I remember the first time I met my good friend Justin. I saw him walking down the hall on his first day of work and thought, “He looks like my kind of people.”
Turns out, I was right. We had so much in common. At the time, we were both teachers and aspiring writers. We were introverts who contentedly spent most of our evenings at home — but could be coaxed out for the occasional deep conversation over wine. We saw the world in similar ways, struggled with similar things, and both dreamed of a life rich with inspiration and meaning.
On the surface, we’re very similar. But in some ways, we’re practically opposites. One letter can make a big difference.
Not sure if you’re an INFJ or INFP? It’s a common dilemma. Here are five ways to tell these types apart.
The Differences Between an INFJ and INFP
1. INFJs are more analytical, whereas INFPs are more artistic.
According to MBTI theory, cognitive functions are attitudes that can be expressed in either the inner world or the outer world. Even though INFJs and INFPs only differ by one letter, they have completely opposite cognitive functions.
In order from most dominant to least dominant, the INFJ’s cognitive functions are:
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Extroverted Sensing (Se)
The INFP’s cognitive functions are:
- Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
- Extroverted Thinking (Te)
The INFJ’s thought process starts with Ni, which is a perceiving function. Perceiving functions are open and exploratory in nature. Traveling down the “functional stack,” INFJs then move to using Fe, which is a judging function. Judging functions are all about reaching conclusions and implementing plans.
INFJs appear more analytical than INFPs because they “extrovert” a judging function.
INFPs, on the other hand, start with a judging function (Fi), then move to a perceiving function (Ne). They show their perceiving function to the world. That gives them the appearance of being more open, flexible, and exploratory — traits typically associated with artists and creative types.
2. INFJs are more aware of other people’s feelings, whereas INFPs are more aware of their own.
Again, this difference comes down to cognitive functions. The INFJ’s feeling function is extroverted, so they naturally tune into other people’s emotions. Because of this superpower, INFJs tend to have high levels of empathy. It’s no surprise that they often become counselors, life coaches, and therapists (either occupationally or just as everyone’s go-to life advice dispenser).
The downside is INFJs may have a hard time discerning their own feelings. It’s almost as if their feelings get tangled up with those of the people around them. As a result, they may struggle with people-pleasing, putting everyone else’s needs ahead of their own.
INFPs, on the other hand, live by the motto, “follow your heart.” Because their feeling function is introverted, they naturally tune into their own feelings. They are masters of their inner emotional state, which often becomes fuel for their writing, music, or art.
With practice, INFJs can learn to tune into their own emotions. And INFPs are not selfish monsters. Although they will always march to the beat of their own drums, INFPs often have high levels of empathy, too, because they can easily imagine how someone might feel.
3. INFJs seek insight, whereas INFPs explore the human experience.
INFJs and INFPs love words — both reading and writing them. Both types have a natural gift of language.
Analytical by nature, INFJs are driven to seek insight. Often, their favorite topics to read (and write) about are psychology, personal growth, spirituality, current events, and fictional stories that reveal human nature. The philosophers Nietzsche and Schopenhauer were probably INFJs. This fits with the INFJ’s tendency to observe, notice patterns, and make deductions. According to A.J. Drenth of Personality Junkie, INFJs often operate as social analysts or prophets, interpreting what they see and urging social or moral change when necessary.
INFPs are more interested in exploring the human condition — the hardships, joys, and emotions behind the human experience. Writers Virginia Woolfe and Albert Camus are thought to have been INFPs.
4. INFJs have no problem making bold assertions, whereas INFPs may seem less sure.
Because INFJs “extrovert” a judging function, they tend to come across as more confident and authoritative (“The only way to fix global warming is to reduce our reliance on coal!”).
INFPs, on the other hand, may struggle to make definitive statements of strong conviction. Again, that’s because they “extrovert” a perceiving function. (“We should explore ways to fix global warming.”)
5. INFJs crave outer control, whereas INFPs seek inner control.
Outwardly, INFJs tend to look like they have it together. As judgers, they are generally organized and on time, and they appreciate having things planned in advance. However, they may not feel “together.” Because their dominant function, Ni, is a perceiving function, their internal landscape is more perceiver-like. Internally, INFJs are more open, flexible, and exploratory than they appear.
For INFPs, it’s the opposite. Outwardly, they appear flexible and willing to go with the flow. They care less about deadlines, schedules, plans, and keeping things neat and tidy. Inwardly, they are more judger-like, that is, more rigid and structured.
There’s a saying in the MBTI world that if you find yourself thinking, “I’m not as put-together as I seem,” you might be an IJ type. But if you find yourself thinking, “I’m much more together than I appear,” you might be an IP.
Personality type is not meant to be a box that limits you, but rather a tool to help you grow.
Also, keep in mind that personality type describes general characteristics. We all act “out of character” sometimes. Often, our behavior changes somewhat depending on the circumstances — and as we grow and mature.
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