One question you might have after learning about Myers-Briggs® types and taking a few tests is how to tell which of two similar types you are. Maybe the online tests you took gave you a couple different results. Or maybe you started reading about the types and discovered more than one that sounds a lot like you.
If you’re trying to decide whether you’re more of an INFJ or an INFP type, I hope this article will help. Just looking at the letters in these personality types, we might think the only difference between them is that one is a perceiving type and one is a judging type. This is only party true. When we dive deeper into the cognitive functions that describe the mental processes each Myers-Briggs® type uses, it become easier to see the differences and similarities between these two types more clearly.
If you’re not familiar with cognitive functions, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.” INFJs and INFPs might look similar at first, but they use completely different functions, as shown in this graphic:
The way these cognitive functions work together makes INFPs and INFJs similar in some ways and very different in others. They might seem near-identical times but their underlying thought patters and motivations don’t look nearly as much alike as you might think.
J/P is a little odd for introverted types
The J/P preference in Myers-Briggs describes how someone relates to the outer world. J-types use their judging function (T or F) to relate to the outer world, while P types use their perceiving function (S or N). Since INFJs and INFPs are both introverted, they lead with a function oriented toward the inner world. This means that INFJs are actually a dominant perceiving type and INFPs are a dominant judging type.
- If you’re an INFJ, you’ll typically find that your Intuitive side is the one that feels most comfortable. Pattern-recognition, big-picture thinking, and seeing things from multiple perspectives come naturally to you. You probably place a higher value on experiencing and understanding life than on controlling it. However, others may see you as more rigid and analytical due to your extroverted judging function.
- If you’re an INFP, you’ll typically find that your Feeling side is the one that is most comfortable. Relying on subjective, abstract feelings and ideas comes naturally to you and you place a high value on living authentically. You probably like having things and beliefs settled and decided even more than you like experiencing life as it happens. However, others may see you are more open and spontaneous due to your extroverted perceiving function.
Your co-pilot’s influence
INFJs and INFPs both have an intuitive function and a feeling function as the first two on their function stack. But they use different types of those functions and rely on them in a different order. We’ve already looked at their dominant functions, so now it’s time for the co-pilot.
- If you’re an INFJ, you support your Intuition with a Feeling side that helps you relate to the outer world and made decisions. You probably notice it most when decision-making or trying to relate to other people, because it helps you figure out how social groups work and make decisions that will meet everyone’s needs. It’s not your most comfortable process, but you can get really good at using Extroverted Feeling if you take the time to grow and develop it.
- If you’re an INFP, you support your Feeling with an Intuitive side that helps you understand the outer world. You probably notice it most when you’re learning and processing information because it helps you experiment and explore to discover how things connect and what is possible. It’s not your most comfortable process, but you can get really good at using Extroverted Intuition if you take the time to grow and develop it.
They use feeling and intuition differently
We’ve already touched on this point when talking about the primary and co-pilot process. However, it’s one of the most important things to understand if you want to tell INFJs and INFPs apart. And so I want to spend a little more time on the differences between an INFJ’s Introverted Intuition and Extroverted Feeling, and an INFP’s Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Intuition.
- In terms of Feeling, if you’re an INFJ then your Extroverted Feeling side makes it easy for you to tune-in to other people’s emotions. You probably have a more difficult time processing your own emotions. You’ll also tend to base decisions on what’s best for everyone. For INFPs, it’s much more natural to tune-in with your own feelings. You’ll tend to base decisions on what seems correct and authentic to your personal values. Also, Feeling is your primary function and it’s the one that you’re most comfortable with. This point doesn’t mean INFPs don’t have empathy or INFJs aren’t self-aware — it’s about whether your Feeling side is primarily directed to the inner or outer world.
- In terms of Intuition, INFJs use it so naturally they may not even realize how good they are at noticing patterns, switching perspectives, and figuring out what’s “behind the curtain.” Since Intuition is your primary function it’s the one you’re most comfortable with. For INFPs, Intuition is the co-pilot process and it’s outward focused. It makes you good at coming up with new ideas and brainstorming possibilities. The way INFPs experience Intuition tends to be more exploratory, while INFJs will be more like observers.
What happens in the loop
Our co-pilot process is not oriented the same way as our primary process (i.e. it’s extroverted for introverts and introverted for extroverts). Because we tend to be more comfortable with processes that work in our preferred world we often bypass our co-pilot process and try to use our tertiary process instead. This is called a “loop.” Here’s what it looks like for each of the two types we’re discussing today:
- If you’re an INFJ, you have Introverted Intuition as your primary function and Introverted Thinking as your tertiary. When you get into a “loop,” you become more analytical and focused on trying to organize things logically. You might become fascinated by certain topics and spend hours researching everything about them. If you spend too much time in this loop you may loose touch with your more diplomatic, relational side. This can lead to withdrawing from people and becoming more critical and defensive.
- If you’re an INFP, you have Introverted Feeling as your primary function and Introverted Sensing as your tertiary. When you get into a “loop,”you may get stuck focusing on past experiences and become hyper-attentive to real-world details. You may also want verifiable, sensory facts but struggle to process them. Spending too much time in the loop can also get you caught-up in the past. This can lead to trouble processing past mistakes and moving forward into the future.
How you are under stress
When people are trying to find their best-fit personality type, they often focus on figuring out which cognitive function they’re most comfortable with. But the functions that you don’t use well can also give us clues as to what personality type we are. The inferior function (the lowest on a four-function stack) typically shows up when we’re stressed. You might also use it to take a break and relax, and it often shows up in our favorite hobbies.
- If you’re an INFJ, stress can bring out your inferior Extroverted Sensing. When stressed-out, you can become obsessively focused on external data, overindulge in sensory pleasures (food, drink, shopping, etc), and develop a suspicious, hostile attitude toward the outer world. You can also use this function in a healthy way, and you might find that you enjoy activities that require sensory engagement (like gardening, cooking, or kayaking).
- If you’re an INFP, stress can bring out your inferior Extroverted Thinking. When stressed-out, you can become more aggressive with your criticism and be very hard on yourself and others who you might see as incompetent. Stress might prompt you to take action before clearly thinking things through. You can also use this function in a healthy way, and you might find that you enjoy activities that require analytical reasoning (like puzzle games or working with data).
Before you go …
As a final note, I want to point out that there is plenty of room for individual variation within a type. Myers-Briggs® simply describes how your mind works. It doesn’t tell you everything about yourself. You’ll often find elements of yourself in several type descriptions. Similarly, not every description for a specific type will fit you exactly. You’re looking for your “best fit” personality type rather than one that’s exactly perfect.
- If you’d like to know more about the INFJ personality type, check out my book The INFJ Handbook. I just updated it with a ton of new information and resources. You can purchase it in ebook or paperback by clicking this link.
What do you think? Did this article help you narrow-down which personality type you are? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Featured image credit: Robin Higgins via Pixabay