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 propose the addition of the “turbulent” (T) and “assertive” (A) variables. We will now explore the “INFJ-T” vs. “INFJ-A” personality types, including examining why the former appears to be far more common.
INFJ-T vs. INFJ-A Personalities
In reviewing Google search data, INFJ-T is searched about three times as often as INFJ-A, which suggests that the turbulent designation is significantly more prevalent among INFJs. In all likelihood, this stems from INFJs’ 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 sensations and emotions (i.e., turbulence).
Unfortunately, other types (especially thinking types) may fail to appreciate the positive aspects INFJs’ sensitivity, instead casting them as moody or emotionally volatile. But as we discussed earlier, because INFJs’ sensitivity is part and parcel of their perceptiveness, 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. Taking this into consideration, we would expect INFJs to exhibit a moderate level of assertiveness with respect to other types. That said, it is important to clarify what we mean when using the term “assertive.”
Since INFJs use Extraverted Feeling (Fe) rather than Introverted Feeling (Fi), they are inclined to readily voice their feelings and perspectives. They can thus be seen as naturally assertive in a verbal sense. They tend to be less assertive, however, when it comes to taking action. As discussed in our post, Why INFPs, INTPs, INFJs, & INTJs Struggle to Act, taking concrete action, which is associated with the sensing (S) preference, can be particularly difficult for INFJs. Guided largely by intuition (N), transitioning from the world of ideas / images (N) to that of concrete action (S) can prove challenging for this type.
In short, INFJs’ sensitivity is apt to contribute to higher levels of perceived turbulence, while their difficulty taking concrete action may lead to lower assertiveness scores. Taken together, we can understand why most INFJs test as the INFJ-T subtype.
If you want to learn more about INFJs, you’ve come to the right place. We are an INFJ-INTP duo and have written extensively about INFJs, including penning one of the most frequently referenced INFJ articles on the internet: our in-depth INFJ profile.