The clear answers on what makes you different
INFJ is the least common personality and one of the most frequently mistyped. Making it highly misrepresented.
The two who mistype as INFJ most are ISFJ and INFP, and it’s so common that they’ve skewed the definitions of INFJ in pretty much everything you read online. Which, obviously, doesn’t help.
Knowing our real type helps us better understand who we are — our strengths, our weaknesses, and most importantly our blindspots — so that we can thrive. I only recently learned I’m INFJ after going my whole life thinking I was INTJ — hence all the INFJ research. And my empathy for those of us who have mistyped ourselves.
Because accurate typing can tell us why we’re not getting what we need, and how to do so.
But first we have to discern who we are:
INFJ, INFP and ISFJ are very different
They aren’t just “one letter” apart. They have entirely different “cognitive function” stacks.
Cognitive functions honor the fact that we are all thinkers, feelers, sensors, intuitives in various situations. We’re all analytical, extroverted and introverted. So functions are better way of “typing” ourselves, and break down the “cusp” feeling we have.
Each MBTI type has: one feeling function, one thinking function, one sensing function and one intuitive function, each externally or internally oriented:
Extroverted thinking (Te): external systems, things, goals (expansive)
Introverted thinking (Ti): funneling-down logic (deductive)
Extroverted feeling (Fe): other peoples’ experience
Introverted feeling (Fi): our own experience
Extroverted sensing (Se): the present, “doing”
Introverted sensing (Si): the past, certainty, “what’s expected”
Extroverted intuition (Ne): ideas (expansive, all ideas)
Introverted intuition (Ni): thoughts about “the one idea;” building a framework of how the world works based on abstract analysis
Each type has a unique, defined order of four functions. Here are ours:
INFP: Fi — Ne — Si — Te
ISFJ: Si — Fe — Ti — Ne
INFJ: Ni — Fe — Ti — Se
INFP’s drive is their feelings, and ideas (Fi-Ne)
ISFJ’s drive is certainty, and how everyone fits (Si-Fe)
INFJs drive is thinking abstractly, about human nature (Ni-Fe)
Everyone is everything, but that’s each’s foundation
(1.) We live and breathe our first (“dominant”) function — it’s the unseen foundation of everything we think and do, and it’s so prevalent that we often don’t notice it. The danger is it can seem ubiquitous: we may not realize it sets us apart; we assume everyone does it.
INFP may not see how much “their feelings” guide their life (and not others’)
ISFJ may not see how much “certainty” guides their life (and not others’)
(2.) We skip our second (“auxiliary”) function when stressed, which makes all introverts more introverted and analytical (and makes Ss feel like Ns.)
(3.) Introverted intuition (Ni) is very difficult to define. (Which is totally meta, because Ni is the process of defining things that are difficult to define.) It’s so abstract that it’s susceptible to others rushing in to claim it. (Described as things like “intuition” and “vision,” which everyone has sometimes, they sweep it into their own type.) It’s almost easier to see Ni as the elimination of all other types: Ni’s aren’t dominated by their feelings, others’ feelings, clarity and organization, experience or action, new ideas, or goals. They aren’t even dominated by logic (Ti.) So what’s left is just what is. And that’s Ni. It’s an abstract, undefinable filtering process. And it’s what dominant Nis live and breathe.
How to tell INFJ from INFP
They seem similar, but actually have very little in common:
INFP: Fi— Ne — Si — Te
INFJ: Ni — Fe — Ti — Se
So the biggest difference is:
INFP feels All Of The Feelings, All Of The Time
INFJ doesn’t have feelings
I’m exaggerating. Slightly.
INFP leads with Fi — their own feelings
INFJ doesn’t even have Fi in their stack. Instead, their F function is Fe — others’ feelings / empathy. But this falls after their dominant Ni
INFP has feelings, then ideas
INFJ has thoughts, about the human condition
INFP dreams a lot — and chases ideas for self-expression
INFJ thinks a lot — and develops understanding of human nature
INFP is inspiration — with occasional insight
INFJ is insight — with occasional inspiration
INFP writes through their feelings, emotions, experience, identity
INFJ writes down their insights on the universe
INFP is an authentic, truly individualistic one-of-a-kind spirit!
INFJ is just a mere vessel for getting universal truths down on paper
INFP is secretly a little smug about being misunderstood
INFJ is deeply pained by it
INFP is forever a child at heart!
INFJ is an old soul, and a serious old man
INFP desperately wants to be seen as unique
INFJ actually is unique but doesn’t care and/or desperately doesn’t want people to notice
As Heidi wrote,
“Because INFPs tend to be highly creative and individualistic, most of them have never met another person quite like themselves (including other INFPs). For this reason, they find it fitting that their type is 1% of the population — they think this explains their individuality, when in reality it is their introverted feeling that sets them apart.”
INFJs don’t want unique self-expression. They want universal insight.
And INFP can still be insightful, analytical, and logical! They’re unique ❤
How to tell INFJ from ISFJ
These two have more in common and are harder to tell apart:
ISFJ: Si — Fe — Ti — Ne
INFJ: Ni — Fe — Ti — Se
So, similarities are:
- They’re both compelled to get “answers” and they both plan (Si, Ni)
- They’re both people-oriented (over “things” or systems) and are more driven by others’ experiences than their own emotions (Fe)
- When stressed, they both overanalyze (Ti)
But the biggest difference is:
ISFJ’s hate uncertainties and want things in black & white.
INFJ’s don’t. They literally do not care.
ISFJs want things literal, direct and clear. They feel better knowing what’s happening and what is expected of them, often following a pre-ordained, trusted set of rules in a sequential order. They want things locked down and defined, and don’t mind social norms and tried-and-true.
INFJs don’t care. That all absolutely bores them and they find it meaningless. They live and breathe the abstract and have almost no use for “face value.”
You can see: these are direct inverses of each other. They have opposite dominant motivations — they are each other’s least favorite thing.
And that’s how they approach all “information.”
They both want answers, but there’s a MASSIVE difference in: what answers, to what questions, from where, how quickly, and with what feeling:
ISFJ will: seek black and white answers, to black and white questions, about people’s behavior, given social norms, in a timely manner, anxiously
INFJ will: develop abstract answers, to abstract questions, about human nature, inside their head, for their entire lives, calmly
For ISFJ, “getting answers” is an urgent need; not having answers makes them uneasy.
For INFJ, developing answers is a lifelong need; not having answers feels as calm and normal as breathing. It’s zen-like.
ISFJ knows by gathering facts, data, and history — or just asking!
INFJ knows by analyzing the abstract — and letting it come to them
ISFJs prefer known, clearcut frameworks
INFJs spend their entire lives sifting through ambiguity to build their own
When it comes to questions of love, for example:
ISFJ asks “what are we?” “where is this headed?” “why can’t he just text?” “what if I end up alone?”
INFJ does. not. care. They ask questions like: “what is love?”
ISFJ is consumed with having clarity and structure about people’s behavior
INFJ is consumed with thinking deeply about human nature
ISFJ defends others, within clear expectations (like social norms and rules)
INFJ defends others, without regard for clear expectations (like social norms)
ISFJs can more readily recall memories, dates, details and rules
INFJs don’t care
When stressed or in a rut:
ISFJs brainstorm ideas (or imagine worst case scenarios) — Ne
INFJs reject everything outside their heads as “meaningless” (or abuse alcohol or other external habits) — Se
If this still isn’t clear (or definite or black and white) enough, and you’re still trying to put these two in a box and/or wish someone would just tell you what you are: you are, by definition, an ISFJ.
VERY IMPORTANT: What each does after a breakup
Or any highly-traumatic experience.
When longterm stressed, people skip their second (“auxiliary”) function to use their third, and/or abuse their fourth, creating a compulsive “loop”:
ISFJ: Si-Fe-Ti-Ne becomes → Si-Ti (neglects Fe, abuses Ne)
INFP: Fi-Ne-Si-Te becomes → Fi-Si (neglects Ne, abuses Te)
INFJ: Ni-Fe-Ti-Se becomes → Ni-Ti (neglects Fe, abuses Se)
All three get very introverted. But what’s inside their head is very different:
Both ISFJ and INFP haves “loops” with Si, and because Si regards the past, this means they both replay the breakup / relationship over and over. ISFJ wants to make sense of it. INFP gets hung up on how they feel.
INFJ doesn’t have Si in their “loop.” This means INFJs don’t compulsively “replay” breakups or relationships…
Replays the breakup / relationship over and over. Obsesses over questions like “why couldn’t he just care?” “what did I do wrong?” Analyzes every detail, trying to pinpoint exactly where they messed up, until they’ve reasoned to closure.
May also: say things like, “I just want to know how the future looks,” or imagine worst case future scenarios (“what if I end up alone?” etc.)— abusing Ne
Feels intense emotions; replays the relationship / breakup over and over to work out their feelings until they have fully processed them. May revert to old lifestyles or ideas that worked in the past.
May also: get hyper-critical of their feelings and suppress them in pursuit of external goals and measures — abusing Te
Does not compulsively replay the relationship. Doesn’t agonize over what went wrong, or why, or whether they’ll end up alone. Isn’t overly emotional.
This alarms and confuses ISFJs and INFPs, who accuse INFJ of “not processing the breakup,” and don’t understand: that just isn’t the INFJ’s process.
Because INFJ doesn’t have Si or Fi in their “stress loop.” They have Ni-Ti.
INFJ’s obsess over insights — not about the relationship or their emotions, but about people and life. They read philosophy. They write philosophy. They repeat this compulsively — 50 books and a million words in a year wouldn’t be exaggerating — until they reconnect with others.
During this time, INFJs often retreat from society — hard. Not for a weekend, like a normal introvert, but as a total overhaul in lifestyle. They move into the most reclusive apartment they can find, go dark on what little social media they were on, and seclude themselves from society as hermits.
If they replay the relationship at all, it’s in order to better understand people, what people need to be happy, and what they themselves want in the future. INFJs don’t care as much why Bob did what he did, what they themselves did “wrong,” or how they feel. They want to understand why people do what they do and what it all means. It has nothing to do with them, let alone Bob.
In their free time, they also calmly and quietly rebuild a new future vision.
May also: drink themselves to sleep every night — abusing Se.
All three might do any of these behaviors on occasion, but only one of these “loops” will be each type’s obsessive compulsion when struggling
Here a rapid-fire round:
Greatest aspiration (and fear):
ISFJ: organization and stability (fear of uncertainty)
INFP: individuality (fear of normalcy)
INFJ: meaning* (fear of meaninglessness)
*Important: all three want “meaning” — it’s human nature. The difference is that INFJ isn’t driven by the other two values
“Mentally masturbates” by:
ISFJ: defining everything, planning, getting it down on paper, brainstorming
INFP: daydreaming, exploring their feelings, chasing ideas
INFJ: ruminating on “what matters” and “what it all means”
Questions at work:
ISFJ: most likely to ask (others): “what are we doing?” “how do we do it?” “what are the requirements?” “what’s expected?” “what’s the plan?” “what’s the process?” “what happened?” “what’s going to happen?” “who does what and what are everyone’s roles?” “what are the clear next steps?”
INFP: most likely to ask (themselves): “how does this fit into who I am?”
INFJ: most likely to ask (themselves): “what’s actually important?”
How they were as a kid/teenager:
ISFJ: Well-mannered and keenly aware of what was expected
INFP: Sensitive and imaginative — and they’ll always be a kid at heart!
INFJ: No part of them was ever really a kid.
INFJs often “Siddhartha” on your ass, getting all “sage” (or “martyr.”) They’re more likely than ISFJ to decide grades don’t matter (or do reckless things), but less likely than INFP to do it for self-expression.
How old they feel:
ISFJ: forever a little bit “mom”
INFP: 60 or 6 depending on the day, but forever childlike
What each type is gonna cry about:
ISFJ: anxiety, uncertainty, people’s behavior and worst case future scenarios
INFP: almost anything
INFJ: almost nothing
Number one reason they break up with someone:
ISFJ: They didn’t feel secure, prioritized, and/or committed to
INFP: They didn’t feel emotionally validated, individually accepted, or received with open-mindedness, so “the music died” and they flipped a switch
INFJ: They weren’t intellectually understood
HOW they breakup with someone:
ISFJ: becomes increasingly passive aggressive until it all comes to a head
INFP: just sort of… drifts off into a happier fantasy
INFJ: the door slam.
You thought “ghosting” was bad? INFJs cut partners out of their life deliberately, severely, and often without explanation.
The happiest they ever were (or could be):
ISFJ: getting everything and everyone in order so everything’s good
INFP: living fully in self-expression and seeing things manifest
INFJ: bettering the human experience through meaningful insight
Why does it matter??
If you’re happy and getting what you want in life.
It only matters if you’re not. In that case, knowing your type can help immensely.
I went my whole life thinking I was INTJ. I might have gone forever thinking this —and suffered. Because I wasn’t thriving how INTJs thrive. I wasn’t even bumping along how INTJs happily bump along. Pursuing what makes INTJs happiest didn’t fulfill me.
So I hired a coach, who told me I was INFJ. And after researching, I learned that the reason I spent most my life an Ni-Ti “loop” (see above, under “breakup”), in which I rejected society in preference of “rationalization,” which looks like INTJ.
I thought this was normal. But I also realized I wasn’t happy. Because my fix wasn’t in INTJ’s functions — Te-Fi — but in my own: Fe, people.
And that’s why it’s important to know our type— because the “fix” for INFJ is people… but the “fix” for INFP is fresh ideas, and the “fix” for ISFJ is to soften their need for certainty and embrace others’.
Knowing this helps us thrive and live our best lives.