INFP PERSONALITY (“THE MEDIATOR”)
INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.
Being a part of the Diplomat (NF) personality group, INFPs are guided by their principles, rather than by logic (Analysts), excitement (Explorers), or practicality (Sentinels). When deciding how to move forward, they will look to honor, beauty, morality and virtue – INFPs are led by the purity of their intent, not rewards and punishments. People who share the INFP personality type are proud of this quality, and rightly so, but not everyone understands the drive behind these feelings, and it can lead to isolation.
All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.
We Know What We Are, but Know Not What We May Be
At their best, these qualities enable INFPs to communicate deeply with others, easily speaking in metaphors and parables, and understanding and creating symbols to share their ideas. The strength of this intuitive communication style lends itself well to creative works, and it comes as no surprise that many famous INFPs are poets, writers and actors. Understanding themselves and their place in the world is important to INFPs, and they explore these ideas by projecting themselves into their work.
INFPs’ ability with language doesn’t stop with their native tongue, either – as with most people who share the Diplomat personality types, they are considered gifted when it comes to learning a second (or third!) language. Their gift for communication also lends itself well to INFPs’ desire for harmony, a recurring theme with Diplomats, and helps them to move forward as they find their calling.
Listen to Many People, but Talk to Few
Unlike their Extraverted cousins though, INFPs will focus their attention on just a few people, a single worthy cause – spread too thinly, they’ll run out of energy, and even become dejected and overwhelmed by all the bad in the world that they can’t fix. This is a sad sight for INFPs’ friends, who will come to depend on their rosy outlook.
If they are not careful, INFPs can lose themselves in their quest for good and neglect the day-to-day upkeep that life demands. INFPs often drift into deep thought, enjoying contemplating the hypothetical and the philosophical more than any other personality type. Left unchecked, INFPs may start to lose touch, withdrawing into “hermit mode”, and it can take a great deal of energy from their friends or partner to bring them back to the real world.
Luckily, like the flowers in spring, INFP’s affection, creativity, altruism and idealism will always come back, rewarding them and those they love perhaps not with logic and utility, but with a world view that inspires compassion, kindness and beauty wherever they go.
INFP STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
- Idealistic – INFPs’ friends and loved ones will come to admire and depend on them for their optimism. Their unshaken belief that all people are inherently good, perhaps simply misunderstood, lends itself to an incredibly resilient attitude in the face of hardship.
- Seek and Value Harmony – People with the INFP personality type have no interest in having power over others, and don’t much care for domineering attitudes at all. They prefer a more democratic approach, and work hard to ensure that every voice and perspective is heard.
- Open-Minded and Flexible – A live-and-let-live attitude comes naturally to INFPs, and they dislike being constrained by rules. INFPs give the benefit of the doubt too, and so long as their principles and ideas are not being challenged, they’ll support others’ right to do what they think is right.
- Very Creative – INFPs combine their intuitive nature with their open-mindedness to allow them to see things from unconventional perspectives. Being able to connect many far-flung dots into a single theme, it’s no wonder that many INFPs are celebrated poets and authors.
- Passionate and Energetic – When something captures INFPs’ imagination and speaks to their beliefs, they go all in, dedicating their time, energy, thoughts and emotions to the project. Their shyness keeps them from the podium, but they are the first to lend a helping hand where it’s needed.
- Dedicated and Hard-Working – While others focusing on the challenges of the moment may give up when the going gets tough, INFPs (especially Assertive ones) have the benefit of their far-reaching vision to help them through. Knowing that what they are doing is meaningful gives people with this personality type a sense of purpose and even courage when it comes to accomplishing something they believe in.
- Too Idealistic – INFPs often take their idealism too far, setting themselves up for disappointment as, again and again, evil things happen in the world. This is true on a personal level too, as INFPs may not just idealize their partners, but idolize them, forgetting that no one is perfect.
- Too Altruistic – INFPs sometimes see themselves as selfish, but only because they want to give so much more than they are able to. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as they try to push themselves to commit to a chosen cause or person, forgetting to take care of the needs of others in their lives, and especially themselves.
- Impractical – When something captures INFPs’ imagination, they can neglect practical matters like day-to-day maintenance and simple pleasures. Sometimes people with the INFP personality type will take this asceticism so far as to neglect eating and drinking as they pursue their passion or cause.
- Dislike Dealing With Data – INFPs are often so focused on the big picture that they forget the forest is made of individual trees. INFPs are in tune with emotions and morality, and when the facts and data contradict their ideals, it can be a real challenge for them.
- Take Things Personally – INFPs often take challenges and criticisms personally, rather than as inspiration to reassess their positions. Avoiding conflict as much as possible, INFPs will put a great deal of time and energy into trying to align their principles and the criticisms into a middle ground that satisfies everybody.
- Difficult to Get to Know – INFPs are private, reserved and self-conscious. This makes them notoriously difficult to really get to know, and their need for these qualities contributes to the guilt they often feel for not giving more of themselves to those they care about.
INFPs are dreamy idealists, and in the pursuit of the perfect relationship, this quality shows strongest. Never short on imagination, INFPs dream of the perfect relationship, forming an image of this pedestalled ideal that is their soul mate, playing and replaying scenarios in their heads of how things will be. This is a role that no person can hope to fill, and people with the INFP personality type need to recognize that nobody’s perfect, and that relationships don’t just magically fall into place – they take compromise, understanding and effort.
Love All, Trust a Few, Do Wrong to None
Fortunately these are qualities that INFPs are known for, and while it can be a challenge to separate long-fostered fantasy from reality, INFPs’ tendency to focus their attention on just a few people in their lives means that they will approach new relationships wholeheartedly, with a sense of inherent value, dedication and trust.
But INFPs aren’t necessarily in a rush to commit – they are, after all, Prospecting (P) types, and are almost always looking to either establish a new relationship or improve an existing one – they need to be sure they’ve found someone compatible. In dating, INFPs will often start with a flurry of comparisons, exploring all the ways the current flame matches with the ideal they’ve imagined. This progression can be a challenge for a new partner, as not everyone is able to keep up with INFPs’ rich imagination and moral standards – if incompatibilities and conflict over this initial rush mount, the relationship can end quickly, with INFPs likely sighing that “it wasn’t meant to be.”
As a relationship takes hold, people with the INFP personality type will show themselves to be passionate, hopeless romantics, while still respecting their partners’ independence. INFPs take the time to understand those they care about, while at the same time helping them to learn, grow and change. While INFPs are well-meaning, not everyone appreciates what can come across as constantly being told that they need to improve – or, put another way, that they’re not good enough. INFPs would be aghast to find that their intents were interpreted this way, but it’s a real risk, and if their partner is as averse to conflict as INFPs themselves, it can boil under the surface for some time before surfacing, too late to fix.
Better Three Hours Too Soon Than a Minute Too Late
This aversion to conflict, while contributing greatly to stability in the relationship when done right, is probably the most urgent quality for INFPs to work on. Between their sensitivity and imagination, INFPs are prone to internalizing even objective statements and facts, reading into them themes and exaggerated consequences, sometimes responding as though these comments are metaphors designed to threaten the very foundations of their principles. Naturally this is almost certainly an overreaction, and INFPs should practice what they preach, and focus on improving their ability to respond to criticism with calm objectivity, rather than irrational accusations and weaponized guilt.
But that’s at their uncommon worst – at their best, INFPs do everything they can to be the ideal partner, staying true to themselves and encouraging their partners to do the same. INFPs take their time in becoming physically intimate so that they can get to know their partners, using their creativity to understand their wants and needs, and adapt to them. People with this personality type are generous in their affection, with a clear preference for putting the pleasure of their partners first – it is in knowing that their partners are satisfied that INFPs truly feel the most pleasure.
The true friends of people with the INFP personality type tend to be few and far between, but those that make the cut are often friends for life. The challenge is the many dualities that this type harbors when it comes to being sociable – INFPs crave the depth of mutual human understanding, but tire easily in social situations; they are excellent at reading into others’ feelings and motivations, but are often unwilling to provide others the same insight into themselves – it’s as though INFPs like the idea of human contact, but not the reality of social contact.
How Poor Are They That Have Not Patience
In a lot of ways, this limits the potential pool of friends to other Diplomat (NF) types, who are able to pick up on the subtle clues left by their INFP friends, and who are more likely than not to enjoy something of a human enigma. A friendship with an ESTJ on the other hand, governed by social conventions and community participation as they are, would almost be a non-sequitur – though INFPs may find the idea of being paired with their opposite fascinating enough to outweigh the practical challenges to such a friendship.
To top it all off, ideas like networking and “the friend of my friend is my friend” hold little weight with INFPs. Friendships are earned on their own merit, by dint of the intuitive respect INFPs have for those with similar principles and values, rather than more practical alignments like those of coworkers. INFPs’ tendency to protect their sensitive inner cores and values from criticism, especially if they are on the more turbulent side of the spectrum, means that acquaintances will likely get nowhere near them without sustained and tactful effort.
But, if INFPs’ shields are properly navigated and they decide to open up and trust another person, a strong, stable friendship will ensue, marked by passionate support and idealism, subtle poetic wit, and a level of emotional insight that is hard to match. INFPs’ friends will be rewarded with calm, sensitivity and depth, and an ever-present desire to help, learn, and grow. But even the most confident and assertive INFPs will only be able to keep up this relaxed and present exterior for so long.
INFPs will always need to disappear for a while, removing themselves from others so they can re-center on their own minds and feelings. Often enough people with the INFP personality type will emerge from this time alone having come to some momentous decision that even their closest friends didn’t know was weighing on them, evading even the option of receiving the sort of support and advice they so readily give. Such is INFPs’ way, for better or for worse.
People who share the INFP personality type share a tendency to not only strive to learn and grow as principled, moral individuals, but to bring likeminded people on that journey with them. In their own subtle, often shy way, INFPs want to lead others forward, as kindred spirits – they will find no greater opportunity for this than in parenthood.
From the start, INFP parents are warm, loving and supportive, and take immeasurable joy in the wide-eyed wonder of their children as they explore, learn, and grow. People with the INFP personality type will give their children the freedom they need to do this, keeping an open mind and letting their children gain their own sense of understanding. At the same time, INFP parents will try to provide a backdrop to this freedom and experience, establishing a set of morals and values that guide that liberty with a sense of personal responsibility.
However, this sense of responsibility has a harder side – if their children fall foul of their INFP parents’ values, it will not be taken lightly. People with the INFP personality type take their responsibilities in parenthood seriously, and in this measure above all others.
In some ways, INFPs’ tendency to hide their inner selves from view can be an advantage in parenting, as they are able to portray themselves as good role models on the outside, shielding their loved ones not just from their own occasional anger and depression, but from the broader evils in the world as well. This helps INFPs to demonstrate outwardly the moral lessons they want their children to adopt, and at the same time to establish a sense of harmony in the household.
Modest Doubt Is Called the Beacon of the Wise
The biggest challenge for INFP parents, especially more turbulent types who often have even more trouble with self-doubt than most, is to establish more practical and day-to-day structures and rules. INFPs may be able to convey the abstract value of honesty with remarkable skill, but it’s not always easy to equate that idea with the practical reality of their children being home from the movies when they said they were going to be, and it’s especially challenging when these misunderstandings result in conflict. In these situations, INFP personalities do best with a partner who is able to play a stronger hand in more administrative tasks than they can, so they can focus on the underlying spirit of those rules.
It is perhaps more challenging for INFPs to find a satisfying career than any other type. Though intelligent, the regimented learning style of most schools makes long years earning an advanced degree a formidable undertaking for people with the INFP personality type – at the same time, that’s often what’s needed to advance in a field that rings true for them. INFPs often wish that they could just be, doing what they love without the stress and rigor of professional life.
Oftentimes, as with so many things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle, in a line of work that begins with passion and dedication, but which comes to require training so that the academia feels intimately linked to that passion. Too many INFPs drift in frustration, ultimately succumbing to the necessities of day-to-day life in a job that wasn’t meant for them. But it turns out that, despite such exacting demands, modern economics places a premium on the very keys to INFPs’ challenges: their creativity, independence, and need for meaningful relationships with individuals who need their help.
There’s Place and Means for Everyone
First and foremost is seemingly every INFPs’ dream growing up – to become an author. While a novel is a classic choice, it is rarely an accessible one, and there are many viable options for freedom-loving INFPs. The internet brings to the world the opportunities of blogging and freelance work – as organizations expand their reach beyond their native tongues, they will come to depend on INFP personality types, with their gift for language and written expression, to take their rougher translations and stale pitches and inject them with a sense of beauty and poetry. Smaller organizations will need more than ever to express with elegance the value they bring to local communities.
The real beauty here is that it takes a core interest that people with the INFP personality type share, while helping a cause they believe in, independently, through creative expression and personal growth, and makes it applicable to any interest there is. There will always be a need, and now more than ever, to win people’s hearts and minds with the written word.
Some INFPs will prefer a still more personal touch, being able to work face-to-face with clients, seeing that their personal effort really impacts another’s quality of life. Service careers such as massage therapy, physical rehabilitation, counselling, social work, psychology and even academic roles and retraining can be exceptionally rewarding for INFPs, who take pride in the progress and growth they help to foster. People with the INFP personality type have a tendency to put others’ interests ahead of their own, a mixed blessing by itself, but when a patient takes their first unaided step in the long road to recovery after an accident, nothing will feel more rewarding than that selflessness.
If to Do Were as Easy as to Know What Were Good to Do…
Where INFPs will not thrive is in a high-stress, team-heavy, busy environment that burdens them with bureaucracy and tedium. INFPs need to be able to work with creativity and consideration – high-pressure salespeople they are not. It can be a challenge to avoid these roles, as they are the basis for so much starting work, and it’s often a risk to break away into something less dependable, but more rewarding. To find a career that resonates with INFPs’ values though, that’s more than just a job, sometimes it’s just what needs to be done.
INFP IN THE WORKPLACE
In the workplace, INFPs face the challenge of taking their work and their profession personally. To INFPs, if it isn’t worth doing, it isn’t really worth doing, and this sense of moral purpose in their work colors everything from how they respond to authority to how they express it. Though the way the INFP personality type shows through depends on the position, there are a few basic truths about what INFPs seek in the workplace: they value harmony, need an emotional and moral connection to their work, and loathe bureaucratic tedium.
As subordinates, INFPs prefer latitude, and would much rather immerse themselves in a project, alone or with a close team, than simply be told what task to do and move on. People with the INFP personality type aren’t looking for easy, forgettable work that pays the bills, they’re looking for meaningful work that they actually want to think about, and it helps for their managers to frame responsibilities in terms of emotional merit rather than cold rationalization or business for its own sake. INFPs would rather know that their work will help to deliver a service they believe in than to know that the bottom line has been boosted by 3%.
If these standards are met, managers will find an extremely dedicated and considerate employee in INFPs. As idealistic opportunity-seekers INFPs may not always work well in technical applications, where the facts and logic really matter and critique is often necessary, but they work beautifully in more human and creative endeavors. While some types, especially Analysts (NT), respond favorably to negative feedback, taking criticism as an opportunity to not make the same mistake twice, people with the INFP personality type would much rather hear what they did right and focus on what to do, rather than what not to.
INFPs feel most comfortable among colleagues – they aren’t interested in controlling others, and have a similar distaste for being controlled. Among their colleagues, INFPs will feel freer to share their ideas, and while they may maintain some psychological distance, they will make every effort to be pleasant, friendly and supportive – so long as their coworkers reciprocate. INFPs don’t like conflict or picking sides, and will do everything they can to maintain harmony and cooperation.
Most of this comes down to good communication, which INFPs prefer to conduct in person, for that personal touch, or in writing, where they can compose and perfect their statements. People with the INFP personality type avoid using phones if they can, having the worst of both worlds, being both detached and uncomposed. INFPs also like to feel like their conversations are meaningful, and while they enjoy exploring philosophy more than most, their patience for arbitrary hypothetical brainstorming or dense technical discussions is limited.
As managers, INFPs are among the least likely to seem like managers – their egalitarian attitudes lend respect to every subordinate, preferring communication as human beings than as a boss/employee opposition. People with the INFP personality type are flexible, open-minded and give their subordinates the tools they need, be they responsible delegation or an intuitive and receptive sounding board, to get the job done. Keeping their eyes on the horizon, INFPs set goals that achieve a desirable end, and help the people working under them to make that happen.
There is a downside to this style, as sometimes the boss just needs to be the boss. INFPs know how they feel about criticism, and are reluctant to subject others to that same experience, whether it’s needed or even welcome. Further complicating this role, when INFPs are under stress, as when someone really does warrant criticism, they can become extremely emotional – they may not show it, but it can affect their judgment, or even cause them to withdraw inwards, in ways that can really hold back their team.
INFP PERSONALITY – CONCLUSION
Few personality types are as poetic and kind-hearted as INFPs. Their altruism and vivid imagination allow INFPs to overcome many challenging obstacles, more often than not brightening the lives of those around them. INFPs’ creativity is invaluable in many areas, including their own personal growth.
Yet INFPs can be easily tripped up in areas where idealism and altruism are more of a liability than an asset. Whether it is finding (or keeping) a partner, making friends, reaching dazzling heights on the career ladder or planning for the future, INFPs need to put in a conscious effort to develop their weaker traits and additional skills.
What you have read so far is just an introduction into the complex concept that is the INFP personality type. You may have muttered to yourself, “wow, this is so accurate it’s a little creepy” or “finally, someone understands me!” You may have even asked “how do they know more about me than the people I’m closest to?”
This is not a trick. You felt understood because you were. We’ve studied how INFPs think and what they need to reach their full potential. And no, we did not spy on you – many of the challenges you’ve faced and will face in the future have been overcome by other INFPs. You simply need to learn how they succeeded.
But in order to do that, you need to have a plan, a personal roadmap. The best car in the world will not take you to the right place if you do not know where you want to go. We have told you how INFPs tend to behave in certain circumstances and what their key strengths and weaknesses are. Now we need to go much deeper into your personality type and answer “why?”, “how?” and “what if?”
This knowledge is only the beginning of a lifelong journey. Are you ready to learn why INFPs act in the way they do? What motivates and inspires you? What you are afraid of and what you secretly dream about? How you can unlock your true, exceptional potential?
Our premium profiles provide a roadmap towards a happier, more successful, and more versatile YOU! They are not for everyone though – you need to be willing and able to challenge yourself, to go beyond the obvious, to imagine and follow your own path instead of just going with the flow. If you want to take the reins into your own hands, we are here to help you.