As one of the 16 different Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types, INFPs have their own unique set of characteristics. They are considered to have a firm set of values, including a strong moral compass. They are also deeply empathetic and idealistic. This is due to their unique combination of personality preferences, as well as their cognitive functions.
But what exactly makes them the way they are? What is the secret formula that fuels their altruism and their need to help others?
This article will go in-depth about the INFP personality traits and characteristics that this personality type is shaped by. We will explain what preferences and cognitive functions are and what they mean in the context of INFPs. We will also take a look at their strengths and weaknesses and whether there are any prominent differences between male and female representatives.
What Does INFP Mean?
The INFP personality type is known as The Dreamer and belongs to the NF empath temperament. Personalities that fit in this category are known for being idealistic, intuitive, and emotional. INFPs embody all of these characteristics but, due to their unique combination of preferences, add a twist on them. They are quiet and need to be alone for extended periods of time, in order to feel happy. However, this doesn’t mean that they dislike other people – on the contrary, they are caring and compassionate. INFPs enjoy brightening the lives of those around them through their signature altruism and kindheartedness. They are also idealistic and project this idealism on their partner and friends, and the world around them. They are also similar in behavior and qualities to the INFJ personality, but there are some nuances to their individual traits.
INFPs enjoy understanding other people’s feelings and make great listeners. They like to learn what moves other people and makes them tick, and put in a lot of effort to peek beneath the facades of those around them. This makes them empathetic – a quality that their close friends can truly appreciate. However, these people also have a great interest in better understanding themselves. Others often admire their dedication to personal growth. An imaginative type, many famous INFPs are writers, poets, and philosophers. One thing important to note about this personality type is their need to discover a sense of purpose. Without that, they risk feeling like they don’t have any direction in life, which can be confusing.
What makes INFPs behave the way they do? What makes them so altruistic and idealistic? Deducting the INFP meaning isn’t as hard as it sounds. Their bouquet of traits and characteristics is best explained by the unique set of preferences and cognitive functions this psychological type has. In a second, we will go in-depth in both these categories and help better shape our understanding of this personality type.
Labeling people is easy but how likely is it for that label to hold true 100% of the time? Not very. However, the MBTI theory pinpointed 8 different aspects, which work as reference points when it comes to understanding personality types. In different combinations, they make up the 16 personality types. These so-called “Preferences” are a way of categorizing a person’s natural tendencies in a wider context. The 8 preferences are the following:
- Extroversion vs Introversion – This describes how people direct their energy – either outward or inward.
- Sensing vs Intuition – This describes how people receive and process new information – either pragmatic or imaginative.
- Thinking vs Feeling – This describes how people make decisions – either emphasizing a logic external to the situation, or others’ feelings.
- Judging vs Perceiving – This describes people’s approach to the outside world – either in a structured or more flexible manner.
INFPs have Introverted (I), Intuitive (N), Feeling (F), and Perceiving (P) preferences. Let’s take a closer look at what each of those means and in what way they shape this personality type’s character.
Introverted (I) personality types direct their energy toward their inner world. They prefer to be alone with their thoughts and use this time to gain more intricate insights about what makes them tick. Social situations drain introverts quickly and, if they have to engage with people, they prefer to do so in small groups. For them, any personal relationship needs to be meaningful and have a certain depth to it. To people who don’t know them, they might appear cold and reserved, but underneath the surface, they are good listeners but are more sensitive to their environment than the average extrovert.
Here is a summary of prominent Introversion traits:
- Prefers to spend time alone, or in small groups
- Energized by solitude
- Quiet and not socially inclined
- Internally aware
- Has fewer friends, with deeper connections
- Not as approachable
Intuitive (N) personality types keep their eyes on the future and are immersed in a world of ideas and unexplored possibilities. It’s easy for them to see patterns and connections between broader concepts, that others would be oblivious to. They are adept at looking beneath the surface of a situation and extracting deeper meaning. They love exploring the theoretical and are likely to spend hours pondering the question “What if..?” Intuitive personalities aren’t all that grounded in reality and certainly can’t be categorized as practical. However, their deep imagination and unique perspective can be greatly valued when innovation and creativity are needed.
Here is a summary of prominent Intuition traits:
- Able to see deeper connections and possibilities
- Good with abstract and unorthodox idea generation
Feeling (F) personality types make decisions based on their personal values and feelings. It’s not that they don’t take facts and logic into consideration – they simply don’t place heavy emphasis on those. Instead, they choose to follow their heart and gut feeling, deciding based on their principles and moral code. Even if no one understands them or agrees with them, Feelers would still be willing to stand up to what they believe in. Another important aspect on which they focus when a decision has to be made is how other people feel about the situation as well. Often, Feeling people are warm, compassionate, and empathetic. They are concerned for others and place heavy importance on interpersonal connections. Feeling types dislike interpersonal conflict and aim to create a harmonious environment in which everyone is happy and feels good. They also don’t take it lightly when someone disregards their feelings.
Here is a summary of prominent Feeling traits:
- Guided by their hearts
- Driven by feelings and emotions
- Empathetic and caring of others
- Dislike conflict
- Sensitive and easily hurt
Perceiving (P) personality types deal with unexpected situations in a flexible manner. They dislike rules and regulations and prefer to keep their options open. These people are adaptable to changes and view routine as a needless limitation. Their spontaneous nature tends to keep their environment busy and interesting – which is a blessing, in their book. To Perceiving people, deadlines are optional and they tend to move through life at their own pace. They are also much better at starting new projects, rather than methodically seeing old ones through. People with this personality trait have a dislike toward commitments since they want to be open and ready when a new opportunity appears on the horizon.
Here is a summary of prominent Perceiving traits:
- Adaptable and spontaneous
- Dislike structure and rules
- No issues changing their mind halfway through
- Tend to procrastinate
- Like to keep their options open
- Flexible and carefree
INFP Cognitive Functions
Each Myers-Briggs personality type operates through 4 hierarchical Cognitive Functions. They are expressed by a Preference, combined with how the individual directs their energy – either inward (Introverted) or outward (Extroverted). These cognitive functions follow a strict order in each personality, with the dominant and auxiliary ones playing the biggest part in how the MBTI type behaves. The remaining two have their own influence but can only apply to certain situations or scenarios.
Here is a full list of all the different cognitive function combinations:
- Introverted Intuition; Extroverted Intuition
- Introverted Sensing; Extroverted Sensing
- Introverted Thinking; Extroverted Thinking
- Introverted Feeling; Extroverted Feeling
The INFP cognitive stack looks like this:
- Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
- Extroverted Thinking (Te)
Below we will take a look at each of these cognitive functions and will analyze what part it plays in shaping the character of the INFP type.
Dominant Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Introverted Feeling (or Fi as abbreviated) is a judging function connected to the individual’s decision-making process, as well as their personal beliefs and values. It concerns authenticity, sincerity, and individuality. Types, where this cognitive function is more prominent, have strong beliefs and a concrete sense of self. They rarely doubt their feelings and are confident in their intuition. People with strong Fi take their time to refine their values before they make a decision about what is wrong and what is right. They have a strong need to stay true to themselves, because of how greatly they value authenticity. Nothing repulses them more than shallow and fraudulent people. Fi dominated people tend to form deep connections with a select few, and once they perceive something (or someone) as good, it can be hard to change their mind.
As their dominant function, Fi makes the inner world of INFPs emotionally rich but keeps that richness bound up inside. They are compassionate and empathetic toward others, and feel a great sense of wonder toward the world but, since they aren’t keen on showing these feelings to others, INFPs can be misjudged. They spend a lot of time on self-reflection and are skillful masters of self-care. Because they reflect so much on themselves, they often know what they want and how they feel in a majority of situations – which is a good skill to have. Unlike their Fe counterparts, who are concerned with how the group feels about different situations, Fi people focus more on their own feelings about the subject.
Auxiliary Function: Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
Extroverted Intuition (or Ne as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to gathering information. Types that are dominated by Ne (including INFPs) are driven by never-ending possibilities. These people enjoy theorizing and connecting the dots in order to form a bigger picture. Their heads seem to always be in the clouds but, if someone were to peek in their minds, they would find an intriguing thought process. Because the gears in their brains never stop turning, they are able to easily tackle challenging problems and wrestle creative solutions from limited resources. These people prefer to see what things could become, rather than focus on what they currently are. It is important to them to have sufficient alone time to reflect on these concepts and patterns, and eventually find the connection between them. This is why it’s important to give them enough peace and quiet, for inspiration to strike. They stay away from conventional approaches, preferring instead to flex their brain muscles to come up with unlikely solutions. It is difficult for Ne-dominated people to focus completely on the moment and enjoy their successes since their brains are naturally inclined to move on to what they want to do next.
You may ask yourself, what is the difference between Ne and Ni? Compared to types with Introverted Intuition (such as INTJ and INTP), types with Ne have to reflect on the patterns they see and actively use their brainpower to connect them in a meaningful way. This isn’t the case for the Ni type – these people mysteriously reach the same conclusions just by observation, without having to think too much about the patterns they see.
Tertiary Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
Introverted Sensing (or Si as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to gathering information. This cognitive function has a lot to do with how experiences delivered via the 5 senses affect the person. People with Si put greater value on their own experiences and usually have a good memory or a well-kept catalog of details about their experiences. It’s easy for them to call upon these memories and get nostalgic from seemingly small details, for example, a certain scent that holds special meaning for them. As a detail-oriented function, Si makes INFPs confident that solutions that worked for them in the past will still work if applied again. They often use this to their advantage when it comes to staying organized in their work and personal life. Typically, they have a good balance when it comes to choosing between implementing a new idea and using what previously worked.
The inner world of INFPs is solid. They’re comfortable outlining their values because they likely spent much of their adolescence formulating how they felt about important issues. Typically, INFPs rely on these established norms until they encounter a major new experience or paradigm-shifting idea, which could make them question their established values. Even though these people consider themselves to be quite open-minded, they still need considerable time to be able to effectively evaluate how they feel about the subject. Even if they are still unsure about it after some time has passed, they will be satisfied, since they will have reached a heightened understanding of themselves.
Inferior Function: Extroverted Thinking (Te)
Extroverted Thinking (or Te as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to the way a person takes information from the real world and makes a judgment. Typically, it means that an individual with this function conveys their thoughts in a logical and concise way. People dominated by this function are unmoved by emotions or outside factors – they are solely focused on facts and arguments that logically make sense. However, for INFPs this is their inferior, and thus weakest, function. It would be exhausting and unhealthy for them to try and rely on this function for the majority of the time. But, when necessary, they can tap into it and troubleshoot to get the job done.
INFPs don’t like rushing into decisions, instead preferring to take their time. When this isn’t possible, they find a lot of value in using their Te, as it helps them make quick decisions. Since they rely a lot on the internal compass that Fi supports them with, they don’t feel uncomfortable with their decision, even if they haven’t had time to think it through properly. For example, if they feel threatened in a situation, they will focus on evading the scene, instead of trying to understand why they feel that way. In that way, Te often serves as a protective function for INFPs, as it pushes them to act even before they fully evaluate a situation from all the possible angles. If they rely too much on this function, however, they can quickly burn out. This is why INFPs can benefit greatly if they find someone who can make at least part of their decisions for them.
INFP Strengths and Weaknesses
Up until now, you have probably gotten a good understanding of what a true INFP is like. You have seen how they classify as quiet, caring, and imaginative idealists, who have a deep set of inner values and beliefs. While their good intentions and staying true to their principles are admirable qualities, there are other areas in which they find themselves lacking. But which exactly?
We think it’s important to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the MBTI types in order to be fully able to comprehend them. This is why we made a small summary of both sections below, listing the most prominent traits that INFPs have (and don’t have).
- Caring and considerate of others
INFPs are concerned about the feelings of others. They find it easy to adjust their behavior if they find it to be hurtful of other people, even if they didn’t mean it in the first place. INFPs are kind-hearted by nature. In fact, this is one of their best qualities and is appreciated by those around them.
When INFPs start working on something that they are passionate about, they are willing to give their all for it. Their good intentions and struggle to do good in the world aren’t worth much if it’s not translated into reality. Luckily, INFPs can be a formidable force if they set their mind to it – a characteristic that can be beneficial both for them and for those around them. Sometimes, however, they can get so consumed by the task at hand that they can forget all about practical matters.
INFPs have a deeply set belief in others, and they wholeheartedly want to make the world a better place. Given these heightened ideals, INFPs are able to go to extreme lengths, including practicing self-sacrifice. This is why the perfect INFP career is one where these people can pursue their ideals. INFPs tend to believe in the unlimited human potential to achieve greatness, and thus are eager to encourage those around them to be the best possible version of themselves.
- True to themselves
INFPs often have deep values and beliefs. This results in them having a clear perception of what is right and what is wrong. Following these beliefs isn’t always easy, as there are bound to be people who put them to the test, but nevertheless, INFPs always stay true to their principles. It’s not that they aren’t willing to change their ways – but if they do, they will be sure that this change aligns with their deep inner values.
The idealist INFP can often fall into the trap of expecting too much of themselves. When they set unrealistic expectations for their own behavior, this can lead to them blaming themselves for being inadequate and selfish. It can also take a toll on their motivation and willingness to take proper care of themselves.
- Difficult to get to know
INFPs are reserved, private and self-conscious people. These qualities can make it challenging for others to truly get to know them below surface level. On the other hand, INFPs also have a deep need for personal space. This need to spend time alone can lead to them feeling guilty that they aren’t giving enough of themselves to those who they hold dearest.
INFPs are good with interpersonal connections, due to their deep compassion and sensitivity, however, this can be a two-edged sword. INFPs are almost always going to be disappointed if they set out with unrealistic enthusiasm; soon after, they will find that their enthusiasm isn’t always shared by others. What gets them even more down is if other people don’t respect their values, which can completely shut them off from the world.
- Conflict avoidant
INFPs are often regarded as people pleasers. This nickname may have been inflicted on them because of their high avoidance of conflict. Arguments with others tend to drain them, which is why they prefer to make concessions and come to an agreement, even if they don’t completely agree with the final decision. Their desire to make everyone happy can drown their own intuition and inner wisdom, making them extremely sensitive to good-hearted, constructive criticism as well. Pursuing a career path in an environment where many conflict situations are bound to occur isn’t the best idea for INFPs.
Difference in Male vs Female Personality Traits
There isn’t much difference in the way male and female INFPs project themselves. They tend to be similar in behavior and interests, though there is one important thing to take into consideration. Generally, there is a stigma around INFP males, as they are empathetic, intuitive, and sensitive. In some cultures, this is viewed as stereotypically female behavior, which is unacceptable for males to project.
Below, we have outlined some of the most visible differences between the two INFP genders.
The INFP male is one of the rarest gender/type combinations. They often have traits that contradict the male stereotype, which is why they are likely to hide those away and result in them leading an inauthentic life. INFP men need to learn to accept themselves for who they are and embrace their characteristics, regardless of what society thinks about them.
Here are some traits of the INFP male to help illustrate our point:
- Want close and deep relationships with others
- Are reluctant to approach people and make the first move
- Care about how they look in the eyes of others
- They may come across as moody but are actually very sensitive
- Care about how they make others feel
- Understanding and empathetic, and excellent listeners
- Ready to fearlessly protect their values
- Hopeless romantics
- Internalize their feelings more and don’t let them out in the open as much
INFP females are widely regarded as being the stereotypical, nurturing females. They aren’t afraid of being emotionally expressive and can intuitively connect to anyone around them. They have a deep understanding of human emotion and can understand others without many words. INFP females come across as understanding and harmony-seeking, with a rich depth of personality.
Here are some points to know about the INFP woman:
- They are sensitive and their emotions run deep
- Socially awkward
- Need time alone to recharge, which might worry them as they shut people out
- Do not conform to conventional ideals
- Willing to give, but they have their limits