A Few Caveats
Please bear in mind that none of this has to be a stereotype that rules your life. You're a unique individual with a unique background, and this description is simply a generalization based on statistics and averages. Don't take what you read here as limitations, but as an invitation to grow outside your core strengths. And especially don't use this description as an excuse. You're better than that! :) Besides, why box yourself in? Type is a starting point, not an ending place. Enjoy it and then grow from it.
INFPs make up:
- 3.89% of the American population (sample size 9,320; Myers & McCaulley, 1985)
- 3.2% of the UK population* (sample size 1,634; Kendall & McHenry, 1998)
- 3.23% of the Australian population (sample size 3,373; Macdaid, McCaulley, & Kainz, 1986)
- 4.2% of the New Zealand population (sample size 993; Bathurst, 1995)
- 3.6% of the Singapore population (sample size 1,733; Lim, 1994)
*Be chary about comparing the UK estimate with the others. There's a long explanation.
INFPs are quiet, sensitive people who enjoy meditating upon connections and meanings in the universe around them. Lost in dreams, fantasies and ideals, they may seem distant at first, but are in fact one of the warmest and kindest of all types--once you get get to know them, of course.
One type practitioner has suggested that INFPs are the least likely to stand up for themselves; their gentle nature and their dislike for negative emotions mean that they avoid conflict even at their own expense. But the same practitioner noted that INFPs can be more willing to stand up for themselves if they see that someone else will be hurt if they do not (add citation).
Since INFPs tend to hide their feelings, an offender may not realize that they have saddened or angered them. Tieger has suggested that these sorts of unaired griefs may lead to resentment that will eventually cause an INFP to cut a person out of their life without explanation. INFPs don't wear their feelings on their sleeves, but since those feelings are so tender they are more apt to be hurt than people think. A word or act that another type might brush off can be damaging to a soft-hearted INFP. By the same token, criticism should be approached with particular gentleness and consideration. If possible, the emphasis should be placed upon how oneself or others are being hurt by the INFP's behavior rather than on the negative actions/qualities that are causing issues.
INFPs have a strong independent streak, which one might not guess from their desire for harmony. In fact, the top values that INFPs chose were "Home/family," then "Autonomy," then "Health," then "Friendships," then "Financial security" (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk & Hammer, 1998). (Money usually tends to fall near the end of INFP lists.) INFPs were also among the top types for "Autonomy" and "Creativity." Whatever an INFP does--whether work or play--it must have personal meaning for them and should bring a little more light to the world. And doing it independently is a big plus too.
INFPs, like all NFs, have a strong sense of metaphor. This may lead to the anthromorphization of animals or inanimate objects. For example, they may see a fly sitting on the glass and wonder what it is thinking, then come up with a meaningful story about how it feels to be separated from everything you desire by an invisible wall. Or an INFP may feel sorry for an inanimate object, i.e. they may feel secretly feel bad for an old bottle of shampoo that is being heartlessly replaced by the new bottle they just bought. The metaphorical abilities of the INFPs cause them to see things as alive and possessing feelings--not that they actually believe this, but they cannot help but imagine it. (One wonders how they feel about eating animal crackers.) In fairy tales one often hears of a woman who takes pity on the ants, cat, etc, only to find out that the creature is intelligent and grateful. The stories that INFPs create in their hearts are somewhat similar, though modernism has taken the pleasure out of getting a reward for one's deeds of kindness.
Tieger believed that the INFPs were the most idealistic type. Keirsey suggested that many INFPs will take on a cause and crusade for it, or go on a quest to bring good to others. For example, Isabel Myers spent many years advocating the Myers-Briggs type inventory test as a way for people to understand themselves and each other. The webpage you are reading right now came about as a direct result of an INFP's dedication to helping the world.
INFPs have a set of inner values that they adhere to without compromise. People who attempt to coerce INFPs in this area may be surprised to find that instead of kicking a soft, yielding pillow, their foot has impacted an immovable block of granite.
In areas other than personal values, INFPs are Perceivers to the core--messy, flexible, adaptable, open-minded and bound to neither timetables nor plans. Comfortable with improvising on the fly, INFPs deal well with the unexpected.