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INFP Musings

As a long-time member of the INFP email list (since early 1994, almost the beginning), I've noticed over the years some very interesting things about INFPs and about how others see us. A few topics strike me as especially noteworthy, and I'm prompted to write down some of my musings about them:

INFP profiles

The INFP list has developed our own profile of the INFP personality type, as we were unhappy with the profiles that were already out there on the Web. I personally find the other ones deeply unsatisfying and disturbingly inaccurate in some essential ways. A number of other INFPs share my concerns. We generally find that these profiles describe us as much sweeter and more spaced out than we know ourselves to be (at least on the inside :-).

Observation: The writers of the other profiles refuse to take our concerns and objections seriously.

When we object to this saccharine description, some profile writers and other so-called type experts dismiss our concerns and call us "mistyped," claiming that we are not really INFPs at all. (More than one of these folks has actually made that statement about many of the people on the INFP list.) They refuse to make any changes or even listen to our concerns, saying that they understand type theory better than we do.

In my view, that's just baloney.

Conclusion: The other profiles were probably written by people who are of other types.

The folks who wrote the other profiles see INFPs from the outside. Although they are mostly well meaning and sometimes insightful, they just don't know what it's like to be an INFP. In my view, it can be helpful to read these other profiles to gain a better understanding of how we may come across to people of other types. But if you are trying to figure out whether you might be an INFP, they may not help you a lot. We do not believe this is a matter of self delusion.

INFPs and values

INFP decisionmaking depends heavily on values. Not only are we Feeling types, but (like ISFPs) we have Introverted Feeling (Fi) as our dominant function. This can lead us to assume that other INFPs tend to value the same things as we ourselves do.

Observation: The things that different INFPs value can be quite different, and can even be in conflict.

People often join the INFP list with the (often unconscious) expectation that others there will share their values. To many of us, our list is the place we feel the most understood, and finding it has been like coming home. We feel it a safe place to express our values and talk about what's important to us. Sometimes, though, what's important to one person bumps up against what's important to someone else. This can feel like quite a shock. Sometimes it even feels like a personal affront.

Conclusion: It's not the values themselves that INFPs share, it's the fact that we operate on values.

INFPs may be liberal, conservative, or in the middle. We may be religious, spiritual but nonreligious, or atheist. We may be fiercely individualist or firmly collectivist. We "run the gamut" on every issue (if you'll pardon the cliché). It may take some work to understand fellow INFPs whose values differ greatly from our own, but we tend to agree that it's worth the effort.

INFPs and harmony

Classical "type wisdom" and the common descriptions of INFPs often say that INFPs value harmony above all and will go to great lengths to avoid conflict. Some profiles even say that we value other people's feelings above our own. Some INFPs agree that this describes them very well. Others say it doesn't resonate.

Observation: Some INFPs value harmony much more than other INFPs do.

I have yet to meet an INFP who actually likes conflict. We pretty much all agree that we'd rather live without it. But for some of us (I won't even hazard a guess about how many), other values are simply more important. We are willing to give up harmony when we can't have it and satisfy a higher-priority value at the same time.

Conclusion: INFPs who often find themselves in conflict are those for whom other values take priority over harmony.

I speculate that this harmony thing is one cause of the self-doubts that many INFPs seem to have about whether or not they are really INFPs.

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Last updated 30 April 2006, to redo the visual design