ISFP vs INFP – The Difference between these Two Personality Types

In spirit, ISFPs and INFPs are remarkably similar personalities. They both tend to be private, introspective, contemplative, value-centered, creative and intelligent. They are sensitive to others and both dislike conflict.

In a situation where everyone is in agreement and working towards the same outcome, both personalities will thrive. They each require a sense of purpose in their lives and will both hold firm to their convictions when challenged. It is essential that ISFPs and INFPs feel that their personal and professional efforts are making a positive difference in the world.  

In spite of that commonality, ISFPs and INFPs do have significant differences. ISFPs are carefree spirits who want all things and all people to be in harmony with one another. They love to pursue activities that are fun. They shy away from complications and drama and would generally consider themselves to be happy.

INFPs, on the other hand, tend to see things in a more black and white sort of way. Something will either jive with their value system or it won’t. Because they are more inwardly focused, they often have a tendency to be plagued with anxiety. Social situations may be more difficult for them as compared to ISFPs. When comfortable, however, INFPs are very creative and capable of thinking up unique solutions for problems.

The Key Differences between ISFPs and INFPs

While ISFPs and INFPs have many similar tendencies, they are essentially different in how they react to the world. ISFPs tend to be spontaneous and act in the spirit of the moment, whereas INFPs are more cautious and prefer to carefully think out important decisions.

Here are some real world examples of how different ISFPs and INFPs can be:

  • ISFPs are happy-go-lucky personalities. They want to do well but will not punish themselves if they don’t meet their own expectations. 
  • INFPs tend to set strict goals for themselves and then strive hard to achieve them. Very often, they are too hard on themselves when they have difficulty achieving their goals.
  • ISFPs live in the moment. 
  • INFPs often worry about the future.
  • ISFPs prefer action over discussion. 
  • INFPs prefer discussion over action.
  • ISFPs will tend to judge everything on a case by case, moment by moment basis. What may work for them one day, may not work for them the next. 
  • INFPs have a strict moral code and will live their life and make decisions largely based on this code.
  • ISFPs are private by nature but tend to have an easy time getting to know other people. 
  • INFPs may struggle with relationships because they are so fearful of rejection.
  • ISFPs are fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants types who would much prefer throwing caution to the wind rather than worrying over something. 
  • INFPs are generally more anxious and more cautious regarding their life approach.
  • ISFPs are very engaged with their environment, actively taking part in what is going on around them. 
  • INFPs tend to exist happily inside their own heads. Because of this, they may seem preoccupied or to be aloof to those who don’t know them.
  • ISFPs can successfully work on many things at one time. They are excellent multitaskers. 
  • INFPs do better focusing on a single task and completing it before they begin another task.
  • ISFPs may do tasks out of order if it suits them to do so. They are not the types to “read the manual” because they’d rather figure it out for themselves. 
  • INFPs like to follow a specific process of doing something — starting at the beginning, completing each step and then moving to the end.
  • ISFPs are eager for action or for something to happen. 
  • INFPs are more laid back and are relaxed if everyone around them in happy.

ISFP and INFP — Cognitive Functions

To understand why ISFPs and INFPs do what they do, one must take a closer look at their individual personality functions. All personalities are made up of four cognitive functions — Intuition, Thinking, Sensing and Feeling. Each function can then be further described as being Extroverted (outwardly expressed) or Introverted (inwardly expressed.)

When examining ISFPs and INFPs specifically, the first thing that stands out is that they both have the same dominant function — Introverted Feeling. It’s no wonder, then, why they share so many personality characteristics.

The differences in their personalities are the result of how those characteristics are expressed. The expression of those characteristics is governed by their auxiliary, tertiary and inferior functions. It is interesting that both personalities also share the same inferior function which contributes, at least a little, to the similarity of ISFPs and INFPS.

Dominant Functions:

An ISFP’s dominant function is Introverted Feeling. This means that they tend to be individualistic and independent. Often, they are driven to act and make decisions by an internal sense of right and wrong. That sense may be similar to the “golden rule,” which dictates treating other people how they themselves would like to be treated.

ISFPs are not overly emotional but can come off as intense or serious, particularly when dealing with situations and issues that are important to them. Here are some of the ways ISFPs express their Introverted Feeling:

  • They are quiet and private people but are very caring and empathetic and will go out of their way to help others. 
  • They don’t like phony or inauthentic people. They want friends who understand them. 
  • ISFPs will tend to be friends with those who share a similar world perspective. 
  • They are very aware of their own limitations and will not be hesitant to tell someone that they need time and space of their own.

An INFP’s dominant function is also Introverted Feeling. They are very focused on and affected by how their own mind works. They feel that careful self-examination will ultimately yield answers that can help them to understand the world around them.

It’s easy to dismiss them as being daydreamers but their feelings are deep and well-defined. They have an attraction for certain things and are equally repulsed by other things. INFPs have a strong set of values that will provide a framework for any decision that they make. Here are some ways INFPs express their Introverted Feeling:

  • Like ISFPs, they feel a great deal of empathy with others, especially those who are in some way similar to themselves.
  • They tend to feel very interested in other people but often feel too shy to make themselves available for friendships. 
  • Their friendships may be slow to develop, but once they are able to trust someone, they will be undyingly loyal. 
  • Sometimes their tendency to withdraw from social situations causes them to be misunderstood as being aloof or uninterested in companionship. This is very often a sore spot with INFPs because they long to be understood by others.

Auxiliary Functions:

An ISFP’s auxiliary function is Extraverted Sensing or interpreting the world using the five senses. ISFPs spend a great deal of their time observing and soaking in information, which is perhaps why they are known for having an excellent memory. They also tend to be very visual and artistic. It’s not uncommon for ISFPs to be talented artists with an impressive eye for composition and style. Here are some of the ways ISFPs express their Extraverted Sensing:

  • They prefer doing something rather than talking about doing something. 
  • They will have their own sense of fashion and style that sets them apart from everyone else. 
  • They love immersive sensory experiences like gourmet cooking, hiking or going to concerts.

An INFP’s auxiliary function is Extraverted Intuition and is one of the main reasons why they are so creative. This function allows them to perceive patterns and to see the world as having boundless possibilities. INFPs are endlessly curious about their role within the world and are constantly searching within themselves to discover the answers. Here are some of the ways INFPs express their Extraverted Intuition:

  • They are excellent researchers because they have a deep curiosity and a knack for persistence. 
  • They tend to see the big picture of any situation rather than the smaller, more insignificant details. 
  • They are known for having a “gut instinct” about people and situations. They will make decisions that are dictated by their instinct rather than by what objective information tells them.

Tertiary Functions:

An ISFP’s tertiary function is Introverted Intuition. This function may linger in the background and could cause this personality to be interested in theoretical or abstract problems. It will generally work in tandem with their impulse to act, meaning that while they are doing something, they will be thinking about the meaning of what they’re doing. Here are some of the ways ISFPs express Introverted Intuition:

  • ISFPs tend to be deep feeling people who find meaning in beauty. 
  • They look for the moral relevancy in their pursuits, not wanting to participate in something that goes against their sense of right and wrong. 
  • They can be critical of other people, especially if those people do not share their values or are doing something that is opposed to the harmony of their group.

An INFP’s tertiary function is Introverted Sensing, which is the function that allows them to use their past experiences to interpret the present and future. Some personalities are known for their adherence to traditions because they value doing things as they have been done by previous generations. INFPs, though, are not as concerned with what was customarily done in the past and are open to new experiences. Here are some of the ways INFPs express their Introverted Sensing:

  • They are not rigid by nature but INFPs do have a tendency to find comfort in a certain level of routine in their daily lives. 
  • INFPs like to use their knowledge of the past to do something creative and original in the present moment. 
  • INFPs are known for having a vivid memory, especially in regards to whatever emotion they experienced at the time.

Inferior Functions:

An ISFP’s inferior function is Extraverted Thinking — or the ability to reason logically. They can be logical thinkers but have more of an ability to think abstractly and theoretically. They are more likely to act on impulse, ignoring logic as they fly by the seat of their pants to whatever the next new thing is. Here are some of the ways ISFPs express their Extraverted Thinking:

  • They become impatient with people who stick to the rules without opening their minds. 
  • Many ISFPs need to work on being less judgmental about people who have a set process for doing things. 
  • If they open themselves up to this part of their personality, the dash of logic will help when dealing with other people.

Like their ISFP counterparts, INFPs’ inferior function is also Extraverted Thinking. INFPs tend to be highly emotional but this function adds reason and logic to their thinking. Here are some of the ways INFPs express their Extraverted Thinking:

  • In a situation when a problem needs to be solved, this function helps to keep an ISFP’s emotion in check and provides a rational framework for them to complete their task. 
  • They tend to have a process for working through a task which involves starting at the beginning and following through until the end. 
  • Although they do have this logical part of this personality, it may be difficult for them to apply it to their own self-examination, an area in which they are highly emotional.

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