INFP or INFJ?  7 Ways to Tell Them Apart

IntrovertDear.com INFJ or INFP

On the surface, INFPs and INFJs are very similar. They’re both described as idealistic, moralistic, misunderstood, and empathic, among other things. Because of these shared descriptions, it’s not uncommon for INFJs to mistype as INFPs, and vice versa. I, for one, thought I was an INFJ when I’m actually an INFP. The more I learned about INFJs and INFPs, the more confident I became in identifying my true type.

So, let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between INFJs and INFPs:

1. Their differences go beyond just one letter.

The Myers-Briggs personality model is based on Jungian’s cognitive functions, in which each type can be represented by the order of the eight cognitive processes. These functions are Se, Si, Ne, Ni, Te, Ti, Fe, Fi, in which the lower case e or i represents whether the function is directed outwards (extroverted) or inwards (introverted).


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For instance, Ne represents Extroverted Intuition, a cognitive function that interprets situations by picking up meanings and connections from external data. In contrast, Ni represents Introverted Intuition, a function that foresees implications and “what will be” apart from external data.


As Heidi Priebe explains, identifying which functions you use–and in what order–is the most accurate way to type yourself or anyone else. So, lets take a look at the INFP’s and INFJ’s functions:

INFP: Introverted Feeling (Fi), Extroverted Intuition (Ne), Introverted Sensing (Si), Extroverted Thinking (Te)

INFJ: Introverted Intuition (Ni), Extroverted Feeling (Fe), Introverted Thinking (Ti), Extroverted Sensing (Se)

Surprisingly, although INFPs and INFJs are only “different” by one letter, they actually don’t share any of their main functions!

2. INFJs are dominant perceivers, while INFPs are dominant judgers.

The “P” at the end of INFP stands for perceiving, and the “J” at the end of INFJ stands for judging. Yet, these two types have dominant functions that do the opposite! Fi is a Judging function, meaning it approaches life in a structured way, with the goal of controlling one’s environment. Ni is a Perceiving function, meaning it seeks to adapt to the world and understand it. So, at times, INFJs may act like perceivers, unhurriedly observing the world with their only goal being to understand it. Likewise, INFPs can be very decisive and ambitious, especially when they feel motivated and inspired. For this reason, INFJs are often confused for INFPs, and vice versa.

3. INFJs are social chameleons, whereas INFPs are highly individualistic.

Ni combined with Fe makes INFJs seek harmony in their relationships. They want to create positive feelings in social situations and avoid conflict. For this reason, INFJs can be social chameleons. They adapt to other people’s personalities, sometimes mirroring other people’s body language, tone of voice, etc., to make them feel more comfortable—and can appear to be quite extroverted. Likewise, INFJs have a profound understanding of human nature, and they seek to convey these visions in a way that other people will be able to easily grasp. INFJs enjoy providing people with guidance and counsel as it gives them more insight into the human condition.

Whereas INFJs are social chameleons, INFPs are highly individualistic. INFPs use Fi to live authentically and according to their internal values and feelings. Although INFPs do value harmony in their relationships, unlike INFJs, INFPs are opposed to the notion of sacrificing their individuality simply for the sake of harmony or the greater good. For INFPs, the idea of losing themselves to the homogeneity of the mob is terrifying. They prefer that everyone stays true to themselves. INFPs are also empathic and often find themselves investing in the lives of others, to help people reach their potential and to become their most authentic and ideal selves.

4. INFJs and INFPs act differently under stress.

For all personality types, the inferior function (fourth function) can manifest uncontrollably when under stress. The INFJ’s inferior function is Extroverted Sensing (Se). Se acts impulsively and focuses on the present moment that takes place in the physical environment. So, stressed INFJs may make decisions without thinking through the long-term ramifications—which is unusual for INFJs, who typically are cautious decision-makers and thoroughly consider the consequences of their actions. INFJs may also overindulge in physical pleasures like eating, drinking alcohol, or shopping.

INFPs, on the other hand, exhibit ruthless Extroverted Thinking (Te) when under stress. Te is concerned with organizing, systematizing, applying logic, and creating order and structure. Under stress, INFPs may no longer appear to be their usual compassionate and open-minded selves. Instead they may become cold, critical, and judgmental of themselves and/or other people. For example, they may criticize someone for not doing something in a particular way, picking at their errors and flaws.

5. INFJs focus on one major insight, whereas INFPs bounce from idea to idea.

The goal of Ni is to filter out biases and refine perception to arrive at “one truth.” This could mean spending a significant amount of time and energy contemplating a single idea and seeing how it fits into a unified system of thought. This is similar to how Plato scrutinized and broke down the various functions of individuals in a society in order to arrive at his ideal state that he describes in Republic.

In contrast, INFPs use Ne to entertain different ideas and possibilities. They are also more comfortable with uncertainty and spontaneity because this is their way of absorbing information from the world. As a result, INFPs may have many hobbies and interests that feed their need to explore new things. They may have a hard time committing to a particular goal, but this trait also makes them flexible and adaptive to the world.

6. INFJs absorb emotions, whereas INFPs mirror them.

INFJs use Fe to tune in to other people’s feelings. They even absorb other people’s emotional states and experience their feelings as if they were their own. Because INFJs are often so focused on other people’s feelings, they can be oblivious to their own feelings—until those feelings become so strong that they can’t ignore them.

INFPs, on the other hand, are very attuned to their own feelings because they use Fi. They can empathize with other people’s emotions like INFJs can, but they do it in a different way—they put themselves in someone else’s shoes and “mirror” the other person’s emotions within themselves. For instance, an INFP would strongly relate to a person’s suffering when they themselves have experienced similar emotions.

7. INFJs desire to be understood, while INFPs desire to be validated.

Although both personalities can feel misunderstood, INFJs tend to feel marginalized because they understand other people well, but other people rarely fully understand them. INFPs, on the other hand, feel misunderstood because no one could possibly ever know them as well as they know themselves. However, interestingly, INFPs may not actually want to be fully understoodsince it may entail losing some of their individually and being similar to other people. They may worry that they would lose some of their individuality if someone finally fully understood them. Rather than being fully understood, INFPs want others to validate that they have good intentions when it comes to their actions or ideas.

Whether you’re an INFP or INFJ, remember that both personalities are beautiful and intelligent in their own ways. Each type has so much to offer the world. Understanding some of the differences between these two complex, rare personality types can help you determine your true type so you can learn how to make the most of your natural abilities.  retina_favicon1

Read this: 10 Type Secrets of the INFJ Personality Type



17 Comments

  • I am a blend. I think I’m an INFJ by nature, but moving towards INFP now. So am I an INFJP? 🙂

    • Craig feliz says:

      Dont think you would be… Personalities may change over time. But i honestly just think you’re neither…. I think that you are, in reality, an idiot.

    • Benjamin E. says:

      @Esther Lemmens
      I’m the same way. I kind of teeter on the edge between the two, and – out of the MBTI tests I have taken – I’ve always been on the edge between INFJ and INFP.

      By the way, I have read that personality types can change as you age, so yours might indeed be changing.

  • LLD says:

    Hahaha, I’m guessing Craig is an XNTJ? 😉

    But to answer the question…

    INFPs and INFJs use completely opposite functions. There are no INFJs who “turn into” INFPs, and there is no such thing as a blend of the two. According to the theory, you are what you are born with, and though you can certainly develop your other functions over time, it will never change your core personality type, nor can you change your preferred functions.

    Great article by the way. But for any of you who haven’t looked into the cognitive functions yet, I highly recommend doing that before you try to type yourself.

  • Bernkastel says:

    “I think that you are, in reality, an idiot.”

    Look who’s talking.

  • praisepoet says:

    This has me confused tests say I a m INFJ but reading this I see a lot of myself in INFP but if I merely look at the letters (#1) INFJ seems to describe me to a T. Makes me want to test again.

    • Jennifer Kind says:

      I am also confused…I seem to test as INFP but I do not identify with any of the points made for INFP…I do identify with all of the INFJ characteristics in this article. Arg. I thought I had it figured out.

  • praisepoet says:

    I took 5 different test and got 3 different results I quit.

  • Catherine says:

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your comments. These are some additional points that have made it clear that I’m an INFP and not an INFJ:

    Because INFPs can see different possibilities and are able to put themselves in other people’s shoes, (using their Fi-Ne combo), a lot of them might be able to see themselves as an INFJ. As well, since they are quite unique and misunderstood, they might associate that with rarity.

    Also, I know for sure I don’t have Ni-Fe (INFJ functions) because of the following:

    1) As much as it sounds cool to be able to predict the future, using Fe to pick up cues and Ni to draw connections, I think I’m too out of touch with my reality to be able to do that. I’m also not interested in examining the implications of reality: I’m much prefer staying in my bubble.

    2) I know how I’m feeling all the time (that’s characteristic of Fi, not Fe). I know I can be socially awkward and uncomfortable meeting new people (because I don’t have very much Fe.)

    Hope you find this helpful.

    – Catherine

  • aeroldy99 says:

    I’ve read elsewhere that most people are not only one ‘type’ although I have met one person who is totally an INTP, very hard to deal with at times. I am strongly an INFJ/INFP almost completely equal for those two.
    Here’s a test I found that is helpful, check it out: http://jupiter-34.appspot.com/ aka John’s Personality Test.

  • Catherine says:

    @Aeroldy.

    The reason why people do not seem to be 100% one type is because everyone in fact uses all 8 of the cognitive functions. It’s the order in which they use them which sets them apart: http://www.cognitiveprocesses.com/16Types/16Types.cfm

    As well, I think the many people have confused Kiersey’s Temperament vs Myers Briggs Types, which only looks at those 4 letters at face value (such as the personality quiz you’ve posted). That’s why people are pigeonholed and quite often mistyped because this is only a behavioural model and does not take into consideration the cognitive processes (what goes inside the person’s mind), which the MBTI was originally found upon.

    Understanding the Jungian cognitive functions holistically gives a more in-depth view into each of the personality types.

    http://www.keirsey.com/difference.aspx

  • Elizabeth says:

    Myers-Briggs can be helpful in understanding yourself and others better, but I think many of us get too caught up in defining ourselves and others with four letters. There are only 16 types in MBTI, but people are much more complex than the boxes we try to put them in. I understand the science and reasoning behind MBTI, but I disagree with those who say we cannot change. In each situation we face, we do have our preferred method of response, but that doesn’t mean we can’t adapt and respond differently the next time. I think we do have core personality traits, but experience also shapes who we are. My mom, husband, and I all tested as INFJs, but we are all very different. On the J/P scale, I’m much closer to the middle than my mom and husband, so I can identify with some of the INFP traits.

    All of that to say, science can’t explain everything :). Humans don’t always make sense.

  • Beth says:

    This is an excellent description of these two types and their traits. I am an INFJ and my husband is an INFP and this describes us perfectly. Thanks.

  • Dawn says:

    Do you have to study the Jungian cognitive functions to figure out your true personality type? Or is there a test that gives you a more accurate answer than the Briggs?
    Thanks!

    • Catherine says:

      @Dawn. Yes. Understanding the Jungian cognitive functions is the most accurate way to discover your true type. The tests are inaccurate and may help give you an idea where you fall under but it’s not the most reliable. I, myself, have taken the official MBTI test and was mistyped as an INTJ.

  • Dawn says:

    OK, thank you, Catherine 🙂

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