As an MBTI® practitioner I see a lot of mistyped people on a regular basis. Every day I talk to people who just couldn’t identify with their type because they had gotten the wrong result when taking a free online test. The INFJ type result is one of the most common mistypes I come across; I’ve found that usually about 80% of the people who type as INFJs online are actually ISFJs, INFPs, or ISFPs. So in an effort to help you find your true type (because both types are AMAZING!) I decided to write this article with some pointers and tips. I hope this helps!
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ISFJ or INFJ! Which One Is it?
First, let’s look at the dominant function. ISFJs lead with Introverted Sensing (Si) and INFJs lead with Introverted Intuition (Ni). Now there are a lot of misconceptions about both of these cognitive functions so I’m going to start by going over some similarities. Both ISFJs and INFJs enjoy time alone to contemplate and go over ideas in their minds. They both enjoy peace and quiet and can get easily over-stimulated by sensory commotion and noise. They both tend to be better at focusing on one task or project at a time than jumping from one project to another (multi-tasking can be hard for both types). Because ISFJs and INFJs both lead with a perceiving function, they both like to analyze and ponder before expressing their opinions.
But how do I know whether I use Introverted Sensing or Introverted Intuition?
Think about how you make decisions. Do you like to look at what’s worked for you in the past and your personal experience? Do you trust “tried and true” methods and find yourself using repeated techniques and methods more frequently? Introverted sensing types are very focused on proven facts and techniques. They like to analyze information and retain what has been proven or affirmed by personal experience. Theoretical data can make them feel uncomfortable because it isn’t proven yet and it has no application in their day to day life. ISFJs are less likely to move forward on a decision based on a “hunch” or flash of insight.
How the ISFJ Plans For the Future:
- They take in past data and personal experience
- They compare current data to past data to see if events are likely to follow the same pattern
- They re-examine to see if any important details are missing
- They plan accordingly.
If what I just described didn’t seem relatable to you, then let’s try another method. Are you guided by an inner vision or “hunch” about how things will likely unfold? Do you look to conscious as well as unconscious material to guide you? Does the “tried and true” method seem unappealing to you? Introverted intuitive types are drawn by an inner idea or vision of the future. They take in a ton of information, some of it proven and some of it very abstract, and they tinker with it in their minds. Over time this “tinkering” results in an “aha!” moment where out of the blue a kind of plan or strategy unveils itself. INFJs are more likely to be blurry on the details of personal experience and more drawn to new, theoretical avenues of thought and potential. They are less likely to move forward on a decision in the same way they did in the past.
How the INFJ Plans For the Future:
- They take in unconscious and conscious data (unconscious meaning theoretical, symbolic, or archetypal information)
- Data simmers in their mind, while they toy with possibilities and different perspectives
- The INFJ lives their life while information and data continues to build and simmer in the background
- “Aha!” moment of realization or insight into what should happen.
NOTE: Not every single decision an INFJ makes results from a hunch or “aha!” moment. However, their process is generally much less sequential and straightforward than the introverted sensing process. It generally takes time for data to “simmer” and usually when the INFJ gets their plan or idea they can’t instantly relay exactly how they came to that conclusion.
“Introverted intuition perceives all the background processes of consciousness with almost the same distinctness as extraverted sensation registers external objects. For intuition, therefore, unconscious images acquire the dignity of things.”
– Carl Jung, Psychological Types
Do You Like Routine?
ISFJs feel more at peace when they have a routine and know what to expect from day to day. INFJs are more discontented with routine. Isabel Briggs-Myers says of INFJs that they “are more interested in pioneering a new road than in anything to be found along the beaten path.” Familiar, repetitive routines drive INFJs crazy, while they tend to comfort ISFJs.
What Gets You In the “Zone”?
According to neuroscience expert Dario Nardi, ISFJs enter a “flow-like” mental state when they envision the past and remember details from an enjoyable past experience. A flow state occurs when all brain regions are synchronized and high amplitude. This means that all regions are engaged and working together in a consistent manner. For ISFJs, remembering details from the past or re-visiting favorite experiences from the past helps them enter this state. ISFJs can be nostalgic about favorite pastimes and traditions from their life as a result. They may enjoy listening to songs they enjoyed as a child or teenager, or they may try to commemorate every moment with photos so they can look back and remember every detail explicitly. At the same time, ISFJs can become extremely embarrassed when they recall a shameful memory from their past. They may find themselves in bed at night suddenly remembering something they did ten years ago that they now realize was embarrassing and feel intense shame over it.
INFJs are quite different in what allows them to enter a “flow” state. INFJs enter this state when they are asked to tackle an unfamiliar, novel problem or they are tasked to envision the future. Where the ISFJ enters flow when tasked to envision a favorable memory from the past in detail, the INFJ enters flow when tasked to envision life ten years from now in as much detail as possible and predicting what will happen. They like to close their eyes and simply imagine/envision/divine how events will unfold down to the tiniest detail. They are less likely to be nostalgic (although they can be from time-to-time) and are less likely to re-play past experiences with the same accuracy that ISFJs do.
Check out Dario Nardi’s book, Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People
Auxiliary and Tertiary Similarities
INFJs and ISFJs share the same auxiliary function; Extraverted Feeling. As a result, if they are healthy, they both tend to be polite, compassionate, and focused on maintaining morale in their environment. They greatly desire harmony and want to make people feel at ease in their presence. They also tend to be very empathetic individuals.
INFJs and ISFJs also have the same tertiary function; Introverted Thinking. This means that occasionally when they are relaxed they enjoy solving brain teasers, playing games like Sudoku, or analyzing and gathering information about their interests. They also tend to have a fairly strong grasp of logic, even if they give priority to their values and the needs of others.
INFJs and ISFJs both make decisions in much the same way. Internally they’ll gather as much information as possible (either through sensing or intuition) and they’ll also try to decide what makes the most logical sense (through introverted thinking). However, when they interact with others they will give precedence to what will maintain harmony and what will coincide with their values. For example, an IXFJ supervisor might know that an employee isn’t pulling their weight, but they may opt to give the employee a second (or third, or fourth) chance to redeem themselves so that they can maintain harmony in their environment and meet that employees needs.
What Makes You Insecure?
INFJs and ISFJs tend to get very insecure about different things. Because the ISFJ has inferior Extraverted Intuition (Ne), they are often insecure about “unknowns” and uncertainties. They may worry about safety concerns, the future, changes, and unpredictable situations. When they are extremely stressed they may fall into the grip of their inferior function and catastrophize about endless negative possibilities. ISFJs will generally feel insecure when asked to make theoretical projections into the future or to think “outside the box”. This doesn’t mean they are incapable of thinking outside the box; in fact, occasionally (especially as they get older and mature) they may enjoy innovating, but especially early in life they feel better knowing what is expected of them and following a pre-ordained, trusted set of rules in a sequential order.
INFJs have inferior Extraverted Sensing (Se). Because of this, they are often insecure about taking concrete action and responding to sudden changes in their environment. They may feel concerned about driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood, participating in sports, or making an improvisational speech at the last minute. They may feel somewhat unsteady when having to focus entirely on the environment and reacting quickly. When INFJs are extremely stressed they may fall into the grip of their inferior function. When this happens, they can become suddenly impulsive, reckless, and/or obsessed with their outer environment. They may drink too much, eat too much, over-clean, over-exercise, or take impulsive physical risks (like bungee jumping or speed racing).
So what areas are you more insecure about? The unknown theoretical future, or responding in-the-moment to environmental changes? When you’re extremely stressed are you more of a “catastrophizer” or a “reckless indulger”?