INFJ vs. INFP

By Boye Akinwande and Ryan Smith

In type comparisons like these, INFJ and INFP is perhaps the contrast that receives the most attention out of all the 120 possible pairings.

If you ask around the internet, you will sometimes get the rather snooty answer that since these two types don’t have any functions in common, the question of whether someone is an INFJ or an INFP shouldn’t really be an issue for anybody and it shouldn’t be possible to confuse the two types.

For our part, we agree that it is easier to distinguish between types that share no functions, as opposed to types that share two or four functions. That being said, however, it can still be difficult to tell these two types apart at times. Not least since both them seem to be quiet, sensitive, sympathetic and introspective on the emergent level.

Another similarity between the two types is that both of them seem to be naturally preoccupied with individual human nature and existential predicaments about the individual’s place in the world. With both types, one can often sense how these ruminations stem from a fundamental sense of alienation, that is, they do not appear to be quite at home in the world, and their actions and styles of thinking often give off a vibe of them being not quite built for this world.

Despite the surface similarities, however, the underlying cognitive patterns of the two types are very different. And it is by this difference that we shall know them.

Let us start with a general outline of each type.

INFJs

INFJs prefer Extroverted Feeling over Introverted Feeling. Since their Feeling is extroverted, they direct their sensitives outwards, towards the social environment. As we have argued in our earlier work on function axes, Extroverted Feeling and its complimentary thinking attitude, Introverted Thinking, tend to perceive objects and people to be more similar than they actually are. This style of cognition is somewhat akin to the Platonic Theory of Forms.

Since all people belong to such a Platonic universal class of people, it follows that one’s own existence is nothing but another expression of this same Platonic Form. Thus we are all in the same boat; all extensions of the universal principle. With INFJs, one common outcome of this “Platonic background cognition” is the notion that we are obliged to be good to others, inviting them to participate in the shared order of the universe, and to be open to accommodating their feelings and needs if we can.

As for their intuitive function, INFJs prefer Introverted Intuition over Extroverted Intuition. Of all the cognitive functions, Introverted Intuition is perhaps the least preoccupied with immediate reality or reacting to things in the moment. When faced with stimuli which they can’t understand or control, Introverted Intuitive types, that is, INFJs and INTJs, prefer to withdraw from them, seeking refuge in a familiar environment where they can brood on what they have encountered, coming up with new and creative ways of perceiving these stimuli so that the individual stimulus is subjugated to some ideational regimen that allows the Introverted Intuitive to make sense of what has taken place in their own head.

Taken together, the INFJ’s combination of Introverted Intuition and Extroverted Feeling tends to motivate them to come up with perspectives of abstract oneness and to factor in how each person fits into this abstract order. This holistic participation is no laughing matter for them, or something they can turn off at will. In fact, INFJs are often at pains to empathize with others – to sort out the messy pulp of their feelings and straighten it out so that it can be universalized and made to participate in the holistic order.

In spite of their cognition being much softer and more amorphous than that of the INTJ, INFJs can nevertheless share some of the dogged stubbornness that the INTJ is famed for. This stubbornness is simply the cost of doing business under the auspice of Introverted Intuition, which, as mentioned, is solipsistic and must be free to deal with external occurrences at its own pace. On the face of things, the stubbornness of INFJs may sometimes cause them to be mistaken for INFP types. But as we shall see, the cognition behind the obstinacy is really quite different in nature.

We will now move on to a general outline of the INFP.

INFPs

 INFPs prefer Introverted Feeling over Extroverted Feeling. Where Extroverted Feeling is attuned to the values of the social environment, Introverted Feeling is attuned to the values that are peculiar to the individual’s own consciousness. Consequently, INFPs follow their personal sympathies and values to a far greater extent. Therefore, INFPs are more exclusive, idiosyncratic, and personal where INFJs are more inclusive, universal and relational.

While the INFJ is prone to see objects and persons as expressions of some ethereal universal, INFPs are more inclined to see the same objects and persons as individual and distinct. Far from being variations on some ‘greater’ universal, they are profoundly particular and unique. Consequently, people’s emotions don’t need to be straightened out in order to be rationalized and universally accessible. Their emotions are their own. The quest of the individual is not to go higher into some supercelestial interrelatedness, but deeper into their own selfhood, exploring and manifesting their own values and passions in depth.

In other words, if INFJs think like Plato, INFPs think like Kierkegaard.

Thus, the INFP does not think of harmony as unison or fellow-feeling, but as giving everyone space to diverge, each into their own parallel world of highly differentiated personal affects.

With regards to Intuition, INFPs prefer Extroverted Intuition over Introverted Intuition. Of all the cognitive functions, Extroverted Intuition is perhaps the function that is the most readily open to new ideas. Where the intuitive perspectives of Introverted Intuition are thought up in solitude, representing the INFJ’s personal need to bring external stimuli under some common ideational heading, the impetus for the perspectives generated by Extroverted Intuition is often nothing more than a new idea or perspective in itself.

Since there is no greater background need that must be obeyed in the formation of such perspectives, the outpourings of Extroverted Intuition tend to be much more explorative and free-floating. Consequently, the perspectives formed by Extroverted Intuition are also more whim-driven and open, sprawling in the direction of anything new that holds the promise of an imaginative delight.

Taken together, the INFP’s combination of Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Intuition tends to heighten their appreciation of people and their wonder at getting acquainted with a multitude of differentiated natures, each going their own way with little regard for the “objectively correct” standards of socialization. On the face of things, the INFP’s receptivity towards the internal states, perceptions, and opinions of others may sometimes cause them to be mistaken for INFJ types. But as we have seen, the nature of their interest in others is really quite different.

We will now drill down to explore more of these differences.

Insights into Human Nature

As we have already touched upon, INFJs tend to develop grand holistic views of the world. These views are structured in terms of what is harmonious and shared and tend to have a transcendental or meta-empirical bent.

INFPs, by contrast, are more inclined to develop perspectives that go deeper into the individual personality and selfhood of each person they acquaint themselves with (as well as to differentiate their own perspectives and values to a greater degree than INFJs). One might say that the INFJ’s perspective is an amalgamation of individual and specific human values plus the universal, where the INFP’s perspective is dedicated exclusively to the exploration of individual human values.

Only the INFP’s perspective will thus be able to say that it has as its end the development and fleshing out of a uniquely particular and individual human being; a self that stands separately from the rest of humanity and the cosmos.

Thus, having the particular as its aim, and not the universal, one can often see INFPs champion a certain relativism and fondness for the marginalized perspectives that would otherwise not be given voice. Now, even the use of the term relativism implies some Introverted Thinking bias in the way we describe INFPs. Since the INFP’s inferior function is Extroverted Thinking, with it being repressed from consciousness, it doesn’t necessarily matter to INFPs how each of the unique and particular perspectives they develop will all fit together. As Kierkegaard has said, there is an irreducible difference between individuals in the world, which it would be foolish – and perhaps even oppressive – to try to breach. To INFPs, the best one can do is to take a stand for the basic human decency of each individual’s perspectives, to ensure they may be heard. Thus, INFPs are better suited to take stock of each specific human being and to capture what defines them as an individual.

All in all, while it is sometimes said that the INFJ is the “ideal psychologist type,” and there is indeed some truth to that, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that the INFJ is better suited to counsel people directly while the INFP is better suited to sit back and take stock of what makes each person unique.

We have already said that neither INFJs nor INFPs tend to be particularly at home in the world. We will end this piece by contrasting how their otherworldliness comes out.

Otherworldliness

INFJs have dominant Introverted Intuition and inferior Extroverted Sensation. Such a function arrangement may be likened to someone attempting to get a bird’s eye view of the cosmos; seeing things up from above in order to capture the “whole” of the world. They see how forests are formed, how rivers bend, and all sorts of other patterns for how entities interact and how each has a part to play in the whole. But they can only see each object from afar. In spite of their clear view of the whole, they will not have a very good vision of specific objects on the ground. All too easily, they will glaze over them.

INFPs, by contrast, have dominant Introverted Feeling and inferior Extroverted Thinking. With them, they are not so much taking a bird’s eye view of the whole from afar. Rather, with their repository of subjectively-developed sentiments and ideals they seem structurally maladjusted to the world as it exists with the many harsh logical trade-offs and “lesser of two evils” rationales that often seem necessary to navigate it. One could say that where INFJs have idealistic perceptions, INFPs are themselves idealistic with all their personhood and being.

If the INFJ is someone who hovers above reality, trying to get a bird’s eye view of it, the otherworldliness of the INFP is instead like someone traversing the world with invisible psychic walls up around them. Within the bounds of these walls exists a dream world defined by the INFP’s own rich collection of personal sympathies and values. The walls filter out how the individual is able to perceive the objective world of facts and things and necessary logical trade-offs. It can be difficult for the INFP to step outside of these walls – outside this dream world – and approach the external world directly and on its own terms. It can make dealing with the crudeness of the external world very difficult for them.

13 Comments

  1. I think sometimes we reject being labeled a certain type because we wish were another. The type that we aspire to be is often painted glamorously in our heads and maybe we feel that if there were some anchor we could hold onto, it would give meaning to our seemingly chaotic existences.

    In other words, if you got picked on in school, or if you were a frequent victim of unrequited love, or perhaps didn’t have society validate you (e.g. academically, or otherwise…) because you were too focused on your own interests, it’s nice to be able to retreat into a 4 letter code that reassures your identity and place in this world.

    I feel that everyday.

    I’m not going to lie. I have an N bias (and I think most us here do to). And that’s not entirely our fault. It’s very easy to internalize all the great things that have been said and implied about certain types and it’s hard to do away with these feelings. And I wish it were easier to determine my type. But I’m not sure if I ever will. I’m not looking for reassurance either. Deep down that feels kind of pathetic too.

    But the thing that keeps me up at night is that there is something repellent about my inner-core to others. Something perhaps linked to my type. Something that cannot be altered by will. Some form of limitation or something. That’s part about typology that scares me.

    I know you guys don’t believe that behaviour/outward appearance is an infallible means of typing someone, but (and sorry if I sound hoaky) do you think that our type makes radiate some sort of… energy that gets picked up by others and then we’re rejected or judged before we even get a chance to speak?

  2. without wanting to change the subject … you could put more South Americans on the site . my english sucks , sorry

  3. So to be fair then, INFPs are more suited to read people in a sense that they are more adept at understanding actual people and their actual emotions whereas INFJs study individuals in context of a model they’ve conceived through their holistic study of humans and their nature. Shouldn’t it make sense that INFPs are more of a psychological type and INFJ more like a sociological type.

    Very good read BTW.

  4. I have another point to make. I feel (some) INFPs have a range where they can empathise with you, only if you relate to their values at some level. I have seen INFPs being nasty to people they don’t like and completely refusing to see their point of view. Where as Fe types tend to understand you or at least make an effort to do so even when you’re totally at odds. Is this a fair assessment or just my experience?

  5. I think INFPs understanding of other people derives from their understanding of themselves. Basically, if an INFP wants to understand an arrogant person, he looks at himself to understand in what circumstances would he display similar behavior, and from trying to understand how himself would be if he was arrogant like that, he tries to understand the other person. So, it’s like for INFPs they are the patient on which they test their understanding, and from themselves they try to build bridges towards others. So an INFPs range of emphatising with others is related to how much they are willing to discover and analyze parts of themselves.

    Meanwhile a Fe user might not actually see the other person’s point of view, he just sees the other person needs consolation, and tries to give him the consolation that it’s suited based on what emotional vibe they give.

    I guess: Fe user want to understand vanity in people, looks how vanity is displayed in the interactions between people. Fi user wants to understand vanity in people, tries to understand his own vanity and what triggers it.

    So for example when Ledger played to Joker, he tried to understand the dark side that he repressed for the sake of being a good person. When Camus wrote Mersault, he probably tried to understand the apathy that was in himself. It’s interest to note that they can understand people who are vastly different than themselves, they just need to trace what lays inside themselves, as Fi users are better at tracing whatever emotions forms in themselves.

    Also, Fi might not be useful in their understanding of people but they try to be honest. Meanwhile Fe might not be honest but they try to be useful.

    I hope I understand things right. I’m a Fi user.

  6. @bobnickmad:

    I’m not sure it’s particularly useful to view honesty or lackthereof in INFJs as being tied to Fe. Rather, I think it’s more correct to say that Fe is subjugated to the Ni-Ti internal model of the world which the article alludes to by referring to Plato.

    Consider it from this angle. There’s a jerk out there, just a complete asshole. Two people, an INFJ and an INFP, are trying to accomplish some plan whose success, at least in their minds, would make things better for everyone around them. They argue and argue about what to do with this jerk. They both know that he’s, at least on the surface, opposed to their plans. The INFJ argues that they should at least try to talk to him. After all, he’s still human and the plan would also benefit him. The INFP recoils at the thought. He’s a jerk! Look at all these things he’s done that the two of them oppose! The INFJ admits the INFP is correct in their assessment, but leaning on their ideas about humanity reasserts that none of those things is severe enough for them to condemn him in their eyes. This causes conflict to emerge in the INFP’s heart. How could they hold true to their values of not-being-a-jerk? So, they come up with an alternative plan, one which would try to bypass the jerk entirely. The INFJ in response feels that this plan, by completely ignoring the jerk, might in fact cause him to be alienated from the outcome. This runs against the whole point of “everyone”. In the end, they can’t decide on a plan and wander off doing their own things, hanging onto the mutual goal.

    Now that I’ve finished that parable, I’m not entirely certain how clear it is. The point of it was that both types strive to be honest. Both types value authenticity to one’s inner self. However, since their inner selves are structured differently, they end up having different ideas of what constitutes honesty. From the point of view of the INFJ, it is the fact that we are, as phrased by Leonard Cohen, “creatures of a higher order,” that we should be honest about.

    I really don’t know if this has been helpful, but I hope you got something out of it.

  7. We live in an ES-majority world. I, too, am often dismissed beforehand simply because I’m not in the current moment or able to blindly speak about my surroundings or past, relatable experiences (which the topic at hand often seems surface-level and talkingtalking about myself or interrupting somebody else’s moment seems selfish). I often observe before speaking, even if for a second, and people pick up on the hesitation. People pick up that you may be thinking or wanting to get deeper into analysis and theories – for the most part, people don’t want to do this. It’s too revealing, or unecessary, or boring. My guess is that that’s what’s going on with you..? I’ve been training myself to speak about the moment and to go along the surface ride, talking about or pointing out things around us.. it’s hard when it’s not natural, but it’s doable. I like this website – it tells you how to approach/communicate with other types.

    http://www.personality-central.com/type-and-communication.html

  8. Sketch,

    Yes, ES types are soooo dumb. They can’t even imagine what a cat is unless one is right in front of them!

    But us IN types are so much smarter because we don’t care about the “real” world or “facts” – ES types need to understand that the real world is inside our heads, not out there.

    ES types are often fat too, and party and get drunk a lot. And they don’t wear underwear. And they’re obsessed with perfume and cars and cigarettes and guns and STDs. I’d never have a friend who was an ES!

  9. That might explain your perception of them, cause this is not only oversimplifying, but also misaimed and hypocritical. I am not saying, that some ES are not like that. They are. But so are some INs cause inferior Se seeking thrills or Si wishing to be comfy and within familiar, or something. High S can make you amazingly sporty and well balanced in regards to physical, high S can make you reliable, quick when needed and to the point. High S can make you very sensible. High S keeps things running smoothly and acomplishes great things. High S gets things done and keeps things from falling apart. Without high S people N people would have really hard time functioning. Same goes for S people, without N people. And as for preference for world outside and inside head, world outside can give you food for your head and many things in world out there actually came from someone’s head that you value so much.
    Or you are ironic and what I have written is one epic fail… In that case, good joke.

  10. On behalf of parable… As I relate to it, I do not really care what that jerk has done before and thinks now, but if I have a hope of persuading him and fitting him within framework. If I am fairly certain that I can win him over and it is going to work, I will talk to him. If I am certain, that I can’t safely get him on our side, I will try to bypass him without further efforts or downright ride through him. Where does that place me?

  11. Hey Admin, I was wondering what you think regarding Lao Tse’s personality type:
    As far as we know, it is not 100% clear if Lao Tse was an actual historical figure, or just a pseudonym (especially considering Lao Tse means “Old Master” when translated), but regardless of that, I feel that a very certain kind of personality and thinking transpires when reading his main Work, the Tao Te Ching. I’m trying to understand the Tao Te Ching, and from my viewpoint, I feel that it’s most likely that he’s an INFJ, or perhaps an INFP, or somehwhere in-between.

    What hunch do you have about his type, purely regarding from what transpires from the Tao Te Ching? (I assume you read into it as well because you already made the “Lao-Tse, Heraclitus, and Jung”-infographic)

  12. Oh and by the way, if you want to read more into it, the best source I’ve yet found for it was this site:

    https://www.yellowbridge.com/onlinelit/daodejing.php

    It has 3 of the best translations alongside each other, chapter for chapter, and if you hover the cursor over the Chinese Characters, you can even see their original meaning :D

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