Type Analysis: INFJ or ISFJ? 19


Although INFJs more frequently mistype as INFPs or INTJs, it’s not entirely uncommon for an INFJ to mistype as an ISFJ.

This mistyping makes sense. ISFJs have Extroverted Feeling as their auxiliary function and Introverted Thinking as their tertiary function, the same as INFJs. ISFJs make up anywhere from 9-14 percent of the population, so INFJs who are focused on trying to fit in with the status quo or who grew up in sensory-focused environments may be more likely to mistype as ISFJ.

Since Ni is an introverted function, INFJs may appear at first introduction a lot like ISFJs — quiet, people-oriented, calm, and friendly. This is due to their shared first extroverted function, Fe. However, INFJs and ISFJs are different in several major ways — the biggest being dominant intuition vs. dominant sensing.

The dominant function for ISFJs is Introverted Sensing (Si). Si is all about the focus on past experience and holding onto tradition and values. It’s about recalling details from the past and using that knowledge to do things in the ways that they’ve been done before. Guess where Si falls on INFJs functional stack? Last. Because of this, INFJs can become extremely stressed out when having to remember exact sensory details.

For example — an ISFJ and an INFJ work together in a coffee shop. The ISFJ is taught the best way to make a specific drink, and so will make that drink that exact same way every single time. The INFJ, however, will instead remember the general idea of how the drink was made, but won’t be as concerned about measuring out the amount of this or that, and will likely even experiment with the ingredients occasionally. The exception would be if the INFJ felt a lot of pressure to make the drink exactly right, in which case they would focus even more so on doing things as they should be done, which would cause a high level of stress. ISFJs, like other Guardian types, tend to be more task and detail-oriented, whereas INFJs, like other Idealist types, tend to be more idea and big picture-focused.

The dominant function for INFJs is Introverted Intuition. While Si is focused heavily on the past, Ni is focused heavily on the future. Ni looks for symbolism, patterns, and deeper meanings behind ideas and concepts. INFJs are known to speak in metaphors and make connections between both sensory objects and abstract ideas. Ni is the last shadow function for ISFJs, who greatly prefer to focus on concrete past or present-oriented thoughts and ideas.

For example — an ISFJ and an INFJ are looking at the same image of a mother playing with her young daughter. The ISFJ will describe the image for exactly what it is and/or use past experience to describe how it relates to her life — “This is an image of a mom playing with her daughter. It reminds me of when my mother and I used to play together in the park when I was a kid.” The INFJ will instead describe the image in a more abstract way, focusing on what it represents and future implications — “This image represents love and the strong bond between a mother and daughter. No matter how old the daughter gets, she’ll always have these special moments with her mother to remember.”

Both INFJs and ISFJs auxiliary Fe make them types who enjoy helping others, yet they prefer to do so in different ways. ISFJs’ Si-Fe pairing make them excellent caregivers. They prefer to help others by taking care of them. ISFJs make excellent nurses, teachers, and are the quintessential mother type. INFJs’ Ni-Fe pairing make them great counselors. They prefer to help others by helping them understand themselves and offering advice.

Hopefully this article helped to differentiate between INFJs and ISFJs. In the next article in this series, I’ll examine the differences between INFJs and ENFJs.


About Megan

Megan is an introvert and INFJ personality type who enjoys reading, researching, and writing about personality psychology and human behavior. As the founder of this blog, Megan wants to help other INFJs better understand their personality to improve their personal and professional lives.


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19 thoughts on “Type Analysis: INFJ or ISFJ?

  • waltgannon

    I think it’s pretty easy to tell. The issue is differentiating between SF (Relater) and NF (Romantic), the big divide being between the former’s conservatism vs. the latter’s adventurism. INFJs love to explore the unknown, whereas ISFJs (like other SF types) are mostly fearful of it.

  • Jayjay

    Your coffee shop analogy is the best comparison between INFJ & ISFJ I’ve seen- it clearly illustrates a big difference I’ve also observed between those two types. At least for me, if you ask me to be meticulous about specific steps and details- it’s going to be at the expense of speed. For the ISFJs I know, the little details and steps are second nature.
    There is remarkably little information out there in regard to how these two particular types are similar and how they differ. It seems like most of the discourse is centered around INFJ & INFP. I think much of that confusion comes from how introspective both INFx types are. We know we’re complex and see splashes of ourselves in many different types (when I started learning about type, I spent time torn between INFJ vs ENFJ).
    But I think for non-INFx typewatchers, INFJs are much more likely to be mistaken for mellow ENFJs or ISFJs- it’s the Fe others are seeing.
    My comment is getting longer than I meant for it to be, sorry ’bout that. :).
    I just wanted to say thanks for the article. I think it’s a really great addition to the mbti discussion and it’s definitely bookmark-worthy.

    • Elizabeth

      I try different ways until I find the absolute perfect way, but then I continue to refine. Is that INFJ?

      I saw another article about the differences between INFJ and ISFJ which stated, “if the idea of doing the laundry exactly the same every time makes you want to die inside, you are not an ISFJ.” What if the idea of doing laundry period makes you want to die inside?

  • MBTI Researcher

    INFJs do not have Si…. They have Se as their inferior. Also I would not use your examples because you seem to misunderstand that “Idealists” are concerned with future implications. This is not necessarily true. This would be perfectly true for “Rationals.” Lastly, INFJs are perfectionists so coffee shop is a very bad example.

    • Megan

      Actually, INFJs do have Si. It is 8th in their function stack. Se is 4th (inferior function). As stated in the article, Si is their last function.

      Can you explain why being future-oriented would be more of a trait of rationals rather than idealists?

      I’m sorry you disagree with the coffee shop example. I actually worked in a coffee shop, so I was basing the example off of my own experience working with an ISFJ co-worker.

      • MBTI Researcher

        Okay I guess you included all 8 functions, though I am not sure if that is really how types work. Taking INFJ for example, they already have hard time developing their tertiary and inferior functions. I am not sure if they would be willing to use Si, a shadow function, even when they are stressed as you stated. Instead of trying to recall exact details, I would assume they would use Se so remembering the taste, color, etc. and let the information process through their Ni (vice versa) to help them make the coffee. With that said, INFJ is probably capable of making the perfect coffee; perhaps, INFJ will come up with a better, unique coffee. The process just will be different. However, they will probably get bored or stressed as you put it if they keep doing it over and over again.

        For future implications, Rationals are naturally skeptical. Skepticism is the number one quality you need for future implications. They love to predict the future through theories. Idealists imagine and envision a world of harmony whether it’d be with people or with oneself. While this is also future-oriented, Idealists are more concerned with people and working with people’s emotions is less future-like i.e. more worried about harmony. Thus, I am not sure future implications would accurately describe Idealists. Probably better words would be envision, imagine, etc. Or describe more in depth of what you mean by future implications. While I understand I am being extremely picky, I could not help but notice that diction is extremely important when it comes to describing MBTI types since they can be so grey.

        As an INTP, I am obsessed with exact wordings even with myself, actually with myself the most. I realize I may have come off offensive and if so I apologize. I hope you do not take any of this personally.

    • Jayjay

      The idea that “INFJs are perfectionists” is a bit of a blanket statement and not entirely true of myself nor the few other INFJs I know.
      INFJs are selective perfectionists. If something is part of our personal vision, we will be incredibly diligent about each little detail being exactly in line with how we’re envisioning it.

      However, when it comes to arbitrary tasks- I’m far more likely to go on autopilot or (while not possible working in a coffee shop) just procrastinate outright while waiting to feel inspired.

      Now, it’s entirely possible *some* INFJs would meticulously prepare that coffee, but there’d be a reason for it above and beyond simple perfectionist tendencies- it would have to somehow fit into their grander plan.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong- because there may well be some INFJs who wouldn’t relate to that coffee shop example. However, in illustrating the larger point the author is trying to convey, I think it’s quite successful.

  • Michelle Lynn

    Thanks very much for this. Approximately four years ago, I was typed as INFJ, so I was surprised to be typed as ISFJ this evening. Whereas my other three categories (I, F, J) were all quite clear (20-50%), I was marked as S, rather than N, by 2%, which led me to believe that I lie somewhere in the middle between INFJ and ISFJ. In some ways, I feel like I strongly associate with INFJ, and in other ways, the same is true for ISFJ. However, after reading your article, I would say I’m really best described as ISFJ, and this may be confirmed by my love for my job as a teacher and my desire to pursue medicine in the future. Thanks for the clear analogies!

  • Secretz

    I think I’m INFJ, but I could be ISFJ too. I did multiple personality tests with outcomes: INFJ, ISFJ, INFJ/ISFJ. In the coffee shop I’d be ISFJ. I don’t include my past anywhere though.. My past was rather unpleasant and so are the memories of it. Everybody around me told me to forget about the past and I try to not think about it.. This probably has impact on that, making it so that where a ISFJ would relate something to their past I wouldn’t. While in other scenarios I’d be the ISFJ.

    I haven’t gone very deep into personality types so I could be mistaking everything I just said.

  • lisaperkins5

    I felt that I was infj and isfj and then read this and it just confirms that. I’ve gotten both answers multiple times when taking the test. I honestly feel like I have all qualities listed for both and with the mother/child example, I literally would think both thoughts instead of one over the other…where would that put me?? I would love your thoughts on this or someone to point me to more information

  • Chloe S.

    I really enjoyed reading this. I’m still trying to pinpoint exactly which type I am because I’ve gotten several conflicting results that sometimes only share the initial “I”. Do you have any thoughts on how ISFPs would relate to INFJs?

  • J.M.M

    Thank you for clearing this up. I am definitely an INFJ than an ISFJ. I think I have ISFJ friends in which I compensate when I hang out with them. I took a test today, and it said I was ISFJ. I was like: What? Nuh uh. What’s the difference? Answer: A LOT. Every other test I took I was INFJ. I should not of doubted. Thanks again.