Manipulation & Deception: When NFJs Go Bad

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I read something recently that stuck with me: “the cruelest things I have ever heard said in an argument came from the mouths of NFJs.”

Ours is a reputation for sweetness and light. If you read an online profile about us, it paints us as rare and completely harmless. That is not the case, because no human being is harmless; we are all capable of great evil. Online profiles do not delve into our deeper sin nature, and the natural abilities that equip us with the power to hurt others in ways other types can only imagine, because so few of us blatantly abuse our gifts. The darkness is there. We may not act on it, but we are no more saintly than any other type … and if we do choose to give in to our darker instincts, we are much more manipulative about it and thus, have a greater potential for evil than many other types.

Every type has a typical brand of evil, but the NFJ has a particular strain of cruelty to its methods. Manipulative evil looks so innocent on the surface that the victim doesn’t realize what it is, until it is too late… until they have surrendered completely to the belief that this person loves them, and thus, opened themselves up emotionally for utter destruction. Because we are so good at reading other people and anticipating their needs, we also have an incredible ability to know just what to say and when, to hurt them the worst. Whether or not we give in to this impulse relies on our moral beliefs and strength of character… but it’s still there. We have, at all times, the ability to destroy others, but fortunately, we rarely use it.

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Low-scale manipulation involves “pushing people’s buttons” to elicit an emotional response, either out of boredom or irritation with that person over an unaddressed resentment. I struggle a great deal with this; when hurt by another person, my tendency is to want to hurt them back, and I know how to do it. I know their weaknesses. I know their insecurities. I know their motivations. I know what will “set them off.” I can push buttons, and get the anticipated reaction, and feel no guilt whatsoever in doing it. Not at the time, and not later, because if they push me to that point, I have emotionally disconnected from them on every possible level and feel nothing for them.

Doing this is a mild form of sociopathic behavior and is not unusual… unless it lasts for more than a few hours, and for most NFJ villains, it is a permanent state of being; their concern for another’s welfare is terminated, but their interest in hurting them is tied to their own desire for emotional vengeance. Or, in some instances, they believe that for the betterment of society, some people must die! (If indeed Adolf Hitler was an NFJ, as so many claim he was, this was his state of being: for the good of a few, many must die.) Because so much of their worldview is impacted not only through their own emotions, but concern for humanity at large, the NFJ villain is never power-hungry for the sake of power itself, but desires it as a method of implementing a greater vision for society on the whole.

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Morgana in Merlin is a classic example of this: her natural instinct to “feel” the feelings of others turns to manipulation. Her intention to sit on the throne of Camelot is born of ambition and her desire to “right” the past wrongs of Uther in reestablishing paganism and killing anyone who will not submit. She is very good at manipulating others to get what she wants, but her primary motivation in doing so is not just to accomplish her goals, but also to make them genuinely suffer, and because she has developed a personal relationship with them, she knows how to hurt them the most.

This is approach is also used by Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time; he is such an effective villain because of his ability to read others’ emotions and use it against them. The icy Melisandre on Game of Thrones does the same thing; she is so calculating that surely, we think, she cannot be an NFJ… but she is, just a cruel one hell-bent on leading Stannis to the throne, so that the masses can benefit from knowing the Lord of Light (religious idealism drives her onward). Melisandre appeals to Stannis and his wife on an emotional and spiritual level; she is a natural manipulator, who reads people well enough to discern what they need most, and finds a way to offer it to them.

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Perhaps one of the most blatant NFJ villains is Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins, who intends to wipe out the crime in Gotham through its total annihilation. Ra’s believes this is for the betterment of society; he holds to an idealistic view that in destroying a city, he can destroy evil itself and thus preserve humanity at large. Further evidence of his manipulative tendencies shows in his training of Bruce as part of the League of Shadows in the hope of recruiting him. Ra’s instills in Bruce a larger vision for humanity, while at the same time targeting his emotions, by insulting the memory of his parents. It hurts, and it works. When Bruce betrays him, Ra’s retaliates with the intention of hurting and humiliating him. His daughter also uses this method against Bruce in The Dark Knight Rises.

These betrayals are all the more painful to Bruce, because both established an emotional relationship with Bruce before turning on him; Ra’s became a father figure and mentor, and Talia became a lover. That is a crucial element in an NFJ villain, to draw the other person in to a relationship that is not sincere on their part, and calculated to cause emotional damage when it is terminated — Morgana, Melisandre, Rumpelstiltskin, Ra’s, and Talia all do this. It makes them powerful, it makes them cruel, and it makes them dangerous. No type is without its villains.

25 Replies to “Manipulation & Deception: When NFJs Go Bad”

  1. It’s so annoying to see INFJ’s over inflate how ‘dangerous’ they are and delude themselves in to thinking they can ‘destroy’ people (lol like wtf). At most you guys can get under people’s skin and only hurt people who actually give a f*ck

  2. Wow, I never see articles like this! As an INFJ you almost feel like there is a monster inside. If you don’t like some you feel like you must destroy them. Not physically, but we can get in your head and break you. I’m 5 ft tall and only a hundred and something pounds, and my parents say when I get angry my parents say I’m like the hulk. I become a different person. A scary person. I don’t use this like a weapon, but I know it’s there and that can be a little scary.

  3. THANK you for this. I have rarely been in a situation where I feel the need to pull out my knowledge of a person to attack them, thankfully, but the few occasions when I’ve gotten into fights with people I find that I always end up hurting them or pissing them off way more than I intended. Because I KNOW them, sometimes subconsciously, but I do. Usually I’ve already gotten hurt and I throw something back in retaliation, intending to hurt them too but sometimes I find out later that it did a lot more harm than I thought it would. My weapons were more powerful than I realized.

    You made references to a lot of TV characters. I have a question for you though: what are your thoughts on Loki from the Marvel universe? More specifically the Marvel movie universe? I have seen a lot of different explanations and opinions on what his personality type is, usually people pick INTJ because of the highly intelligent trait and the ability to plan in such detail. I had already been speculative and then I stumbled across this post: http://mbti-in-fiction.tumblr.com/search/loki
    That post got me thinking about it more and I also came to the conclusion that the INFJ vs. INTJ makes more sense in a different way. My brother is an INTJ and he’s widely known for his poker face – he’s so inexpressive it’s kind of scary and no one ever knows what he’s feeling. They can usually find out what he’s thinking just by asking but he won’t share his emotional state. By comparison, I the INFJ have a face that is an open book. My emotions play across my face widely and clearly enough to be spotted a mile away. What I’m actually thinking in relation to those emotions may be a mystery but my face is highly expressive. If you watch the movies you see that Loki is not a mask, his face is constantly changing, constantly morphing with his emotional state. The only time I ever remember seeing it tightly controlled is in the scene in the first Thor movie where he’s telling his brother that he agrees with him about the Frost Giants – it’s one of those scenes where I can’t decide if he really meant what he was saying or if he was being manipulative. And I can’t tell because if it was the latter than he was faking, he was being MANIPULATIVE for explicitly that purpose, to cover up his real intentions. Just like you put in this post.
    So now that I’ve gone on this huge spiel without even knowing if you’re familiar with this character, what do you think?

    1. You can’t really type a character based on the performance of the actor; Tom Hiddleston is very emotionally expressive and physically reactive in his films, regardless of the personality type he is playing.

      I think Loki is an ENFJ. His inferior Ti manifests in him revealing too much of himself in a desire to show off in the Avengers film, showing that his desire to be manipulative and seen as intelligent (Fe) got ahead of his intuitive insight into what Black Widow was trying to entrap him into doing (Ni/Ti). He is also much more comfortable using Se than an INFJ is — he’s opportunistic, physically present in his environment, and inclined to take risks that pay off, whereas his logic can sometimes be faulty. Our inferior function is our weakest point, and his seems to be Ti rather than Se, hence — ENFJ.

  4. Great post… helps me to understand ALL sides of the INFJ better. For me, as an INTJ, I usually use logic to tear people apart, and only use manipulation failing that. And I rarely hurt people because I’m angry at them or hurt by them… usually it’s just because they’re preventing me from achieving a goal or something of a similar nature.

    I think perhaps that is one of the overlooked qualities of an INTJ–the only think that really changes our feelings about someone is if they betray our trust. But hurting us in any other way is almost always forgivable. We’re pretty constant that way.

    1. In my younger years, I liked to provoke people to get an emotional reaction, particularly if they hurt my feelings in some way. I have since matured out of doing that, but I still know all the buttons to push. I could hurt people deeply, without any effort on my behalf other than a few well-chosen words. Fortunately, I won’t. I don’t. I didn’t even when one girl dragged my name through the mud. I have God to thank for that, more than me being “nice.”

      You’re fortunate not to have to battle your emotions as much as the NFJs do.

  5. This is a great post and I can definitely relate. I can be terrible for holding grudges. I hate and fear shouting and open aggression so if I’m angry with someone I can be very passive-aggressive. And there have been certain people in my life that I’ve taken such a dislike to that I’ve “switched off” my FE. Oh, I definitely have a dark side.

    1. Passive-aggressive is something you and I both struggle with. It’s better to be open about our feelings, but it can take a lot to prompt us to reach that point. Half the time, I don’t even know WHAT I am feeling in a conflict situation, so how am I supposed to tell the other person how I feel? =P

      1. I see you have another Hannah who comments on your blog so now I’ll include my surname when I leave comments. Anyway, YES, half the time when I’m angry/upset I haven’t even got the words to express how I’m feeling. I’m not always a great analyst either. I’ve definitely improved at this but often I could be with someone and think “This person is making me feel me really uncomfortable and I have no idea why! Oh well, I guess it must be me not them”. I have more confidence in my intuition now.

        Also, back to the passive-aggressive thing, do you not find that there can still be moments when you can actually be very direct when the situation calls for it? It really annoys me when I’m with people and I can tell that we’re all on the same wavelength, that we’re all thinking the same thing, and yet no-one is willing to speak out. So when that kind of situation comes up I will be direct, much to the shock and secret delight of everyone else 😀

        1. I can be very direct, yes — usually when I’m in a bad mood, or alternatively, when someone sincerely tells me to just open up and share my true feelings with them, because it will not offend them. I tiptoe around stuff a lot, but it’s liberating to get it out in the open.

  6. Excellent post. Morgana is definitely a good example–I thought she was a very potent character, very believable in her journey to becoming a villain. And it is also this type of person, to an extent (at least a projection of it) that I’m using for one of my villains, for their relationship with one of her generals.

    I do have a question–where have you gone to study these personality types? Are there sites or books you could suggest?

    1. I hang out a lot on Personality Cafe and have read some of the articles for each type (the childhood development articles are especially helpful); and I’ve read everything this website has to offer. The most helpful single book I’ve found, though, is “Understanding Yourself & Others: An Introduction to Personality Type Code” by Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi. It breaks down the types into individual functions, and in doing so, shows how each function works within that type — so, you’ll have a contrast between Se in four different types, and how it acts within that personality; sometimes, the same function acts differently in a feeler type than it does a thinker type. It’s all quite interesting. 🙂

  7. This article is very helpful, since we’re in development for book two with its INFJ antiheroine. You’ve done more MBTI research than I have, so I’m curious…how is INTJ manipulation different than INFJ?

    1. It’s less emotionally-driven. Their intention is not to inflict emotional harm but to accomplish an impersonal goal (unless it IS personal, in the “gathering power for its own sake” sense). Michael Corleone manipulates people, but only to get their guard down so he can extract the truth from them, before killing them. It’s not personal, it’s business.

      It’s the difference between Khan and Ra’s. Khan has a personal goal (Fi) aimed at being in control (Te) and Ra’s has an impersonal goal under a mistaken belief that it is for the betterment of society (Fe).

        1. I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I mean, Morgana is being totally selfish in her desire to crush Arthur and take over Camelot. It’s partly for the “good” the pagans, but also has a lot to do with her own hyper-emotional reaction to how Uther and Arthur treat a group of people that she is part of. Morgana is TICKED about her treatment in Camelot over the years.

          I think it’s more that an evil NFJ sees themselves as the source of morality, and deludes themselves into thinking that their evil actions are vindicated because it is for the good of society. Which… it isn’t, but they think it is. I think it really has to do with motivation. You won’t find an evil NTJ pretending his desire for power is anything other than a desire for power; the NFJ deludes others and themselves into thinking it is about more than power. But partly, I think, a truly twisted NFJ villain would simply want to hurt people.

          1. Do you think an INFJ could consider someone they admire as the source of morality, and then appoint themself as the enforcer of that morality (to the detriment of others)?

          2. Given that NJs are so independent-minded… I’m tempted to say no, unless they never developed their thinking function. I think all Ni-villains to some extent are motivated through a desire to be in control.

  8. Wow. This is so very, very accurate to me. When I am irritated, I won’t push hard, but I will phrase things just right to make the other person come close to “popping.” The closer I am to someone, the better I know how to destroy them. It’s just something I was born with, and yes, the potential in it is scary, even to me.

  9. This is very true! It is good to be aware of this so I don’t give in the temptation. The part about not feeling guilty is spot on. It takes a lot to push me over the edge, but when that happens it is ugly.

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