By A.J. Drenth
The INFJ personality type is commonly thought to be the rarest of the 16 personality types, constituting little more than 1% of the general population. INFJs are known for their perspicacity and intuitive insight, adept at seeing through surface appearances in order to grasp deeper psychospiritual realities.
While young INFJs are often academically precocious, some of their greatest strengths—emotional, social, and moral intelligence—are commonly overlooked or underappreciated. Highly attuned to the attitudes and emotions of others, they develop great confidence in their ability to read people, which one INFJ described as “peering into the soul.” They can readily discern whether an individual is being genuine or phony, authentic or inauthentic.
INFJs also tend to be “highly sensitive persons” (HSPs). Their nervous systems are wired to be more sensitive and permeable to all sorts of stimuli—both inner and outer. This sensitivity can be a double-edged sword for the INFJ. On the one hand, it can cause them to be more easily overwhelmed or overstimulated. As children, INFJs are often more timid and react more strongly (e.g., crying) to stimuli that registers as unproblematic for those of other types. I’ve talked to many INFJs who were afraid trying new things as children, such as trying unfamiliar foods or going on rollercoasters. While others may be inclined to see the INFJ’s tentativeness as excessive or unnecessary, it makes perfect sense when one considers their innate sensitivity. In many respects, their sensitivity resembles the phenomenon of night vision, in which even the dimmest of lights are experienced as intense, even uncomfortable.
Despite the challenges associated with their sensitivity, having “thinner skin” allows INFJs to soak up more information, including subtleties and nuances that are lost on other types. In my view, this sensitivity is part and parcel of their perceptiveness, playing an integral role in their intuitive capacities.
The notion of the INFJ personality type was first been put forth by Myers and Briggs in the 1940s, building on the earlier work of typology’s founding father, Carl Jung. Only recently did a website called 16 Personalities append the letters T and A to the personality types, effectively increasing the number of types from 16 to 32, which is quite ironic considering this website’s moniker.
According to 16 Personalities, the T variable stands for “turbulent” and the A variable for “assertive.” In my view, this is a rather strange pairing insofar as it is difficult to see how turbulence and assertiveness represent conceptual opposites. Using a term like “consistent” would seem a more suitable opposite for turbulent, as would “passive” for assertive. Regardless, we will now take a look at the INFJ-T vs. INFJ-A conceptions.
INFJ-T vs. INFJ-A Personalities
In reviewing Google search data, I learned that the term INFJ-T is searched about three times as often as INFJ-A, which suggests that the T designation is far more common among INFJs. In my view, this probably stems from INFJ’s innate sensitivity. As we’ve seen, INFJs tend to be more sensitive and react more strongly to a variety of stimuli than other types. This, in combination with their strength of feeling, leads them to experience an ever-changing array of intense sensations and emotions (i.e., turbulence). Unfortunately, other types (especially T types) may fail to appreciate the positive aspects INFJs’ sensitivity, instead casting them as moody or emotionally unstable. But as we discussed earlier, because their sensitivity is part and parcel of their perceptivity, it is better viewed as a strength than a weakness.
As a general rule, introverted (I) and perceiving (P) types are less assertive than extraverted (E) and judging (J) types. Thus, we would expect the INFJ to exhibit a moderate level of assertiveness with respect to other types. That being said, it is important to clarify what we mean when using the term assertive. Since INFJs are known for readily voicing their feelings and opinions, they can be seen as very assertive in a verbal sense. However, when it comes to taking action, they are far less so. As discussed in my post, Why INFPs, INTPs, INFJs, & INTJs Struggle to Act, action rarely comes naturally to IN types, especially to INJs. Consequently, INFJs are apt to have mixed feelings about their degree of assertiveness and will tend to score higher on the turbulent scale.