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.
INFPs’ 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.