INFP vs INFJ: How to Tell These Personality Types Apart

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 16, 2021

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.

Cianna Garrison

Cianna Garrison holds a B.A. in English from Arizona State University and works as a freelance writer. She fell in love with psychology and personality type theory back in 2011. Since then, she has enjoyed continually learning about the 16 personality types. As an INFJ, she lives for the creative arts, and even when she isn’t working, she’s probably still writing.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

Comments

Jeremy Caldwell (not verified) says...

 Mrs. Esteves,

  I wanted to reach out and just say how much this article has helped shed light on a part of myself I was unaware of.

 I only learned of INFP and it's acronym this week. The more I research the more I understand many things about me that for the longest I assumed was trivial. 

 Now I see those things as a virtue that most might not even consider. 

   Thank you. 

Thomas J. Sodwith (not verified) says...

      This article talks about putting off decisions to the last possible instant. This I do. However, the article also says that the reason for taking long in reaching a conclusion and therefore making a bleeping decision is because of my feelings. I don't find that to be an accurate description of the thought process. I take long, generally, because I am running through many scenarios. As well as how they will affect anyone else if others are involved in my life. 

Lil22 (not verified) says...

This!!!  Exactly.  INFJ.

Bluey (not verified) says...

Thank you for this amazing article! Half of the things I do seem very strange to me and my family. I am slow to make decisions. After making a final decision, if someone asks me "Are you sure?" I have to go back and rethink it all over again, which always frustrates me and others. This article has really helped me accept that aspect of my personality. I feel at peace in a way and am not as questionative towards my actions. To add to this, I stutter a little and now know I may be overwhelmed by my thoughts, especially since I don't share a lot. I hope this helps others as well. Thanks again!

Lil22 (not verified) says...

So, I've struggled with quite a bit of depression off and on over the past 30 years.  Whenever I take one of these assessments when depressed, I come up as INFP.  But, after the depression resolves, I always switch back to INFJ.  Does mood often interfere with MBTI results?

Matt Kim (not verified) says...

I often see people talking about not fitting the type to a T and inquiring about why they're not exactly as these types describe.  I'd like to add that there are only 16 different types and these are only rudimentary descriptions of the individuals, there are entirely too many different people in the world to create a type that fits everyone exactly.  Even if there were 10,000 types, there's no way they would ever be able to describe everyone precisely and without having deviations from who they are.  I think adding enneagram to the MBTI can give one a bit better understanding of themselves, but this still doesn't narrow it down perfectly.

Keep in mind that no one can tell you who you are no matter how many of the characteristics you may have, nature and nurture ensure that everyone is so uniquely different there would need to be 7.9 billion types.

Carolyn JWX (not verified) says...

This is really interesting and yet still somewhat confusing.  I have always tested as INFP on tests, but my J/P scale is always very close to central.  (On one test I even got 50-50, though it still said INFP for me.)

I think I am probably an INFP, but even the talk of structure or flexibility confuses me.  I love that I work in a different workplace each day of the week and I am not a person to plan everything with lists and can be (& enjoy to be) spontaneous.  But on the other hand, if for example I am going somewhere for a weekentd, I will print off maps to every location I am going to if there might be no wifi, laminate them in case it rains, plan out everywhere else I might go including maybe googling cinema timetables and so on and I will be very prepared, particularly if I am going somewhere alone - I will have all my times and where I am going and when planned out exactly.  If I'm with a group of people I won't be a planner, but I can be the planner if I need to be.  And it certainly doesn't bother me if there are plans.  If I have some kind of project to complete on the other hand, there will be no plan.  I'll just (procrastinate and then) dive in.

In terms of empathy, I relate to the INFJ description.  I feel like I just feel the emotion of the other person.  I definitely don't always understand it first.  I don't feel like I mirror it.  I feel like I feel it.  It can sometimes be disconcerting as to feel the feeling without processing it can be overwhelming and it definitely means that it is harder to know how to help the main feeler than if I understood what was going on for them more from a more distanced and logical viewpoint.

In art, I don't care if something is objectively good - if I don't feel it, it has failed, so emotion is at my core of what matters deepest to me.  And in rationalising my thoughts about The World and issues of justice and fairmindedness, logic as well as emotion both matter.  I have strong principles and not necessarily the same as the main all the time, but I think I am open-minded to anyone's different point of view.  I hope to make decisions from how I feel, but I definitely don't make decision without logic.  I don't like making decisions, but once my heart is set on a decision, I am no longer conflicted - I have made my decision.

On the other hand, as a child I was creative, but also great at science topics.  I did a maths degree and have a logical mind that sees patterns instinctively.  I also play instruments and in my job I improvise so that's very spontaneous I guess - I never know what any day will be and even emotionally, every work day is very different.  Now, I prefer fiction and have a big fantasy world in which I daydream in ways 100% unconnected to reality.  And I always loved fiction and fantasy worlds in my own mind.  I love fantasy on TV and in books.  But I also love documetary programmes on science and history and I love biographies and delving deep into the past - historically and scientifically and I am interested in the deep connections (for example between maths and music - two of my passions.)

I feel like I am very much both analytical and driven by emotion!!?!  And that's probably why I score close to central on this scale in every test.  (For the INF parts I am always a lot more certainly in the zone!)

I know that other people perceive me as more organized than I actually am as they have told me and in the privacy discussion I relate more to the INFP description.

How confusing!

Anika (not verified) says...

I relate to SO much of what you’ve shared! I also test about 50/50 between the J/P function and while I lean closer to identifying as INFJ from reading this article, not all of the “signs” felt true for me. Very confusing, indeed. As someone else mentioned, maybe that function can vary with mood. 🤷‍♀️

Nick Cage WeathermanOneGoodMovie (not verified) says...

Mayhap vary from Childhood as well. Nahh, most definetly varies a considerable amount from childhood experiences, traumas, ptsd kind of experiences...what flavor of mommy/daddy issues they're rocking, as well as the intensity level (got that spice? Or we be Wonder-Bread White up in this biznatch?!). We all got em - but manoman do they vary quite a lot. In a lot of ways. Ya know? Ya....

 

Mushrooms are amazing annnd ya - love ya!

Nick Cage WeathermanOneGoodMovie (not verified) says...

It's all sliding scale - we all be works in progress, ya know?? Also cracks me up how much of a mess my lofe looks to everyone around me - like...Chaos beyond anything they can relate it to lolol. I livery in a big old redwood Stump, tent set up perfectly, I speaks woth Redwoods and ferns and mother nature (she be crayyyyt idkidk watch your back with her is all i'm saying!). And I am firm in my belief that my life is far more grounded in a rational and sane approach to life than anyone else around me....Individuatuon - trust me myself and I more than anyooooneee 100%% Only got me and its more than I'd ever need. I'm so cool tee hee! This life has been soooo painful!!! But I learn I think. Hopefully.

 

 

LOVE!

Nick Cage WeathermanOneGoodMovie (not verified) says...

Wow. This has shed so much light onto what was going in my last relationship...Just like that. Seems so subtle of a difference at first but...they really are different species. Completely different.

All of her plans...always with the plans on plans. And the internalizing of other people's emotions in a physical manner.. and me, the infp, helping her get back in whatever way I could, on a near daily basis...Was too much for me...ya...i'm just gonna say nah to relationships and focus on loving myself more and more instead. And keep smoking weed even tho its bad for me in a bunch of ways. It gets rid of the loneliness though, it's the only thing that helps in the least, and I've tried it all. Meditation yoga I workout a lot every day etc etc. Nah - aint nothin compared to one token in the evening...then...so lost in my thoughts that it's like I forget about everything else! and I know it doesn't sound like the best solution but...It just is...to be honest. Tired of pretending like it isn't. Going thru the loneliness every evening just tears me down so fast and can lead me to Downspiral in no time. So frikit - I stoned Ape and I stay Stoned Ape u judgey mc Judgersons out there  gon be judgin away from way up high holier than thou s%$t don't stank pedestal no matter what I do, and all that good stuff - Sooooo do as u will, inferior beings that you are!! INFP'S RULLLEEEZZZZ! PLANS=POOOOOOP! “peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” Aint no room for those when every second Is imprisoned in your plans, now is there?? Plans aint holding up all too well these days either, are they? Nope. Quit pushing them on us darnit. Just want to get high in the woods and think and take photos. Maybe write. Poetry is cool. Idk.

 

Precious (not verified) says...

Now I can't tell if I'm an INFJ or INFP, is possible to be both somehow. Because reading this has made me realise I have trends available in both personalities 

mispin (not verified) says...

This was so obviously written by an INFJ hahaha

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