Why you might mistype one for the other:
As I mentioned in the INFJ/ISFP post, it is a common mistake to think that anybody who takes an interest in learning, particularly learning abstract facts, must be iNtuitive. There is this misconception that Sensors must be totally incapable of processing anything that isn’t happening right at the moment. This is false. ISFP’s are not good at analysing the information they learn, but tend to be particularly interested in taking in new information about the world.
It’s not that difficult to tell the difference between an INFP and an ISFP once you know more. Despite only being one letter apart, they’re very different in lots of ways…..
Differences, similarities and how to tell them apart:
-ISFP’s and INFP’s are both highly sensitive and empathetic types of people who are very cognisant of their own emotions and make decisions based on their sense of empathy. However while ISFP’s will usually make decisions based on what their empathetic emotions are telling them at that moment, INFP’s are much better at considering how best to ensure people are happy in the future; how best to avoid causing pain in the present and how to respond sensitively to things that have happened in the past. This allows the INFP to develop a more consistent framework of moral values which they can stick to and enforce, whereas—while they might fancy themselves adherents to a moral system in theory–in practice it would not occur to the ISFP to base their behaviour on a set of pre-established values rather than on their feelings in each moment.
INFP’s can be exposed to a new statement or belief and instantly say “yes that fits with my values” or “no my beliefs are that those premises are morally wrong”. However, ISFP’s often go along with whoever has presented theirs as the most sympathetic viewpoint in the situation and would need some prompting to realise whether the consequences of this viewpoint would be desirable within their worldview.
This has its downsides for INFP’s though. INFP’s are more likely to have a harmful set of values that they enforce than ISFP’s are. For example, an INFP’s thirst for moral belief systems may lead them to subscribe to a religion that has conservative values, and unlike the ISFP they will not totally ignore this set of beliefs when deciding how to behave towards someone who may be hurt by them.
-Their greater tendency towards holding belief systems means that INFP’s are much more likely to get into a conflict with someone on a matter of principle than ISFP’s are. INFP’s, although they greatly dislike conflict and are upset by it, will be more likely to argue against something that is strongly opposed to their belief system, and will do so with great passion, sometimes eloquently, sometimes with sneering putdowns, sometimes with plenty of facts (though the facts might be biased). Conflict makes them panicky so they may come across as extremely angry or harsh in these moments. ISFP’s are more likely to respond to a disagreement by saying “well I’m not going to argue” or “each to their own”. Sometimes they will organically express their shock or disgust at a point of view but they will almost always drop it before long; they value fellow-feeling between people more than anything, and consider the creation of conflict to be a far worse fault than the (possibly immoral) statement that started it. ISFP’s care most about being nice, while INFP’s care most about being good.
ISFP’s view almost any statement of values as a mere difference of opinion, and would not think it worth fighting over a difference of opinion. If they really do believe the other person is objectively wrong, they may shut them down with a cheap shot or a simple “no you’re wrong” but they will not usually pursue the matter at length.
ISFP’s usually view an argumentative person as being worse than a provocative person, since they strive for harmony at all times; while an INFP often believes that arguing back against things they see as immoral is the only right thing to do.
-INFP’s are usually a good judge of character and use their judgements to determine how to treat people and when to avoid them. ISFP’s don’t make it their business to judge other people—which can make them open-minded people (although they may repeat other’s judgements uncritically), but also creates the problem that they may keep toxic people in their lives or encourage others to do so.
-ISFP’s generally take each face-to-face social interaction as is, and assume that people usually mean what they say, nothing more and nothing less. INFP’s on the other hand can have a tendency to overthink things and see hidden implications and patterns. They may worry a lot that people don’t like them: although standing up for their beliefs is very important for INFP’s and they are not just people-pleasers, they also harbour a secret desire to be liked by everyone. If they are not liked, they worry that they have done something terrible and may analyse conversations for signs that they are disliked. The ISFP is a lot more laid back about this. They see someone else’s judgement of them as just that person’s opinion, and take the attitude “if you don’t like me, you don’t like me”. Sometimes they will be upset if someone they thought they were on good terms with turns out to dislike them but they don’t worry over it or go looking for signs like the INFP or see it as necessarily a fault of their own.
-Although all Perceiving types dislike excessive future planning, INFP’s as a type can be very easily worried and anxious about the future, and are good at recognising the cause-and-effect that would lead to certain possible futures and analysing the best choice to make in that way. For this reason, INFP’s usually like to spend a bit of time deciding what they’re going to do before they do it. They rarely rush into important decisions or decide to do extreme things on a whim. ISFP’s are much more impulsive in this sense.
However, what they do have in common in terms of planning is that they hate to get caught up in trivial, practical details and timetables. They will do it if they really have to, but they take absolutely no pleasure in it and often feel that it spoils the fun. Similarly, they would not judge other people for missing out on trivial details and are very laid back about when things get done. Both can be frequently late.
-Both ISFP’s and INFP’s tend to work in productivity spikes. Both like to work by themselves and for their own ends—for example they might like to study things or watch a lot of films/documentaries in their spare time. ISFP’s are great at absorbing a vast range of detailed information. INFP’s are not so interested in these details and much prefer to get a vaguer idea of the overall picture. They also much prefer to learn things related to people, in a very personal, emotionally-connected way—whereas ISFP’s don’t mind just getting a load of facts. INFP’s are good at doubting their sources and analysing what they are told to find what they believe is closest to the truth, whereas this is a weak point of the ISFP; they often take things at face value.
-ISFP’s and INFP’s may both like to look good, but ISFP’s are more committed to this as a priority because they’re so focussed on the sensory experience of how they look and smell. Consequently they will more often have perfectly styled hair, make up, scent etc. INFP’s can desire to look good and achieve this, but there’s always a fair chance they’ll have days when they just can’t be bothered because they’re so much more interested in a story they’re telling or a feeling they’re thinking about inside their own head than they are in the external world. INFP’s are much more concerned with their thoughts and feelings (and the thoughts and feelings of others) and they may often overlook things that are happening around them because of this. They can be very unobservant, whereas ISFP’s are automatically observant of what’s directly in front of them—though they may miss subtext and anything that it takes more effort to explore.
-All introverts need time alone since they are tired out by too much social interaction, so this is something ISFP’s and INFP’s have in common. However, the stereotype of an introvert is that they are very quiet in social situations, and this is far more true of the INFP than the ISFP. The ISFP can be awkward and go into “formal mode” around new people but they are often very gregarious when they are with good friends. The INFP on the other hand appears more consistently, stereotypically introverted, because they like to think before they speak and will usually talk in a very measured, considered way.
ISFP’s like to communicate non-verbally with their friends a lot, making in-jokes, noises or partial impressions that they all find funny, or by making short references to things that have happened. INFP’s, and all INxx’s, are not very good with this type of communication and they might find it cliqueish and uncomfortable. However both the ISFP and the INFP can be similarly very articulate when they get down to it and may both write well when describing their own experiences. They also both tend to like to describe their own life in writing or lives similar to their own, rather than going on wild flights of fancy and creating new worlds.
-The INFP can have a very sarcastic sense of humour. They will not usually make a cruel joke to somebody’s face but they may make harsh jokes privately. Although they are usually empathetic when dealing with someone directly, they can judge someone harshly in the third person when that person does not live up to their moral standards, and such a person might find that behind their back they have been on the receiving end of an acerbic barb. ISFP’s on the other hand rarely use any kind of biting sarcasm; they might find it funny when others use it but it’s not a type of humour they employ themselves at all. In fact, ISFP’s rarely employ verbal humour; their jokes usually consist of memes or funny pictures or any kind of slapstick/silly humour. They don’t joke a lot; they prefer to communicate in a very straightforward way when they’re in formal mode, and when in informal mode their humour is very nonverbal.
-The INFP be very, very hard on themselves when they don’t live up to their own standards of morality. ISFP’s are easy-going and forgiving with others and also with themselves; they will very rarely dwell on their own wrongdoings—only if they’ve done something truly unforgivable. If they’ve merely made a wrong decision, they will apologise to keep the peace and then move on with their lives while the INFP would be all torn up with remorse.
The ISFP will sometimes SAY that they would never forgive someone for doing this or that, or judge someone heavily for doing this or that, but these proclamations rarely if ever materialise—ISFP’s are big softies, more than they give themselves credit for.
-The ISFP can be very earnest in a way that the INFP usually isn’t. Not that INFP’s are cynical—far from it, they’re one of the most idealistic types—but they are very conscious of the context of things and how words come across. ISFP’s are just a little bit less self-conscious about that kind of thing, so they might not notice that something they say, share on social media or hang on their wall would be seen as very corny or clichéd by the INFP.
-The INFP isn’t quite as skilled at motivating themselves to learn new things alone as the ISFP is. The ISFP is usually always teaching themselves new hobbies, but INFP’s require a lot of encouragement and discussion from others.
ISFP/INFP may initially be drawn to one another’s kindness, introversion, laid back attitude and shared interests. The INFP might like the ISFP’s silly jokes and corny quotes “ironically”, while the ISFP might enjoy the INFP’s sarcastic jokes. Many ISFP’s also have a lot of musical and/or artistic talent that the INFP might admire, while the ISFP might like the INFP’s warm manner and encouragement. However there are several major areas of conflict.
The INFP is likely to become irritated by inconsistency in how the ISFP applies their moral values, which they may interpret as hypocrisy. At that point, those cheesy jokes and quotes might start to look like a lack of self-awareness more than a cute quirk. Equally, the ISFP’s tendency to back down instantly in a conflict is often interpreted as cowardice by the INFP; they are anxious about conflict as well, but they will pursue the conflict if they believe the other person is morally wrong. The ISFP on the other hand will get sick of the INFP’s moral crusading, falsely thinking that they are just trying to cause arguments for no reason and not being sensitive to people’s differing perspectives. They may feel the INFP’s desire to teach others to be better people comes off as very patronising and unnecessary.
The INFP may feel a lot of angst that the ISFP does not understand why they are guilty, why they get caught up on things long-past, why they worry about the future—and they’re probably right.
They may enjoy consuming a lot of the same media, but have completely different ways of consuming it (ISFP focussing on the raw content and INFP analysing it to bits). This will satisfy the ISFP—who likes hearing other people’s analysis, even though they do not usually come up with much themselves—but the INFP might feel the ISFP’s side is somewhat lacking. This will be the same when they’re discussing people they know or real-life situations, at which point the ISFP might get tired of the INFP’s over-analysing and worrying.
Meanwhile the ISFP might get quite sick of the INFP not having as many of their own hobbies or being as self-motivated to do new things as they are. Sometimes the INFP may feel they do not deserve the ISFP, who easily motivates themselves to keep up an interesting and attractive appearance and seems to be a wealth of knowledge and love for everyone. They know that, by contrast, they can spend more time thinking/analysing than doing, meaning keeping up things like their personal appearance, tidiness, and other hobbies can suffer and they may not feel emotions as purely.
As a couple, they would never get to their holiday destination, on time, with all their luggage, and find their hotel—neither is at all capable of organising the practical details. The ISFP would keep the home clean and tidy probably without complaint, but the bills would never be paid on time and the bank statements never filed or shredded. They’d be fairly likely to fall for a scam or a crappy deal because neither of them could be bothered to read the options properly. Over time, although they are both at fault for that state of affairs, this would likely lead to tension.