Since INFPs, also known as the Mediators, are highly compassionate, empathetic and observant of other people and their feelings, a better question would be how do you empathise with an empath?
It is true that when it comes to helping other people feel seen, and guiding them through different things they might be feeling, INFPs are some of the best people to be around. But what happens if an INFP is going through a hard time? How do you help them deal with the difficult feelings they might be experiencing? How do you console an INFP?
Well, before we dive into the answer for that, let us ask ourselves another question: why is it difficult to console or comfort people in general? It is true that empathy does not come easily to everyone. People may sympathise, but it takes a very different level of being in sync with your own feelings and those of other people, in order to put yourself in their shoes and feel, to some extent, the heartache that they are experiencing – all that, while ensuring you do not overstep your boundaries and highjack their experience.
That being said, it is also difficult to console people because the solutions we, as human beings with limited knowledge of how the world and concepts like fate and/or time work, can only offer solace in the idea that time will help them heal their wounds. But the pain that people experience is often in the present or caused by the past – promises of a better future doesn’t always bring a grieving heart peace.
Honestly, there can be multiple reasons for why people find it hard to console someone. That, being specified to the case of consoling an INFP, becomes ten times as complex.
Let us begin with saying this, though; if someone you love is grieving or going through a hard time, let them know that you are there for them. We could all use comfort from our loved ones in such times.
Being an INFP, I believe that inserting my own experience of having recently lost my mother would be relevant and might give you, the reader, a first-hand insight into how your INFP loved ones can be helped better.
INFPs are introverted, and we all know that. It’s the first letter in their abbreviation. And if there is one type of social situation that drains their social as well as emotional battery more than anything, it’s a funeral. Being at a funeral, especially in the South Asian culture is a rollercoaster of an experience for everybody involved. If you’re an INFP in such a social setting, and you’re the one who has lost someone, it can become quite damaging.
There are many reasons for why that is the case, the biggest one being, INFPs are naturally highly empathetic, so it is very habitual for them to fall into the habit of empathizing with other people attending the funeral who might also be grieving – more often than not, you’d find an INFP consoling someone else for the loss of their family member, instead of letting people comfort them.
INFPs also have the inferior cognitive functioning of Extraverted Thinking. This means that their ability to organize and make sense of the world in an objective manner is usually unconscious. It becomes conscious, however, when in times of crises and dealing with stress. So it is not uncommon to see INFPs obsessively cleaning up or dealing with catering and what not when they should be focused on their feelings.
Another reason might be explained by the tendency that INFPs have to avoid confrontation. If there are other people present during a funeral who are outwardly expressing their emotions, while the INFP is struggling to express theirs, they find it best to stay quiet and avoid the situation altogether. INFPs may feel ignored in social situations because blurting their feelings out doesn’t come naturally to them, which can cause them to often be overlooked. At an occasion as chaotic as a funeral, the chances of that happening almost double.
When we say that the INFPs rely heavily on their feelings to navigate the world around them, it should absolutely not be taken lightly. Because even though an INFP may seem calm and collected, helping put out fires, dealing with other people’s emotions, while grieving simultaneously, they definitely feel the weight of the sadness to the extent that it brings them to their knees. Emotionally. Which essentially means that they go through all of it inwardly.
When I lost my mother, I could feel the heartache and sadness everybody else was experiencing every time someone would hug me and sob or reminisce the moments they shared with my mother, while feeling my own emotions at the same time. But whenever someone would come over to console me, I couldn’t find it in me to cry, and would instead end up consoling them. I remember wanting to take away their pain, and not being able to help, put an altogether different kind of sadness in my heart.
I also remember a lot of older people stating how they thought I was so brave for keeping it all together, and laughing internally, knowing that if they could feel even five percent of the way I was feeling, it would break them.
Well, that’s enough talk about me. Let’s now discuss how to console your INFP loved ones in the most effective way.
If there is one thing that INFPs, and quite frankly, anybody grieving hates is to hear that ‘it was all part of a plan’ or any form of objective explanation. Even if they might ultimately believe it to be true, when an individual is grieving, no amount of logical explanations make them feel better. And unfortunately, words we use while consoling people are often filled with such phrases. An INFP, being solely driven by intuition and feelings, especially hates being given logic behind why something terrible could have happened to them. Be it something as small as losing a phone or as grave as losing a loved one, there is actual risk of offending INFPs with poorly concealed rational justifications in condolences.
Your INFP friends simply want you to be present for them. It might help to look back at how they helped you in your difficult times. How do INFPs empathize and help other people?
You may recall that they don’t necessarily use many words. They might just sit with their suffering friends, hold them if need be, give them space when required because they understand boundaries, and most importantly; they listen.
Not sure if it is common knowledge or not, but INFPs are incredible listeners. And believe it or not, feeling like they’re being heard is exactly what they need in their time of crises. INFPs, often being easily ignored, just need the people close to them to understand them, listen to them, hold their hand or wrap them up in a hug when they cry – and they cry, INFPs are real criers, it is a part of their process of healing – and simply be present for them in their time of need.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that INFPs do not like to be rushed or forced to express how they feel. Their dominant cognitive function is Introverted Feeling, and so they may not be ready to express outwardly at your insistence. This might make them feel smothered, so try not to be too adamant about asking them to share; instead, respect their need for space and wait for them to allow you into their metaphorical cave.
And once you’re in, try to make sure that the INFP doesn’t feel judged for opening up. Like I said, when an INFP feels an emotion, they dive into such depths that it can often be difficult for other types to fathom. Their sadness and the expression of it may not look like yours, and it is necessary that they know that it is okay. If they say they wish to be left alone to listen to sad music, you let them. If they want to watch an extremely dark film, or express really morbid thoughts about how they think the world works, give them the safe space to do it.
Do not rush the healing process of an INFP. They will take their time, and while they are doing just that, in order to prevent them from going too deep into the pits of darkness, you can share with them why they hold an important or special place in your life. Show them that they are loved and valued, because they’re used to always being there for other people, and that sometimes makes them feel like people might not be there for them. We all deserve to be reminded that we are loved.
Good luck helping your loved ones get through difficult times. I’m rooting for you!
Citation and Bibliography
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Joseph, C., 2020. How do you cheer up an INFP? | C.S. Joseph. [Online] Available at: <https://csjoseph.life/2140-2/> [Accessed 2 November 2021].
Stafford, S., 2016. How to Cheer Up Each Myers-Briggs Type – Personality Growth. [Online] Personality Growth. Available at: <https://personalitygrowth.com/how-to-cheer-up-each-myers-briggs-type/> [Accessed 2 November 2021].