proper solution and I find myself feeling like the odd one out in work environments; a sort of self-made outcast who happens to be intensely interested in the situations around me but with no idea how to express that.

I hope this doesn't come off as too rambly, I just thought I'd throw it out there and see if I'm alone with these struggles or if anyone has learned coping methods for similar troubles. Does any of this speak to anyone else?
 

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People fake professionalism all the time. It is not that they are that professional, they just act like it. It does not come from a genuine place, but from the survival instinct. They could nicely speak to a customer or a client only later to laugh about them or to say something rather rude. The act according the rules or codes because they have to - somebody is watching. Somehow, the good old Kohlberg was in the wrong because many adult people are still in preconventional stage of morality.


Expressing boundaries is the must for the INFP. People will break the all the time, just allow them to do so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
People fake professionalism all the time. It is not that they are that professional, they just act like it. It does not come from a genuine place, but from the survival instinct. They could nicely speak to a customer or a client only later to laugh about them or to say something rather rude. The act according the rules or codes because they have to - somebody is watching. Somehow, the good old Kohlberg was in the wrong because many adult people are still in preconventional stage of morality
Thanks for the helpful insight. I guess I didn't expect people to be exactly the same person in work and personal environments. It just sort of appeared to me that the "work personas" of others seems more natural/effortless to them, where mine feels strained and bordering on problematic for me.

Perhaps this is one of my (already suspected) life lessons where I am experiencing life in opposing extremes. I've worked in fairly toxic environments in the past, and in hindsight I noticed those environments had people expressing all sorts of emotions out in the open. I'm currently working somewhere I consider to be very healthy and positive, and I'm still almost completely frozen up after being there for a long enough time that I imagine I should have worked out these little kinks by now. I guess, in other words, I don't think my "work persona" is working for me. And I'm not convinced it's pure insecurity making me feel that way.

That chart is very interesting. What do you think are some of the causes for the majority of adults being stuck in the preconventional phase?
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
]

Expressing boundaries is the must for the INFP. People will break the all the time, just allow them to do so.
Oops, I almost missed this. Do you mean INFPs are easily trampled by people when poor boundaries are involved? I didn't even realize I had a problem with boundaries until a couple years ago, so the problem is kind of new in the grand scheme of things. I've certainly met many people who did not respect my boundaries, and I go through phases as a recluse because avoidance has been the most effective method to protect myself from people like that (and my energy is drained by that point anyway.)
 
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I have never worked in the environment I considered healthy; therefore, the experience of fake professionalism in most. I have worked in rather different fields. Why there are many adults (even some is too many if you have to work with them) in the preconventional phase? What is their motivation not to be stuck in it? As long as they pretend, and they are not negatively reinforced and/or punished - it works for them. It would be too naïve to believe as I used to the following: "just because I am not like this, I expect you are not as well." Adults are like children when you allowed them to be like children. Acting beyond self-interest first is rare in the conditions of brutal competitiveness and high stress in workplaces. A lack of empathy, a lack of growth, a lack of established moral frame, apathy, fake solidarity, an entitlement attitude, a lack of self-examination, low pay, and pure frustration, as well a certain organizational culture/structure encourages this since there is only this persona and not a real individual that is valued. In the consumer society, it is fake politeness that matters as a part of a 'fair' transaction since you pay for it with your money. Unfortunately, a human is seen as a potential customer, an object not a being. Customers are not always easily replaceable (as a group not as individuals) but service persons are. Since they pay in some way for your service, you also have to reciprocate in this transaction as a fake polite person. They can even as a consumer/customer verbally spit on you, but you have to be a professional for a little while. On the other hand, it is always that you owe something to someone even outside the workplace, which is rather messed up. They made you a dinner, so you owe them a kiss? Or they opened an elevator door for you, so you owe them a date? They gave you a complement, so you owe them what they really want? I am not talking about most adults, I am talking about some that I really did not expect to act like this (sales and service/office jobs in particular not at current workplace although is a rather messed up situation in a different way) because I am coming from my own person as a point of the reference. I had realized that is rather wrong to see the world not as it is but from some idealized perspective.
 
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People fake professionalism all the time. It is not that they are that professional, they just act like it. It does not come from a genuine place, but from the survival instinct. They could nicely speak to a customer or a client only later to laugh about them or to say something rather rude. The act according the rules or codes because they have to - somebody is watching. Somehow, the good old Kohlberg was in the wrong because many adult people are still in preconventional stage of morality.


Expressing boundaries is the must for the INFP. People will break the all the time, just allow them to do so.
Aww somebody else bringing up Kohlberg! I thought I was one of last acolytes... And yes, many people are still 1s or 2s... sigh. As much as I'd like to say I'm a level six BA, I'm more like a 4/5 depending on the subject.

My theory on why people are that way is because they never have to evolve. People grow up with rewards, whether from parents or schools. People care about their grades more than their learning, people work jobs for money, don't want tickets so they obey(ish) speed limits. Money is quickly converted to material rewards.

My emotions in professional situations always have a time-lapse to them. I'm good at acting stoic but it's an act. It makes me look flexible on the outside, but on the inside I can be very emotional. I was a perfect white-collar cubicle peon in every job up until I quit.
 

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Oops, I almost missed this. Do you mean INFPs are easily trampled by people when poor boundaries are involved? I didn't even realize I had a problem with boundaries until a couple years ago, so the problem is kind of new in the grand scheme of things. I've certainly met many people who did not respect my boundaries, and I go through phases as a recluse because avoidance has been the most effective method to protect myself from people like that (and my energy is drained by that point anyway.)
In my experience, yes. I do not know about other INFPs, they would have to chime in. If you in anyway are hot/cold meaning inconsistent in establishing personal boundaries or project a vulnerable persona, you bet that your boundaries will be crossed.
 
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Just want to say - it's really hard, good luck. The situation you described (being intensely aware of your environment yet unable to interact) sounds torturous.

To "fake logic", INFPs have to rely mostly on Te (your organizational and planning skills). I've had the most success when laying out plans of action rather than using logic to support my cause. My visionary tendencies (Ne) don't go very far, my 'how you feeling' attitude (Fi) isn't professional, and my skepticism (Si) only stirs trouble, so I usually avoid those kinds of interactions in the office. I also adopt a pretty robotic attitude in the office place. People see it as a "do work, do it well", and "no nonsense, no fun" kind of attitude... which isn't bad, but in reality, it's more like... "I don't know how to interact with you so I'll just shut up and do my job."

Where I can redeem myself is in office banter. It allows me to interact in a more natural way, show a more human side, and engage in natural interactions without the expectation of professionalism.
 

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@onefivenine I don't know what field you work in, but I work in the service industry and my empathy + emotional nature helps me out greatly. Because of that I can be of help for my customers and I am a pretty good manager for my co-workers. They can talk freely around me and I always have time for them when they need to vent about work...and...even personal problems. I also instictively know how to manage them, how to adress them when I want them to do something for me. There certainly is a place for emotions in business/in the working place in my humble opinion. People work in business and people are social/emotional creatures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have never worked in the environment I considered healthy; therefore, the experience of fake professionalism in most.
Sorry to hear, that must be very draining over time. :-\

Why there are many adults (even some is too many if you have to work with them) in the preconventional phase? What is their motivation not to be stuck in it? As long as they pretend, and they are not negatively reinforced and/or punished - it works for them. It would be too naïve to believe as I used to the following: "just because I am not like this, I expect you are not as well." Adults are like children when you allowed them to be like children. Acting beyond self-interest first is rare in the conditions of brutal competitiveness and high stress in workplaces. A lack of empathy, a lack of growth, a lack of established moral frame, apathy, fake solidarity, an entitlement attitude, a lack of self-examination, low pay, and pure frustration, as well a certain organizational culture/structure encourages this since there is only this persona and not a real individual that is valued.
Hm, I think I'm starting to understand why I've been called naive at various times in my life. I would say I try too hard to see good in everyone, and have (mis)trusted coworkers in the past and got burned. I've certainly worked with people who seemed to have an extreme sense of entitlement as well.

In the consumer society, it is fake politeness that matters as a part of a 'fair' transaction since you pay for it with your money. Unfortunately, a human is seen as a potential customer, an object not a being. Customers are not always easily replaceable (as a group not as individuals) but service persons are. Since they pay in some way for your service, you also have to reciprocate in this transaction as a fake polite person. They can even as a consumer/customer verbally spit on you, but you have to be a professional for a little while. On the other hand, it is always that you owe something to someone even outside the workplace, which is rather messed up. They made you a dinner, so you owe them a kiss? Or they opened an elevator door for you, so you owe them a date? They gave you a complement, so you owe them what they really want? I am not talking about most adults, I am talking about some that I really did not expect to act like this (sales and service/office jobs in particular not at current workplace although is a rather messed up situation in a different way) because I am coming from my own person as a point of the reference. I had realized that is rather wrong to see the world not as it is but from some idealized perspective.
Thanks, sharing your experiences helped me gain some perspective. My prior experience tells me I was not meant for customer service for some of the reasons you mentioned... I've discovered my skin is not thick enough to deal with difficult customers/situations. That last sentence really resonated with me... I'm thinking I don't always realize when I'm idealizing situations/people.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Just want to say - it's really hard, good luck. The situation you described (being intensely aware of your environment yet unable to interact) sounds torturous.
Thanks. I have a lot of pretend conversations in my head to make up for it. :p

To "fake logic", INFPs have to rely mostly on Te (your organizational and planning skills). I've had the most success when laying out plans of action rather than using logic to support my cause. My visionary tendencies (Ne) don't go very far, my 'how you feeling' attitude (Fi) isn't professional, and my skepticism (Si) only stirs trouble, so I usually avoid those kinds of interactions in the office. I also adopt a pretty robotic attitude in the office place. People see it as a "do work, do it well", and "no nonsense, no fun" kind of attitude... which isn't bad, but in reality, it's more like... "I don't know how to interact with you so I'll just shut up and do my job."
My organizational/planning skills are laughable lately, so perhaps that is where/why the problem intensified, but I'm trying to improve them. Guess I need a good spring cleaning!
I guess I worried instead of looking like I was all about work, I might be perceived as anti-social. But there's nothing really that bad about being seen as no nonsense.

Where I can redeem myself is in office banter. It allows me to interact in a more natural way, show a more human side, and engage in natural interactions without the expectation of professionalism.
Hmm, I wish I were better at that, as well. I'm horrible at initiating, as well as contributing to small talk. I've humiliated myself trying to make jokes that were just terrible. I come off as pretty lame, so I just crawl back into my mental cave and hide.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@onefivenine I don't know what field you work in, but I work in the service industry and my empathy + emotional nature helps me out greatly. Because of that I can be of help for my customers and I am a pretty good manager for my co-workers. They can talk freely around me and I always have time for them when they need to vent about work...and...even personal problems. I also instictively know how to manage them, how to adress them when I want them to do something for me. There certainly is a place for emotions in business/in the working place in my humble opinion. People work in business and people are social/emotional creatures.
I've had various jobs over the years, and although I'd say I'm not meant for customer service, the job I felt the most comfortable at happened to be a customer service one. It was similar to what you described, people sharing personal problems and such. I'm currently in a creative job, and the atmosphere is far more impersonal. Perhaps I should have been a counselor, that's a job I'd feel more "comfortable" with in that sense.

I definitely see what you're saying and I agree about us being social/emotional creatures, but I don't think those emotions are fit for all sorts business environments, and that's why I'm all locked up.
 
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My theory on why people are that way is because they never have to evolve. People grow up with rewards, whether from parents or schools. People care about their grades more than their learning, people work jobs for money, don't want tickets so they obey(ish) speed limits. Money is quickly converted to material rewards.
That makes a lot of sense in a way that makes me feel almost sad. Especially thinking of caring about grades more than learning itself, but I can see how that is pretty much reinforced by the learning institutions.

My emotions in professional situations always have a time-lapse to them. I'm good at acting stoic but it's an act. It makes me look flexible on the outside, but on the inside I can be very emotional. I was a perfect white-collar cubicle peon in every job up until I quit.
Is it that the act is hard to maintain for you, or you get tired of the environments? I had a corporate cubicle-type job in the past and that job scarred me, haha.
 
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That makes a lot of sense in a way that makes me feel almost sad. Especially thinking of caring about grades more than learning itself, but I can see how that is pretty much reinforced by the learning institutions.


Is it that the act is hard to maintain for you, or you get tired of the environments? I had a corporate cubicle-type job in the past and that job scarred me, haha.
I was 1 for 5 in office jobs. There was one place that was really cool (awesome caring bosses, generally good coworkers when there wasn't a high school gossip vibe, and an environment were friendly competition was encouraged), then the housing collapse killed it. The rest of those jobs were just countdowns to breaking points.

Some of it was certainly on me; I avoid conflict in those environments, so I quickly become the person others leaned on (or blamed/took advantage of). My lack of organization always made those jobs harder than they should have been. I "retired" from those jobs to switch to a teaching career. There's still BS to be found (my state's government, in the midst of rising GDP growth and full-time kindergarten becoming mandatory, want to cut school funding). But I get autonomy, creativity, and a chance to help people grow up. That and a metric ton of pure, uncut nostalgia...
 

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I've had various jobs over the years, and although I'd say I'm not meant for customer service, the job I felt the most comfortable at happened to be a customer service one. It was similar to what you described, people sharing personal problems and such. I'm currently in a creative job, and the atmosphere is far more impersonal. Perhaps I should have been a counselor, that's a job I'd feel more "comfortable" with in that sense.

I definitely see what you're saying and I agree about us being social/emotional creatures, but I don't think those emotions are fit for all sorts business environments, and that's why I'm all locked up.
Well...if you are responsible for signing multi-million contracts or if you have to lay off 100 people then it might be beneficial to switch of your emotions on the job. You say you are in a creative job, don't you need emotions in order to be creative? It works like that for me anyway. If I am in a cold, impersonal, white walled office my creative juices don't exactly flow.

Ok. So. The atmosphere in your working place is impersonal and you don't like it. Then change it. You don't have to start handing out tissues and promote a 'opening up about yourself in the working place' mentality, but maybe you can engage in conversation with co-workers a bit more. Start with showing positive emotion: laugh with them, encourage, give positive feedback, compliment someone. Isn't there an overused quote by Gandhi that says something about change.....oh wait here it is: 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world.' In your world you would like to see a less impersonal working environment, so....become less impersonal yourself :) and perhaps others will follow your example. You might not be the only one who thinks the impersonal atmosphere is stiffling.
 

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OP, you are being way too strict with yourself and paranoid that you wont be able to tackle boundary issues as they come up.

Stop being in Te. Use Ne full-time, it is your strength and "engaged interaction with the world" function. People aren't going to think you're some INTJ or ISTJ if you stay in Te as much as possible. Because it's such a miniscule and immature function in INFPs, people will just interpret it as neurotic, rigid, and strange. Always lean on Auxiliary.

Your SO's view is a bit off or you may have misunderstood it. Emotional expression 100% belongs in business. Why do you think Fe users do so well in offices?

It's just that emotionally based decisions don't belong in business. You have to have facts behind your decisions. If you're doing that, it doesn't matter if you smile, laugh, or empathize with others at work. I think that's more what your SO was trying to say...I hope.
 

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Business communication can be doing deals, operations, intelligence, customer service, and a whole host of other areas. It's very different from day to day office talk - it is talk that pushes forward your work. Office talk is just getting along with your coworkers.

There's a boundary between work and play that is necessary to learn, much like how an actor dons different hats for different roles. When you need to push forward work, you don your business hat and speak in your professional business voice. When you need to talk with others in the office, you need to abandon that business hat and treat them like people - find a wavelength that you can connect with them on.

If there is not a clear distinction between the two, you can be too unprofessional in your business activities or too stiff in the day to day office droning.

Finally, consider outlets outside of work for emotional communication, because we always need some of it. If you do some volunteering as a mentor or something, you may get some of your emotional communication needs filled, enough that you aren't craving it at work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I was 1 for 5 in office jobs. There was one place that was really cool (awesome caring bosses, generally good coworkers when there wasn't a high school gossip vibe, and an environment were friendly competition was encouraged), then the housing collapse killed it. The rest of those jobs were just countdowns to breaking points.

Some of it was certainly on me; I avoid conflict in those environments, so I quickly become the person others leaned on (or blamed/took advantage of). My lack of organization always made those jobs harder than they should have been. I "retired" from those jobs to switch to a teaching career. There's still BS to be found (my state's government, in the midst of rising GDP growth and full-time kindergarten becoming mandatory, want to cut school funding). But I get autonomy, creativity, and a chance to help people grow up. That and a metric ton of pure, uncut nostalgia...
Oh man, I can sympathize with being the one that gets blamed or or taken advantage of in situations. One boss would blame/yell over mistakes HE made, and it happened a few times before I caught on and called him out on it.

It sounds like you found a good fit now, at least. I'm glad to hear! :)
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well...if you are responsible for signing multi-million contracts or if you have to lay off 100 people then it might be beneficial to switch of your emotions on the job. You say you are in a creative job, don't you need emotions in order to be creative? It works like that for me anyway. If I am in a cold, impersonal, white walled office my creative juices don't exactly flow.

Ok. So. The atmosphere in your working place is impersonal and you don't like it. Then change it. You don't have to start handing out tissues and promote a 'opening up about yourself in the working place' mentality, but maybe you can engage in conversation with co-workers a bit more. Start with showing positive emotion: laugh with them, encourage, give positive feedback, compliment someone. Isn't there an overused quote by Gandhi that says something about change.....oh wait here it is: 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world.' In your world you would like to see a less impersonal working environment, so....become less impersonal yourself :) and perhaps others will follow your example. You might not be the only one who thinks the impersonal atmosphere is stiffling.
Thanks, you're right, and I think that quote is very relevant. :)
 
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