How many times have you come across a supposed “INFP trait” in one place only to find it attributed to INFJs somewhere else? This issue—no doubt contributing to widespread type confusion (and frustration)—is equally (if not more) rampant among INTPs and INTJs.
In my view, such J-P confusion is particularly common among Introverted types. In this post, we’ll dig into to why this is the case.
Some of you may know that Carl Jung rarely used the terms Judging and Perceiving. Instead, he approached the types largely in terms of their functions (e.g., Introverted Intuition). The personality type we now call “INFJ,” for instance, was for Jung simply the “Introverted Intuition” type (named after its dominant function). What’s interesting (and in some ways confusing) here is that Intuition is considered a Perceiving rather than a Judging function. So even though INFJs lead with a Perceiving function (Ni) they are classified as Judgers. This is because the Myers-Briggs has linked the J-P preference to a type’s outer presentation, i.e., to its preferred Extraverted function. And in the case of INFJs, their preferred extraverted function—Extraverted Feeling (Fe)—happens to be a J function. INFJs with strong Fe development may score relatively high as Judgers and thus have no qualms with this designation. Those with less developed Fe, however, may exhibit more Perceiver-like behavior. They may thus feel more conflicted about being cast as a J type.
Extraverted types typically experience far less J-P ambivalence. Why? Because their preferred Extraverted function (which, as we’ve seen, determines J-P status) also happens to their dominant function. Consequently, ENFJs and ENFPs are less apt to doubt their J-P status than INFJs or INFPs. I discuss thus further in my book, My True Type, as well as in my post, Rethinking Judging and Perceiving for Introverts.
So what’s the best way for Introverts to clarify their J-P status?
Approaches to J-P Clarification
One approach to J-P clarification is to focus on identifying your preferred functions. After identifying your dominant function, for instance, you can effectively deduce your J-P status: if your dominant function is Introverted Thinking (Ti) or Introverted Feeling (Fi), you will be classified as a P type; if your dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni) or Introverted Sensing (Si), you’re a J type.
Another approach involves evaluating your J-P preference directly—as is commonly done in personality tests. Advocates of this approach assume that specific J-P traits are discernible not only in Extraverts, but in Introverts as well (e.g., IPs being more outwardly adaptable than IJs). Nevertheless, plenty of Introverts still feel “on the fence” regarding their J-P status.
Examining Underlying Motives
To fully understand who we are, we also need to examine our core motivations and deepest values. This is one reason I appreciate the Enneagram, namely, its ability to shed light on what’s really driving us.
People with the same MBTI type commonly have the same Enneagram type, but in many cases they don’t. Roughly equal numbers of INFPs are Enneagram Nines (9) versus Fours (4), for instance, and these types are motivated by rather different things. Nines are concerned with blending in and keeping the peace. Fours, by contrast, are compelled to understand and fully express their individuality, suggesting they want to differentiate themselves rather than merely blend in. Enneagram differences such as these are bound to impact, at least to some extent, how our Myers-Briggs type manifests.
Another example, perhaps more relevant to the J-P issue, pertains to the Enneagram One (1). Often governed by a sort of “mission mindset,” Ones are more apt to display Judging characteristics. But insofar as Ones are driven by deep values, it’s not hard to imagine IFP types identifying as Ones. Indeed, it’s not unusual for IFPs devote their lives to a specific cause or mission, be it religious or otherwise. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that IFP Ones are really J types, however. While such a conclusion is to some degree understandable, it fails to recognize that, for INFPs, the heart (Fi) is the primary driver of their devoted behavior rather than a J preference.
Behavioral vs. Depth Approaches to Personality
Psychologists from the “behaviorist” school don’t lose sleep worrying about deeper causes. All that matters, in their view, is what can be directly observed, i.e., an individual’s behavior. From their perspective, an INFP displaying J characteristics (e.g., enacting the Enneagram One role) should be considered a J type, plain and simple.
Clearly, what we value most about typing will strongly influence our preferred approach. If we want to be strict empiricists / behaviorists—focusing primarily on what can be seen and directly measured—we’re apt to feel more comfortable directly assessing the preferences. If we’re concerned with understanding the deeper roots of human personality, however—the role of thoughts, feelings, values, motivations, etc.—then we might focus more on the 8 functions or the Enneagram. One potential drawback of this approach is its subjectivity. In a way, it makes the individual the final authority on her type—a source of concern for science-minded folks.
In my book, My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences, and Functions, I recommend and enumerate a multi-pronged approach to typing. Just as examining an object from multiple angles and perspectives helps us see and understand it more clearly, so too with our personality type. At minimum, interpreting your Myers-Briggs type in light of your Enneagram type (and vice-versa) can provide greater insight than either taxonomy used alone.