Are You an INFP or an INFJ?

Years ago, there was a PBS series hosted by Steve Allen called Meeting of Minds. In this show, actors portrayed a variety of important characters from history. These characters met situated around a table and discussed topics ranging from religion and philosophy to the arts and sciences. Steven Allen got to ask the important questions that he’d always wanted to ask the people who played such significant roles in shaping our world.

I’ve thought about this program over the years and who I would like to see seated at the table. Who would I choose to moderate? Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs come to mind, partly because I’m fascinated with their personality theories, and partly because I have a few pressing questions that I would like them to answer. Number one on my imaginary Meeting of Minds agenda with the mother-daughter team is “What’s up with the fourth preference pair—Judging versus Perceiving?”

Judging Versus Perceiving

I have always disliked the language chosen to describe the fourth dimension of personality. Introvert versus Extravert makes sense to me. I’ll grant you Sensing versus Intuition, and Feeling versus Thinking is a no-brainer. But Judging versus Perceiving? The language is troublesome, especially when you realize that Judgers can interact with the world, but in no way be judgmental; and Perceivers can interact with the world without being particularly perceptive. The vocabulary has always sounded negative to me. Where the other dimensions seem to seek balance, this dimension’s choice of language seems to ascribe blame.

The fourth dimension in the personality system created by Myers and Briggs has to do with how you establish control with the world. Are you someone who prefers to interact with the world in an orderly manner, characterized by schedules, lists, delineated accomplishments, a need for results and a sense of completion? If so, then you’re most likely a Judging person. Or perhaps you choose not to worry about timetables, preferring instead to create and follow new ideas in your own good time? If your sense of control comes from remaining open and not pinned down, then you are most likely a Perceiver.

Where the waters get murky is that you can prefer to interact with the world in an orderly, methodical, and “Judging” way, but inside feel adaptable and spontaneous—and vice versa, since there are many organized Perceivers in the world. I’ve reached the point in my Meeting of the Minds discussion with the Myers-Briggs duo where I reach for the bottle of wine and refill the glasses.

Riddle me this, Isabel and Katharine: Do you envision your interaction with the world as being the role of the decision-maker, or the role of one who takes in information? Judgers typically visualize themselves as decision-makers — task-focused, goal-oriented and completing work before play. Perceivers connect with the world by taking information in, relating, and interacting with it. Since new information is always around the corner, it’s best to stay open, avoid detailed schedules, allow time for fun, and rely on deadlines to complete projects. After all, who knows where a new spark of creativity or innovative thought might take you?

INFP versus INFJ

I’m pausing here for Isabel and Katharine to clear their throats, squirm in their seats and respond, because my next question is a personal one. In 1986, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® for the first time. I scored INFJ. I wasn’t strongly “J” so my wise friend and mentor who administered the test had me read the two personality descriptions. At the time, INFJ resonated more than INFP. I went about my merry INFJ way for decades, until the early 2000’s to be exact. Then I took the inventory again to discover that I was now INFP. Worldview rocked!

Now I’m gripping the edges of our Meeting of the Minds table. Who am I if I’m no longer an INFJ? Come on ladies, drink up! What’s going on with your test?

J or P: Pretty Common Dilemma

As it turns out, there are a few things at play with my apparent personality shift. While the test itself has a fair amount of reliability/validity, the fourth personality dimension is more affected by external factors than, say, Introversion versus Extraversion. Have you ever felt like your life circumstances were so out of control that you just had to clean and organize your home? Sure, the expulsion of energy was therapeutic. But chances are, you also had an inner voice that said, “If I can’t control the events in my life, it will at least feel good to have control over my immediate environment.”

Don’t worry Isabel and Katharine. I’m not inviting Freud to the table to discuss sublimation. I’ve never been a fan. But your mentor and friend, Jung, might be a good addition to the conversation. Pull up a chair, Dr. Jung and enlighten us.

We can summarise his position by saying that the experience of chaos, the materia confusa, leads to transformation and is essential to transformation. What we will find at some stage in our lives is that the order that we wish to impose upon the world, or on the unconscious, no longer works – it may even produce further disruption – and that this failure portends the possibility of new life – or further distress; there is no sunny unrealism in Jung (Marshall, 2011).

Thank you, Dr. Jung, for joining our discussion and educating us on chaos and disorder. It seems, according to Jung, that the order we seek to impose earlier in life may no longer serve us in later years. In fact, experiencing a little chaos and disorder can lead to new life. Lean in Dr. Jung. Let me fill your glass.

I agree with Jung, but I would add that the people and events in our lives can push us in the direction of J or P. My outward transformation from INFJ to INFP had much to do with my husband at the time. He was a very strong P—a capital P, in bold, and underlined twice. Someone in the relationship had to face the world in a more orderly J-fashion. Our kids needed a homework routine. Our three-boy house needed an organizational system, without it we were drowning. So yes, Dr. Jung, I know that lessons can be learned from chaos, but they were lessons that I was not yet prepared to learn. Those lessons came later. They were painful. I needed my boys to grow up a little more.

INFJ or INFP: Sitting on a Fence

From talking with people over the years, I realize that a lot of INF types get hung up on the P or J dimension. Here’s my advice: unless your J or P is particularly strong, there is a chance that it will change over time. It will change in response to life experiences as Dr. Jung has instructed, and it will change as your relationships and life events work their transformational magic.

Is this too undecided for you? Is your “J” telling you that you’d rather be this or that? Then consider the following synopsis of the differences:

INFJ: This personality type steers through life guided primarily by intuition and introversion. INFJ’s have compassion and a desire to help others. They can see the future and potential for improvement and change. They are empathetic to the point of experiencing others’ pain. Decisions are made with everyone’s feelings and needs taken into consideration. They want others to “get” them. They value understanding others and being understood themselves. They find that in helping others, they help themselves.

INFP: This personality is guided by their introverted feeling. These are strongly principled individuals who seek to live life in accordance with their deeply held values. They are empathetic and in tune with their feelings but, unlike INFJs, they transform the witnessed pain into a personal knowledge and understanding of the experience. Decisions can be difficult because they must be in concordance with values and how the INFP envisions themselves. They seek affirmation. They find that they can best help others by self-reflecting and making a personal connection with the others’ emotions.

The Wrap Up

Our glasses are empty. Our chairs are pushed back. We’ve reached the same conclusion. Two personalities that are similar yet different. Two personalities that are separated by a single letter characterizing how they each connect with the world. Katharine and Isabel remind us that the last dimension, seemingly minor, creates a major difference between leading with intuition (INFJ) versus feeling (INFP). That difference leads to other differences. And even though some attributes are shared, like empathy, the route to empathy is a different one. Jung holds up a finger and reminds us that disorder, chaos, relationships, and events can impact this dimension. I nod my head in understanding and, like the good INFP that I am, I make a personal connection. My imaginary Meeting of Minds concludes on good terms.

 

References:

Marshall, J. (2011). The Psychological Significance of Chaos and Disorder. Camberra Jung Society Newsletter, 4.

Teresa Stackhouse

True to her INFP personality Teresa has had the good fortune to enjoy several career paths including: clinical social worker, massage therapist, yoga instructor, nurse, lactation consultant, and writer. She was first introduced to personality typing in the early 80's, and has spent the ensuing decades in a quest for INFP self-acceptance. When not writing or caring for newborns in the nursery, Teresa enjoys reading, cooking, and a daily walk.

Comments

Guest (not verified) says...

I still can't tell which one I am. Still, great post =)

Will Peterson (not verified) says...

I have usually been an INFP, but I found that in my career I would slip into the INFJ realm on occasion. I first took the indicator in the late 80's at the end of an MBA (one of the "tests" I took before placement). I recall being surprised at any description (I remember thinking, "you mean there are other people like me?") All of the descriptive ideas fit fairly well, but I see myself slipping back and forth. I would like to know the outcome from earlier in my educational career when I went from lah-di-dah about my education to the very concerted effort to get good grades.

Guest (not verified) says...

During my nursing cadeer back in the early 80s I was a in lower management and tested INTJ. I helped develop our QA and QI progeam and Recently since retirement, I test repeatedly INFP. This is accurate now. How can such a drastic change occur? I am thinking perhaps I needed to structure a controlled situation to survive my job. I loved being a nurse, enjoyed 1 on 1 patient care or 2 on 1 and seeing our unit giving awesome care in maternal child care. Now, in retirement I go down so many rabid trails organization is difficult.

Sophie413 (not verified) says...

Great article! I loved this. Although I identify as INFP, sometimes I read the INFJ descriptions and think they sound quite a bit like me. Another thing that helped me decide was the difference between extroverted and introverted intuition. An INFJ's dominant cognitive function is introverted intuition, or Ni, whereas an INFP has extroverted intuition, or Ne, as their auxiliary function. Although introverted feeling (Fi), as you do well described, is what an INFP leads with, but Ne is important too! And these two intuition functions are quite different.
When thinking, Ni focuses on one thing, looking deeply in to all of its possible sides and meanings. Often, Ni users will come to conclusions, or even epiphanies, about a certain idea. They also look for patterns in things, and are easily able to see the underlying meaning, pattern, or in the case of INFJ, feeling, and are able to see far beyond what's visible. Ni users often find themselves looking in to the long term future and goal setting, as well.
Ne is quite a different function from Ni! Ne users touch on many things, and their minds fly over endless possibilities and options, creating a web of connections in their mind. They often speak in metaphors, because they see that something can always have the possibility to be another. Ne is the ultimate idea generator, and often comes up with creative ideas seemingly out of nowhere. A Ne users's intuition process will be a little more obvious to others, because Ne processes externally. Ne users are often very good at seeing both sides of an argument. Paired with dominant Fi in an INFP, Ne is hindered a little by the internal moral filter of Fi, but Fi will additionally also give a sense of idealism in the person, because they are always seeing the best in people.
So another way to decide if you are INFP or INFJ is to decide what kind of intuition you have.

Samantha Holbert (not verified) says...

Wow! I thought this provided great insight into the difference between extraverted and introverted intuition. When I read this I could definitely see how my mom and I differ. With her being infp and me being infj, she always seems to see problems from multiple different angles, whereas I get stuck one thing or detail trying to figure it out (I can be obsessive lol). I'm also awful at generating multiple ideas. I see one thing and focus on that. Although I have found that being raised by infp and intp parents has caused my extraverted intuition and introverted feeling to become better developed. I think it's partly why I have very balanced j and p as I have adapted to my surroundings.

Edzel (not verified) says...

I'm not sure if this counts but I am an INFJ and I strongly relate to INFJ descriptions, but my J is not that very strong and whenever I retake the test I get INFP. I think because although I plan and do things in an organized manner, I also like to be open to new possibilities. And identifying which dominant cognitive function I have helped me decide. Me and my INFP friend were talking about sexism and I was talking about how early Disney movies (sorry Disney) are sexist and such and he wasn't quite convinced and he kept asking me "why?". I told him that I can see a pattern and some other reasons, and he told me that maybe I was just interpreting is wrong: maybe it was not really meant to be sexist, it might possibly be something else and we should look into it in the Disney's side. So I guess thats his Ne in action. 

J. (not verified) says...

I basically went through the same "metamorphosis", Teresa. I'm convinced that INFPs overcompensate in a time-controlled world by becoming task-oriented and deadline-driven. But as we mature, we learn to honor our own inner timetable and have more authority to do it.

For example, as a student, I sometimes needed to ask for extensions for projects because I didn't feel inspired to start them until the last minute, then I would pull all-nighters with superhuman focus. I usually submitted them just in time or a little bit late. At work, I learned to take control of the deadline schedule (all of my early managers taught me to "manage people's expectations")...which made me answer personality test questions as if I'm an INFJ. But I'm really more comfortable when the deadlines are flexible, giving me enough room to move by inspiration.

Liz Holden (not verified) says...

I took this personality test back in high school and got INFP but apparently I was halfway between thinking and feeling. I don't know about now though.

I'm FiNe (not verified) says...

Thanks for the engaging presentation of the concept, Teresa.

I had a similar backstory with MBTI: 1984 - INFJ; 1994 - ENFJ; 2006 - INFJ; 2013 - INFJ to INFP. Since the beginning of 2014 I have seen my best fit type as INFP.

INFP makes more sense for me because the face that I show the world is a Perceiving function (Extraverted iNtuition); and the place I spend most of my time is in my mind engaging a Judging function (Introverted Feeling).

Most online tests that I have taken continue to suggest INFJ. Regardless the J/P distinction is never clear (preference) for me due to instruments overly evaluating based upon not liking surprises (but don't schedule my free time either) and preferring to fall back on schedules when considering working life and routines in personal life (to minimize spending inordinate amounts of time on the "little decisions" each day brings).

In summary I don't consider that I was once an INFJ that transitioned to ENFJ and then to INFP. I think that after decades I recently spent more time engaged in learning about typology and stopped thinking of the instrument as assigning a label but as a tool to start or continue the introspection and self-reflection of the never-ending quest to answer the question, "Who am I?"

David G (not verified) says...

Such beautiful writing! Thank you.

Guest (not verified) says...

I don't believe that your type can change at this age. Have you read about Carl Jung's cognitive functions? They are the basis for MBTI. It makes sense that over the years you have become "more perceiving" because it is through time that you develop your weaker functions, and as an INFJ your extraverted perceiving function is weakest. It's a bit cumbersome to thoroughly explain, so I recommend you do your own research. :)

Artemesia (not verified) says...

I thought that Myers and Briggs said that introverts look like their first extroverted function. Which would mean that INFJs are perceivers (Ne) and INFPs are judgers (Fe). Did I get that wrong?

Sophie413 (not verified) says...

You are right about introverted types being identified as judgers or perceives by their first extroverted function in mbti. However, you are wrong about the actual functions. Are you coming from a background of learning about socionics? (These functions would be correct for socionics types) In mbti, an INFP has the dominant function of Fi, with auxiliary Ne, and an INFJ has dominant Ni with auxiliary Fe. Because Ne is a perceiving function, INFP is a perceiving type. Fe is a judging function, making INFJ a judging type.

kmiddleton (not verified) says...

That's inverted. The auxiliary function in introverts manifests in the outside world, so people often judge them based on that function. It's what the world sees. INFJs have an Ni Fe Ti Se functional stack, which is why they are often mistaken for extraverts: Their auxiliary function, which is the function for intorverts that is most visible to the outside world, is a people-oriented function. N and S are perceiving functions that involve how people interact with the outside world. INFJs are Introverted dominant perceivers, which means their spontaneity is all in their head. Literally. INFPs have an Fi Ne Ti Se functional stack, which is why they often appear more introverted and unconventional than their INFJ counterparts. In the INFP's case, what the world sees is the INFPs expolration of possibilities (Ne). F and T are judging functions that involve decision-making processes. They are Introverted dominant judgers want to be true to themselves at their core (Fi), so they wait for inspiration to strike, for them to understand what most fits with their personal values, before making decisions. Sometimes that process is quick, sometimes that process is much, much slower. But I'm no expert, either.

JimmyDaGeek (not verified) says...

Jung believed that as we develop, our weaker functions can get stronger and the ideal is all are equal

Katie Janes (not verified) says...

Interestingly enough when I took a test for my personality traits, to help me better understand myself while job hunting. (I had visited a career counselor/psychologist. I came up virtually identically weighted on the INFP and INFJ scale. My counselor said this was very rare to have someone score so closely and I certainly see that I identify with traits from each category. I did come out slightly more on the INFP scale, but the difference was minuscule. I have been told that I am highly intuitive and very accurate with my observations about life and the people who touch my life. I have a great need to help others, it gives me a sense of purpose. I also am someone who is ruled by my feelings, by my heart. In addition I have been told that I am highly principled (although not judgmental of others), friends trust me. Doing the right thing has been paramount in my life, however at times I am a contradiction. If I feel a rule is unjust or unfair, I am the first to want to break that rule. I am consistently a blend of both INFP and INFJ.

Blair Hollis (not verified) says...

INFJ
They can see the future and potential for improvement and change. They are empathetic to the point of experiencing others’ pain. Decisions are made with everyone’s feelings and needs taken into consideration. They want others to “get” them. They value understanding others and being understood themselves. They find that in helping others, they help themselves.

INFP
They are empathetic and in tune with their feelings but, unlike INFJs, they transform the witnessed pain into a personal knowledge and understanding of the experience. Decisions can be difficult because they must be in concordance with values and how the INFP envisions themselves. They seek affirmation. They find that they can best help others by self-reflecting and making a personal connection with the others’ emotions.

I am curious that while I share dimensions of both, I am not empathetic to the point of feeling the pain of others to the extent that it constrains my ability to “transform [this] experience” through their own self-reflection to actualize the need for transformative change [self-authentication).

So, am I a hybrid (J/P) just as Ambiverts exist traversing boundries of the introvert & extrovert?

Guesteleni (not verified) says...

Either way i still haven't found my ideal career...and it 's haunting me….sometimes I'm jealous of people who flow in their daily routine and they might feel happy about it ,thinking of when will that hapinness hit me?there are also times i feel i could fit anywere but for a while and that could be exciting giving me the chance to take a look on how they feel in what they have to do on a daily basis which would certainly get me bored..(doing the same thing daily forever..till this life ends)...h e l p...

Meg North (not verified) says...

Haha, I have come across so many INFP/INFJ articles, since this is confusing. For me, as an INFP and married to a "J," I can sometimes appear to be the more organized one since I have Christmas lists and travel lists and such ... but it's because I'm so absent-minded that I compensate by creating lists! My husband is much more comfortable coming to conclusions, while I just want to drift around mentally. I enjoy keeping things open-ended and flowy. I don't like deadlines, budgets, schedules, or routines, either. I like to go to bed when I want, eat when I want, or do things when I want rather than conform to some kind of schedule. Also, doing the same thing each day feels like it's trapping and controlling me rather than providing a helpful structure. I need space and time to explore things, to meander and ponder and 'moodle' around. You can really see the difference when my husband and I talk to one another - I'm like, "What if ... ? How about ...?" and he's all, "This is what happened ... The point is ... " Hopefully, this can help another P/J figure out which one they are! :)

larry the bandicoot (not verified) says...

my problem is with sensing or intuition-tied between ISFP and INFP. I think part of the problem might be that each letter has different traits behind it, and very few people actually have all the traits in each letter, which can lead to some confusion between which letter is best. 

also I wonder if there might be some troubles with introversion and thinking. Part of the thinking traits are that you prefer not to express your emotions, but that could very well be introversion, prefering to keep to yourself, so there could be confusion between whether it's because you're introverted or it's because you're thinking

Melonie (not verified) says...

Have you tried the functions specific test? That can show how much of each of the 8 functions you have abilities in? Or then theres the type vs type specific tests. IDR labs has them. I really loved the 8 functions test. I am actually high in all but two. One of them being my types 'least' function. Lol i dont know how else to put that. I'm an infp for reference. And i love your question :).

Same situation but in reverse (not verified) says...

By "least" function, do you mean your "inferior" function? (I believe that's Te or "extroverted thinking" for an INFP)

Dinah (not verified) says...

With regards to the suggestion on differentiating INFPs from INFJs -

what if one's intuition (which guides one to see the future & possible improvements to be made, as well as being compassionate for others etc) is deeply intertwined with one's values and principles? How does one differentiate an INFP from an INFJ then?

Melonie (not verified) says...

That seems to describe infp? I would think.

Kim Cissell (not verified) says...

Excellent article. You have helped me sort it out. 

"Here’s my advice: unless your J or P is particularly strong, there is a chance that it will change over time. It will change in response to life experiences as Dr. Jung has instructed, and it will change as your relationships and life events work their transformational magic."

For years every single test showed me as INFJ.  I struggled with not exactly fitting the description. Really, really close but not quite.  

Your article answers questions I've had for a long time.  I now feel comfortable that (despite the tests!) I am an INFP...although not a strong P.   

Thank you!

 

  

somebodyouthere (not verified) says...

When I took the test recently, I tested as enfj when I know I am an introvert. I'm 33 and have really worked on my social skill. I now find myself much more often socializing with friends (but a small group in an intimate setting) than I do reading a book. I do however spend hours playing music by myself if I can. The tests mostly ask about reading books. I wouldn't trust the test over what resonates with me. I've also made connections on this topic with studies on music. People who study and practice music develope both sides of the brain, right and left, in ways that non-musicians don't typically do. I've recently started a job as a school guidance counselor and did personality testing on year 11s and 12s (around 10 students so far, not a big selection, but I would really enjoy further study on this). I explained their letters and confirmed their test results and some would switch letters after the discussion. I noticed that those students who had lower percentages on various letter pairs from the test often had studied music, while many with higher (stronger) percentages had not. I counselled students who had close percentages to read up on both sides of that pair and learn from both sides. Some people are "amibiverts", why couldn't a middle or mixing of traits be possible in other pairs? As to p or j for myself, as a j, I feel really stressed if I'm running late but one of my values as an inf happens to be flexibility, so I work on being flexible, but in a planned way sometimes. I prepare to be flexible. And yet, reading the comparison before the wrap up I identify with both. none of my percentages were very high. Sometimes decisions are very VERY hard for me because I consider both everyones needs and feelings and my own values and how I invision myself heavily. so maybe I'm an ambejap or an INFJaP (j and p). Why let a test limit you? be both, or decide which trait you want to lean on or bring out of yourself in a given situation. 

Melonie (not verified) says...

You're awesommme! Fist pump :) :)

marilyn devlin (not verified) says...

Hi Teresa... thank, great article.  Yes... the ongoing dilemma.  I became clearer... on noticing that ' not knowing' made me nervous and agitated.  I like to know.  And reading brief details on each... coming to conclusion I am INFJ.

'Cause my feeling nature is so strong and my 'psychic' inheritance... the 'feeling' reference use to confuse me.

Yep that damn illusive 4th dimension!  Four has me thinking of squares (challenging aspect in astrology)... then number 4 ~ grounded practical... foundations.  Also Saturn... hard work yet surrender and flow... manifesting in the physical.

Thanks again... marilyn 💚 

Same situation but in reverse (not verified) says...

Same thing here, only in reverse.  Naturally an INFP (I believe) but often feel that life "forces" me to be more methodical and goal oriented just do get anything done  in the outer world without being trampled over.  I feel this is more a matter of the way our world is set up, and not the way it necessarily has to be, but fighting it or expecting it to be different than it is, is pointless....so I "cowgirl up" (funny, a friend dropped that phrase in relation to life and aging just yesterday...and it seems to fit perfectly here.  The problem is, I'm  not a cowgirl!  I will probably go back to my "INFPness" when I've completed an addition to my house where I have to be on my "organized, methodical, goal oriented toes" every step of the way.  Thanks for the article!  Even though I've read that MBTI can change, I didn't believe it completely and agree wholeheartedly that our experiences can at least temporarily "bend" them.

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