To an outsider, INFJs and ISFJs might look very similar.
Both personality types are quiet and don’t talk so much in group settings.
Both personality types are accommodating and dislike conflicts.
But if you get to know the two personality types better, especially their inner world, you will understand how different they are and how different their approach to life is.
It’s difficult to tell someone’s personality just based on what they display in public.
You have to know them well enough to determine their personality type.
I have a lot of ISFJ friends. It’s probably the most common personality type that I’m friends with. First of all, they are everywhere. More than 10% of the population are ISFJs so it’s easy to meet them. Secondly, they are kind, sensitive, and thoughtful people. So it’s easy to talk to them and be their friends.
They are also very dependable in the workplace. You can rely on them to meet deadlines and get things done. But when it comes to career, that’s where INFJs and ISFJs start to diverge.
Before I go into greater detail of the differences between ISFJ and INFJ. Here’s some information about the blog post series.
“Am I an INFJ?” Blog Post Series
This is part three of the “Am I an INFJ?” blog post series. In this series, we will discuss the similarities and differences between INFJ and other personality types:
I’ll be using the cognitive function to explain the differences between the various personality types. Each MBTI type has its own unique function stack (i.e. the order of your cognitive preference). So one letter difference results in a different order.
If you want to learn more about the function stack, here’s the cognitive functions chart for each of the 16 personality types.
Please note I’m neither a certified MBTI practitioner nor I wish to be one. I write this post based on my insights and observation of the people around me. You can hire and talk to a certified MBTI practitioner instead if you have difficulties finding your MBTI type.
ISFJ vs INFJ: What’s the Confusion?
According to the Introduction to Type booklet, people who prefer Sensing like to take in information that is real and tangible, while people who prefer Intuition like to take in information by seeing the big picture.
The sensing-intuitive dichotomy tells us how we prefer to take in information.
The keyword here is “prefer”. I think where the confusion lies is when people answer the questionnaire in the MBTI test, they answer it based on what they can do instead of what they prefer to do. In other words, their answers are based on ability instead of preferences.
All of us have sensing and intuition capability. I am an INFJ but it doesn’t mean that I can’t deal with facts or details. It’s just that I prefer not to. It’s not my natural preference. I get tired and bored of it after a while. Similarly, ISFJs also have hunches too. But do they trust the hunches they have and act on them? That’s another question.
INFJ or ISFJ?: A Quick Test
If you want a quick test and a fun way to determine if you are an INFJ or an ISFJ, answer the following question:
Which one do you trust more?
Your hunches or your past experiences?
If you trust your hunches more than your past experiences, then you are an INFJ. If not, you are an ISFJ. INFJs are more likely to do what they are inspired, while ISFJs are more likely to follow traditions.
Even if ISFJs have a strong gut feeling about something, they are quick to dismiss it or feel uncomfortable acting on their impulse. INFJs, on the other hand, will follow what has worked for them in the past too. But once they have a new insight, they usually shift gear and follow their inspirations instead.
Sometimes, we INFJs will also doubt our intuition, not sure if it’s intuition speaking or fear speaking or procrastinate and find it difficult to take action. But whether we act on it or not, we usually feel excited and happy when we receive new insights.
INFJ and ISFJ Cognitive Function
INFJ’s cognitive functions stack is as follows:
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Extraverted Sensing (Se)
While an ISFJ cognitive functions stack is as follows:
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
- Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
The inner world of INFJs and ISFJs are fundamentally different
due to the difference in our dominant function.
Even though the function stack lists our top four cognitive functions, we use our dominant function most of the time. Both our tertiary and inferior functions are usually used when we are stressed or when we exhaust our dominant function. Even for our auxiliary function, we only use it when we have to deal with the other world i.e. the outer world for an introvert and the inner world for an extrovert.
As INFJs and ISFJs have the same extraverted, auxiliary function, we appear very much alike to others. But due to our contrasting dominant functions (one is based on intuition while the other is based on sensing), we are actually very different on the inside.
4 Differences Between the INFJ and ISFJ Personality Types
1. INFJs focus on the future, whereas ISFJs focus on the past (Ni vs Si).
We INFJs lead with introverted intuition (Ni) so we are always idealistic and thinking about the future or how we want to change the world. ISFJs lead with introverted sensing (Si). They are more conservative and respect traditions. They prefer to keep things as they are and enjoy reminiscing about the past.
I’m always amazed by how many details my ISFJ friends can recall from the past. For INFJs, introverted sensing (Si) is our blindspot and we tend to have poorer memories. Even though I remember events that have an emotional impact on me, I usually don’t remember the details such as the names, the exact location, or the time. If I don’t write down something, I tend to forget it. So I usually take notes to help me remember the details better.
INFJs are open to changes, while ISFJs don’t like changes.
As INFJs love to daydream and are forward-looking, we are more open to changes and experiences than ISFJs. As long as it’s not sudden changes that disrupt our plans for the future, we generally welcome changes, especially for the better. In contrast, ISFJs don’t like any kind of change unless someone has tried it out successfully and established clear procedures for them to follow.
Even though ISFJs don’t like changes and are less likely to take risks, this is not a bad thing at all. This makes them very dependable and loyal.
Also, when INFJs make a decision, we usually consider the impact on our future and the future of others. But for an ISFJ, they usually base their decisions by referring to their past experiences and how it’s going to affect their established harmony with others.
2. INFJs and ISFJs help others in different ways (same Fe but Ni vs Si).
Just like INFJs, ISFJs are friendly and accommodating. They care about other people and value social harmony. The difference, however, is the way we care for others.
INFJs love to help people by sharing our insights with them. We seldom help people in a tangible way. We can be a bit clumsy when providing tangible help. For example, once I tried to help a cyclist after her collision with a scooter, I don’t know how to fix her bicycle.
ISFJs, on the other hand, are more likely to do something tangible like buying or making a special gift for others. They help others by doing things for them.
If INFJ is a counselor, then ISFJ is a nurse.
One provides emotional care while the other provides physical care. Again, this difference is due to our dominant functions.
Due to our introverted intuition (Ni), INFJs live in the world of concepts and patterns. We feel more comfortable and better at helping others see the truth and giving them conceptual advice. ISFJs have a sensing dominant function (Si), so they are more comfortable with using their five senses and being hands-on.
Whenever you have a practical problem or technical issue, seek an ISFJ. They will most likely give you a precise answer or specific steps and help you fix the problem based on tried and true methods. But if you are stuck in a relationship problem or you have emotional issues, seek an INFJ. We can help you solve problems creatively and see a fresh perspective.
3. INFJs and ISFJs take in information differently (Ni vs Si).
When taking in new information, INFJs pay attention to the big picture, whereas ISFJs pay attention to the details. This is the general difference between intuitive and sensing types.
For example, when appreciating an artwork or music, an intuitive type like INFJs might consider the overall feel and coherency of the art piece. But for a sensor like an ISFJ, they might consider the accuracy of the details. They are more likely to pick out minor errors that INFJs might miss.
ISFJs are more specialized than INFJs.
INFJs tend to need more variety than ISFJs. We tend to be polymaths while ISFJs tend to be specialists. It’s not because we bounce from ideas to ideas like an INFP or ENFP does. It’s because once we learn enough from a subject to form our insights, we want to learn something else.
We can also go deep with the details like an ISFJ but we usually don’t because our primary intention is to gather new insights. We are more interested in the concepts and we don’t need to acquire too much information to form new insights. Once insights have been formed and the concepts have been understood, the subject feels a bit dry to us and we move on to new topics to improve on our insights.
So it’s quite common for INFJs to switch jobs and have a career crisis. In contrast, ISFJs tend to stay in the same job and profession for very long. The more information they know about their subjects, the better they feel.
4. INFJs and ISFJs have different communication styles (Ni vs Si).
ISFJs tend to speak in a concise and concrete manner. They express themselves clearly. INFJs, on the other hand, can be rather vague in their communication style and sometimes talk in riddles.
Also, ISFJs talk about things that are already existing and commonly known by others, while INFJs sometimes talk about things that might be too abstract for other people to understand.
For example, an ISFJ might talk about the latest movie they have watched and can describe the plot and character in great detail. But for an INFJ, we might not even remember the names of the characters after watching the movie! Instead, we might imagine what it is like if we are the character in the film and what we will do in their situation. Or we will discuss the theme of the movie and the deep implication it has on our human life.
Others find it easier to understand an ISFJ than an INFJ.
INFJs might play with the double or hidden meaning of words and find it funny. But the sensing types might not get the joke or take it too literally. Being the imaginative and verbally creative type, INFJs always appear a bit weird and ungrounded to many people.
Also, since ISFJ is about preserving traditions, they find it very easy to fit into existing communities and groups, unlike an INFJ. INFJs tend to feel rather lonely trying to fit in and usually don’t feel belonged in a group. We are much better off being ourselves and accepting our unique personalities.
If you want to learn how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook, Self-Acceptance for INFJs.
Featured Photo Credit: Bahaa A. Shawqi