INFJ vs INFP, ENFJ, ISFJ

By Dr. A.J. Drenth & Elaine Schallock

The MBTI’s emphasis on preferences (e.g., E, I, S, N) over functions (e.g., Ni, Ne) has led to much confusion and misidentifications of type. One of the most common of these has been INFPs mistyping as INFJs and vice-versa. This is largely due to the following: 1.) Confusing Intuition and Feeling (e.g., intuition is often broadly conceived as a “gut feeling” and a sensitive person is often described as being “intuitive”) which leads people to be confused as to which is the dominant function, 2.) Misunderstanding Judging and Perceiving in Introverted types (see my post, Rethinking Judging and Perceiving in IPs & IJs) and 3.) A lack of clarity regarding the functions (e.g., the difference between Ne and Ni).

INFJ vs INFP

When you compare the functions of INFPs and INFJs you realize these types are actually quite different, as they have no functions in common. INFPs use Fi, Ne, Si, and Te, while INFJs use Ni, Fe, Ti, and Se. The direction of N and F is different for each type.

INFPs are much attuned to their feelings – the good and bad. Those feelings serve as creative fuel for navigating the world and finding their place in it. INFJs, while emotional (thanks to Fe which causes them wear their emotions openly), lack the depth of emotion that Fi types seem to get caught up in, and they don’t spend such a long time “experiencing” or “wallowing in” their emotions as Fi types can. Fe is focused outwardly, spending a lot of time reading and analyzing the emotional states of others, but it is considerably LESS in touch with its own feelings. Ironically, INFJs can usually read others’ moods extremely well but have a hard time being aware of their own feelings about something. Fe is definitely compassionate, fiery, and emotional at times, but being the auxiliary function, not the dominant function, it takes less precedence in the INFJ versus the INFP.

If acting authentically, INFJ’s will avoid simply getting caught up in their feelings, instead using Fe to verbalize/convince others of their intuitions (Ni). INFJ’s also come across as more bold in their assertions than INFPs. INFPs may appear to vacillate in conversation with others since they are typically using Ne in dialogue. The strong convictions of their dominant Introverted Feeling function (Fi) start to open and can seemingly lose steam or concentration as their auxiliary Ne explores their meaning and accuracy. They may have considerable difficult making definitive statements of strong conviction. This typically is less of an issue for the INFJ. The INFJ starts its functional stack in Perceiving mode (i.e., Ni), which is open and uncertain (although this openness is often concealed from the outside observer, since Ni is introverted), before it begins to converge into a judgment a la the auxiliary Fe, at which point INFJs sound more convincing and strong in their convictions.

Another major difference between INFJs and INFPs is their overall approach to the world: the INFJ, when functioning authentically, is more analytical, while the INFP is more artistic. This can be understood by looking at their functional stacks. The INFJ moves from Perceiving (Ni) to Judging (Fe), from openness to convergence/ analysis. The INFP moves from Judging (Fi) to Perceiving (Ne), from closure to divergence/ openness. Hence, INFP’s tend to be much more exploratory in their approach.

infj infp writingINFPs’ writing styles and book preferences vary dramatically from INFJs’. INFP’s prefer reading and writing fiction novels. Fi takes personal experience and uses it as a springboard to explore potential plotlines and story ideas via Ne. They love expressing the human condition - the struggles, the emotions, the joys, etc. INFJ’s, however, tend to prefer writing analytically, non-fiction works. They tend to observe the world around them and make deductions, pinpointing occurrences as they understand them via their Ni. They are really more like scientists than artists (a similar comparison would hold true for INTJs and INTPs).

INFJ vs ENFJ

INFJs and ENFJs share ALL the same functions, differing only in their relative ordering. We should not, however, underestimate the importance of the ordering of the functions. Since their Ni is dominant, INFJs are best understood as dominant Perceivers (again, see my post, Rethinking Judging and Perceiving in IPs & IJs, for more on this). Their primary purpose is to take in the world and understand it, rather than trying to shape or control it.

ENFJs, by contrast, use Fe as their dominant function. Their foremost objective is not to understand the world, but to change or influence it (typically this occurs through their influence on people). Consequently, ENFJs are quicker to judge and, at least initially, are less accurate in their perceptions than INFJs. ENFJs, like all types with a dominant Judging function, sacrifice some degree of accuracy for speed.

Because of these differences, INFJs and ENFJs can be critical of one another. ENFJs are apt to criticize INFJs for struggling to act. Since INFJs’ Se function is inferior, they are less inclined to act upon or be “proactive” with respect to their judgments. Those unfamiliar with how INFJs work might be inclined to dismiss them as overly emotional or melodramatic, doing little beyond complaining about or forecasting doom for the world. To make matters worse, because INFJs often see problems that are imperceptible to others, making them susceptible to the accusation that they imagine or create problems where none exist. If INFJs are repeatedly accused of this (which is not uncommon), they may begin to question their own sanity (i.e., “Maybe it’s not the world that is deranged and crazy, maybe it’s me?” This tends to be less of an issue for INFPs. Since INFPs are generally less “otherworldly” than INFJs are and tend to keep more of their opinions and misgivings about the world to themselves, they are less likely to be faced with concerns about their own sanity.) It can also be easy for others to confuse INFJs’ negative prognostications with an inability or reluctance to “be happy” or “be content. In reality, INFJs are less concerned with being personally happy, positive, or pragmatic than they are with accurately reflecting what they see happening in the world around them. In many regards, INFJs feel their own happiness is out of their hands and all they can do is try to understand and critique their experiences.

While INFJs’ observations and complaints may be spot on, ENFJs may point out that complaining does little good without reformative action. In response, INFJs may critique ENFJs tendency to make overly rash or premature judgments. From the INFJ’s perspective, action is worthless if based on inaccurate perceptions or insufficient information.

INFJ & ISFJ

In theory, INFJs’ emotional expressiveness should be fairly similar to that of ISFJs. After all, both types are Introverts and both use Fe as their auxiliary function. The primary difference is that ISFJs, as Si dominants, are wired to function as guardians and conservators of culture and tradition. INFJs, by contrast, function more like societal prophets and diagnosticians, sensitive to what they perceive as the faults and falsities of their environs. This, along with their strong idealism, can contribute to their critical stance toward the world.

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Comments

  1. Heather says

    INFJ here. About all of the hullabaloo concerning fiction preferences: As an INFJ, I enjoy reading and writing fiction. I believe it is a technique of escapism in my case. I love literature, and I use it to escape reality. However, I also enjoy reading/writing/listening educational material. I especially have a strong preference for creating and annotating my own theories, mainly concerning psychology/personality/trait study by various techniques, but I have other areas of such contemplation, including Arthurian legend and ancient history. I utilize my intuition, and introverted thinking (to check) a LOT in my research. So scientist, not sure. Artist, to some degree. In my experience, my INFP sister is much more creative and artistic than me, and I’m much more logical and definite than her. I actually am an artist and musician as well, she just does it better.

  2. Marie says

    I second the disagreement with the statement on reading/writing preferences. I identify quite strongly as an INFJ and read exclusively fiction (preferably literary novels) in my free time. In fact, I have a post-graduate degree in literature studies. Fiction makes wonderful stomping grounds for anyone who loves to draw connections everywhere or zero in on hidden symbolism. That said, I have very little patience for most popular fiction, though I had always attributed that to my educational background.

    My experience with “voluntary” writing (not school or work-dictated) is as yet rather limited, but fiction (preferably novel or short story) is the only option by far, personally speaking.

    Perhaps the problem here is the rather simplistic differentiation between fiction vs. non-fiction. From my standpoint, I have the least interest in poetry, medium-to-low interest in plays (written) and by far greatest interest in novels. Taking the form of fiction, or even genre, into account might lend such statements much greater accuracy.

    • MC says

      It’s funny, I’ve been similarly bothered by the fiction versus non-fiction distinction, but from the opposite point of view to the INFJs here. I believe myself to be an INFP, yet have primarily read and written non-fiction since I was a teenager. I do enjoy fiction, and wish I would read more of it, but when I do it’s usually because there’s a movie coming out based on a book, or I’m compelled to read a classic, which I usually don’t finish.
      I think my Ne is on a constant search for external knowledge, and therefore semi-consciously convinces me that activities like reading are a “waste of time” if I’m not learning something new — though as I’ve gotten older I’ve appreciated more what one can “learn” from fiction.
      Related to this issue, I’m similarly troubled by the statement that INFJs are naturally more scientific/analytical while INFPs are more artistic, which Adrian the INFJ also questioned. I have always enjoyed expressing myself creatively to some extent, but since I was a teenager I’ve considered myself much more of a scientist than an artist, and even have a PhD in a sci/tech field. Again, I feel like this is Ne at work, along with some Te. I believe many scientists have been INFPs – though admittedly the population is probably skewed somewhat towards the social sciences. Isabel Briggs-Myers was an INFP!
      Since I also prefer to start the day in a leisurely way, which is mentioned on this site as a P-dom trait, I’ve been struggling with whether the descriptions on this site are overly specific, or whether I may be mis-typed. My type conclusion is based on years of self-study comparing the functions across types, including INFJs, and drawing upon the generally useful info on this site, so I’m pretty sure I use NFP functions. I’ve increasingly been considering ENFP to reconcile all these issues, even though I’ve always assumed myself to be an introvert.
      I would love to know if other INFPs take issue with these characterizations.

    • Marie says

      Re the statement on analyticalness….that statement actually resonated with me quite well as an INFJ. I am often perceived by others as being quite analytical/logical (depending on person’s word choice) and I have always wondered how that jibes with me being an F (often leading me to question my F?). That outward description of me also did not entirely agree with my own sense that I make decision based more extensively on intuition. But that is how I come across, in the workplace especially. In relationships, directness is usually the word used.

      One thing that the official MBTI tests offers that is not addressed anywhere on this site (as wonderfully insightful as it is!!) is that of strength of preference. When I first took the MBTI I was a teenager and scored INFJ with I and N having very high preference ratings and J being under 10, so quite borderline. As I compare myself to other Js, I do think that I find it easier than some to stay patient/unthreatened with some aspects of Ps behavior that strong Js find more trying.

      In any case, taking the strength of preference into consideration would surely allow for greater personal variety in analyzing any given type.

      I also disagree with statements that indicate a particular type should never go the scientific/artistic/etc. route. I assume that as an INFJ I would have a very difficult time basing my career and earning potential around a career in the arts. However, having pursued artistic endeavors as a hobby/amateur has most certainly been a rewarding and greatly enjoyable experience for me. Music instrument performance and photography being most explored thus far. I don’t think it should be wholly discounted how acting outside your comfort zone and learning things where you are not a born natural can enhance your own development, particularly within the realm of exploring hobbies.

      That said, I also don’t see myself as wholly being a scientist either. So far that has left me in humanity-related fields that offer some sort of opportunity for creative expression but where you are not wholly reliant on artistic output in order to earn a living.