The Functions of the INFP
- Introverted Feeling (Fi):INFPs tend to be trusting of other people and yet very sensitive to criticism (one INFP that I spoke to remarked that “It is hard to say what could not hurt an INFP.”) However, typically, they are quick to forgive, very loving, and enjoy helping other people because of their personal convictions. Drawing from their own experiences (Si), INFPs tend to empathize with anyone who is hurting. One of the primary focuses and concerns of an INFP is morality: discovering, defining, and living according to what is good and what is evil. They tend to be concerned with morality on the grand, theoretical scale and applying it directly in their own personal lives. Often, the INFP’s sense of morality is a conclusion drawn from their memories or comes from tradition (Si). Most times, INFPs “sense” what is good or evil rather than through reasoning or observation, but INFPs are not opposed to thinking about or discussing morality. Typically, INFPs believe in an ultimate, absolute good and evil which is experienced subjectively and individually. So they tend to emphasize that morality cannot be logically reasoned through but must be subjectively felt. In a more general area of life, INFPs tend to differentiate between what is meaningful and not meaningful in certain situations. INFP severely dislike being demeaned by others, disbelieved, or being overlooked. Often INFPs do not voice their resentment or negative thoughts towards a person or topic (because, in their mind, the conflict would not be worthwhile or meaningful), so they can appear passive and accepting. However, typically, after a long build up of negative thoughts, an INFP will suddenly voice them and can be very confrontational about it (Te). Interestingly enough, INFPs don’t like to display their emotions publicly but have not problem making their ideas public.
- Extroverted Intuition (Ne): INFPs love to explore and invent new methods, possibilities, and approaches to different topics. Generally, they have a “big picture” view of life (though they tend to emphasize the small things) and their personal interactions and have large dreams and goals for their life, though they can become distracted and often daydream. Notably, most INFPs don’t plan for the future– they simply enjoy thinking about the possibilities (though the most mature INFPs do set practical goals.) They are known for being extremely creative, imaginative, and artistic and focusing on how these new methods or their art could affect the perspectives and feelings of others. Ne encourages INFPs to communicate their passions and goals other people, and INFPs love trying to understand other people and helping them if possible as they love to look for potential in everyone/everything. INFPs also tend to be concerned with how other people perceive and judge them. Because of the FiNe combination, INFPs can appear complacent for a period of time before their complaints and anger bursts out (Te). Moreover, INFPs are known for being astute at understanding patterns and seeing symbolism and tend to be masterful (though often quiet) speakers and effective leaders who portray an encouraging vision. Many times, INFPs will appear very open minded on the surface but their ethics and goals are truly steadfast and almost unchangeable. Though INFPs are normally very hopefull, they are also prone to moods of depression when the struggle to make their goals or connect with other people. INFPs are also known for being spontaneous and happy people.
- Introverted Sensing (Si): For the INFP, Si is more of a subconscious rather than deliberate part of their thought process. INFPs draw heavily from personal experience when empathizing with other, forming their ethical code, setting goals, and interacting with other people. INFPs are prone to panic and fear when subjected to a situation in which they have experience pain or betrayal in the past and tend to quickly leave and avoid the situation in the future. On the other hand, they often chase after recreating happy memories and cling to them. Se also adds to the steadfastness of Fi, and often INFPs resist change and tend to favor tradition. Also Se is manifested in “common sense,” though immature INFPs often lacks this and are wrapped up in their ideals. In more mature INFPs, they are a bit more cautious and wary of the dangers of the world; some even become cynical.
- Extroverted Thinking (Te): Very mature INFPs learn to cooperate with the systems of the world and set practical goals to achieve their ideals. However, many younger INFPs struggle with this cooperation and view it as compromising their individualistic values. Almost all INFPs are prone to “exploding” after holding in resentment for a long time and bluntly explaining the how and why the other person has been doing them or someone else wrong. Also INFPs can be very structured and orderly when the mood strikes them. Since thinking is the inferior function, INFPs are not prone to be logical and often scorn logical attempts to understand the world and the human race.
*Personality types are not as simple as picking between two letters four times. The mixture of letters actually determines four cognitive functions as listed above. The dominant function is listed first and drives the type, while the inferior function is listed last and is often unused in immature types.
How to Manifest this Personality Type in Fictional Characters
Goals: FiNe often is manifested in INFPs as the goal of communicating their sense of morality or personal passions in a way that is understandable and sympathetic to other people (often using an artistic medium.) INFPs often have the goals of helping a people or having fruitful relationships with others.
Motivations: INFPs are often motivated by their personal, idealistic sense of Good vs. Evil and personal and ultimate morality. They also are very driven by their desire to help and connect with other people. Most INFPs have a strong desire for a peaceful life, and this is often reflected in their goals. One of the INFPs I spoke to said that she believes that everyone has a “right” to artistic expression and that art should not be a competition but all art appreciated. From what I’ve read, this sounds like a typical motivation of the INFP type.
Interaction with Other Characters: INFPs tend to be people pleasers, but strangely enough, INFP can often become the rebels of a group when their sense of morality clashes with orders or society. Though they are not confrontation in their rebellion, they have no problem voicing their dissent but often feel deeply hurt or betrayed by the people they are rebelling against. In general, they are one of the most idealistic and optimistic in a group of people and often try to help everyone around them. However, because of their Fi dominant function, they are easy to take advantage of and are often ignored because of their quiet nature. INFPs struggle to say “no” to other people and occasionally put up with abuse rather than confront anyone.
Young/Immature Characters: Most immature INFPs scorn logic and do not care about the evidence but insist on doing what “feels” right and can often focus on instant gratification rather than looking to the big picture (though if they have a well-developed Ne, it can help this.) Young INFPs can become frustrated and struggle with communicating their ideas/morality/sense of truth in a way that resonates with and helps other people. Also younger INFPs are known to elevate other people, in thier minds, and see people they admire/love as ideals rather than real, fallible humans. This can make the INFP’s relationship with that person difficult, and the INFP will feel disappointed or betrayed when the other person does not live up to the INFP’s ideal.
Matured Characters: The most mature INFPs learn that sometimes individual freedom must be sacrificed to achieve a greater goal, but it is typically a huge struggle for the INFP to reach this conclusion. As INFPs mature, they tend to develop more common sense, better organization, and more focus for achieving their goals.
Examples of INFP Characters: Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia), Sybil Crawley and Matthew Crawley (Downton Abby), Faramir and Frodo Baggins (The Lord of the Rings), Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet (Romeo and Juliet)
If you’d like to look into INFPs more, I would suggest checking out this website and this article (please note that you have to scroll down to find the INFP type). I used many of them for my research and go into more detail on this personality type.
Also when writing this post, I talked with two INFPs who answered a bunch of really help questions for us writers. I could not include all of them in this post, so I have posted their thoughts in the comments.
A special thanks to Tiffany W. and Katherine M. for all their help with this post! You guys were a huge help to an INTJ who had no idea what was going on in your heads.
So have you ever written an INFP character? What do you think about this personality type in fiction? I’ve been struggling a lot with my INFP character, but after my research and pestering my INFP volunteers with questions, I understand her better.
Have a wonderful week. God bless,
Disclaimer: I am an INTJ not an INFP and an amateur with Myers Briggs Personality Typing. So I am not speaking from personal or professional experience in this post. However, I believe that I was objective in how I portrayed INFPs in this post, and I strive to understand and empathize with the personality type. Also I had several INFPs approve this post before I put it on my blog. Moreover, this analysis of the INFP personality type is not meant to help INFPs understand themselves better. This is an amateur analysis meant to help writers create characters.