Why I don’t have a best friend
Almost every Friday for the last 13 years, I’ve gone dancing at the same dance club. Last Friday, I met Ryan. I wouldn’t have noticed him if my friend Rebecca hadn’t pointed him out as someone she considered cute. I asked her why she didn’t go over and say hi, but she’s shy. It’s hard to put yourself out there when you’re single and a corner mouse. I was that shy in my early 20’s. Since I wasn’t anymore, I decided that by the end of that night, I’d meet him and introduce him to her.
I told Ryan how Rebecca and I noticed that he was a good dancer. I asked him how often he went to this club. He said he’d been dancing for years, but he kept to himself. I proceeded to introduce him to all the regulars who are hubs (i.e. people that others flocked around). Ryan does SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), graduated from one of the top engineering colleges in the country (School of Mines) and plays D&D. I use to go swing dancing with a guy who did SCA so I know little about it. My sister went to School of Mines and I use to play D&D. So I kept my small talk to those three topics.
This is how I met Rebecca 3 years ago. She was a dance club regular, sitting in the corner. I said hi and introduced her to all the hubs. I discovered she was a teacher and we ended up talking about teaching and school districts. Three years later, she’s one of my strong ties.
I wrote in my first post on friendship about how I decided to stop having friends. Because of that I have more people in my life now than I did before.
Before I stopped having friends
INFPs have a tendency to call friends just those people who are strong ties, people who we feel connected to. Everyone else is an acquaintance.
The problems with the friend/acquaintance model are:
1. INFPs become too dependent on a small group of friends to fill all their emotional needs.
My friends are busy. They have lives outside of their friendship with me. When we heavily depend on a small group of people to fills our need for connection and those people are not available, we feel hurt that they’re not making time with us more important.
2. INFPs become needy and desperate when we feel we’re losing a friend we’ve invested so much energy into.
When our friends are too busy to see us, we interpret it as a sign that we aren’t important in their lives. We set aside time in our schedule to accommodate them. We make that extra effort to align our schedule with theirs to have time together. However when our friends don’t reciprocate and cancel on us, INFPs grow resentful.
3. INFPs develop expectations of their friends based on their INFP ideal of friendship
We assume that if we put extra effort into a friendship then our friends should do the same. INFPs have this ideal for friendship that we want others to adhere to. INFPs become demanding in our passive-aggressive way because we only want what we think is “fair” which only serves to drive our friends away.
4. INFPs get stuck in their friendships
We tell ourselves that those people weren’t really our friends and we somehow misinterpreted our feelings. We seek out new people to become close friends. And with those new close friends, we rehash the same thoughts and ideas. We start the cycle all over and wonder why we haven’t grown emotionally in our friendships.
Strong ties and Weak ties
I finally got exasperated with myself and gave up trying to seek out friends. I meet people to see if I find them interesting.
For me, people fall into two categories: people I like spending time with and people I avoid. The people that I enjoy spending time with fall into two categories: strong ties and weak ties.
Strong ties are the people I feel connected to in multiple aspects of my personality. Weak ties are people who’s company I enjoy but our connection is only in one or two area. My “friends” fall into both categories. Most of the people I see out dancing are weak ties. Basically we have multiple similar interests (music, movies, books, writing or some type of art, etc), but we connect on just one or two mutual values. My strong ties and I share similar problems and we connect across multiple values, but we only have one or two similar interests.
I treat my weak ties and strong ties equally. I won’t cancel lunch with a weak tie because a strong tie calls up and wants to do something. If a strong tie is late, I won’t wait any longer than I would with a weak tie. The difference between strong ties and weak ties is that I go to my strong ties to bounce off thoughts and ideas when I have problems. Since we share multiple similar values, they will give me insights that will align with my values.
INFPs want all their friends to be strong ties, however people change. We can’t make the assumption that a person who’s a strong tie will always be a strong tie. People go on to a different set a problems that we can no longer relate to and that’s the big reason why strong ties grow apart. We can see this when we get married and have kids. Our single friends can’t relate to our problems of diapers and picking the right school. We’ve already gone through the single-life drama of someone we like not calling us back.
The biggest issue with only having strong ties is that we get stuck. I’ve known my strong ties for a decade plus so I know what they think about life, religion, free will, World of Warcraft and what movies they’re looking forward to seeing next year. I know what we agree on and what we disagree on. No new ideas get introduced.
Weak ties are where new ideas and inspirations come from. It’s weak ties where we find new opportunities. We run in most of the same circles as our strong ties so all the opportunities that they know about, we know about. I’ve found all my jobs from weak ties. It’s my weak ties that I get recommendations for people and services I need in my life. It’s also weak ties that challenge us to grow our relationship skills because we don’t sync with them as well as we do with strong ties.
Now vs Then
Having strong and weak ties has made all the difference in my life. Here are the biggest:
1. I’m not possessive of my friends anymore.
I’m more than willing to introduce new people to other people in my life. Mostly, it’s just a nice thing to do especially for introverts who have problems meeting new people. This new person might end up being a life love of someone I’ve introduced them to. This new person could end up helping a friend in someone way that I couldn’t. This new person might make a friend’s life better.
2. I no longer wait for people.
If someone is suppose to show up to lunch and they don’t. Oh well. I’ll catch them the next time. I always have a book with me. I don’t view it as someone not showing up. I view as much needed time away from the kids with a good book.
When I have many people in my life that I can have a good conversation over lunch, missing out on one isn’t that big of a deal. I don’t end up giving off that needy vibe which in turns attracts more people into my life. People want friendships that are easy and not full of expectation and pressure.
3. I’m more generous, but I say no more often.
I use to stress myself out trying to help out my close friends. I would ignore helping out acquaintances unless I could see some advantage to it. That wasn’t the type person I wanted to be.
This weekend I gave away an old Christmas tree to a weak tie. It will be her first Christmas tree with her boyfriend that just moved in. Last week, I fixed a laptop for a strong tie. This week I’m helping my brother design a logo for his new company. I’m always doing something for someone. However, it’s all stuff I want to do.
I don’t feel guilty turning down requests for help. If someone gets mad and stops talking to me (which has never happened), I have other people in my life.
4. I’m less emotionally demanding.
I have more people to pick and choose from when I feel social. Sometimes I want to talk nerd. Sometimes I want to talk about raising kids. I have different people that I go to for each. I don’t have one or two people that I have many things in common with. I have one or two things in common with many different people. It’s easier on the people in my lives. They know they can turn me down without having to feel guilty.
The Distributed Model of Friendship
The downside is that I don’t have one best friend. The upside is that I don’t have one best friend.
Single dependencies leave much out of our control and can drastically affect our life if that dependency is no longer there. If a best friend is busy, we have to wait. If we have a falling out with a best friend, they have a lot of ammunition to negatively impact our lives.
If I have many different people that I share different parts of my life and different aspects of my personality then I only need to compensate for that part if something goes awry. If a regular poker group moves away, I find other poker players. If one group is overloaded with their day-to-day, I go to a different group.
No one person knows everything about me. I don’t think a single person ever could. However, many people know important parts about me. The parts I think they’ll get.
With Ryan, I now have another person to speak nerd with or if I ever have any questions about materials engineering or SCA. Perhaps, we become “good friends” but that’s not the point. I don’t form weak ties in order to build them into strong ties.
I build weak ties because that’s another person who could make my life more interesting.
Dec 7, 2010
oooh a new article. Interesting read. I think I’ll try and implement some of those points of view you suggested ^_^
December 9th, 2010 at 10:46 am
I think the most important part is that we as INFPs don’t weed people out of our lives is their not what we consider “good friend” material. If you don’t treat something as important, it usually goes away. This especially applies to healthy, money and people.
Even though someone is a weak tie doesn’t meant they’re less important to me than a strong tie.
July 8th, 2014 at 7:25 pm
No matter what is going on in my life, I can come visit this website and feel 100% understood and find answers to so many of my life questions. This post on friendship is a bullseye for me. I have struggled years with friendship, made some terrible mistakes, and am going to give up this old expectation of friendship along the massive energy I spend thinking about making new friends. I’ll simply check in with myself to see if they are interesting to me, and if they are, I’ll test the waters a little further. Every single word you wrote applies to me. Thank you for expanding my knowledge in this most important aspect of my life. Question. Do you ever, ever feel alone or lonely? I wonder if loneliness is an inherent INFP trait or if it is resolved with a wide variety of weak and strong ties.
Dec 8, 2010
Thanks for sharing this. I will definitely apply some of this.
Dec 8, 2010
Just wanted to let you know a fellow INFP read this and really enjoyed it. I can tell you’ve had a few more years of INFP experience than me and maybe that’s why you’ve become better at dealing with friends/friend interactions for INFPs.
I’ve started to get better at it, but some of the things you’ve pointed out have been interesting.
I would like to say, I think at this point, probably my worst quality in friendship is that I put my significant other in the role of best friend. This is good when things are great, but it really sucks when we fight. Be careful not to mix those roles up, other INFPs. I’m starting to get better about it 🙂
December 9th, 2010 at 10:42 am
I think significant other is its own special role that has its own functions that aren’t compatible with the role of the best friend. For example, you usually don’t talk about cute guys or or girls with your significant others. That’s what best friends are usually for. Also, friendship dramas you discuss with your best friends.
Your significant other is there to support you in being a better person. Significant others aren’t there to:
1. Make you happy.
2. Solve your problems.
Both of those things, people have to do for themselves.
Dec 8, 2010
This is a really interesting way to think about friends. I really like the idea of “strong ties” and “weak ties”. I think this gives you a lot more freedom in the connections you make. You won’t connect with everyone in a strong way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t enjoyable to spend time with. This system makes room for all your connections and probably leaves you with a better social life.
December 9th, 2010 at 10:34 am
I should note that strong ties can be “acquaintances” and weak ties can be “friends.” For example business relationships that are important to your life are strong ties, but you may not know these people on a personal level. Facebook and Twitter are example of friends who are weak ties. It’s not as if weak ties are people you know briefly. I’ve known many for over 10 years, especially those I meet out dancing. I interact with the regularly. However, most I only have one or two things in common with.
Dec 13, 2010
I’m an INFP. I don’t really have a best friend too. I even get jealous of people and seeing them with their best friends when I was younger. Now, Ive managed to let go of that jealousy.
Good read. Can you suggest some books that have helped you with your relationships. Thanks
December 13th, 2010 at 8:52 am
I would recommend the original study I read called The Strength of Weak Ties (PDF).
The other relationship book I recommend often is called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I find that book can also be applicable to friendships. For example, if a person is a Gifts person, I buy them a drink every so often. I remember to shake hands with all the Physical Touch people.
There’s no way to really figure which one a person is my observation so I usually ask. I bring up the book in casual conversation when people start talking about their relationships. Then I mention the Five and what they mean and ask them which they are.
Dec 16, 2010
hahaha clearly someone read SuperConnect lately 😛
I like you’re blog. I can relate a lot, although I’m an ENFJ (I think our personality types are similar enough).
I’m learning all the web languages at the moment, I learned HTML almost 10 years ago when I was 11 or 12, but now coding its seems less gratifying as it used to be. As an INFP how did you deal with that? Do you enjoy it?
December 16th, 2010 at 9:58 pm
Thanks for the recommendation. I haven’t read SuperConnect yet. Everything I wrote about comes from the Strength of Weak Ties paper, Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point and the Luck Factor paper by Richard Wiseman.
Jan 25, 2011
I totally relate to what you write. And thanks for sharing because changing from having close BFFs to what you describe seemed like something that happened, when I realise that it was probably me who instigated a similar shift…
I really enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it!
Feb 7, 2011
I have to say that reading some of these posts, particularly this one, is like taking penicillin. It can be unpleasant, sometimes bitter, but I know it’s probably good for me and I welcome the opportunity. You’re quite clearly ahead of me in both the maturity and life experience stakes and I am very grateful for the opportunity to read some of your insights. It challenges me and my frankly sometimes limiting way of viewing the world, and I appreciate it from an INFP perspective as it feels somehow more relevant and easier to understand than the well-intentioned advice that can sometimes be given by more traditional types. It would not be in the spirit of things were I not to adapt them for my personal use, but there is too much similarity and too much I relate to not to heed your advice and warnings.
February 7th, 2011 at 7:34 pm
I think I’ve changed out of necessity. I have a friend I’ve known since junior high, over 25 years. If I’m lucky, I see her 3-4 times a year. She’s getting a masters. She teaches creative writing workshops. All my ties, strong and weak are that busy. If I had stayed with my friend/acquaintance model where I only had 3 or 4 friends. I would only be able to see friends once a month.
I think the biggest trigger for wanting to change was after high school, my good friends had opportunities in other cities. Instead of being happy for them and wishing them success, I was resentful that they were leaving me. That bitterness was making me a crappy person, and that wasn’t the type of person I wanted to be.
May 21st, 2011 at 5:41 pm
I see. That actually makes a whole lot of sense. For some reason after posting previously I hadn’t checked the site until today but what should be waiting for me but this gem of a reply? In fact, this not only puts everything into perspective, as already I can relate somewhat to what you say, but it set off a chain reaction of thoughts and realisations in my head that goes a considerable way towards eliminating a good number of fears and doubts I harbour under the surface already.
Of course one cannot always choose their circumstances, and they are bound to change not only as you do but also the world. Each stage of life and of one’s own process of maturation seems to bring with it a unique set of challenges to be overcome. However, if presented with a choice to remain a passive victim of circumstance, remaining anchored entirely of your own volition, or adapting and changing to each new challenge and situation as it arises, forging ahead in ways uniquely of your own design, I know which of the two I would prefer.
I don’t really have words to describe the kind of bird’s eye view and paradigm shift I feel going on right now, but I am grateful for your part to play in it. I actually feel hopeful about the future for the first time in a while.
Feb 9, 2011
This is a great blog. Your posts are enlightening and seriously needed treatment for INFP’s. Thank you.
Feb 12, 2011
Thanks very much for your blog. I’ve just discovered it and look forward to reading other posts. I especially appreciated the discussion of friendship revolving around common problems. I find the strong/weak tie concept intriguing, and agree that it’s a wise strategy as an INFP. One thing I’m curious about as a strong I is how you avoid becoming drained while engaging in so many different activities.
February 12th, 2011 at 1:47 pm
I take about 2-3 hours of alone time each day. I don’t sleep as much as I should. I put the kids to bed by 9. My wife is usually asleep by 11pm. So from 11-2am is alone time. I spend time writing or responding to forum posts (ie more networking for the blog). I’m cleaning my office or working on a project. Those couple of hours each day is my recharge time.
February 13th, 2011 at 5:55 am
Alone time is an absolute neccessity. Yes, it IS worth getting up earlier, or staying up later, to have the time to clear my head. Have to keep working to quit the habit of isolating myself, in spite of many invites from friends and places to go. Usually can be around the INFP hubby …we spend time gently together for the most parts. Like my INFP/INTJ-ENFP friends, can hang with for hours without any ill effects; No drama, no crazies, no noisy, messy hordes. No distractions. No judgementalism, paranoid suspicions, or harsh criticisms disguised as Helpful, yet unsolicited advice. May be listening to radio or tv cranked up, dancing, working out, power walking, running, cooking, cleaning, but it’s still emotionally calm enough to be nurturing.
Mar 9, 2011
I just discovered the INFP community online yesterday, and I am very thankful you all are here! I’ve known I’m an INFP since I was in high school, 19 years ago. Myers-Briggs helped me immensely in my twenties. Helped me understand why I felt so different. Over the past 10 years or so I’ve worked to make myself more social and practical, which has been helpful. Still, at my core I am absolutely an INFP. I’ve recently been struggling with feelings of isolation and worry over jobs. I’d forgotten about Myers-Briggs, then yesterday, out of the blue I searched for “INFP jobs.” I found you and several other helpful sites. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, experiences and advice! I know I am not alone. It helps to get me back on my feet. Thanks for your good work!
March 9th, 2011 at 9:33 am
I’m going through that isolation in a different way. I’ve been for 14 years and it’s been amazing. I have many wonderful friends and relationships in my life. However, I’ve always felt there was a disconnect. I recently found a video from Brené Brown which has completely changed my view on relationships. It’s been 3 months and I’m still processing and making changes…slowly.
The key comes from vulnerability and that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy and purpose. Because when you cut off your emotions from being hurt with some things, you cut off those emotions from everything. So with my friends, I would connect to them up to a line but never cross over. On the other side of that line is vulnerability. I’m slowly starting to cross those lines with each of the people I consider important in my life.
Oct 3, 2011
This article is just lovely. 🙂 I’m doing my INFP “recharge” time right now, and stumbled upon your site/ started sifting through posts. The concept of Weak and Strong ties is fascinating to me. I’ve always had three groups of people in my life: aquaintances, friends, and friends I’d “clicked” with (those that held some sort of deeper connection with me). It wasn’t until I started making friends in college that I realized I couldn’t keep only a tiny group of close connected with friends– that I needed and actually ENJOYED all kinds of people. Complete understanding of my soul was not a rational pre-requisuite for friendship (honestly, at that rate, I would hardly be able to be friends with myself.)
If only I’d known about my personality weaknesses and strengths years ago, perhaps it could have somewhat saved be from being an overbearing, slightly “irrational” friend for a long time. It has been a breath of fresh air to read the writing of someone with such insight into areas I’ve been trying to deal with in my own life as an INFP. Please keep writing!
May 26, 2012
This is absolutely a life-saving blog as I have always been curious as to why I never find the “best friend” that I have always wanted since I am such a helpful, understanding and empathetic friend to others. I think though that it is a natural and ultimate stage that INFPs (those that mature and want to become more healthy) come to with age. Especially after their early- or mid- twenties.
I know I have started volunteering when I didn’t used to see the point in it. Now, I just don’t seek that ideal friend as much anymore. I just want to find out more about all the different personalities that exist in this world aside from myself. In fact, it’s actually accurate to state that I have gotten very tired of staying in my fantasy world and living alone in my head all the time. Although I still can’t get the magnetic earphones away from enveloping my mind in my fantastic thoughts as soon as I step out the door.
The funny thing is, I’ve always kindda known I would be much more sociable. In fact, I’ve always envisioned myself as a social butterfly. It’s a matter of choice I think and being able to let go of the ideals I had from youth. Whenever I have been very social, I have always been almost the center of attention, even though I get tired of that quickly.
In a way, this is very representative of the INFP description that claimed that INFPs may not be have the strong determination of the “J” to plan ahead, but somehow, one or another, we still get where we want to go. We just take the longer and harder, and probably unnecessary path….stubborn INFPs.
May 31, 2012
I think this blog might have saved me a lot of pain and suffering- this article especially. I’ve been feeling so disconnected from people lately because I can’t find my perfect, ideal best friend. Plus, all my good friends have been disappointing me. I like this method better. I think people are fascinating and I want to have relationships with as many people as I can, but I don’t want to be disappointed all the time. I like the concept of strong ties and weak ties and how you treat them both equally. I think I’ll try that.
Jun 15, 2012
Where has this blog been all my life? 🙂
Seriously, this blog is like reading notes from me to myself.
I constantly seek deep connection and end up hurt and disillusioned…whereas my healthiest and happiest times have been when I’ve had a lot of different people in my life with all different levels of connection. Deep connection for me is going to be with a significant other –I’ve noticed that when I get that part fulfilled I stop looking for it elsewhere and spread myself out more. It’s a pretty healthy system for me.
I think the quirky paradox about INFPs is that we’re very social animals. Relationships mean a lot to us. While at the same time we’re lone wolves. I’ve had a tricky time negotiating this contradiction.
Jul 13, 2012
Hey, nice blog article again, thanks.
Just wondering though how do you go about avoiding people if it’s difficult to avoid them e.g. if they’re in your dance group etc. ?
Jul 25, 2012
Wow! It is like you know the most inner side of me. I just discovered this website. All I want is a few really strong ties, but it is just too painful. Lately, before I even found this blog, I forced myself to start forming more weak ties. (I volunteer to help ESL people with their English, one-on-one, in coffee shops.) It has been more fulfilling than I had ever imagined… I am a mother, so I only have a little time for my friends, so I wanted it only to be with strong ties. But, that is not how life works. This expectation only caused me pain. Thank you so much for sharing this! Thank you for understanding me…
Jul 27, 2012
This is fucking brilliant man. Just absolutely genius. This is partly because I relate 100% to this as a 20 year old with exactly the same isolation problems at uni and I’ve been wondering what is wrong with me for quite some time. Now I understand. I’m currently very alone during my summer holidays away from university, pretty much me, myself and I right now, so I’ll take some time out to get over personal setbacks like phobias and become more well read and when I get back to university I’ll have thought this through enough to put this new model into practice. Classsssss
Jul 27, 2012
I’m in the process of customizing this concept for myself. I realize I do a lot better with lots of people in my life. I notice I’m still getting into my paranoid hurt-feelings-syndrome when people don’t put as much effort into seeing me as I want. That’s a lifelong habit and feeling hurt and worthless via other people isn’t going to diminish overnight. But it’s lessening because I have too many other things going on that distract me.
Knowing that I’m like this, and reading about this tendency here, I’m surprised I wasn’t bent out of shape in my marriage. I was slightly demanding about going out and doing things together on weekends etc…but beyond that, I wasn’t really feeling gypped or undervalued. Go figure. Somehow my emotional criteria were satisfied.
Regardless, when I get into my next relationship, there won’t even be the danger of getting like this. I’ve already started taking greater responsibility for my own happiness…
Aug 4, 2012
This post really resonated with me. I’ve had a number of friendships that went very badly or just faded away because I was so intent on finding a “kindred spirit.” I was not a particularly good friend either because once that other person and I connected, and they became too clingy (or what I perceived as too clingy) I would distance myself almost immediately. I’m learning that you don’t have to have a friend who knows you inside and out. Nor do you have to spend every waking moment with them to be a real friend. That’s what journals are for. 🙂 Thank you so much for putting friendship into perspective. It’s really given me a lot to think about. I’ve read through a lot of your posts and I just love how spot on you are.
Oct 13, 2012
I’ve had clingy, obsessive and possessive friends that have made me horribly uncomfortable and trespassed on my inner space – I’ve had to cut them off which for me is hard as I need to make sure I’m justified first. Feeling guilty easily, I am therefore always vigilant about being guilty of doing the same thing. I take a long time to get close to others because I’m reluctant to be seen as needy and intrusive. I don’t get close to many people. I love my weak ties, too, but avoid getting too close so I’m not seen as clingy. Those who are closest to me, they get me so it’s okay; but even then, I’m on my guard not to invade their space too much. Live and let live I suppose
Oct 21, 2012
Once again, you’ve opened my eyes. This is seriously uncanny, just when I’m going through all this, your blog pops into my life. For that I’m grateful. You’re awesome.
Dec 9, 2012
I really appreciate this post. As an INFP, these are the same issues I have been dealing with. I am the only one from my close group of friends that lives out-of-state. The rest of them live 30 mins – 1 hr 30 mins apart from one another in the same state, and it’s been very hard on me. I have definitely been in the paranoid “these-people-don’t-value-my-friendship” mode, and I do feel like that might be the case on some level. I make a lot of effort to go see them, but they didn’t reciprocate. I now see how letting go of my expectations (very difficult to do) and operating on the strong & weak tie system would probably benefit me more.
Jul 11, 2013
Im just really curious.
Can you have a romantic relationship with a weak tie or doesie it need to be a strong tie? The kind of relationship that will last long term
July 11th, 2013 at 11:36 pm
Strong ties and weak ties are more about friendship type relationships than romantic relationships.
Romantic relationships can start with and introduction from weak ties, but then the relationship starts becoming a strong tie over time. The reference points that I have for this is from talking to friends who have left the goth club scene which I most often frequent. They met someone from outside the scene and as the relationship grew, they withdrew from the scene. They told me that the club scene and the friends they had for years didn’t really click anymore so their strong ties became weak ties as priorities shifted. They made new friends from a different scene and made new strong ties.
Jul 20, 2013
I am a solid INFP, and this has not changed in decades of retesting (as much as I wanted to move from an I to an E. Finally, acceptance. I identify with all of the comments made on this issue of friendship. I have tossed away strong ties because eventually they did not meet my “needs”. Little did I know that these needs were way beyond the scope of friendship. They were never going to fill those holes within me. The “best friend” I had as a child growing up, lost when a boy came into the picture was grieved to no end. No one could fill this spot, not even my partner. It caused a friend need that was never satisfied my entire life. I now see that the parameter I set up was so unrealistic. I am trying, seriously, to open myself up to weaker ties and lower expectations of my stronger ties. Those feelings of being let down run deep. It will take time. Thanks for all of your wisdom in this area and for providing INFP’s a place to share. Love it that I am not alone in this friendship struggle. I love the life in my head, but I know I can’t live there full time. Not healthy.
Jul 22, 2013
I have some further thoughts on this. I’m wondering if other INFPs relate. I’m fine with weak links and somewhat superficial connections based on a specific common interest. I think an element of that is healthy. However, the people most receptive to my type of intensity and need for deep connection seem to be artists and musicians. I’ve been vaguely aware of this for years and passive about it, i.e., when it happens, I jump right in, but I don’t aggressively seek out these types of connections (and thus often feel like I’m in an arid, barren social environment).
The two most intense friendships I had were with artists. Romantically, it’s been artists and musicians who have sought me out. An INFP still has to be careful in these situations about everything discussed in the article…but I wonder if those kinds of connections just naturally satisfy what we seek. I haven’t drawn any conclusions, just wondering out loud. Maybe if we gravitated towards these types more, we’d be more grounded. less restless. Or maybe not.
Aug 27, 2013
that is very true im needy/demanding but there’s nothing wrong with that, if i’m constantly texting my friend every 2 weeks to hang out and they show no effort. it’s perfectly fine in my book to just stop caring because you can’t keep being the one starting it – they don’t value your friendship.
October 16th, 2013 at 10:35 am
it could be they don’t have it in them to reciprocate as you would have them do. The world is full of many many people, and if you aren’t getting “value” in your current friendship, maybe it is the universe telling you to broaden your horizons and meet others with the same level of caring. Their idea of friendship differs from yours obviously, and that is ok as well, don’t dwell in the past, and don’t let that relationship flaw flow into the new ones you forge. Expectations are a strange and marvelous phenomenon, just don’t let your high ones deflate or sabatoge future associations, just keep meeting others and you will find a circle of influence that fills that void.
Sep 28, 2013
What a great post. Needed it…thank you ♥♥♥
Oct 16, 2013
I just discovered your blog and postings while researching my recently discovered INFP type. Through most of my life I wondered “what was up,” so to speak, in terms of my personality and why I sometimes felt out of place, often feeling as if I was the only one out there who felt this way. Your observations and comments are well thought and have given me another perspective. Thanks for sharing.
Oct 16, 2013
I really appreciate this post. High friendship expectations are a curse for the INFP and at some point in life we have to make some adjustments in order to avoid the inevitable disappointment that goes along with it. It has been a gradual process for me and is still evolving. When I was in my 20s I broadened my definition of friend to include what would be considered weaker-ties, and I at this stage in my life (I’m 42) I’m having trouble making even weak-tie friendships (moving on to online friendships! at least for now) so I’ve had to lower my expectations even further. I think sometimes the literature on introverts or INFPs can be misleading when they describe us as needing only a small group of close friends. This may be our ideal but life has other plans for us and we have to adapt. When I was younger I think I thought I was somehow not being true to myself or true to type by broadening my definition of friendship but really it’s a vital form of flexibility.
October 17th, 2013 at 1:18 am
I’ve been doing various experiments in my personal life over the last 2 years regarding the nature of connection. My problem hasn’t been creating weak-ties because my methodology is simplistic but effective. Find something I like to do and show up every week for at least a year. Say hi to people and I eventually start making weak ties after 6 months. That’s the methodology that’s worked for me. So there are places that I’ve shown up at for years or decades so I’ve met, know and talk to lots of people when I’m out if I’m feeling social.
The problem is creating connection. Because I can have really stimulating conversation with someone (which I did a few hours ago about the nature of relationships with someone who’s been a relationship coach for 20 years and is now getting her PhD), but at the same time not feel like you’re connecting. Connection is about vulnerability according to Brene Brown’s research into connection. I’ve learned you can be vulnerable to both weak and strong ties and the results have been interesting with varying degrees of success.
October 18th, 2013 at 10:54 am
I like your strategy. Health problems that lower my energy and make it hard to go out in the evenings have limited my efforts at making weak-ties, but I’m hoping that will change when I feel better. Just realizing a few years ago that I needed to spend more time around people on a regular basis was a step in the right direction for me. I’d always thought ‘quality over quantity’ but really, the amount of time spent with people–repeated exposure– makes a difference. I like to think that this kind of adaptability and willingness to experiment and reassess previously held assumptions is an INFP strength.
Dec 4, 2013
Thank you for posting this! I’ve wondered many times why I feel like I have very few friends. I just learned a little piece of info about myself–I have been dependent on a small group of friends, which in turn makes me feel lonely when they are busy. Wow, I love reading about INFPs. It sure helps me understand myself!! And I love how it totally pertains to me. Thanks again!!
Dec 7, 2013
Would you consider your partner a “best friend” so speak? A partner would (should?) fit all of the criteria for a “best friend” wouldn’t they? And if so, isn’t it easy to be very disappointed when they fail to meet all of the ideas we have for what a best friend is? Speaking for myself, I feel like I want my partner to meet more of my “best friend” needs, but maybe that is unfair? I’ve always felt that I do not need a big variety of friends, just one person whom I share a majority of my interests with. But like you said, maybe it is just too much pressure for one person, and maybe it is much healthier to branch out, yet I do wonder where our partners fit into this scenario – thanks!
December 7th, 2013 at 4:40 pm
My wife and I have discussed this and we consider life partner a completely different category than best friend. Because we define relationships by two things: boundaries and creation. What you create with a best friend is different that what you create with a life partner.
My wife and I shared a lot of interests when we first got married 17 years ago. But people change. You can’t assume that two people change in the same way. She still likes indie movies like she did 17 years ago. I, however, have changed and find many of them boring and pretentious. I still love going dancing every week. She has changed and doesn’t listen to the music that we liked back then.
Having the same interests may start a relationship, but not having the same interests isn’t what ends a relationship. Even your values change over 17 years. But as long as the values aren’t conflicting then the relationship can be maintained.
My relationship with everyone is defined by what I want to create with them. With some people, what I create is a relationship where we go see movies or play video games. That’s as much as I want to create with them. It’s easy. It’s not time consuming.
With my wife, the stuff we create takes time and effort. For example, creating abundance takes a lot of effort. How do we create more time, more money, more joy from life? What skills do we have to learn in order to do that? Do we both have to have the same skills or do I need to learn some skills and she needs to learn the other skills? What skills do we need learn to maintain a long term relationship where both of will change where at some points we grow apart and at some points we draw back together?
Relationships, especially long term relationships, IS NOT about finding the “right” person. Relationship ends because the relationships skills are not up to the task of solving the relationship problems. So the right person isn’t the person you has the same interests and the same values. Similar values are very important but they’re not the thing that makes relationships last.
The right person is the person who has the ability and more importantly the willingness to learn the skills to solve the difficult problems that end relationship.
You don’t get these problems with a best friend. You hang out with a best friend. You talk about similar interest like Rimbaud or Unified Field Theory. What you don’t do is have long hard discussions about finances because you don’t have to solve that problem with your best friend.
December 7th, 2013 at 9:46 pm
You’ve given me a lot to think about, thank you for your thoughtful reply. It really helped clarify some of the issues in my relationship of 25 years. Now I can use that brain space for something else (smile). Really, you’ve helped so much.
Jan 12, 2014
I cried and cried, and cried some more after reading this. May God bless you for sharing your insights. I’ve realized what I’ve been doing wrong! And I had no idea! I could never understand why I didn’t have “friends” when I’m such a kind, giving, humble, person…blah. blah. blah. I’m a 27 year old female, and a loner. Yet, after realizing this, I’ve realized how dumb and immature I’ve been! I’m literally SURROUNDED by fascinating people who have expressed interested in getting to know me, but I shut them out, labelled them as “acquaintances” not “friends” because I felt they don’t and can never “get me.” How silly! Also, this post has shown me how emotionally demanding I am and how my idea of friendship has put undeserved pressure on people! No wonder they all run away and days go by when I don’t get a single phone call (nor do I call anyone).
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. I feel embarrassed and sad. I wish I had know this earlier. But hey, it’s never too late and I’m still young. The best part about being INFP is we’re adaptable. So, adapting this new distributed model of relationship is what I will work on. 2014 is a new year! This is a beautiful world, with beautiful people in it. It’s my turn to make the most of it!I also want to thank everyone who has commented on this post. Reading them was also helpful.
Mar 19, 2014
This post has a slight rational aspect, and I suppose from this that as the time goes by, you gradually grow into T (thinking) rather than Feeling?… No critic, just curious because I feel like you are somehow rational (for an INFP) 🙂
March 19th, 2014 at 11:45 am
It comes down to understanding how cognitive functions work. Our dominant cognitive function is what we use to interact with ourselves. Our auxiliary is what we use to interact with the world. For INFPs, our auxiliary is Extraverted Intution (Ne).
I like Wikipedia’s definition of Ne:
Ne finds and interprets hidden meanings, using “what if” questions to explore alternatives, allowing multiple possibilities to coexist. This imaginative play weaves together insights and experiences from various sources to form a new whole, which can then become a catalyst to action. INFPs engage the outside world primarily with intuition. They are adept at seeing the big picture, sensing patterns and the flow of existence from the past toward the future.
What I write is my big picture of view of how INFPs interact with the world based on my observations. It’s also what I use as my basis for my interactions with the outside world.
Ben M Reply:
June 14th, 2014 at 3:05 am
Thanks so much for the site and articles, it’s great reading and you offer so much insight! I was classified years ago, but only just started researching INFPs recently. So much of this applies to my daughter and I that it’s ridiculous. So thanks for helping us to better understand how we work!
May 31, 2014
Thank you for this article. Its weird in some way because I haven’t had a best friend since elementary school. I’m now a upcoming college freshman, but this happen before I discovered I was an infp. Now that I look back at my life I know I perfectly suite a infp personality. Is this weird?
Aug 3, 2014
This has been a big help. I always had one best friend who I was always with. One throughout junior high and high school and one in college. I always assumed that when I found the right guy, that he would be my one person. I realized that I had a bad habit of putting too many emotional demands on him, which was impossible for him and just made me unhappy. I found this at the precise right moment in time. Thank you X 1000!
Aug 4, 2014
wow, i have the same system, but i never really had a way of explaining it as weak ties or strong ties. you’ve explained it so eloquently and respectfully. it gave me the perspective i needed. thank you. all the friends that i thought were my closest friends, really drifted apart, but never left my life…. and i realized that regardless of where we all are in the world, that connection will never leave. i’ve come to terms with that. i also feel that this article was just what i needed RIGHT NOW, at this point in my life. did i say thank you BECAUSE I’M GOING TO SAY IT AGAIN. you rock my socks.
Aug 26, 2014
This is too accurate oh my gosh. I feel like I wrote this. Thank you ☺
Aug 30, 2014
funny how I only realized just this a few days ago. My idea of friendship used to be like the ones in FRIENDS and Harry Potter, but no one ever fulfilled that. I have one friend who’s my “strong tie” and other kind of my “medium tie” and then my “weak ties”. During the summer I thought about how much pressure and standards I place on people to be die-for-each-other friends.
Now I’m happy. A few days ago I was stood up by a friend and I understood said friend very well and knew it must be mishap of communication, so I wasn’t upset. When my whole family came to pick me up I was happily surprised and found out they were expecting me to be a blubbering mess and my sister was ready to crush my friend for being an asshole.
I had to calmly explain to her what the situation actually was. Me.
It turned out that my friend overslept.
Sep 11, 2014
I stumbled across your blog tonight when getting my INFP recharge. The title drew me in as I have made a semi-conscious decision not to have a best friend since I was around 10 – 12 years old (I was actually just thinking about this today in traffic, but that’s INFP intuition for you!). I had thought until today that I was merely protecting myself from future hurt. However, after reading this I now know that my decision rather intuitive and not unwise. I, like Anne of Greene Gables, desperately desired a bosom friend with whom to share my heart, my life, my soul. That was a lot of pressure to be putting upon my pre-pubescent peers! The more I clutched, the more desperate I became to seek their approval, the more I drove them away. So I let the dream die. Every death comes at a cost, and the price I paid was to be content to life as a loner, standing outside of and only observing other people connecting meaningfully with one another. I am only now at the point in my life where I am learning to love myself and am seeking to connect meaningfully with other people. I strive to be gentle with ME, to block out that condemning voice in my head that tells me terrible things about ME. I listen more closely to others and am finding I am growing kinder overall (at least I think, I still struggle with not getting irate with fellow drivers with whom I share the road). I feel the childhood wonder and imagination reemerging, bubbling in my being. It’s joyful. Childhood for an INFP is a time of magic, and I have missed it so much. I have so much work to do! I am so introverted and it TERRIFIES me to consider approaching a complete stranger and introducing myself. I also love to dance, but I have not been able to muster up the courage to take a class. Baby steps and gentle progress….baby steps and gentle progress…baby steps and gentle progress.
Dec 2, 2014
This is a really fascinating blog. I am an INFP as well. I am just starting to know this at 42! lol. I have struggled with friendships all my life and I am just starting to see why. I would have such high expectations of anyone I felt worthy enough of bringing into my life. If we connected then you meant something to me. Only thing is that they didn;t see it that way…for them…who are social beings and like having loads of friends, I was just another friend. When I got very sick for a few years they all faded away. No one really took care of me like friends should, like i saw int he movies or like I see other groups of friends do. I felt so crushed and disappointment. Like a failure. Why did no one care about me and how i was doing. Why didn;t they rally around me and help me? Granted I am never the person who asks for help and always the person giving help…i think that is the key….. I thought I must really have misinterpreted my friendships. And thought, how did that happen, I am like the best friend a person could have!! But no one was asking me to be the best friend ever, I was volunteering for the job because that s what I thought a friend was supposed to be. Everything. I dont give everything anymore…..except to my husband.
So I quit. I stopped letting people in and if I did, i was scrupulous in choosing who to let it. Not very healthy alternative.
So now I am at a crossroads and need to smarten up and grow up and stop all this childish behaviour. I look at it like this. There is no more hierarchy of friends. There is just friends. No weak links, strong ties, BFF’s etc..no more categories of friendships. period. I simply have friends and they are all equal.
I have a best friend and he is my husband. We have been each others best friends for 13 years. ANd I am perfectly happy calling him my very best friend in the world. I adore him. Then there is everyone else…. my friends. They are all valuable in their own way. They all have a purpose. They are all equal. When I am getting clingy, needy, expecting, demanding, disappointed, awkward etc…..all those INFP feelings….I stop and say…OK what is the purpose of this friendship? What do I want out of it? Why am i feeling demanding or put out or disapointed? Sometimes it’s that the person is my hair stylist and even if i have known them for 20 years…they are still but a friend. But in the end, I get a great haircut and a good chat once a month. That is it. THAT is that ONLY expectation of that friendship . period. nothing more. I take no more and give no more. But that is as valuable to me as my long term 30 year friendships. WHy ? because I can get my hair cut perfectly, don;t have to make small talk, and have a friendly chat. I don;t try to turn those friendships into deeper ones anymore to feel like a functional person that is not a failure when it comes to friendships.. It is deep in and of itself in it’s own way and serves a great purpose to me…i have a lot of different needs and so i need a lot of different friends to fullfill those needs…..because damn it as an IFTP! I am super duper interesting 🙂
I just always felt like if I didn;t have a bunch of best friends i did everything with like everyone else, then i had somehow failed as a functional person in society, that there was something wrong with me. The thing is, if i had wanted that then i would have that. I HATE groups. I hate socializing in packs. ALways with the same bloody people….that is a nightmare to me. I am an inttrovert. Not a social butterfly. I relate to people tho=rough deep conversation. However i have realized i also relate to people in other ways that are JUST as meaningful and valuable. I am much happier this way. I like to be in control of when i socialize and having a group dynamic and high maintenance friendships means i can;t be an introvert and disapear for weeks on end….so this is the trade off…………everything in life has one. With freindships that need no maintenance i can hermit for weeks and no one would notice……To me that is a good thing….to sick me in the hospital that is a bad thing……..oh well…it is what it is.
Now if I could just figure out how to fit in in the workplace now that I no longer work independently…………i would be set!
December 2nd, 2014 at 8:13 pm
Thank you for a very thoughtful post, I can certainly relate. Corin’s entire blog is full of the most thoughtful & interesting people; I have learned something from each and every post. I love the fact that we are far from alone as we make our “unique” way through this world.
Jun 13, 2015
The strong ties and weak ties is an interesting concept. I wish I could be so black and white about it, but I like to make things more complicated than they actually are. I like the grey area a little too much. When it comes to people in general I place them into several different categories. I could explain my category system, but that be a bit time consuming and a lot to read. Therefore, I will stay on point. One category deals with potential friends.
I like the idea of potential friends, but the amount work one has to put into it is both time consuming and energy draining. It is difficult being an INFP because your potential friends assume they know you, but in reality they only know one part of you if that. New friendships is a two way street because the other person has to want it just as much as you do in order for it to work in the long run.
At this juncture of time, I am happy with the people I have in my life. I have several different family members that I must spend time with because if I don’t they get kind of annoyed with me. I have my two best friends. They are different from one another. One of them is an INTP and the other is ENFP(they also have different interests too).
The INTP friend conversing with her is so easy because I can just say a sentence about a topic and she gets it. This means I don’t have to explain myself in paragraphs and I can talk about several different topics at once. We both like to use sarcasm. I think out of everyone I know she is the one who comes closest to understanding me.
On the other hand, I have my ENFP friend who I like to talk to on the phone with. I usually hate talking on the phone, but with her its easy. I think its because I can talk about anything (the sky is the limit with her). She listens to all my non-sense, rants, ideas, etc. Not many people would be willing to do this.
Of course, misunderstandings take place even in strong friendships. It usually happens with my ENFP friend. I understand myself well enough to know that I am difficult person. With people in general I like to understand it from their viewpoint. This way I cannot be angry or upset about it. I can over analyze it too, to the point where it becomes ridiculous. Even I know when I take it too far.
Well I have rambled on for far too long. Perhaps, because this topic has been on my mind.
Jun 15, 2015
Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve always felt alone about feeling alone (sounds terribly sad, I know), and now I realize it’s because I stick adamantly to a small circle of friends and feel terrible when they don’t meet my high expectations. I will definitely keep this advice in mind; I need to grow personally and stop destroying myself over these things.
Dec 7, 2015
Thank you. Again, guilty of these.. And will apply.. Ive been stressed lately because of having fewer friends as I aged, I tend to ditch out friends….. Oh M G, what am I doing? I am just making myself hard. Thanks. Thanks! So much!!! 🙂
Aug 25, 2016
So accurate. I love reading your blog, it makes me feel that I’ve definitely grown. A few years ago, I reevaluated my attitude and values toward my friendships. I had a lot of similar thoughts and conclusions and now I am actively trying to live these values.
Oct 1, 2016
I find this really relatable, that INFPs tend to indulge in single dependency for friends, which I’ve come to realize that it is quite a dangerous thing to do, considering that if anything goes wrong with that relationship, you will be affected badly.
I remember I used to think that all I needed was one best friend, however, they have their own life too and cannot be by your side to cater to all your needs all the time. Now, I just accept for how things are. People come and go, and if one wants to befriend me, I will definitely accommodate. Thanks for the post.
Mar 3, 2017
Wow, this came to me at the exact right time. Great outlook for life and a model I will be embracing in my mid 20’s. xoxo 🙂
Jul 16, 2017
I have a question though, what happens when people you consider strong ties consider you a weak tie and muck you around or show they don’t value you?
e.g. a strong tie of mine who I had actually worked with day in, day out for four years, was invited to my hen do and 30th birthday celebration. I’d flown out to ibiza for hers but when invited to mine which was in london and cost £150 she said she couldn’t afford it despite having 5 months notice… However simultaneously I saw on her Facebook that she had flown out to Greece for someone else that we’d worked for’s wedding and again to a weekend in oxfordshire for a hen do.
Likewise a strong tie of mine kept scheduling to meet and then cancelling always giving the reason she’d been invited to something else. This happened before my wedding where she cancelled breakfast the weekend before I had my in laws and extended family arrive from Australia for my wedding to live with us. She cancelled because she wanted to go to a football match then the moment my inlaws arrived put considerable pressure on me to see her because she wanted to discuss my career and how to get into my line of work because she was having a crisi but whilst I had 7 australians living with me and was running around before my wedding. I let it go but then recently we scheduled two months ago to see each other and talked about the date in between and held both a Friday and a Sunday and then 5 days before she asks if I can do the Saturday because she’s made other plans on the Friday and Sunday.
My questions is, where is the balance of letting things slide because people are busy and also having some pride not to always be treated as the 50th option when they were one of your only first options?!
Feb 9, 2018
I am a young INFJ and I found this article very helpful and enlightening. I do find this very relatable. There were times I have gotten excluded or left behind by my “close friends” back when I was in school. I used to get disappointed over this. But now I am able to move on with my life and not become very attached to those kind of people. I did get good friends who will be accepting of me and share the same frequency as me. Other times, I do enjoy my own company and I don’t be around fake and manipulative people. Thank you so much for posting this article and I wish I could have read this earlier.
Feb 11, 2018
This is very interesting article. It was helpful for me as an INTJ, and I suspect in general for most people. Relationships of any kind present challenges for us all, but I really like your model of Strong or Weak Ties. I can see how this model takes the pressure off and adds variety, interest, and appropriateness to social interactions. Thanks!!
Mar 13, 2018
thank you so much for this article <3
Apr 10, 2018
Honestly this truly helps me. As I read this article I saw myself . This really helped me to understand that I am not alone in feeling like this as an INFP. And I realize that I want to understand myself. So thanks. This article truly helps.
Apr 14, 2018
Hi, i’m just read this article and feel super related to me. I think i have best friend (at least some of people that i think ‘best’ friends for me), but sometimes in the same time i feel their just not ‘the best’ one. I don’t know that maybe because i’m the one that super sensitive or what (anyway i’m an INFP). I always hope all people, specially my best friends can do something fairly just like i do to them, i always put priority to them so i hope they do the same, but that always disappointed me, and that’s really drain me out. I always come home with little bad mood or feel upset/disappointed. And recently i feel like want to get away from all of this and my life’s problem, i hope someday i can go abroad and live a new life with new friends but i just don’t want my friends think that i dump them or something like that. I hope they can understand my feeling without hurt anybody. I always feel like nobody (really) understand me. Sometimes when i feel really upset, i just sitting alone or play with my pets and suddenly i’m crying because of disappointment. But i’m glad to read your article, i feel like i’m not alone, at least there’s someone that feeling the same thing, so i feel i’m not the strange one. Thanks you for this :).
Mar 28, 2019
I am an Infp and the article is bang on with the way I am in relationships or friendships. Do you ever tend to oscillate between bouts of being very expressive, passionate and coming across as a very cold person?
Corin Nguyen Reply:
March 31st, 2019 at 11:53 pm
I come across as reserved, not cold. I’m very open and expressive with good friends. With people I don’t know, it really depends on my mood because I learned the necessary social skill and I’m pretty good with them. But what I tend to do at social functions is I tend to be expressive with my friends right away. I come up to them. I hug them. I ask them how their doing. I joke. All of this is in front of their friends who I don’t know or kind of know.
That way when I’m more reserved later talking to the people I don’t know. They know I’m just being reserved because they’ve seen me with my friends.
Jan 25, 2021
very spot on
Apr 17, 2021
Hi, very well written and relatable to me. I am going to apply this to my social life as well. Thank you for this article 🙂