Are you an INFJ personality type? Or maybe you’re an INFP. Unless you understand the subtle differences between these two Myers-Briggs personality types, it can be hard to decide which one you are. Both types are sensitive, creative, and compassionate. They care deeply about humanity and seem to possess an almost magical ability to understand and empathize with others. However, one difference is the way they deal with emotions—both their own feelings and the feelings of others. (Not sure if you’re an INFJ, an INFP, or one of the other 16 personality types? Take this free, quick test from our partner Personality Hacker to find out.)
INFJs absorb emotions.
If you’re an INFJ, you might feel like you’re a sponge who soaks up the emotional energy of other people. Empathy has been described as “your pain in my heart,” and for the INFJ, this description couldn’t be more true. Whether it’s a friend, a foe, or even a stranger you encounter in a restaurant or while walking down the street, you have the uncanny ability to detect and empathize with the emotions of others. Sometimes you feel others’ emotions so strongly that you experience them in your body as if they were your own. You may not even realize that you do this, because you’ve been doing it automatically your whole life.
INFJs use their dominant function, introverted intuition, to understand other people’s perspectives (the “dominant function” of any personality type is that type’s preferred way of thinking, gathering information, or interacting with the world). The INFJ’s secondary function (or second most-used way of thinking) is extroverted feeling, which puts other people’s emotions on their radar all the time.
Literally. All. The. Time. INFJs often report not being able to turn off this super power even when they want to. They’re always aware—sometimes hyper-aware—of how the people around them feel. This is especially true when INFJs are physically close to someone, like in the same room.
“This isn’t post-processing emotional experience,” explains personality profiler Antonia Dodge, co-owner of Personality Hacker. “It’s an emotion hitting the INFJ due to energetic proximity.”
In part, this explains why even though INFJs tend to be very social, they frequently retreat from others and spend time alone. This can surprise and hurt those close to the INFJ, who feel the INFJ is withdrawing from them and withholding time and attention. In reality, absorbing other people’s emotions is draining, so INFJs must get away from others to stop this process for a while and recharge. Being bombarded by other’s emotions also means it can be difficult for INFJs to tune into their own feelings. Spending time alone allows INFJs to reconnect with their own emotions and reflect on them.
As an INFJ, your ability to absorb others’ emotions is a super power that inspires incredible compassion and empathy for others. However, with great power comes great responsibility, or in your case, great opportunities to become overwhelmed and exhausted. Make sure you care for yourself and make decisions that are respectful of your own feelings and needs. Stay in touch with your own feelings by getting them out of your head. When you feel strongly, try talking about your emotions with someone you trust, and if no one is available, write about how you feel, then read your own writing. Whatever you do, don’t internalize your strong emotions, as introverts and INFJs tend to do. Because of your extroverted feeling function, you’ll feel at your best when you can, appropriately, release your emotions by expressing them outwardly.
INFPs mirror emotions.
On the other hand, if you’re an INFP, you’re extremely in touch with your own feelings because of your dominant function, introverted feeling. You don’t absorb other’s emotions directly like INFJs, but instead, you put yourself in other people’s shoes and imagine how you’d feel in a similar situation. Mature INFPs do this with incredible accuracy, because they’ve been mapping feelings within themselves their entire lives, explains Dodge. Because internally mirroring other’s emotions is so easy for INFPs, they may be surprised to learn that other people can’t come close to doing what they do. Furthermore, because of their introverted feeling function, INFPs are more private about their feelings and reactions, believing that their emotional experience is something very personal and sacred. They don’t share their feelings with just anybody.
Unlike INFJs, INFPs don’t have to be with someone in real time to reproduce their emotions. In fact, INFPs often have a special relationship with art, music, movies, and literature, because they can easily recreate within themselves the feelings of the characters or actors. They’re incredibly moved by artistic works in a way that few other types experience. This often propels INFPs to be quite artistic and creative themselves. They use writing, music, or art to recreate their own feelings for the world to experience—and they do it with surprising depth and accuracy.
Image credit: Deviant Art (la-child)
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