In the personality community, there are a lot of mistypes that go around simply because online tests tend to be flawed and they also tend to have an intuitive bias. For this reason, many ISFPs mistype as INFPs or INFJs. Both ISFPs and INFPs have their own set of tremendous strengths and abilities, and my goal with this article is to go into detail about what sets them apart and what makes them similar.
ISFPs and INFPs – The Similarities
ISFPs and INFPs both have the same dominant function, Introverted Feeling (Fi). This is what drives them and gets them in the “zone”. Introverted feeling is an intense awareness of one’s own values, ethics, and personal tastes. As a result, ISFPs and INFPs tend to both be individualistic and focused on refining and exploring their value system throughout life. They both strongly believe in being authentic and have an honest integrity that is appealing to many other types. Introverted feeling also tends to give both INFPs and ISFPs a “gut” feeling about right and wrong, and they can feel an intense, nearly physical sensation when something doesn’t feel right to them or might go against one of their values.
ISFPs and INFPs both have the same inferior function: Extraverted Thinking (Te). As a result, they can sometimes struggle with getting their goals and projects completed efficiently. They can also feel out of their element when delegating or directing other people. During extreme, chronic stress, these types can fall “into the grip” of Te. When this happens, they can become uncharacteristically sarcastic, critical, and focused on their own and others’ incompetence. They both tend to get stressed by having their values violated, by having to deal with conflict, and by having to live under a rigid structure with a lot of rules and boundaries. You can find out more about their stressors here.
Extraverted Thinking isn’t always a weakness for IFPs though. While they may struggle with structure and organization, they know the importance of objective logical thought. They will generally struggle more with Te in early life, but as they grow and mature they tend to pay more attention to measurable facts, sequencing actions, and optimizing their time for optimal efficiency.
ISFPs and INFPs are both introverts. As a result, they will both need space for alone time each day. Lots of socializing can drain them and make them feel depleted and low on energy. They will need time before speaking their minds to process information and consider what they should say.
Both ISFPs and INFPs are perceivers. As a result, they will both prefer to have a more open-ended approach to life. They are usually relatively flexible and adaptable, and can find a rigid structure or routine confining and frustrating.
ISFPs and INFPs – The Differences
ISFPs have Extraverted Sensing (Se) as their auxiliary function, while INFPs have Extraverted Intuition (Ne) as their auxiliary function. Both of these functions are information-gathering processes, but they tend to focus on different information.
Extraverted Sensing focuses on the current objective, external world to fully experience all it has to offer. It notices all the sights, sounds, tastes, and textures of the world and wants to be immersed in them. Se draws energy and enjoyment from directly interacting and experiencing nature, people, objects, and events in a hands-on way. Se-users tend to enjoy new and novel experiences and they are usually very adventurous and love to travel and see new environments and cultures. They are also very detail-oriented and notice lots of nuances in the world around them that other people might miss. As a result, ISFPs are highly attuned to the body language of people and seem to intuitively know how to respond to that. They are also very realistic and down-to-earth. They strive to make the most out of what they have right now. When they speak, Se-users (like ISFPs) speak in a more straightforward, literal way.
Extraverted Intuition focuses on finding theoretical possibilities for the objects, situations, and things in its environment. It likes to explore what “could be” and is always focused on the future and how things might play out someday. Ne-users see connections and patterns between things that are unusual and creative and they leap from one data point to another to find these connections and possibilities. Instead of looking at something as an isolated situation or object, they see how it relates to all other things. They have a global “big picture” view of the world and are always asking themselves, “what’s the potential in this?”. They are often drawn to abstract and theoretical conversation and they tend to use metaphors in their speech.
To sum it up, Extraverted Sensing (Se) is more about experiencing the real world and being immersed in it fully. Se users are generally adventurous, detail-oriented, and attuned to their environment and surroundings. They are also extremely realistic and down-to-earth.
Extraverted Intuitives (Ne-users) are more focused on immersing themselves in theories, possibilities, and ideas for the future. They see the world around them as inspiration for future possibilities and are likely to spend a great deal of time imagining these ideas. They are also focused on finding unusual connections between things. They are less down-to-earth and more abstract and conceptual.
“But I Use Both!”
If you’re telling yourself this, then you’re on the right track. You do use both of these cognitive functions, but you prefer one over the other. One comes more naturally to you. This is especially true of Extraverted Sensing. In fact, most typologists agree that no matter what your type is, we all have to use Se a great deal. After all, this is the function that gets us to experience the outer world. If you didn’t use Se at all, then you’d be totally out of touch with reality and the world around you and wouldn’t experience anything. If you never used Extraverted Intuition then you’d struggle to see any potential in the world around you and struggle to imagine alternate possibilities, ideas, and perspectives generated from things in your environment. Many times we use several cognitive functions in tandem without even realizing it!
So what is more natural to you?
Are you more of an experiencer? Are you more about getting hands-on with the world around you and interacting with it and “stopping and smelling the roses”? Are you an adventurous realist with a focus on the practical use of things? If so, then you probably prefer Extraverted Sensing (Se).
Are you more of a dreamer? Are you more about finding theoretical potential in the world around you? Do you spend more time imagining future possibilities and scenarios than focusing on the present moment? Do you constantly see obscure connections between random things in your environment? If so, then you probably have a preference for Extraverted Intuition (Ne).
The Tertiary Function
ISFPs have Introverted Intuition (Ni) as their tertiary function. INFPs have Introverted Sensing (Si) as their tertiary function. Both of these functions are also information-gathering processes, and they are both subjective and focused on the inner world. Both ISFPs and INFPs will usually develop their tertiary function in mid-life, although this can vary from person to person based on their maturity and the demands required of them in life.
The ISFP’s Tertiary Function:
ISFPs have tertiary Introverted Intuition (Ni). In early life, this function will be relatively unconscious and possibly repressed. This may result in young ISFPs having ominous feelings about the future sometimes that they can’t quite pin down or describe. They may feel uncomfortable envisioning the future or strategizing about what the best course is for them. This can give them difficulty when making long-term decisions. However, as ISFPs grow and mature they develop Ni more and more. They begin to enjoy imagining the future, trusting their hunches, and speculating about the different perspectives and deeper, hidden meanings behind things.
INFPs have tertiary Introverted Sensing (Si). In early life, this function will be relatively unconscious and possibly repressed. This can result in young INFPs having trouble recalling details from the past or remembering facts and experiences that they want to. However, as they get older and Si matures more and more they become especially fond of their memories, their sense impressions, and their personal experience. They may become slightly nostalgic and enjoy revisiting favorite places, listening to favorite songs, and recalling their favorite memories.
Summing It Up…
INFPs and ISFPs have many things in common. They are both highly attuned to their personal values and they are both individualistic and open-minded. They are also both introverts who need alone time and perceivers who prefer a flexible schedule.
Where ISFPs are more about experiences and hands-on engagement with the outer world, INFPs are more about discovering theoretical possibilities and abstract connections in the outer world.
Both personality types have incredible strengths and abilities that make them stand out in the world. I hope this article has helped you to identify which type fits you best!
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, and The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
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