A conversation I had with an INFP.
INFP: So tell me about your work situation, and I will let my Ne free rein.
INTJ: Fi also please.
INTJ: So because I think you’d appreciate/need this, I teach, ok?
INTJ: There’s this student now who’s doing a personal one-to-one programme, and he has recently been transferred to me. He’s been branded as “troublesome” by my colleagues and passed to me as a last resort. Before taking him, they already gave me warnings like: he’s argumentative and will argue for the sake of arguing; he’ll wait till just 5 minutes before the end of the lesson to ask another big question and will keep at it so as to prolong the lesson and end ½ hour later; that if A is the answer, he won’t accept it and will keep asking ‘why not B, C, D’; that he thinks he already knows it all; and the worst of all, that if he continues being like that with me (which I took to mean that it insinuates if I’m unable to handle him because he’s such a bother), they’ll “get rid of him”. Similar situations have happened before, and I already knew that it’s not so much the fault of the student. Do you know what I mean?
INFP: Well, behaviour management is down to the skill of the teacher as well as the problems of the student… if that’s what you mean. There’d be students who can’t be managed but there’d also be teachers who aren’t good at managing.
INTJ: But there isn’t any behavioural problem. He isn’t argumentative; he’s asking because he would like to understand. The others (my colleagues) get surprised when I say that I like teaching that way — that I like explaining why A is the answer and why not B, C, D. That is what the students are here for, to learn and understand. It’s really sad that they’re being treated this way and branded as a trouble due to the incompetencies of the teachers, and I can’t do much about it (which is what I wanted to discuss with you about). The part where he was described as a know-it-all is most likely with the portions where it’s too pedantic and simplistic. He’s smart. I took him for one lesson so far and there were no issues with him whatsoever.
INFP: That sounds really good! I know what you mean. “Inquisitive” minds don’t fit well with lazy teachers. So what’s the problematic part?
INTJ: They aren’t lazy.
INFP: Okay, other possibilities are just different mindsets or thinking styles or teaching styles.
INFP: Like an SJ teacher might struggle with an N.
INTJ: Yes, wasn’t really sure if I could say that to you.
INFP: No, it’s fine. Say anything.
INTJ: It’s just so sad. I feel for the students, I feel the injustice on their part, and I feel powerless as to how to help them (other than just having them be assigned to me). But I understand my colleagues as well. It’s just a snowball effect: the students come here to learn, the teachers are not giving them what they seek, the students get frustrated and act out, the teachers brand them as troublesome, and because they act out, they really do become a bother for the faculty. All of this can be cut out if they had been assigned to me first, you know? It’d save everyone a headache.
INFP: That’s true. I guess you could try to present it as a learning styles issue, and see if there’s a way to promote an awareness of that? (In terms of student allocation.) I understand your frustration!
INTJ: Maybe because of my current unhealthy state of mind, the frustration bleeds everywhere and into everything. It affects me a lot — I don’t know how else to emphasise that. It doesn’t just stay at the level of frustration, not that it escalates to anger, but it manifests in sadness. (Maybe I do know how to phrase it after all.) Handling this sort of situation is another tricky part. Remember when I said I don’t (can’t) work full-time?
INFP: Ah, so do you feel like the solution to your problem would depend on you working more hours… so you feel trapped or something? Like you want to demand a better solution, but logically you should be part of the solution?
INTJ: For the sake of the students, I don’t mind putting in the hours. I’d even do it pro bono because I really do want to help them and will put my all in it (and I can’t be bothered with money, just need a little for survival and books and classes). It’s — I’m not sure what the right term is — it’s principle, it’s the right of the student; I have to do something for the students and not stand by and watch them combust. My being part of the solution, yes, and it gets tricky because I work freelance, and it’d seem as though I’m stepping on others’ toes and scheming to get more benefits for myself. In reality, if I speak out, there’d be no benefit for me, and in fact would be more detrimental to me.
INFP: I think you’re right; it’s more of an Fi problem than an Ne question.
INTJ: I’m approaching you for a reason, INFP.
INFP: How many actual students like this would there be?
INTJ: Hard to say, it’ll be ongoing.
INFP: Thinking as an Fi-dom, this experience of frustration with sub-ideal systems and institutions is very familiar. Usually my experience is either that the system is “just the way it is” and there’s nothing I can do, or it’s a situation where I can exhaust myself trying to help everyone.
INTJ: Between these two options, I’d choose the latter, INFP. Like the starfish story.
INFP: So I guess my question is what you want to do? Feel better about it?
INTJ: Doubt that would happen. I’ve set up a casual meeting with the manager tomorrow — did it before I even met the student, because N. It’s just going to be a couple of minutes of me trying to express myself and her (and, later, the rest of the faculty) taking it the wrong way. I plan to say that I experienced no issues at all with the current student and to make a suggestion that, in future (which will fall on deaf ears), should there be other “challenging/difficult” students, to assign them to me. There, misunderstandings would snowball. It’d be seen as me trying to get more money, insinuating that I’m a better educator than the rest, especially when I don’t have credentials (big issue here). Oh, and trying to climb up the ladder (which I have no intention of). I don’t know what else to do, for the students.
INFP: I think that is all you can do.
INTJ: It isn’t enough. There’d be no step forward for the students, while I take two steps back myself.
INFP: If you make known your willingness to take on students like this, in an ideal world, management and other teachers will be happy to “dump” them on you.
INTJ: Although I’d be phrasing it that way, there’d be no way to tell if they’re going to be challenging in the beginning. Plus, I seem to be low down on the list of getting assignments. I’m like a vulture swooping in to peck at the remnants.
INFP: One thing I’ve noticed is that you do have some very negative expectations about how things will unfold. One of the characteristics of an Fi-dom is that I’m usually forced to do my best according to what feels right, and be agnostic about the outcome. But here it sounds like you’re doing that, yet telling yourself the outcome will be bad. I think that’s guaranteed to exacerbate bad Fi feelings.
INTJ: Yes, but then, pessimism or realism, which I think we’ve discussed before.
INFP: So your sadness is a response not only to this sub-optimal situation but to your broader pessimistic read on it.
INTJ: Yes, and for the future, that it’d keep going on like this, never changing for the better, and likely to get worse. Inferior Se.
INFP: Your Fi wants you to be more optimistic, because that will feel better.
INTJ: To lie to myself? Don’t think so. Me feeling better isn’t the objective either.
INFP: So what is the objective?
INTJ: In this situation, to help students. On the broader scale, to help improve the world. Though, we can ignore the second part.
INFP: Then you need a longer term path to having the necessary power to effect the improvements you desire.
INTJ: By climbing the ladder?
INFP: You could start your own school, seek higher qualifications, climb the ladder… What would you require to be in a position where you can make the desired changes?
INTJ: Which makes me stuck, and it’s sad. But thank you, that is realistically one of the ways to go about it. Just, it’s a little too late for me, and it’s unfortunate, not for me, but for others, that I’m letting them down and not helping them. (My issue though.)
INFP: Fi also desires authenticity… Would it be an improvement if you were part of a smaller operation that championed a better approach, even if your current school remained unchanged in its practices? That’s part of why people go independent.
INTJ: Yes, that would be an improvement. It’d be an effort to try to better things, as long as I try to keep the starfish mentality at bay.
INFP: As an Fi-dom, I would rather be an authentic private tutor doing things the right way than being part of a bigger organisation doing things less ideally. But for you numbers may matter too?
INTJ: I’m not sure what you mean by numbers?
INFP: I’m just trying to take into account other factors. Like, you might be committed to helping these particular students, or in particular quantities. For me the quality of my efforts would be more important, but I’m not an NT.
INTJ: I still don’t really get it.
INFP: Don’t worry about it. I was just being extra open-minded in case I said “go independent and do things your way” and you replied “but that’s not going to help enough people” or something.
INTJ: Ohh, yes, like the starfish mentality I mentioned. But quality still trumps quantity. The best would be quality with quantity, but never quantity on its own. Going independent is too much for me as a less-than-healthy 5. I don’t have the resources (internal and external), the network or networking skills, and I’m not one to boast about and sell myself. I don’t mean to keep shutting your ideas down — I hope I’m not coming across that way. I appreciate your insights.
INFP: Nah, you don’t come across badly. I just disagree with your pessimistic outlook.
INTJ: I disagree with your outlook that it’s pessimism. (joke)
INFP: Feeling better doesn’t have to come only from things that feel untrue. It can also be a choice of what to focus on. E.g. The system might be sub-ideal, but how great is it that this “difficult” student found his way to you?!
INTJ: Kind of like the starfish story, right? It doesn’t work for me, but that doesn’t detract the positive outcomes from that one starfish.
INFP: I guess so. Like, I’m roasting coffee beans and it feels like a chore. But I can choose to focus on how much I love coffee and actually it’s quite satisfying. There’s no objective reason to focus on the bad-feeling thought that it’s a chore rather than the good-feeling thought about the enjoyable aspects.
INTJ: That I agree with and understand and can do, but not when there are lives involved, for me. Is it like talking to a wall with me?
INFP: Nah, I’m definitely learning. For me, pessimism meant my life. I couldn’t continue being that unhappy.
INTJ: That’s the road I’m on.
INFP: I just finished proofing a book on philosophy. It reinforced for me the subjective nature of all knowledge. There are levels of truth and no agreement among experts, in philosophy at least. So I guess I decided my life was more important than my prior choices of what to focus on in life, because even the wisest make choices on which truths to emphasise.
INTJ: Yeah, as a 5, I don’t believe in objective truth (which the INTJ 1s do, and it’s intriguing). I view my life as minuscule and not as important.
INFP: Subjectively, it’s your whole world.