By Boye Akinwande
People who use a classical function-based approach to typology, like we do on this site, often confuse ENFPs and INFPs with one another because they have the same functions in almost the same order. The two NFP types are the only types with Fi and Ne as their uppermost functions and Si and Te as their lowermost ones. This means that if all the INFPs of this world were to magically disappear, the type that would be the most suitable to fill in for them, consciousness-wise, would be the ENFPs and vice versa. On the other hand, while the difference in function arrangement between these two types is a slight one, since they have all the same functions in almost the same order, the psycho-dynamic approach to typology will nevertheless reveal some subtle but identifiable distinctions between them.
ENFPs have dominant Ne and INFPs have dominant Fi. Like ENTPs, who are sometimes said to be “the most introverted extroverted type,” some ENFPs may at times be mistaken for introverts, since Ne need not be bubbly or springy with regards to social demeanor, but might as well be introspective, internal, and reflective. Regardless of whether an Ne type’s actual behavior is extroverted on the trait level, however, Ne is always extroverted in a Jungian sense, since it invariably draws its stimulus from external conditions. The reflective sprees of Extroverted Intuition will rarely remain in the subjective and introverted realm for as long as the sprees of the Introverted Intuitive type; Ne does not read more and more subjective and archetypical meaning into the external conditions until it has created a web of subjective meanings the way Ni does. Rather, the process of Ne typically moves from external stimuli to quickly exhausting all the ideational and associative suggestions that are readily apparent in these stimuli, and then on to the next external stimuli.
This process is very different from the process of Introverted Feeling, which is the adaptation that is dominant in the INFP. As suggested above, the primary driver of the consciousness of almost all ENFPs is the chase of new possibilities and new ideas. Their natural compulsion is to continuously search for these new potentialities. Though they also have strong likes and dislikes, they are, as a rule, open to exploring any new idea that reaches them from the external realm.
Now, as said, INFPs have auxiliary Ne, so everything we’ve said above will also, as a rule, be somewhat true of them. However, at the end of the day, the INFP’s dominant cognitive process is Fi, which means that rather than being first and foremost orientated towards possibilities in new and unfamiliar ideas encountered from the outside they are, as van der Hoop has said, somewhat inclined to shield themselves from the influence of external conditions. They do this because they are at heart more orientated towards their own subjective evaluations and sympathies. In other words, the INFP will typically have less of a problem shutting themselves off from external stimuli that appear threatening or irrelevant to their inner world. With them it is the inner world that determines the outer potentialities, and not the other way around.
Another way to look at this difference is by looking at the lowermost functions of the types. ENFPs have inferior Si whereas INFPs have tertiary Si. One consequence of these orientations is that the INFP’s cognitive life will generally be more organized and structured than that of the ENFP, which has no conscious Sensation to stabilize it and give it continuity. That is to say, the ENFP will more readily latch onto a new idea with passion and enthusiasm, but as a rule, they will also be quicker to leave this same idea again once the fire of novelty has died out. INFPs are more serious and deliberate about which ideas will even be allowed to have their day in court, but the ones they do give a hearing will be more cautiously and meticulously evaluated. With the aid of tertiary Sensation, more stable entities will be allowed to take form in the psyche of the INFP.
This is not to say that this trade-off is unequivocally in the INFP’s favor, however, because while ENFPs have inferior Si, they also have tertiary Te, which is the inferior function of the INFP. This means that compared to the INFP, the judgments and associations of the ENFP tend to be more in touch with real-world factors. They engage with their observations more directly and consequently the psychic output of ENFPs will, as a rule, be more immediately applicable to the real world than that of INFPs.