How to Tell the Difference: INTJ vs ISFP

alifara asked: What is the difference between XNTJ and XSFP ? are ISFPs capable of being cold, highly-critical, and impulsive ?

Yes, ISFPs can certainly be cold and highly critical –just like any type can behave coldly and critically. A good fictional example of this type of ISFP would be Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You. 

This is definitely a question that comes up more often than would be expected. There are large quantities of intellectual xSFPs who believe themselves to be xNTJs simply because they’re intelligent and think emotion is weak. I have an ESFP sibling who believes firmly that they’re an ENTJ, but doesn’t have the Ni-power necessary to support such a thesis (and I’ve been kind enough not to invalidate the delusion).

There are loads of people who assume that anyone who’s an intellectual and a jerk must be an xNTJ. However, there are many xNTJs who are very kind and loving, just like there are many F-types who are cruel and hateful.

Upper Fi vs Lower Fi

xSFPs use upper Introverted Feeling (Fi), and xNTJs use lower Introverted Feeling (Fi).

Upper Introverted Feeling (Fi) – xSFPs

First, off the emotions of an xSFP are going to be much more obvious to an outside observer than an xNTJ –yes, even when it comes to the cold xSFPs. A cold xSFP might say something equally cruel and offensive, but they’re probably going to feel something as they do it (be it anger, satisfaction, hate, sadness etc.) Kat Stratford everyone!

They’re also going to react more emotionally to people and situations. Kat Stratford, for instance is hurtful and cruel, but everyone knows she’s constantly angry, grumpy or upset (whereas people can’t usually tell what emotion an xNTJ is feeling).

An xSFP’s actions and motivations are primarily emotional in nature. They have a stronger need (than xNTJs) to be true to themselves.

Lower Introverted Feeling (Fi) – xNTJs

xNTJ emotions tend to be more reflective than reactive. They often think, “I’m sad” without actually feeling sadness. It’s our way of analysing what we think about situations without simply reacting to them. It’s basically the difference between the way John Nash reacts to insults and the way Kat Stratford does.

If somebody says something hurtful to an xNTJ, they probably won’t care unless the person who said it was very close to them. Loki cares what his father thinks about him, but nobody outside his family can effect him emotionally, whereas Kat Stratford (who claims not to care what other people think) will react emotionally to even the slightest of insults from a stranger.

Fi-users (especially xNTJs and xSFPs) tend to value freedom. However, they view the pursuit of freedom slightly differently. Upper Fi using children will say things like “don’t tell me what to do,” while lower Fi-using children are will think (without vocalising) more along the lines of “I do what I want.” The difference is subtle, but there.

Unlike xSFPs, an xNTJ will pursue the logical course of action before allowing emotion to prevail in their motivations. This isn’t to say that an xNTJ can never be motivated by emotion –it’s just, they tend to ignore their emotions when making decisions, while xSFPs take them into consideration.

Most INTJs look at tough decisions this way: I would rather do what makes sense and will achieve the best long term outcome than feel good about life or myself. Whereas an xSFP will look at it like this: I would rather feel good about my decision than have everything turn out perfect in the end.

Upper Se vs Lower Se

xSFPs use Upper Extraverted Sensing (Se), and xNTJs use Lower Extraverted Sensing (Se).

Upper Extraverted Sensing (Se) – xSFPs

Upper Se users have a “here today, gone tomorrow, so don’t waste it” kind of attitude, ” while lower Se users are primarily focused on accomplishing that long-term visions.

xSFPs relish sensory experiences and having fun, and this is where their Se will be most evident to outside observers. ISFPs are probably going to be those people who stop on a trail to point out something beautiful, or that person who walks through fabric stores and wants to touch all the different textures.

My ISFP roommate and I are both artists, but he’s always the one pointing out beautiful spots on campus or the textures of sidewalks and such. He’s the one who comments the most on art we see as we’re passing by it in public (I just make art. I don’t talk about it).

xSFPs live in the present –and this will be quite obvious when compared with an xNTJ (who are more future-oriented due to their Ni). xSFPs aren’t going to dwell on the past, and they’re not going to think heavily in terms of the future. They might have a plan for the future, but compared to an xNTJ, their plan is going to look vague and indefinite. (See the Ni section for more detail on this)

Lower Extraverted Sensing (Se) – xNTJs

Lower Se doesn’t show up quite as much as upper Se. Rather, it appears simply in the xNTJs tendency to ignore the past as irrelevant. It crops up now and then to help the xNTJ revise plans as situations change, but most of the time, you’re not really going to catch an xNTJ living in the moment (unless they’re under extreme stress – then Se crops up to hurt them).

An xNTJ, even on vacation, is not living in the moment. During my summer travels, I’ve gone to plenty of places, but the whole time, I’m analysing everything in my head rather than simply experiencing it the way my xSFP sibling does. While I’m analysing the structure of coral on a beach, my sibling is splashing in the ocean. While I look at the cyanobacteria in a sewer system in the Caribbean and wonder whether it will end up enlarging the hypoxic zone of the Gulf of Mexico, my sibling just plugs their nose and runs off to see the next big thing.

See the difference?

One more thing – users of inferior Se are frequently over-stimulated by excessive sensory experience. They will enjoy sensory experiences in small amounts, but too much can drive them to seek out a bathroom to hide in.

Upper Ni vs Lower Ni

xNTJs use upper Introverted Intuition (Ni), and xSFPs us lower Introverted Intuition (Ni).

Upper Introverted Intuition (Ni) – xNTJs

The xNTJ (unless they’re an extremely unhealthy one) is going to have a long-term plan for everything. Chances are, they knew what career they were going to pursue at age five and haven’t changed their mind about it. Think Dagny Taggart from Atlas Shrugged. She decided she was going to run a railroad when she was eight and was already halfway there by the time she was a teenager.

Ni is one of those functions that just gets exponentially more extreme the higher up on the functions list it is, which means that Ni in an INTJ is exponentially more intense than it is in an ENTJ, and way more extreme than in an xSFP.

The INTJ’s primary stimulation comes from this Ni function –from problem-solving and internal analysis. (ENTJ’s primary stimulation is organising their outward environment and fulfilling their task-oriented needs). The xSFP is more likely to take action (Se) before they bother problem-solving, whereas the xNTJ is going to simply problem-solve.

This isn’t to say that xSFPs don’t problem-solve – they do. It’s simply to say that an xSFP will solve mostly immediate problems, while an xNTJ will plan to end all future reoccurrence of the present problem (basically the thought process leading up to each of the deaths Ender Wiggin causes).

Lower Introverted Intuition (Ni) – xSFPs

Even though xSFPs tend to live more in the present, they’re going to have relative long-term plans –   just nothing anywhere near the extreme of an xNTJ.

The xNTJ will who decides he wants to go to Antarctica is going to figure out all the specifications of the journey, how much he needs to earn every month in order to go and then spread his plan out over a longer period of time. Chances are, the xNTJ has wanted to go to Antarctica since he was a child, and has been working towards it ever since.

The xSFP on the other hand is the type of person who will decide out of the blue that he’d like to go to Antarctica –and the next thing you know, he’s changed his mind and decided he wants to go to Africa.

The xSFP typically has fewer and more vague plans than the xNTJ. That annoying ESFP I always talk about has never had a childhood dream (other than to become Batman) and didn’t decide what career to pursue until he was a senior in high school –and even then, he picked computer science purely because the competition is so non-existent that he would need no plan in order to accomplish it.

Upper Te vs Lower Te

xNTJs use upper Extraverted Thinking (Te), while xSFPs use lower Extraverted Thinking (Te).

Upper Extraverted Thinking (Te) – xNTJs

Upper Te is quite blunt – but typically, it’s blunt with the aim of being efficient. xNTJs are going to be much more task-oriented and organised than xSFPs. End of story.

My xSFP sibling and I both have the same 24 hours in our Saturdays. He spends it gaming, shooting animals in the yard, and complaining about how bored he is. Meanwhile, I’ve worked for 8 hrs in person, come home and worked online (I have an editing job) for 3 hrs and then written until I look at the clock and it’s three AM. Then, I have to get up at 7 the next morning.

Let’s just say upper Te users are not uncommonly workaholics.

Lower Extraverted Thinking (Te) – xSFPs

To avoid confusion of upper Se and upper Te. Upper Se focuses on doing, while upper Te focuses on doing efficiently. xSFPs will do just as much as xNTJs, just not as efficiently. They’re likely to devote more time to entertainment than xNTJs. Upper Se goes to a party and has fun. Upper Te goes to a party and feels guilty because it’s not working.

Where the Te function shows up most readily in the xSFP is in the ability to speak bluntly.

xSFPs use their Te coupled with upper Se with the hopes of getting a reaction out of people. For instance, my xSFP sibling enjoys telling morbid jokes –not because they actually thinks they’re funny– but because they thinks people’s reactions to the jokes are funny. This is more the case with ESFPs than ISFPs however.

Upper Te is blunt for the sake of efficiency. With lower Te is just straight-up blunt regardless of any reason.


13 thoughts on “How to Tell the Difference: INTJ vs ISFP

  1. For the several years I’ve been studying MBTI, I’ve always typed myself as an INTJ. This school year, however, has been incredibly stressful and I noticed that my Fi and Se functions had taken the lead, presumably to give my exhausted Ni and Te a break. I found that I’m much more likely to be influenced by what I feel (more likely to take things personally) and disregard the long-term influences of the decisions I make. I pay much more attention to tangible things, etc.

    Anyway, I noticed this and so I decided to look into ISFPs because they have the same functions but in the same order I seem to be using them currently. I found this article and it makes an amazing amount of sense, correlating with what I had observed beforehand.

    The problem is that now I’m wondering if I’m actually an INTJ or an ISFP…I have a brother who is also an INTJ (our poor parents) but I’ve always been more expressive than him. I also have some difficulty in making plans for my life (though that might be due to my Ni shooting down every idea it comes across as unrealistic). On the other hand, I’m thinking I probably just need to reassess when I’m not in such a stressful time in life. Which seems like a very Ni thing to think…but maybe I’m only thinking that because I know it’s the Ni thing to think. And thus begins the over-analyzing…

    Point is, this is a very interesting and intriguing article, especially in how it matches with my current thoughts. Thank you for writing this.


  2. Thank you so much for this! I wanted to know more about myself but that was hard because I didn’t even know what I am. I asked my ENFP older sister what was my type (since the tests are inaccurate) she’ve said that I was an ISxP. For weeks I had thought that I was an ISxP… I read the descriptions of both ISFP and ISTP but it wasn’t so accurate… I was starting to wonder if I was mistyped. But now seeing the huge differences between ISFPs and INTJs I realized that I was an INTJ. Ever since I was 7 I wanted to be a doctor and I was (and still) so devoted to biology… It’s one of my favorite subjects. My twin brother is an ESFP and keeps changing his mind about his future… At first he wanted to be an engineer now he wants to be a doctor. I finally found out my type, thank you for that article.


  3. I looked up this difference between INTJ and ISFP because I am trying to decide what type I personally think Gale Hawthorne from the Hunger Games series is. This article kind of confirms for me my own hypothesis of him being ISFP, which like no one else on the Internet thinks. (I haven’t looked yet to see what your blog lists him as.) I had narrowed down his perception functions to se-ni and judgement to fi-te but wasn’t sure of the order. Most people have put him as ENTJ or INTJ but I don’t really see him as either a Te-dom or an Ni-dom.

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  4. Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.


  5. I tend to have the same thing here! My sibling gave the test results to get INTJ and was excited of how it means the mastermind and so on and all of a sudden for months and months everyone in the family heard about personality types and how each and every aspect of our functions can totally make sense with the 16 personality types. As an INFP, I find my sibling deep in emotions. I also happen to have a husband who is an IxTJ (not sure about the x although the test said N, but I see more S- maybe 50/50) and therefore, I happen to know what having less emotions is like (becuase it was always very hard to understand the nonemotionality- given my type).

    I see more of an ISFP in my sibling specially given the childhood image of being Harry Potter and then afterwards dreaming of becoming a rock star (and was actually quite good in playing electric guitar and singing). You had to see the reactions I got after telling that I see more of an ISFP rather than INTJ in you! I am beginning to think that all these jungian functions and mbti things come to an end when it comes to ISFP-INTJ having the same cognitive functions! Especially with INTJ having little emotions and ISFP being so good in pretending and acting while having NO idea about it. Sorry if it sounds cruel or anything but by acting I mean to say how originally artistic ISFPs are and I just love that! (while I also love my husband) Now I have the problem of a sibling who is offended but claims otherwise and somebody help me please!!!


    • I had to give the same message to my ESFP brother who tested ENTJ. He didn’t like that idea until I presented him with a large number of fiction ESFPs with whom he could relate and aspire to become like.

      At that point, he was still a bit leery, so I told him my Grandpa (whom he can’t stand) an ENTJ and compared the differences between my brother and my Grandpa. After that, he was sold.


  6. Out of curiosity, how many confirmed ISFPs do you know in the real world? :)
    I ask because I’ve noticed a tendency on many forums/blogs/sites to misunderstand how our function order plays out in us (and/or worse, a tendency to ignore functions at all, and describe us as some sort of odd ESFP-INFP-ISTP hybrid), and much of what you describe seems to apply more to ESFPs than ISFPs.

    I get along quite well with INTJs, though (which is due, I believe, to our shared introversion and top 4 functions) – and despite the rarity of that type, I actually know more INTJs than I do other ISFPs. It’s even caused me to wonder about the statistics on type frequency. (Though I live in a university town, which probably leads to an overabundance of Ni-Te types.) My closest friends are (& have throughout my past been) INTJs.

    I’m a member of the ISFP group on facebook, and so have gotten to know a number of ISFPs there & learned about the commonalities of how we think about & approach the world, but only know one other confirmed ISFP in real life. And in many of the typology discussion groups, others seem to report a similar lack of real-world ISFP encounters. (Possibly because we do have a tendency to reside in our own little world, which usually involves some sort of hideaway and/or nature, and a great deal of pondering.) So I was just curious about your own experiences. :)


    • I think it’s that way for most introverts (unless they’re INFPs). I’m an INTJ, but I’ve never once in my life had an INTJ friend, yet I tend to come into contact with a large quantity of wonderful ISFPs. In fact, I’ll be living with an ISFP and an INFJ as flat-mates next year.

      The only real reasons I can figure for this are as follows:

      1. Humans are naturally attracted to people whose strengths are their weaknesses. Thus, many xSFPs and xNTJs are inclined to either become best friends or mortal enemies, or both.

      2. I’m an artist. I spend a lot of time in art studios, and there are many more ISFPs in art studios than in other places. Sure, the artist stereotype doesn’t apply to all ISFPs, but it does apply to a good plenty.

      It’s not that I’ve never met another INTJ –I’ve met plenty. It’s just that when I meet one, neither of us feel the need for friendship, whereas ISFPs will cling to my stability. I often see FP/TJ relationships form because the FP looks at the TJ and simultaneously sees a person who will give them stability, and a person who is in denial of a need for companionship. The INTJ isn’t usually the one to initiate friendship with an ISFP, but they let it happen because they see a sincerity in the ISFP that they can’t throw away because it’s priceless.

      Type frequency —lets just say that it’s impossible to accurately measure. How do you “confirm” anybody’s type in a way that the entire MBTI-community will agree with? If we measure type according to the MBTI tests, you can guarantee those statistics will be inaccurate. If we measure according to one person’s opinion (and yes, that might include mine), somebody else out there is going to disagree. Also, what demographics are we going to measure by? If we measure type frequency on a world wide scale, it’s naturally going to be different than any local measurement that you might find. In the end it all comes down to the thesis that nothing can be proven, merely disproved, or headed with reasonable evidence for belief.

      About most of what I said applying more to ESFPs –yes, I suppose it did. The fact that I kept using my ESFP brother as an example may be a significant problem in that area… I’ll go back in and clean it up over the next weeks or so.

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