In Home Featured, Personality Hacker Blog, Personality Psychology

personalityhacker_infp-vs-infj_eye-graphicThere may be no two types mistaken for each other more than INFJs and INFPs. And while they may look similar from the outside, they are very different creatures inside. Add to that, INFJs and INFPs are two of the personality types most interested in personality psychology, so an incomplete understanding of how these two types are differentiated can cause a lot of personal frustration (not to mention internet arguments!)

This article is intended to be a deep-dive, side-by-side comparison of their similarities and differences.

(If you’re in the middle of trying to figure out whether or not you’re an INFJ or an INFP, remember that these aren’t intended to describe your individual interests or values, but rather how the two types are ‘wired’ differently.)

5 Crucial Differences Between INFJs and INFPs

1. INFP vs INFJ: Different Driver processes

The Driver process can also be called the “dominant cognitive function.” It’s the mind’s first point of contact and the primary lens through which everything gets filtered.

For an INFJ, this dominant process is technically called Introverted Intuition, but we’ve nicknamed it “Perspectives.”

personalityhacker_third-eyePerspectives is a learning function (technically called a “perceiving function”), and works by watching one’s own mind form patterns. After years of use, eventually Perspectives begins to see the ‘pattern of the patterns’ and understands that what is happening inside of themselves cognitively is also happening for other people.

INFPs, on the other hand, lead with a process called Introverted Feeling, which we call “Authenticity.”

personalityhacker_davinci-chakrasAuthenticity is a decision-making function (technically called a “judging function”), and works by being deeply in touch with how one is emotionally impacted by events. Decisions are made by “checking in” to ensure that they are in alignment with one’s values and identity. There is a saying that the more personal something is the more universal it is. Over time Authenticity understands that they aren’t alone in their feelings. They are simply more aware of them than other types.

Already, there’s a major difference in how these two types see the world.

INFJs are leading with an intuitive, learning process and INFPs are leading with a feeling, decision-making process.

For many INFPs it may be surprising to learn that they lead with a decision-making process, since decisions can be grueling for this type. Although Authenticity is truly decision-making, it is easily the slowest of the four decision-making processes (the other three being Effectiveness, Accuracy and Harmony).

Authenticity needs to be able to register how something is feeling viscerally, and often an INFP won’t know the right decision to make until after they’ve made it. It’s especially confusing when the Authenticity user can see a case for almost anything, so what’s true for them has to be carefully parsed out.

Each decision and its subsequent emotional impact is cataloged, however, and future decisions become easier and faster.

In fact, being so in touch with the emotional fall-out of a decision is how Authenticity eventually creates conviction, knowing in one’s ‘bones’ the rightness of something.

INFJs can also have trouble making decisions, but not for the same reason. Their decision-making process – technically called Extraverted Feeling that we’ve nicknamed “Harmony” – is faster than Authenticity, but secondary for them.

That is, they lead with Perspectives, and Harmony is an auxiliary process. Effort is required to develop the secondary process (that we call the “Co-Pilot”), and so when an INFJ finds themselves indecisive it’s because they’re spending too much time in their Driver of Perspectives and not enough time in their Co-Pilot of Harmony.

The result may look the same – indecisiveness – but the root is entirely different.

For an INFP, because their decision-making process can take time, it can feel grueling to be pressured to make a quick call. Each decision needs to be in alignment with the INFP’s values, and even a decision as simple as what salad to order can be a frustration if, say, their relationship with food has become a part of how they define themselves.

On the other hand, since INFJs are more removed from their decision-making process of Harmony, it’s usually over time that they become frustrated with the inability to make a final call. They are less likely to agonize over smaller decisions because not every decision is a reflection of their identity.

Understanding the difference between Perspectives and Authenticity can be tricky. They are both introverted processes after all, and require some measure of introspection. But even though they both are looking ‘inward’, they’re looking at distinctly different things.

Think of it as the difference between having an “a-ha!” moment versus that moment when you can feel your entire body tell you that you just made the right decision. “Getting” something for the first time conceptually is a very different experience than checking in to ensure everything is emotionally copacetic.

The Perspectives process allocates as much of its attention as it can get away with on the ‘a-ha’ moment, whereas Authenticity is constantly checking in with the individual’s emotional thermostat.

Understanding the difference between these two functions is crucial to understanding the difference in types.

2. INFP vs INFJ: Two different ways of evaluating emotional significance

As mentioned, an INFJ’s decision-making criteria comes from their auxiliary, or Co-Pilot, process Harmony.

Harmony is technically called Extraverted Feeling, in contrast with INFP’s Driver process of Introverted Feeling (Authenticity).

Which “attitude” (or, direction) the process faces once again shifts focus in a significant way.

Both Feeling functions are decision-making. That is, they are mental processes designed to help us evaluate information in order to come to a judgment.

Any time you ‘weigh the pros and cons’ of a decision you’re using a decision-making process, and what ends up standing out as important to you is based on which process you’re using.

We nicknamed Extraverted Feeling “Harmony” because we think it adequately describes the criteria this process is utilizing.

The Harmony person might ask themselves something like…

“What get’s everyone needs met?”

“How do I create harmony both within interpersonal relationships and the context/environment?”

In order to know the ‘right’ choice, other people’s emotions become the most interesting piece of information.

They’re ultimately the feedback mechanism needed to determine a decision was the right one, because it’s their emotions that tell you if their needs are getting met and/or if they experience any form of conflict.

On the other hand, Introverted Feeling is nicknamed “Authenticity” because it’s about the individual’s emotional experience. It’s about checking in with one’s own emotions to determine if an action is the ‘right’ one.

Is Authenticity more selfish than Harmony?

There is some confusion around whether or not Authenticity is ‘selfish’ or ‘self-centered’ in comparison to Harmony. While immature Authenticity can be quite self-indulgent, mature Authenticity is vital for a healthy society. Authenticity is where we experience integrity, the part of us that says it’s unconscionable to offend our own values. The only way to 1) know ones values and 2) stay true to them is to spend time deep-diving into one’s own conscience and subjective emotional experience.

On the other hand, Harmony when immature looks more like emotional manipulation and social bullying, while mature Harmony makes sure all of our needs are understood and taken care of.

If offending others is more distressing than offending yourself, you are more likely using Harmony. And if you’re willing to be a total pariah in behalf of your convictions, you’re more likely using Authenticity.

Some INFJs, accustomed to being misunderstood and feeling like an ‘outcast’, will sometimes identify with the concept of being true to oneself over ‘society’ and identify with this aspect of INFPs.

But instead of seeing it as a variation of being true to oneself (which all 16 types are fundamentally attempting to do all the time), it’s more helpful to see it as “serving other’s needs first in order to get your own needs met” (Harmony) versus “honoring one’s own experience first in order to honor other’s experience” (Authenticity).

3. INFP vs INFJ: The subtle difference between “absorbing” and “mirroring” emotions

This may be the biggest confusion between the two types. It’s definitely the source of endless internet battles for supremacy of “who’s the most empathetic type.”

Both INFJs and INFPs have an almost magical ability to understand the emotional human experience. The way they go about it, though, is very different.

I once heard a description for ’empathy’ as “Your pain my heart.” For an INFJ, this couldn’t be more true. INFJs absorb other people’s emotional energy whether they want to or not. If it’s powerful and there – friend or foe, intimate or stranger – your pain is in their heart.

[We did a full podcast on this (and other INFJ) phenomenon, called “INFJ Personality Type Advice.”]

The combination of Perspectives (getting into other’s heads) and Harmony (having other people’s emotions on their radar all the time) seems to converge into this super power (absorbing emotions), a gift I’d venture to say most INFJs would trade away if they could. (Well, for a day… before they started missing their sixth sense.)

INFPs, on the other hand, are masters at understanding the emotions themselves. As mentioned before, sometimes Authenticity doesn’t know the right decision until it’s already been made, and to compensate for this INFPs become consummate role-players. They can manufacture an emotional experience in order to test out what it would feel like, giving them more content to go on at game time.

Since Authenticity is their Driver process, this ability becomes unconscious competence for INFPs and they may not even register when they’re doing it. This is why Authenticity Drivers (INFPs and ISFPs) are easily the greatest actors and performers of all the types. Putting on a new emotion can be as easy as swapping jackets.

When in the presence of another person’s strong emotion, it’s not that the INFP is absorbing it, they’re mirroring it. Since this is exceptionally easy for them to do, it’s usually a surprise to discover that other people can’t even come close to this ability.

The nuance of their ability to mirror another person’s emotional experience can feel like absorbing since it’s so spot on. But, remember – this isn’t another person’s emotion in the INFP’s heart. This is years and years of the INFP mapping emotions within themselves and finding the closest proximity to what the other person is experiencing.

Again, the more personal an experience the more universal, and no one understands this as well as the INFP. “What is the exact feeling I’d be feeling if I were you?” is the Authenticity version of INFJ’s “Your pain in my heart.”

If an INFP appears to be constantly self-referencing, it’s because they are. They understand you based on understanding themselves. To self-reference is to enable more rewarding interpersonal experiences, though our culture can generate a societal distaste for self-referencing.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the difference in these two styles (INFJ absorbing vs INFP mirroring) is their relationship to time.

To absorb another’s emotion, both the INFJ and the other person (who is emoting) have to be together in real time. This isn’t post-processing emotional experience, it’s an emotion hitting the INFJ due to energetic proximity.

For an INFP it’s about finding the emotion the other person is – was – or will be experiencing within themselves. The emotion can be bound through time via works of art, literature, journals and any/every other way we as people express our emotions.

INFPs famously have a special relationship with art, and this is a major reason why. Art is a great tool for the INFP to help other people mirror (or re-create) the INFP’s emotional experience.

Truly great art evokes in us a response, and sometimes we discover emotions inside of ourselves we didn’t know we had. Authenticity artists outclass just about everyone else in their ability to help others mirror emotions.

Again, it’s not absorption, it’s mirroring (how I would feel in your place), which is why art speaks to everyone a little differently.

To recap: for an INFJ emotional absorption is done in real time/synchronously, whereas for an INFP emotional mirroring can be done through time/asynchronously.

4. INFP vs INFJ: Being understood vs. being validated

personalityhacker_INFJ_precognitionBoth the INFJ and INFP personality types run into the problem of feeling misunderstood. For INFJs, the Perspectives process gives them an insight into other people that is unmatched, and it can be disconcerting to realize other people don’t have the same super power. The result is a lot of one-sided relationships.

On top of that, the Perspectives process is itself quite mysterious to other people. Both INxJ types (INFJs and INTJs) learn to keep their speculations to themselves. ‘Just knowing’ stuff feels like precognition to others and can make them uncomfortable.

INFPs face feeling misunderstood because no one could possibly ever know them as well as they know themselves.

The Authenticity process is a deep pool of nuanced self-awareness, and it’s truly impossible to communicate all the variety within themselves to another person.

If you peel back the layers, however, it’s not that INFPs have a challenge in being fully misunderstood. If anyone else ever actually ‘fully’ understood them that would actually be a bad sign – it would mean that the INFP had lost some of their individuality or that they’re dangerously close to being too similar to other people.

There may be some pride around being inscrutable. At the very least it’s a sign that they’ve not lost their uniqueness.

So, if it’s not full understanding an INFP wants, what is it that they’re seeking?

Imagine that the criteria you use to make all of your decision is perpetually questioned by nearly every person you encounter. And now add to that the phenomenon that you usually don’t know the best decision to make until after you’ve already made it. To put a cherry on top, it’s based on something you can’t possibly explain to another person (because it has no language) AND once you know the right decision, you know it with such certainty that you would die for it.

But you still can’t quite explain it beyond, “It just FEELS right.”

It’s extremely easy for people of other types to marginalize this process, and nothing is more maddening to have your mental wiring – one of the primary sources of ‘identity’ – marginalized.

personalityhacker_infp-bad-intentAuthenticity uses ‘intent’ as one of its primary calibrations for whether or not a decision is right, for both themselves and for others. Oftentimes when an INFP gets sensitive or defensive it’s because they think their intent is being called into question. When INFPs feel marginalized they can also feel others insinuating bad motive.

As in, if you’re insistent on making this choice but you can’t fully explain to me ‘why’, then you must be being selfish or have other bad motive.

When an INFP feels “misunderstood,” it could be more accurately stated that they feel marginalized, discounted and believe others are questioning their motives.

The antidote to this isn’t ‘understanding’ them better. Most INFPs would say no one could ever truly understand them, anyway. The real antidote is validating their process of making decisions.

As in: “I don’t have to agree with you. I don’t have to know why you believe or feel the way you do. When I tell you that you have every right to feel the way you do, and make decisions based on those feelings, I trust that you have positive intent.”

If you can sincerely communicate that to an INFP they will love you forever.

INFJs aren’t nearly as invested in others believing they have good motive. They are far more likely to be tuned into the motives and motivations of others to give a lot of thought about whether the other person believes the INFJ has positive intent.

Where an INFP can lose awareness of other people if they’re really excited by a topic, INFJs never lose awareness of other people.

In fact, that’s why INFJs generally need more alone time than INFPs (not always, but usually). The only real distance INFJs get from other people is when they’re truly physically alone, and this is generally used to recharge their batteries for the next trip into the outer world.

INFJs are far less interested in validation and are more interested in protection. They don’t need you to agree with them, they need to know you’re not going to hurt them, even if the fear of hurt is deeply unconscious.

There are some INFPs that have experienced trauma in the past and fear being hurt by others, but that’s more a product of wounding than anything intrinsic. The most protected, well-treated INFJ on the planet is still going to have something inside them scanning for people who would be deliberately hurtful.

The differences between being understood versus being validated can be pretty subtle, but profound when trying to determine between the types.

5. INFP vs INFJ: How each persuades and leads

INFJs – using the Perspectives process – often solve problems and persuade others by offering alternative perspectives. In fact, they generally solve problems by shifting perspectives until the solution becomes clear. They offer these shifts to others as ‘a-ha’ moments.

INFPs – using the Authenticity process – are more masters of emotional Aikido. Since they understand how emotions flow within the self, they can use this to redirect the emotional energy in another person, getting them to feel what they want them to feel.

Both are powerfully persuasive tactics, and both types are represented in famous spiritual leaders. And while each can utilize the other talent, it seems there’s a strong preference for INFJs to bring ‘insight’ and INFPs to bring ‘inspiration’.

INFP and INFJ: Sibling-Types

When well developed, both INFJs and INFPs are highly emotionally intelligent. There’s a sense that these two types are here to assist the rest of us in understanding the human condition in a profound way. These two sibling types are extraordinary at what they do, and can have deep appreciation for each other’s methodology.

-Antonia

p.s. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and we’d love to hear what you think are ‘tie-breakers’ between the types. Leave a comment and let us know what you see as the biggest differences.

 

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Showing 244 comments
  • Shaurya
    Reply

    Beautifully written article Antonia. I have often found most of these infp vs infj debunking articles to be too generalistic and not including cognitive functions as an important reference point.
    Kudos on doing a good job, especially given the fact that you aren’t an infp or infj yourself, but perhaps that aided your analogy rather than hinder it (:P). As an infj i know how to doubt and counter question myself at every step to oblivion.
    I am surely gonna be sending this link to an infp friend who’s hell bent upon thinking he’s infj because he relates to them too much. I’m not much of a good talker or explainer, so this article will go a long way in knocking some sense into his head.

  • Val
    Reply

    Hey thanks for writing this very accurate article! I am an infp and i reference your article to help friends figure out if they are infj or Infp all the time. I am currently in a LTR with an infj and i found the info here to be useful in understanding them. I read online that infjs have the highest divorce rate among mbti followed by infp. Also, that in the west infp-infj relationships are generally a bad pairing that does not work out. However from casual info I gathered in eastern countries infp-infj relationships are generally very stable and capable of long term benefit. I believe cultures that value F over T interactions create the kind of space that allows this sort of pairing to flourish. Whereas say in the U.S. where T is more ‘valuable’, there is a lot of self-hatred…lots of F types mis-identifying as T esp if male. I know, cos i used to test borderline intp, but when i read the description i was 100% not one. Also maturity helps! I dont think i would have been able to handle this relationship if we were both in our 20’s.

    I guess it must be standard jargon somewhere to say that infps “mirror” emotions, but that terminology irks me for 2 reasons. One, there are plenty of articles online that use the terms “mirror” in combination with “emotions” when they are talking about sociopaths or psychopaths. Healthy infps are as far removed from those as possible. It creates confusion when people see “mirror” and “emotions” used in a non-pathological context.
    Two, “mirror” doesnt even describe accurately the processing that is going on invisibly below the surface.

  • J.D.
    Reply

    Thanks for the article 🙂
    I’m relatively new to all of this. I landed on this site because I was looking on the web to find a way to know whether something going on inside me is mine or not. Or is the question a sign I want to project something inside to something outside.
    So for INFP’s it’s projection and for INFJ’s there is no way to know the answer to this question ?

  • Alice
    Reply

    I am positive I am INFJ after not being able to read past the first 4 comments. Good lord. Anyway, my thanks because the difference between validation/protection rang every bell in my head. Could not understand why my INFP spouse always gets outraged by my unwillingness to listen to his point of view (before he makes sure that I will not be wounded by what he has to say). This was a real breakthrough and incredibly helpful. Probably helps to have an INFP in the house. (Also, I always tested as INFP before the whole “functional stack” idea came about and type tests were changed to reflect this and to reflect how differently J/P looks for introverts.) Thanks!!!

  • Dustin
    Reply

    I am not very fancy with words and I’m not even going to try to be but I know I’m an infj not infp as I sometimes test because when I am in a room with people who have lost a child I find myself holding my breath and thinking about them losing there child and that feeling of deep deep sorrow. Those feelings pop into conversation with them long after the people have learned to grin and bare it. That is how I know I’m feeling it and not mirroring it. Why would I have these feelings I didn’t know their kids I didn’t even know them when they lost their kids and yet I can’t have a conversation with them years later without reliving their pain everytime I talk to them. And I also can’t mention them to someone without that 1sec thought of sympathy. That is the most prominent way I can tell the difference. Thanks for reading and good luck on your quest.

  • Qeisama
    Reply

    Very insightful! Thanks for the article. When I was younger, my test result came as INFJ. But these past years, no matter how I twist it, the test result came as INFP. When I was writing my blog entry (here, you can check this out https://qeisama.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/maybe/), I ponder into this very nature of INFJ vs INFP. Which one do I belong to. I sometimes reference myself as both but this article puts it to rest. Number 4 really speaks to me that I am more of an INFP than an INFJ.

  • Gina Torres
    Reply

    I’ve taken the test several times. I tested as an INFJ first and continued to do so for a long time. Recently, I tested as an INFP. As I read the description of the differences, I found myself relating to both as I’ve experienced both sides in different situations. Especially with emotions. I have experienced another’s pain but I am also very good at relating to how I’d feel in another’s shoes (so to speak). Very interesting read.

  • Alice
    Reply

    I always get INFP on tests, but sometimes I get confused about INFP/INTP since I feel emotion very strong but I tend to racionalize everything to make a decision, although emotion more often gets the final call make me think INFP is the correct one. Even if in school math was my preferred subject (one of the motives I was thinking I was misplaced) and very bad in Literature (the meaning I see on texts was always different than my teachers) and Writing (for the fear of writing something bad I was avoiding writing to others at all costs). This article make me see more like an INFP even the final one (the way I lead) sees to be more INFJ, the other four are definitively INFP way. Still researching if I was misplaced, but tends to see I’m really INFP.

  • Jen
    Reply

    I found this analysis very accurate! I always get INFP on tests and was just curious, and now I am quit certain that I agree with the results and I haven’t felt so understood mentally in a long while. Thanks for posting and putting it into words for me!

  • Janeo
    Reply

    I love this- clarified some things for me. I’m definitely an INFP, but I’m getting better at INFJ-ing when needed, especially as it relates to inspiring vs giving insight- some people just react better to insight, so I find it’s useful to do both, but I’d always rather inspire.

    When I’m emotionally low or distressed, I turn into an INTP and it’s scary! Anyone else experience the same shift?

    • Jen
      Reply

      Yep, 100%. I definitely relate very strongly with INTPs.

    • Alice
      Reply

      Me to, classified as INFP but have some shift turning an INTP wich confuses me. And many people tends to see me as a more logical person than feeling since I work with program developing but obssessed with psycology, internet quizzes and auto-knowledge.

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