INFP: The Mediator (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving)

An Overview of the INFP Personality Type

INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception) is a four-letter abbreviation for one of the 16 personality types identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The INFP personality type is often described as an "idealist" or "mediator" personality. People with this kind of personality tend to be introverted, idealistic, creative and driven by high values.

INFPs also have strong interests in making the world a better place. In addition to wanting to gain a greater understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world, they are also interested in how they can best help others. People with this personality type spend a lot of time exploring their own purpose in life and thinking about how they can use their skills and talents to best serve humanity.

Key INFP Characteristics

  • INFPs tend to be introverted, quiet, and reserved. Being in social situations tends to drain their energy and they prefer interacting with a select group of close friends. While they like to be alone, this should not necessarily be confused with shyness. Instead, it simply means that INFPs gain energy from spending time alone. On the other hand, they have to expend energy in social situations.
  • INFPs typically rely on intuition and are more focused on the big picture rather than the nitty-gritty details. They can be quite meticulous about things they really care about or projects they are working on, but tend to ignore mundane or boring details.
  • INFPs place an emphasis on personal feelings and their decisions are more influenced by these concerns rather than by objective information.
  • When it comes to making decisions, INFPs like to keep their options open. They often delay making important decisions just in case something about the situation changes. When decisions are made, they are usually based on personal values rather than logic.

    Strengths

    • Loyal and devoted

    • Sensitive to feelings

    • Caring and interested in others

    • Works well alone

    • Values close relationships

    • Good at seeing "the big picture"

    Weaknesses

    • Can be overly idealistic

    • Tends to take everything personally

    • Difficult to get to know

    • Sometimes loses sight of the little things

    • Overlooks details

    Cognitive Functions

    The MBTI itself is based upon a theory of personality created by the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. He proposed that there are four psychological components of personality: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. People then direct each of these cognitive functions inwardly (introverted) or outwardly (extraverted).

    In the MBTI, each personality type is made up of a hierarchical stack of these functions. The dominant function is one that largely controls personality, although it is also supported by the auxiliary and, to a lesser degree, the tertiary functions. Inferior functions are those that are largely unconscious, but still exert some influence.

    INFPs tend to rely on the following four cognitive functions:

    Dominant: Introverted Feeling

    INFPs experience a great depth of feelings, but as introverts they largely process these emotions internally. They possess an incredible sense of wonder about the world and feel great compassion and empathy for others. While these emotions are strong, they tend not to express them outwardly, which is why they can sometimes be mistaken as aloof or unwelcoming.

    Auxiliary: Extraverted Intuition

    INFPs explore situations using imagination and 'what if' scenarios, often thinking through a variety of possibilities before settling on a course of action. Their inner lives are a dominant force in personality and they engage with the outside world by using their intuition. They focus on the "big picture" and things will shape the course of the future. This ability helps make INFPs transformative leaders who are excited about making positive changes in the world.

    Tertiary: Introverted Sensing

    When taking in information, INFPs create vivid memories of the events. They will often replay these events in their minds to analyze experiences in less stressful settings. Such memories are usually associated with strong emotions, so recalling a memory can often seem like reliving the experience itself.

    Inferior: Extraverted Thinking

    This cognitive function involves organizing and making sense of the world in an objective and logical manner. While this is a largely unconscious influence in the INFPs personality, it can show itself in times of pressure. When faced with stress, an INFP might become suddenly very pragmatic and detail-oriented, focusing on logic rather than emotion. Because they are typically ruled more by intuition and emotion, INFPs can sometimes struggle to feel productive and efficient. Learning to develop the extraverted thinking function can help people with this personality type create a better sense of balance.

    INFPs You Might Know:

    • Audrey Hepburn, actress
    • JRR Tolkien, author
    • Princess Diana, British royal
    • William Shakespeare, playwright
    • Fred Rogers, television personality

    Personal Relationships

    INFP are idealists so they tend to have high expectations - including in relationships. They might hold an idealized image in their minds of their perfect partner, which can be a difficult role for any individual to fill.

    People with this personality type care deeply about other people, yet as introverts they can be difficult to know. They do tend to become very close and deeply committed to the few that they forge close relationships with.

    They also dislike conflict and try to avoid it. When conflicts or arguments do arise, they usually focus more on how the conflict makes them feel rather than the actual details of the argument. During arguments, they might seem overly emotional or even irrational. However, they can also be good mediators by helping the people involved in a conflict identify and express their feelings.

    Because they are so reserved and private, it can be difficult for other people to get to know INFPs. They tend to be quite devoted to their circle of close friends and family and place a high importance on the feelings and emotions of their loved ones. Much of their energy is focused inwardly and characterized by intense feelings and strong values. They tend to be very loyal to the people they love and to beliefs and causes that are important to them.

    Career Paths

    INFPs typically do well in careers where they can express their creativity and vision. While they work well with others, they generally prefer to work alone. 

    INFPs tend to be very creative, artistic, and spiritual. They are often skilled with language but may prefer to express their thoughts and feelings through writing rather than speaking.

    Because they have strong ethics and values, they also become passionate about advocating or defending their beliefs. While they feel strongly about their own values, INFPs are also interested in learning more about others and are willing to listen and consider many sides of an issue.

    Some of the best jobs for INFPs:

    • Artist
    • Counselor
    • Graphic Designer
    • Librarian
    • Psychologist
    • Physical Therapist
    • Social Worker
    • Writer

    Tips for Interacting With INFPs

    As Friends: INFPs typically only have a few close friendships, but these relationships tend to be long-lasting. While people with this type of personality are adept at understanding others emotions, they often struggle to share their own feelings with others. Social contact can be difficult, although INFPs crave emotional intimacy and deep relationships. Getting to known an INFP can take time and work, but the rewards can be great for those who have the patience and understanding.

    As Parents: INFP parents are usually supportive, caring, and warm. They are good at establishing guidelines and helping children develop strong values. Their goal as parents is to help their children grow as individuals and fully appreciate the wonders of the world. They may struggle to share their own emotions with their children and are often focused on creating harmony in the home.

    As Partners: As with friendships, INFPs may struggle to become close to potential romantic partners. Once they do form a relationship, they approach it with a strong sense of loyalty. They can sometimes hold overly romanticized views of relationships and may have excessively high expectations that their partners struggle to live up to. They also tend to take comments personally while at the same time struggling to avoid conflicts. If your partner is an INFP, understand that they may struggle at times to open up, be overly sensitive to perceived criticisms, and often place your own happiness over that of their own.

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    Article Sources
    • Myers, I. B. (1998). Introduction to Type: A Guide to Understanding your Results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.
    • The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (n.d.). The 16 MBTI Types.