INFP Personality: Traits, Relationships, Career Matches
Of all of the Introverted-Intuitive types, the INFP may be the most unconventional and unruly.
In this post, I’ll walk through the Big Five personality dimensions of the INFP type and show how this blend of traits influences the rarity of INFPs, their relationship tendencies, and their potential career matches.
The INFP personality type
As always, remember that personality types are just a convenient shorthand for describing a range of individual personalities. Nobody truly falls into a single type, and only relying on a type to describe yourself or someone else will overlook the important details that make an individual unique.
Modern personality science instead uses trait-based systems like the Big Five personality framework, rather than type-based systems like the 16 personalities or Myers-Briggs types. However, many people are more familiar with the popular type systems, and TraitLab’s free assessment can give your results in terms of traits or types.
In popular personality type systems, each type has its own four-letter code, describing its psychological preferences: Introverted vs. Extraverted, Intuitive or Sensing, Feeling or Thinking, and Judging vs. Perceiving.
According to this typology, the INFP prefers:
- Introversion: oriented towards the internal world, rather than the external world
- Intuition: oriented towards learning through internal intuition over sensory experience
- Feeling: oriented towards judging new information by its emotional qualities and/or impact, rather than through logical analysis
- Perceiving: oriented towards receiving new information directly before immediately judging it through organizing, categorizing, and processing
Linking these four abstract preferences to actual concrete behaviors and tendencies can be difficult. TraitLab does this by relying on existing studies that connect each of these four preferences to the Big Five personality framework, which are backed by decades of published behavioral research.
INFP personality traits
The Big Five framework uses five broad dimensions to describe personality differences: Openness To Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
Knowing your personality type can give you a very rough idea of where you fall on each of the Big Five dimensions.
In the graph below, each blue dot is an INFP. The location of each dot is determined by that person’s score on each of the Big Five dimensions. While INFPs tend to vary quite a bit on these dimensions, some consistent patterns emerge.
For example, note the pattern of INFPs on the Openness: almost every INFP falls somewhere between average and the highest end of the dimension. From this, we can safely say that most INFPs will be above average on the Openness dimension.
Now let’s look at the general patterns of INFPs across all of the Big Five personality dimensions.
INFPs are higher on Openness to Experience
INFPs are often highly open to experience.
As a group, INFPs stand out in their unusually high openness to experience. High Openness to Experience is related to strong need and preference for novelty across all types of experiences. Highly open people, like many INFPs, tend to have diverse tastes in food, music, art, and literature, are intellectually curious, and often embrace unconventional habits, ideas, or beliefs.
INFPs are lower on Conscientiousness
INFPs tend to be less conscientiousness.
Conscientiousness describes one’s tendency to make detailed plans, be highly organized and systematic, and to follow consistent, regular schedules.
The relatively low conscientiousness of INFPs’ means that they more easily accept chaos and irregularity, and may actively avoid what they perceive as being too organized or systematic.
INFPs are less likely to be highly focused and dedicated to a single long-term goal. Instead, they tend to act more impulsively, happily bounce between smaller, short-term projects and goals.
Lastly, INFPs will feel less obligation to closely follow widely-accepted social norms, rules, and regulations in several areas of life, and may opt for an unconventional or even rebellious approach.
INFPs are usually lower on Extraversion
While INFPs tend to be more introverted, they are actually the least introverted of all of the Introverted personality types.
Many INFPs fall just below average on Big Five Extraversion, which describes tendencies around social engagement and experiences and expressions of positive emotions.
More introverted INFPs may prefer to spend time engaged in more solitary activities or to surround themselves with calm, less stimulating environments. Those INFPs who fall closer to the average may more comfortably switch between highly social activities and quiet downtime alone.
The INFPs level of introversion will also be reflected in their patterns of emotional expression. As introversion increases (or extraversion decreases), INFPs may seem stoic and serious, less likely to display a range of positive emotions like joy, laughter, and excitement.
INFPs vary widely on Agreeableness
INFPs tend to be highly varied on Agreeableness.
That is, simply knowing that one is an INFP tells you very little about how agreeable or demanding they are. From the graph above, you can see that INFPs fall evenly along the entire range of Agreeableness, with some at the very low extremes and some at the very high extremes.
More agreeable INFPs will seek and try to maintain warmer and friendlier relations with other people, from strangers to relatives to close friends. More agreeable people will try to avoid interpersonal conflicts, and will attempt to reduce or resolve conflicts as they arise. INFPs with higher agreeableness will also have greater altruistic interests, and may gravitate towards professions or hobbies that involve helping others.
Less agreeable INFPs are more demanding and more comfortable with interpersonal conflicts and disagreement than most. They often find it easier to prioritize their own personal goals over the needs of others, and more easily voice their criticism and negative feedback to others.
The high variation of Agreeableness in INFPs is a great example of the shortcomings of using personality types. If you want to know how agreeable you really are, just take TraitLab’s free personality test to find out.
INFPs vary widely on Neuroticism
Just as with Agreeableness, INFPs are highly varied their level of Neuroticism or Emotional Stability.
Some INFPs fall on the very low end of Neuroticism, some fall on the very high end, and most fall somewhere in between. Knowing that someone is an INFP tells you almost nothing about their relative level of Neuroticism.
Neuroticism is describes our emotional volatility and variability. It is closely tied to our tendency to experience negative emotions: anxiety, anger, distress, and depression.
High Neuroticism is related to more frequent and dramatic mood swings and a tendency to worry more often about things in general. More neurotic people are more irritable, have a shorter temper, and are more likely to dwell on negative experiences.
Low Neuroticism, or high Emotional Stability, is related to an overall decreased reactivity to stress, fewer and less intense experiences of negative emotions like anxiety and anger, and a more relaxed and easy-going temperament.
Rarity of INFPs
Roughly 6% of people are classified as INFP.
While this isn’t particularly uncommon, INFPs do have two characteristic combinations of traits worth noting here.
Seeking novelty in information and experiences
Like other IN** types, INFPs are relatively high in Openness to Experience and low in Extraversion.
The graph below shows how INFPs stand out in these two dimensions, compared to non-INFPs. Note many INFPs are bunched up along the outer edge of the group, in the area defined by higher Openness and lower Extraversion.
Why is this unusual? Most studies find that Extraversion and Openness are positively correlated: highly open people also tend to be highly extraverted. INFPs show the opposite pattern — high Openness and low Extraversion.
Extraversion and Openness have been described as two ways of exploring the world. Whereas high extraversion leads to exploration through other people and social experiences, high openness leads to exploration through things and ideas.
INFPs’ high openness and low extraversion might be seen in a preference for exploring the world through non-social means — literature, film, art, and food — over parties or other social activities.
INFP Relationships and interpersonal challenges
As a group, INFPs tend to vary considerably on two dimensions that are closely tied to social relationships: Agreeableness and Neuroticism. Some INFPs are highly agreeable and less neurotic, others INFPs are highly neurotic and highly disagreeable, and others can be anywhere in between.
Because this group varies so much on these two dimensions, it’s unlikely that any description of their relationship tendencies would actually be accurate for most INFPs. For example, highly disagreeable INFPs will be more likely to avoid close and/or intimate relationships for several reasons, but only some INFPs are highly disagreeable. Similar problems arise with INFPs lack of consistency in Neuroticism/Emotional Stability.
This is yet another shortcoming of using simple personality types over more precise trait-based measurements. If you think you are an INFP (or not!) and want to learn more about where you fall on these two critical dimensions, just try the free test here at TraitLab.
Adjectives that describe the INFP personality
How do other people see and describe INFPs?
Among the more introverted types, INFPs stand out by their blend of high openness and lower conscientiousness. This combination of deep interests and a more carefree, spontaneous style can lead others to describe them as unconventional, impractical, artistic, creative, and eccentric.
The wordcloud below shows the top 100 words used to describe INFPs. Bigger words describe the more prominent aspects of INFPs.
One person’s strength can be perceived by others as a weakness. INFPs may struggle with the perception that they are too spontaneous and unsystematic, to the point that some see them as inconsistent, scatterbrained, absent-minded, or disorganized.
As most INFPs tend to be on the more introverted side, others may perceive their quiet nature as guarded, deep, secretive, and intellectual. INFPs also tend to be less socially assertive, and described by others as tactful, unaggressive, or even timid.
If you’d like to see the wordcloud that describes your own unique personality, try the free personality test here at TraitLab.
INFPs tend to match well with careers and jobs with creative demands, often those with a scholarly and/or intellectual component. Some INFPs with an altruistic streak may also look for similar types of positions that involve working more directly with people, making a wide variety of teaching professions a possible avenue, as well.
INFP career interests
The chart below shows how the INFP personality type is related to eight core career interests: Production, Creativity, Erudition, Altruism, Analysis, Organization, Adventure, and Leadership. Your unique blend of these interests has a huge influence on how well a career feels like it “fits” with your personality.
INFPs’ strongest career interest is in Creativity. Many INFPs thrive in unstructured, free-form settings that require them to innovate and solve problems in unconventional ways.
People with strong interests in Creativity prefer jobs that require innovation through artistic and intuitive skills in less structured tasks and environments. Examples include artists, novelists, actor or actresses, musicians, curators, and designers.
INFPs also have very strong interests in Erudition, meaning they are usually primed for tasks that involve complex, unusual information and concepts, like learning a rare language or becoming an expert in a highly specific field of study.
People with strong interests in Erudition enjoy roles that require mastery of complicated or arcane concepts and information. Examples include translators, editors, research professors, literary scholars, interpreters, and foreign correspondents.
INFPs have a fairly strong interests in Altruism, meaning they also enjoy careers that allow them to directly or indirectly help others through their work.
People with strong interests in Altruism fit well in careers that involve helping, comforting, caring for, and teaching other people. Examples include physical therapists, counselors, clergy, social workers, doctors, and nurses.
INFPs also have interests in Production, which aligns well with their creative interests.
People with strong interests in Production enjoy careers that allow them to work with their hands or tools to create, repair, or maintain tangible products and things. Examples include farmers, builders, mechanics, forest rangers, and woodworkers.
INFPs have fairly weak but positive interests in Analysis. This interest may not have a significant impact on the career preferences of INFPs as a group, although some individual INFPs may have stronger preferences in this area.
People with strong interests in Analysis enjoy roles that require investigating, researching, and explaining concepts and ideas. Examples include medical researchers, chemists, scientific reporters, and statisticians.
INFPs do not consistently have a preference or dislike for Adventure. Any individual INFP is likely to be different in their preference for this aspect.
People with strong interests in Adventure prefer careers that involve working outdoors, competition, excitement, risk-taking, and even danger. Examples include police officers, military officers, professional athletes, and bounty hunters.
As with Adventure, INFPs are not consistent in their preference or dislike for Leadership.
People with strong interests in Leadership fit well in careers that enable them to influence, persuade, and motivate other people. Examples include sales and marketing directors, politicians and political organizers, and executives.
INFPs’ strongest career disinterest is in Organization, and they are likely to be dissatisfied with careers that primarily center on organization, details, or have strict rules and regulations about how things should get done.
People with strong interests in Organization prefer careers that involve categorizing, planning, and systematizing information and processes. Examples include financial officers, budget analysts, office managers, database analysts, and systems administrators.
INFP career matches and INFP jobs
Examples of careers that fit with INFPs’ blend of creative and altruistic interests include:
- Graphic, Commercial, and/or Industrial Designer
- Landscape Architect
- Architectural Drafter
- Museum Conservator
- Set Designer
- Art Therapist
- Music Therapist
- Interpreter or Translator
A variety of paths in the teaching, counseling, and scholarly professions may also satisfy INFPs intellectual and altruistic goals, including roles such as:
- Teachers, varied, including:
- Kindergarten Teacher
- Middle School Teacher
- Special Education Teacher
- Secondary School Teacher
- History Teacher
- Art, Drama, and/or Music Teacher
- Language and Literature Teacher
- Philosophy and Religion Teacher
- Counseling Psychologist
- Clinical Psychologist
- Mental Health Counselor
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Behavior Abuse Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Speech-Language Pathologist
Careers to avoid for the INFP
INFPs may feel out of place in careers with a heavy priority on organization and those with highly conventional rules and regulations. Examples of careers INFPs might avoid include:
- Management Analyst
- Compliance Manager
- Education Administrator
- Medical and Health Services Manager
- Investment Fund Manager
- Risk Management Specialist
- Survey Researcher
- Operations Research Analyst
- Database Administrator
- Web Administrator
- Tax Preparer
- Judicial Law Clerk
INFPs stand out by their combination of introversion, openness, and spontaneity and free-spirited nature. Of all of the IN** types, which tend to be more withdrawn and reflective, the INFP is the least systematic and most unpredictable.
However, as a group, INFPs have tremendous diversity in their interpersonal warmth and emotional temperament. Simply knowing that you are an INFPs tells you very little about these areas. To gain more insight into these areas, go beyond your personality type and try the free personality test to discover your Big Five dimensions, words that describe you, similarity to other personality types, and more.
Header photo by JoelValve on Unsplash
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