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  1. #1
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    Default Difficulty being assertive to friends (INFJ)

    My biggest challenge in life right now is learning how to deal with friends/family that cross my boundaries and/or do minor hurtful things. I was wondering how other INFJ's deal with these kinds of situations.

    It's fairly easy for me to handle major conflicts and to be assertive to strangers or casual acquaintances. I can also be quite stern with my husband. But I'm simply not capable to defend my boundaries and feelings against close friends and family. In such situations I get completely stuck in my own web of evasive behaviour: trying to ignore my feelings (turning them into ticking time bombs and forever repeating movies in my head), avoiding/delaying/postponing contact, avoiding situations that might repeat the hurtful situation, an occasional door-slam even... I know it's wrong, but I just don't dare to be assertive to them! I think that I may feel that my feelings are somehow 'invalid' and that they will point that out to me when confronted, adding to the initial hurt... I'd rather lose a friend than be hurt twice I suppose, but that sounds pretty stupid to me. So I'd really love to learn how to deal with such things properly and maturely. Any tips?

  2. #2
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    I am not INFJ but do have a tendency to be non-confrontational. At some point I realized that some confrontations are actually constructive, though, that it's better to have a small confrontation upfront than to let a situation continue along its natural course... better for everyone!

    Sometimes it seems like it is easier to say nothing and let it pass rather than bring up an issue. But people who care about you also care about how their actions are affecting you. A lot of times other people just don't even realize something is bothering you. When you present how you see it, then it gives them more information to take into account. The way that they consider that information/the way they act as a result tells you a lot about the kind of person/friend they are.

    It also was important for me to develop self-respect, that what I feel is just as valid as what other people feel.



    Again, this is not from an INFJ perspective, but I'm sure a lot of it is relevant to people in general.

  3. #3
    Senior Member JivinJeffJones's Avatar
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    Could you give an example?

    I ask because in my experience sometimes INFJs have difficulty discerning the difference between someone violating a personal boundary and someone just doing something they don't like but isn't really any of their business.

  4. #4
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    ^That's an interesting point. I can see what you mean, re. maybe it just being something that the INFJ simply doesn't like, and shifts it to violating a boundary, even if it isn't violating a boundary. Hmm. I guess in this case it's the whole Control problem, which I think can take a LOT of IxxJ's a long while to let go of - to realize that hey, I can't control every aspect of what the other person does, and... WHY exactly do I want to/need to? etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cecile
    But I'm simply not capable to defend my boundaries and feelings against close friends and family. In such situations I get completely stuck in my own web of evasive behaviour: trying to ignore my feelings (turning them into ticking time bombs and forever repeating movies in my head), avoiding/delaying/postponing contact, avoiding situations that might repeat the hurtful situation, an occasional door-slam even... I know it's wrong, but I just don't dare to be assertive to them! I think that I may feel that my feelings are somehow 'invalid' and that they will point that out to me when confronted, adding to the initial hurt... I'd rather lose a friend than be hurt twice I suppose , but that sounds pretty stupid to me. So I'd really love to learn how to deal with such things properly and maturely. Any tips?
    Honestly... I don't think there's an easy answer / easy tips. I truly think it's a matter of actually facing those unpleasant things, and facing the fact that you might be judged in a negative light / be called out on something. I think it's learning to be ok with that, and to let go of any pride and control of the situation. I think you've already kind of answered your question... it is about taking that risk of *maybe* being hurt, or *maybe* having how you look at something questioned. It's not easy stuff.

    But I think in the long run it's healthier for you, and can lead YOU to a happier spot, to be more open about when something is bothering you, or to say 'No' to a certain request, without feeling guilty about it, or say you understand x, y, and z, but that you're sorry, you just can't do Q. I think in the long run if you're able to just let people know what's going on, even if conflict might happen, you also open the door for deeper relationships, with people you're even more compatible with. Meaning: If you're able to more confidently just show people who you are and what you are or aren't ok with, then those who DO love and appreciate you will respect that and won't shut you out for 'asserting yourself'.

    It may mean that some of your current friendships could fizzle out, if you are all of a sudden showing sides of yourself that you never showed previously (and, in some ways it's understandable if those friendships would then end), but all relationships going forward would be built off of the new you... it's really a matter of being able to take how you are with Strangers - where you're more comfortable asserting yourself by the very fact that there's no fear or risk of loss - and beginning to translate that into your deeper friendships, and facing that fear, vulnerability, risk, the unknown, and potential conflict, which, with the right people, usually ends up deepening the relationship and making it more meaningful anyway.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member kyli_ryan's Avatar
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    I can identify with the OP about this problem. I find that I have the same problem with my mother and "best" friends too. I think that I feel easily taken advantage of or easily dismissed a lot of the time, and I don't usually speak up about it. This has pretty much always been the case, but I'm learning to distance myself from their actions toward me and just react in the most rational way possible when I feel offended.

    I think my main issue revolves around this idea of my feelings being "invalid" as well. I'm very upset when I feel I've been "dismissed," not only because it feels like a rejection, but also because if I try to ignore it, it puts me in the position of feeling "clingy" or something...

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    Senior Member kyli_ryan's Avatar
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    I can identify with the OP about this problem. I find that I have the same problem with my mother and "best" friends too. I think that I feel easily taken advantage of or easily dismissed a lot of the time, and I don't usually speak up about it. This has pretty much always been the case, but I'm learning to distance myself from their actions toward me and just react in the most rational way possible when I feel offended.

    I think my main issue revolves around this idea of my feelings being "invalid" as well. I'm very upset when I feel I've been "dismissed," not only because it feels like a rejection, but also because if I try to ignore it, it puts me in the position of feeling "clingy" or something...

  7. #7
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    I can totally identify with the OP. I usually solve the problem by having little external boundaries, but a lot of emotional/mental boundaries. My inner world is my own and no one can get in. I dont think this is ultimately healthy, though. Luckily my friends and family are really sensitive to my feelings.

    In my relationship, however, for some reason I find myself more assertive...
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  8. #8
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    Interesting, interesting. I have to ponder on all your replies a bit more...

    @JivinJeffJones asked for an example. Okay. This will be hard. I hope the person this is about is not on this forum. (if so, I hope she understands somehow...)

    I'll try to explain the situation that sparked my wish to 'solve' this bit of my personality. It's actually a pretty good example of the sort of situations I find difficult to handle as it's made up from dozens of tiny situations that on their own don't seem to matter enough to fuzz about, but added up together are quite a big deal for me.

    One of my best friends (I've known her for half my life, she thinks she's INFJ but I believe she's INTJ) has always been somewhat 'dominant-light'. Half a year ago she has given birth to her first child & she has turned into a 'nothing-but-a-mother' type of person. Good for her although I have to get used to the new her, especially because me and my husband have chosen to never have children and feel a bit awkward around small children. She knows this. Nevertheless she thinks I should have a child as well and just oozes 'you-will-change-your-mind-someday' kind of vibes. Okay, I'm used to that, many people openly doubt my (very well thought through) decision, whatever, their problem.

    So far so good. Then she came to visit our new house a few months ago with her boyfriend and baby. (She lives 150 miles away, so we hardly see each other, maybe twice a year) That's when she completely claimed the house. (and my house is my private castle, many INFJ's can probably relate). During the tour around our new home she was constantly talking to her baby 'giving him stuff'. I have a little cosy bench in my very private workroom and she just exclaimed "Oh look [name baby], you can sleep here!" Okay... This happened a few times more during the tour. All the while the baby was drooling on my wooden floor, which she didn't notice or didn't care for. Okay... Once she was sitting in the living room with a cup of tea I secretly hopped around the house with a cleaning cloth to remove his spit. Then she asked me told me to take the baby on my lap. I've never even touched a baby so I told her that maybe this was not such a good idea as I have to take things very slow with babies. She insisted nevertheless, stating that if I was going to be his semi-official godmother that I ought to take him *now*. Okay... [I did retract myself as godmother a few weeks later, due to it being incompatible with my childless life, should have never said yes in the first place, but was flattered that she asked]. Then we had to talk about her baby for many, many hours. Then it started crying and she ordered her boyfriend to go upstairs with him to calm him down. Huh, you tell your boyfriend to go upstairs, *my* upstairs, without even consulting me? While you know how I feel about letting people in in my private space? Okay, I just escorted boyfriend and baby to a place upstairs I could live with. These kind of things went on and on until they left and left me exhausted, having felt like a visitor in my own home.

    All the underlined okays are moments that I think I maybe should have or could have been more assertive. My parents and husband agree that she crossed some boundaries during her visit, so apparently my feelings are valid It's just the type of person she is. She very well knows how I feel about things (about babies, about letting people into my home), nevertheless she seems to just ignore it and do her own way. I realize she is very much in love with her baby right now, but does that mean that she can just ignore other people's obvious feelings?

    A few days ago I received an e-mail in which she invites herself (including baby and boyfriend) to come round. I haven't replied yet and will reply that we will visit her home this time instead of the other way around, buying me some time to mentally prepare for her next visit. I'm also scared that she will never be an individual again, but the mother of a little family, travelling in a pack of three everywhere they go. I like her boyfriend and her baby to a decent extent, but I really don't need to see them everytime I see her. I can't possibly let a friendship be ruined by something innocent like a little baby, so I think this is the moment to bite the bullet and start being more assertive, but I don't know where to begin.

    So. Where to begin?

    [and yes, I did change my user name, I didn't expect to tell so much about myself on this forum and have to protect myself]

  9. #9
    Undisciplined Starry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emmapeel View Post
    Interesting, interesting. I have to ponder on all your replies a bit more...

    JivinJeffJones asked for an example. Okay. This will be hard. I hope the person this is about is not on this forum. (if so, I hope she understands somehow...)

    I'll try to explain the situation that sparked my wish to 'solve' this bit of my personality. It's actually a pretty good example of the sort of situations I find difficult to handle as it's made up from dozens of tiny situations that on their own don't seem to matter enough to fuzz about, but added up together are quite a big deal for me.

    One of my best friends (I've known her for half my life, she thinks she's INFJ but I believe she's INTJ) has always been somewhat 'dominant-light'. Half a year ago she has given birth to her first child & she has turned into a 'nothing-but-a-mother' type of person. Good for her although I have to get used to the new her, especially because me and my husband have chosen to never have children and feel a bit awkward around small children. She knows this. Nevertheless she thinks I should have a child as well and just oozes 'you-will-change-your-mind-someday' kind of vibes. Okay, I'm used to that, many people openly doubt my (very well thought through) decision, whatever, their problem.

    So far so good. Then she came to visit our new house a few months ago with her boyfriend and baby. (She lives 150 miles away, so we hardly see each other, maybe twice a year) That's when she completely claimed the house. (and my house is my private castle, many INFJ's can probably relate). During the tour around our new home she was constantly talking to her baby 'giving him stuff'. I have a little cosy bench in my very private workroom and she just exclaimed "Oh look [name baby], you can sleep here!" Okay... This happened a few times more during the tour. All the while the baby was drooling on my wooden floor, which she didn't notice or didn't care for. Okay... Once she was sitting in the living room with a cup of tea I secretly hopped around the house with a cleaning cloth to remove his spit. Then she asked me told me to take the baby on my lap. I've never even touched a baby so I told her that maybe this was not such a good idea as I have to take things very slow with babies. She insisted nevertheless, stating that if I was going to be his semi-official godmother that I ought to take him *now*. Okay... [I did retract myself as godmother a few weeks later, due to it being incompatible with my childless life, should have never said yes in the first place, but was flattered that she asked]. Then we had to talk about her baby for many, many hours. Then it started crying and she ordered her boyfriend to go upstairs with him to calm him down. Huh, you tell your boyfriend to go upstairs, *my* upstairs, without even consulting me? While you know how I feel about letting people in in my private space? Okay, I just escorted boyfriend and baby to a place upstairs I could live with. These kind of things went on and on until they left and left me exhausted, having felt like a visitor in my own home.

    All the underlined okays are moments that I think I maybe should have or could have been more assertive. My parents and husband agree that she crossed some boundaries during her visit, so apparently my feelings are valid It's just the type of person she is. She very well knows how I feel about things (about babies, about letting people into my home), nevertheless she seems to just ignore it and do her own way. I realize she is very much in love with her baby right now, but does that mean that she can just ignore other people's obvious feelings?

    A few days ago I received an e-mail in which she invites herself (including baby and boyfriend) to come round. I haven't replied yet and will reply that we will visit her home this time instead of the other way around, buying me some time to mentally prepare for her next visit. I'm also scared that she will never be an individual again, but the mother of a little family, travelling in a pack of three everywhere they go. I like her boyfriend and her baby to a decent extent, but I really don't need to see them everytime I see her. I can't possibly let a friendship be ruined by something innocent like a little baby, so I think this is the moment to bite the bullet and start being more assertive, but I don't know where to begin.

    So. Where to begin?

    [and yes, I did change my user name, I didn't expect to tell so much about myself on this forum and have to protect myself]
    My sister is enneagram 1 (I think she is ISTJ but will sometimes test as INTJ so I go back and forth in my mind regarding her)...and honestly...I just don't go over to her apt. anymore or let her drive when we go out. And if the activity that we are doing involves 'using stuff'...I'll make damn sure we use my stuff haha (not her stuff heaven forbid)...because I JUST CAN'T KEEP TRACK of all of the rules concerning her space and property and stuff and on and on... Seriously, I'm NOT trying to be disrespectful to her. I honest to god just can't keep track of it all. See...I just don't have that kind of attachment to space and stuff. In my mind 'space and stuff' is 'space and stuff'...and does not take precedence over people...especially when the 'people situation' is temporary (a visit). <--- I'm not saying your feelings aren't valid. I don't believe feelings can be invalid - they're feelings. But I'm just attempting to point out that it *might not* be an issue of someone purposely over-stepping someone else's boundaries. <--- It's not being able to fully understand how far and deep the boundary goes. So I've just given-up...like other family members and the rest of her 'non-perfect' friends (remember I'm talking about my sister here).

    All I'm saying...is maybe don't have her come over anymore...instead of losing a friend over something she might not totally be understanding (in spite of the fact you think she understands).

  10. #10
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    @Starry Thank you for that mirror. It's very helpful to read how someone who's completely different regarding to 'stuff and space' sees things.

    Hm. I know I used to be rather rigid and with a lot of rules, which was confusing and annoying for others. At some point I simply couldn't keep track of my own rules anymore (let alone others) and became very inconsistent with them. So I made them a lot easier, for myself and for others (this took me a lot of time, but I did it). These days I only have one rule according to my stuff: "My stuff is mine, don't touch it. And if you want to touch it anyway, please just ask and I'll probably say yes. Just ask before you take/do." I don't have 'you can sit in the red chair, but not in the blue chair, unless it's Sunday or full moon' kind of rules.

    In my defence in this particular example: it was above all the many drops that made the ocean. I could have easily chosen to not care about baby spit on my floor if the rest of the visit went smooth, I you understand what I mean. That's what makes being assertive so difficult in this case. When say something, when stay quiet.

    One thing I just realised is that this particular friend is the only person in my inner circle that I've never been assertive to *ever*. I think I simply never dared to... Not even with the weird rules I used to have. (Unlike my very best friend who has suffered under my rules very much and now sometimes sighs 'you've changed so much, you are so much easier these days, yippie!') So maybe she simply doesn't know how I feel about these things. Although I already know that she doesn't do it on purpose to hurt me. She is the kind of person though to do this as a kind of tough love thing, to teach me how to be a 'better person' or something. She is an INxJ after all. Hmmmm... food for thought.

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