Some personality types are hard to tell apart due to their similar preferences. One of the most common mix-ups happens with the INFP and the INFJ, and it isn’t unusual to find yourself unsure of which type you are since the likes and dislikes of these types overlap in so many ways. However, you don’t want to let these similarities fool you because they’re quite different once you break down each type’s traits.
Although they’re both caring, creative idealists, the INFP and INFJ have some telling differences that make it easier to discern which type is which. So if you’re having trouble determining whether you or a friend is an INFJ or an INFP, look no further. Here’s how to tell them apart.
INFP vs INFJ Perceiving and Judging preferences
In the 16-type system, one preference can make a big difference between you and another type. So although INFP and INFJ share the first three letters, the fourth letter is where you’ll want to look first for a bit more understanding. Judging vs. Perceiving preference is all about how you structure your life. Structure affects more than your sock drawer and planner—it affects your social calendar, work, relationships and more, because how you organize your life determines important choices.
So how do these two types approach structure? Well, the INFP is a Perceiving type, which means they’re a lot more spontaneous, dislike too much structure, and like to keep themselves open to opportunities. Meanwhile, the INFJ is the opposite. Judging types love structure and prefer to keep their lives as planned and organized as possible because spontaneity makes them nervous.
So while the INFJ is the type to avoid unplanned events, spontaneous outings, and choices that are not within their plan, you’ll catch an INFP throwing caution to the wind, taking risks, and exploring life on a whim.
Introverted Intuition vs Introverted Feeling
Although the INFJ and INFP share much in common, their cognitive functions are polar opposite. Looking at the pair’s most dominant cognitive functions, there’s a significant difference in how they think. An INFJ leads with Introverted Intuition (Ni), while an INFP’s most dominant cognitive force is their Introverted Feeling (Fi).
This means the INFJ and INFP differ a lot in terms of how they see the world (and how others perceive them). Although INFJs are emotional and empathic, their outlook comes across as analytical and structured. So while their Ni is a Perceiving function, which is more open to exploration, this function is Introverted, which leaves INFJ’s ripe inner world full of pattern spotting, in-depth analysis, creativity, and uncanny intuition hidden from others. Their second primary function is Extroverted Feeling, a Judging function, making INFJs appear less flexible, though they feel more open and creative inside.
As for the INFP, it’s the opposite. They lead with Introverted Feeling, which leads them to make decisions based on their values and feelings. What’s displayed outwardly is their second primary function, Extroverted Intuition, which makes them appear open, spontaneous, and creative to the outside world, while their analytical side is more hidden.
INFP vs INFJ method of control
Plenty of the 16 types want to appear as though they’re in control and strive to be in control of their lives. However, some types exhibit an outward appearance of control, while others have more inward control.
Outward control is present in an INFJ, who comes across as put together, organized, and structured to a T. Little do others know that the INFJ can often feel out of control despite their punctuality and calm demeanor. Thanks to the INFJ’s perceiving function, Introverted Intuition, the open, exploratory attitude inside their head leaves them feeling flustered and out of control often, especially when you consider how an INFJ’s emotions are affected by others.
Again, opposite to the INFJ is the INFP, who will appear less organized and less controlled than the INFJ to others. Still, since their primary function is a Judging function, Introverted Feeling, there’s a lot of internal organization others don’t see outside the INFP’s head.
INFP vs INFJ empathy
INFJ and INFP are both known as caring, empathetic types. Called “The Counselor” and “The Healer” respectively, INFJ and INFP can understand the emotions of people around them. But the difference is how their empathy functions within them.
An INFJ will feel emotions as their own, taking them on as though they are experiencing joy or pain. Because of their Introverted Intuition and Extroverted Feeling combination, INFJs experience empathy in a way different way than INFPs.
For example, when an INFJ is around someone who is distraught, they can pick up on the distress whether or not it’s clear to other people in the room. The INFJ takes on this emotion as if it’s their own (they have no control over this reaction), thus becoming distraught, too, and understanding the emotion through the physicality of it and the tug on their own heart.
Meanwhile, the INFP has the opposite functions, Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Intuition, which creates a much different understanding of empathy. INFP will have a mental knowledge of someone’s emotions and can mirror them like a pro, but they don’t feel innate physical reactions and absorb the feelings as an INFJ does.
INFP vs INFJ decision making
INFPs are all about sticking to their values and ideals, and while INFJs are also big on maintaining their standards, these two types are a bit different when it comes to decision-making.
An INFP will feel conflicted when faced with decisions, often placing too much emphasis on what they feel is “right.” They’re so afraid of making the wrong decision that it can be paralyzing to them. With all that considered, INFPs tend to overlook critical details because they focus on their ideals and values above facts.
As a rule, INFPs tend to get stuck between their perceiving function, Introverted Sensing (Si), and the judging function, Extroverted Thinking (Te). INFPs have a more dominant Si function, which means these types often compare their past experiences and memories to the current scenario they’re facing while also trying to weigh the pros and cons using their Te. In short, INFPs don’t like making decisions and will put off the painful process as long as possible.
In contrast, INFJs are adept at making decisions, and their strong opinions, combined with their analytical side, make it a lot easier to commit to a choice. Before they do make a decision, though, INFJs weigh the pros and cons for hours and consider how their decision will affect others. Then, once they’ve made a choice, INFJs like to stick to it instead of revisiting it after they’ve already spent plenty of time considering their options.
INFP vs INFJ privacy
Both INFP and INFJ are private types, and they open up at a slower rate than Extraverted types might. However, INFP and INFJ handle their privacy in different ways, and one of them keeps to themselves a bit more.
INFPs love their privacy, and they’ll wait until they’re comfortable with someone to open up. They’re uncomfortable around strangers and are far from an open book. However, once they meet people they trust, an INFP will reveal a lot about themselves and build strong connections. These close and caring relationships are all about remaining authentic, and INFPs aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and desires once they’ve built enough trust with a friend.
INFJs are not the same, and it can take years for friends to feel they know the INFJ inside and out—if they ever reach that level of confidence. Unlike INFP, INFJs are private to the extreme, which means they often don’t reveal their whole self to even their closest friends or family members. When they do, it’s an honor and privilege that surpasses any regular relationship in their life. In most cases, INFJs don’t like to share everything and prefer to keep their lives private from most people. INFJs also have an intense dislike of feeling vulnerable, which perpetuates their dislike of opening up to others. Because of these tendencies, INFJs are often enigmatic to most people in their lives, even if the relationship is over a decade long.
Summing up the differences
Although INFPs and INFJs share many similarities, once you recognize how they function, it becomes easier to spot the differences between the types. INFPs exhibit more flexibility while INFJs prize structure, but often these outward traits don’t reflect how the two types feel inside. Many differences between INFPs and INFJs lie in their cognitive functions, which affect how they see the world and react to it. Once you understand the INFP and INFJ divide, it will become easier to determine which type you are.