How to Spot an INTJ at School (Rewritten)

Good news, everyone!

So, this is a new version of an older post I wrote back in 2017 on my old blog. You can read it here if you like. It was easily my most popular blog post with nearly 9,000 views. Wanting to improve upon it, I decided to rewrite it. Let’s see how I got on with it.

I originally wrote this a couple of weeks after my 10 year high school reunion. It had been a disappointing night because I’d had a plan for the night that fell through, and honestly, it felt like I was back in high school. I once again felt like a misfit amongst my former classmates. You know, once upon a time, I theorized it was possible for a person to have a primary and secondary personality, but I don’t believe that anymore, and my experience at my reunion proves it because I felt the same that night as I did back in high school. Well, anyway, here’s how to spot an INTJ at school. Here are ten things to look for. how to spot an INTJ at school 

  1. A Willingness to Bend or Break Rules that Seem Nonsensical or Unimportant
To Catch a Predator suspects

INTJs have an interesting relationship with “the rules”. On the one hand, we appreciate their presence as they help maintain order, since there are some people out there that just shouldn’t be allowed to rule themselves. (I’m looking at you, sexual predators from To Catch a Predator.) However, INTJs don’t abide by every rule themselves. It can be difficult to know which rules an INTJ will be abide by and those they won’t, but they can generally be summed up into two categories—those that are nonsensical/contradictory and those that are unimportant. how to spot an INTJ at school how to spot an INTJ at school

An example of a nonsensical/contradictory rule (or law rather) is that here in Michigan a license plate must be re-registered every year. I know because I’ve been ticketed for it twice. How did the police know my registration was expired? We put stickers on our plates designating the year they’re registered for. The reason why I hate this law, besides having been cited for it twice (once wasn’t my fault), is that if the car, the plate, and the driver all don’t change, what I am re-registering year after year? It’s purely a money making scheme for the state.

But as this is a guide on how to spot INTJs at school, let me give you an example of an unimportant rule from my school days. Back when I attended Bishop Foley, the dress code was strangely strict in some ways and lenient in others. For instance, even though it was a private high school and business casual uniforms were required, when I went there, we were allowed to wear any shoes we wanted instead of needing to wear dress shoes. Belts were also not required when wearing slacks. These were two things that were required when I went to Notre Dame, which had a similar dress code. Anyway, part of the dress code specified that we weren’t allowed to have our sleeves rolled up. Well, guess what I did? Yep, I rolled them up. Aren’t I a bad boy?! how to spot an INTJ at school how to spot an INTJ at school how to spot an INTJ at school

I really wanted a picture of the school itself. I couldn’t find one.

But, seriously, the dress code at Foley was nonsensical (in a few places) and our sleeves being rolled up was unimportant. In fact, it was so unimportant that I never got in trouble for it. Not once. Plus, since I didn’t like Foley at the time, it was my way of rebelling against the school, although it didn’t deserve my scorn. 

But, anyway, if you’re wondering where this sudden “bad boy” attitude comes from, especially when considering the sometimes straight-laced INTJ, it’s likely an expression of Te-Fi—if the rules don’t make sense, we do what we please. So, if you find a rule breaker amongst the ranks of rule breakers that no one would suspect of being a rule breaker, likely he is an INTJ who broke a rule that was nonsensical or unimportant. 

  1. Does Their Own Thing Regardless of What’s Popular or Expected

INTJs are individualistic, to put it nicely. We really don’t care about what’s popular or what’s in. We also resent it when people assume we’re interested in something simply because we match the basic requirements of the group to whom the interest applies. I hate it that people assume I’m going to have children some day, or that I have a crush on whatever female celebrity is popular just because I’m a guy, or when they assume things about me based on my age. I especially hated this back when I was a teenager. No one knows an INTJ like we know ourselves. This is why we derive so much pleasure from being different from everyone else—we bucked the system and gave you an unexpected result. how to spot an INTJ at school

Detroit Tigers logo

The place where you are most likely going to see this sort of behavior is in school, and probably high school because that’s when we are most interested in defining our individuality. So, what’s an example of this behavior? Well, back when I was at Foley, there were times when we were allowed to ditch the uniform, but we had to follow specific rules on what we could wear in order to ditch it. One time, we were allowed to come to school in Detroit Tigers swag, and another time we could come to school in costume for Halloween. Well, being an INTJ, I have no interest in team sports and the uniform wasn’t so unbearable that I would rather go to school dressed like a buffoon, so both days I wore my uniform. Course though, on Halloween a girl made fun of me for doing so, and I made fun of her right back for dressing up. So, if you want to pin point the INTJ, look for someone not following the crowd.

Although, I should mention that this behavior isn’t just restricted to avoiding what’s popular or expected. It can also take the form of unilateral action. For instance, if an INTJ finds himself in a group where everyone wants to do one thing and he really doesn’t, the INTJ will ditch the group altogether and do whatever he wants. Sometimes this maneuver comes off totally unexpected, usually because no one could’ve foreseen the INTJ feeling so strongly about something that doesn’t seem to matter. This is our well-developed Fi function at work. So, another way to spot an INTJ in your school is by looking for the kid who can go the opposite way of his friends. how to spot an INTJ at school how to spot an INTJ at school

  1. Sees Work Ethic as a Reflection of One’s Worth and Integrity

INTJs are not work-a-holics. We may give that impression, but there’s a reason for that. See, we see our work ethic as a reflection of our worth and integrity. It reflects our worth in that many of our highest held values can be seen in completing our work. Among those values are diligence, competence, and responsibility. We hate being told we’ve overlooked something, we’re bad at something, and disappointing our teachers, mostly because responsibility is a cheap way of getting good grades. (Seriously, responsibility is a major part of the participation trophy phenomenon.) The better work we can do, the more work we can do, and the better we can do more work, the higher our self worth because being able to do better and do more work gets us higher grades, which should predestine us for success in life.

But, what about integrity? Why would our work ethic reflect our integrity? Because INTJs are honest. That’s not to say that we can’t lie—we’re actually very good at it—but because we often choose virtue over vice (probably because we don’t like hypocrites, and hypocrites are basically liars), that means we choose honesty and trust. We want people to trust us, which means we need to be honest, so we hold ourselves to the highest standard we can. As a result, we have a strong work ethic, even for projects and assignments that may prove pointless—we must prove our worth, and in order to do so, we must adhere to our principles. If we slack on our work ethic, we’re not being true to ourselves. This is another example of Fi at work. And so, if you see someone in your class taking an obvious busy assignment seriously or won’t let anyone copy off him, there’s a chance he’s an INTJ. how to spot an INTJ at school

  1. Likes to Work Alone
The actual fascia of Notre Dame HS in Harper Woods, MI before it was closed.

This should seem like a no-brainer considering INTJs are introverts. Unfortunately, it isn’t, because some introverts actually work well with groups. So, why is it that group work is anathema to INTJs? Well, if you remember my point about how INTJs treat work ethic as a reflection of their worth, it should be clear. To INTJs, laziness and incompetence are horrendous vices, and they’re vices INTJs do their damnedest to avoid. And since they base their own self-worth on their work ethic, guess what! They judge everyone by this same standard. So if you don’t have good work ethic, you’re not worth their respect. And as it turns out, there’s always someone in a group that doesn’t pull their weight. (Sometimes there are several people who don’t pull their weight.)

What makes matters worse is that INTJs have certain ideals regarding what they want to get done and how, and when they have to work with other people who don’t share the same vision or enthusiasm, it can be incredibly demoralizing. Yes, that’s right. INTJs can get excited about something. But, just like everyone else in the world, when that enthusiasm isn’t shared, they lose their own. And after many years of working in groups at school, INTJs just learn to accept that no one cares and they settle for mediocrity, which they abhor. Of course, it can go the other way where the INTJ isn’t passionate about the topic that the group chooses, and then feel trapped and may take their frustrations out on the group. But, anyway, if you know someone who doesn’t like group work, that’s another sign of a potential INTJ. how to spot an INTJ at school

  1. Being A Misfit or Outcast, even Among Friends, but Completely Comfortable with It

Going hand-in-hand with our strong individual nature, INTJs are often misfits or outcasts, even amongst their own friends. Like I said, it’s not unusual to see INTJs go left when the group goes right. As a result, it’s not unusual for INTJs to be cut out from the group. Of course, though, to some extent, we never really consider ourselves as part of the group. I’m not sure where this feeling comes from—perhaps it’s from years of being cast out due to our differences—but I can tell you that the bigger a group becomes, the less we feel like we belong. I don’t know if it comes about as a result of Group Think, especially in high school where everyone wants to be cool, but the bigger the group, the more INTJs think differently from the group. Perhaps it’s self-preservation so that the INTJ doesn’t feel lost among all the personalities. how to spot an INTJ at school

Regardless of how or why it happens, it happens. INTJs are just naturally attuned to being the hermits of society, living on the fringes. But you know what? We’re happy with that. We can survive like that. Sure, sometimes we get lonely, but being a misfit doesn’t doom one to loneliness. Loneliness and self-imposed exile are two different things. As a result, so long as we don’t get lonely, or we separated ourselves from the group to preserve our selves, we’re completely comfortable being alone. To some extent, we don’t really desire a role within society because we know we don’t fit in, and to some extent society doesn’t fit in with our grand plans. So, when you’re at school, look for the person who seems at home with being alone or even on the outside of things.

  1. Otherworldly Detachment or Disinterested in the Mundane

Due to the fact that Ni is an INTJ’s dominant function, it’s not that surprising that INTJs have a detached attitude toward life. Now, I don’t mean that we don’t care what happens, we actually care quite a lot, but we’re not really worried about the mundane, physical world. We don’t care what’s popular, what the current gossip is, and we don’t care about what’s cool. But this detachment shouldn’t be mistaken for a “chill” attitude. INTJs don’t have any chill. Rather, we are selective about what we focus on. Ni is focused on figuring things out, finding the answer to life’s most difficult questions. It looks up and outward, toward a higher plane of existence. It’s a transcendental function. It seeks the wisdom of other worlds rather than worrying about the wisdom of the tactile world. how to spot an INTJ at school how to spot an INTJ at school

  1. Presents in a More Formal or Serious Way

It’s hard to say which of the INTJ’s functions are most responsible for this sort of behavior. Te is likely the main influence due to its logic-based approach to life. Logic looks for the most direct route to any solution, which includes socializing. So, while INTJs can come off as brusque when they’re simplifying things as much as possible, generally, they allow for some manners than that because of how far a little etiquette can get a person. People love a class act (and a snazzy dresser). Despite what some people believe, taking the mannerly route is the one of least resistance. Anyway, Te is mainly responsible for this, but what about the other functions? how to spot an INTJ at school how to spot an INTJ at school

“Cause every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed man!”

Well, I imagine Fi has a little to do with this as Fi is focused on making sure that the individual is not hypocritical. Fi ensures that the old adage of “treat others as you would want to be treated” is enforced, and because Fi wants the individual to be respected, it ensures respect is given. As for Ni and Se, it’s possible that Ni is centered on a specific ideal of how to present oneself, and while Te and Fi make sure the speech patterns and internals are taken care of, Se makes sure the externals are in order. Like I said, people love a snazzy dresser, so Se ensures formal attire or more formal attire (i.e. dark colored clothes and long sleeves) is selected over more casual attire as a means of demanding respect without needing to earn it.

So, if while at school you see a person who is well-groomed, prefers wearing darker colors, long pants, long-sleeve shirts, prefers a “dressier” sense of style, and conducts themselves with an attitude from a bygone era, it’s possible you have found yourself an INTJ. Course, though, chances are equally good you found yourself an ENTJ, so you will need to look at the other hints.

  1. Quiet/Low Energy
The Irish Wolfhound. A low energy doggo. (Although, if INTJs were a dog breed, they’d be Dobermans.)

Given that INTJs have Ni and Te as their dominant and auxiliary functions, respectively, it really is no surprise that they are quiet, low energy people. You see, it’s one thing to have their dominant function be introverted, but what makes it as quiet and as low energy as it is, is that Intuition is a perceiving function. It prefers to sit back and observe what’s going on rather than make judgments. When you combine Intuition with introversion, however, what you end up with is a focused and detached cognitive function. How can it be both focused and detached? Well, it’s detached from the mundane, easily seen matters of the world, and ends up focusing on the ethereal, hard-to-see matters of the world. It is always looking for the answer to everything. It observes, processes, and concludes, which means you end up with a passive individual (on the outside anyway—there’s a lot going on on the inside). how to spot an INTJ at school

Moving onto Te, one would think that because it’s extraverted, it should be loud and brazen, but it isn’t. Consider ENTJs for a moment: they have Te as their dominant function, and while opinionated and stubborn, they’re not what one would call a classic extravert. They’re focused, just like INTJs, but their auxiliary function is Ni, meaning there is some overlap between the two. Anyway, because Thinking is a logic based function, especially Te, it’s more of a cerebral function. For lack of a better description, it’s a thinking function. So, when you have a personality with these two functions on top of the function stack, you get a person who prefers to think, to observe, to work things out for themselves, and try to figure out what everyone else seems to be missing. And these actions can’t be done when you’re bouncing off the walls or interacting with others. how to spot an INTJ at school

So, if while you’re at school you see a person who seems more like a passive observer of life rather than a participant, but who also seems to be thinking about what’s going on around him rather than just letting it all pass without any consideration, you may have found yourself an INTJ.

  1. Doesn’t Stick Out (or Try To)

A few years ago I saw a post on Pinterest that listed the super powers of all the types. Apparently, INTJs have a power called meta-camouflage. This differs from regular camouflage in that not only does it give INTJs the ability to disappear into their surroundings, but it also gives them the ability to disappear from people’s minds and memories. Let me give you a few examples.

  1. Back in the day when AOL still had Instant Messaging, I got the username of a girl that my group of friends would sometimes talk to and tease after school. So, I contacted her and identified myself, but she didn’t know who I was. I tried describing myself to her, but she confused me for a couple of my friends instead. Generally, I don’t mind not registering in people’s minds for the same reason that I hate name tags (I want to have the power to give people authority over me or memory of me), but this particular time was most frustrating. There were only five of us in that particular group, and I was the tallest one. However, being 6’5” doesn’t make me any more noticeable.
  2. Another time in my high school career, I walked up to and stood next to a classmate of mine at a football game. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want or need to, and I assumed he saw me out of the corner of his eye. Well, he didn’t, and he got a major shock when he looked right.
  3. Lastly, this actually happened to me at my last job. I had to move my office down the hall to a more populated area, however, due to my silence, the women who shared the common office space with me often forgot I was there. One time I overheard one of their conversations about all the nasty things that can happen during the act of giving birth, which they quickly felt the need to censor after remembering I was there. how to spot an INTJ at school

So, that’s another thing about INTJs—we have the uncanny ability to disappear in plain sight. We don’t stick out, and we don’t try to. I’m not entirely sure where this ability comes from, especially since there have been multiple posts on Instagram lately that keep suggesting INTJs have a knack for persistently bumping into things, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of our Ni and Se functions. Like I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, Ni is a quiet and focused function, and when you’re as practiced at using it as we are, falling into its quietness is easy. After doing so, Se projects that quietness like an aura and shields us from all notice. And it is quite the feat for some of us. Like I said, I’m 6’5”, walk quickly, and weigh well over 200 lbs. I’m about as subtle as a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerine plant, and yet, people still don’t remember seeing me.

There are seven INTJs hiding in this picture. Can you find them? (Image sourced from Pixabay by user bedrck.)
  1. Dark or Sarcastic Humor 

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of silly and nonsensical talk that takes place at school. Seriously, high schoolers are stupid, and you can tell by what they find funny. Apparently, most high school boys think there’s nothing funnier than drawing a penis on everything, or finding creative ways of getting away with it. I mean, I don’t, although “eight equals D” (8=D) does have a certain charm to it. Anyway, something you’ll find true amongst INTJs is that they don’t have a normal sense of humor. For one thing, they don’t seem to pick up on “regular” humor. There have been multiple times in my life where someone someone has been joking with me and I proceeded to explain/defend myself rationally. But where INTJs tend to shine is when they make a dark joke or are being sarcastic. We have a way of putting things that gets people’s attention. What is that way? I think it’s when we’re being blatantly honest. We either sneak it in when no one expects it or it happens when we’re 100% done with everyone’s bull shit. As for sarcasm, well, I’m sure you’ve heard that we’re such masters at it that most people can’t tell when we’re joking. Although, when we want someone to like us, we will practice self-deprecating humor, but we won’t engage in it when someone else is trying to deprecate us. (Either we’ll get offended because what they’re saying isn’t true or we’ll shrug and nod because it is.)

So, if you know anyone at your school who occasionally sneaks in the dark humor, or laughs at dark humor when ordinarily they’re quiet and stone faced, or they can crack a sarcastic remark with a completely straight face, you may have found yourself an INTJ.


So there you have it. You have ten ways of telling if someone at your school (or place of business) is an INTJ. Are there more? Probably. Can some of these extend to other types? Most definitely. Like I said, ENTJs can be confused for INTJs under certain circumstances, and in others, you’re likely to trip over INTPs or INFJs. The one notable exception is ISTJs—I think they’re too normal to be mistaken for any of the other four. INFPs are another type you’re not likely to mistake for an INTJ. Remember, a single hint or clue won’t be enough. You have to look at the whole picture. You need to find someone who has dark humor, doesn’t stick out, is exceptionally quiet, is more formal than most, possesses a detachment from this world in exchange for the attachment of another, is comfortable being an outcast, hates group work, but treats their work as a value of self, does their own thing, and while being a proponent of the rules, doesn’t mind breaking those that seem unnecessary or contradictory. Course, though, to make your life even more difficult, it is also possible that not all ten points apply to all INTJs. Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha! Suck on that, peasant!

But, what do you think? Did I nail this or miss the mark? Are there any common traits that INTJs share that I missed? Let me know in the comments. how to spot an INTJ at school

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