By A.J. Drenth
The INFP personality type is creative, idealistic, empathetic, and individualistic. INFPs are among the most open and curious of the 16 types, bringing an explorative attitude to their life and work.
Unlike more conventional personality types, INFPs insist on paving their own unique path in life. They strive to ensure that their work and relationships are in alignment with their deeply-held values and reflect who they are as individuals. Seeking a life that moves and inspires them, many are drawn to artistic, religious, or humanitarian endeavors.
Like other intuitive introverts, INFPs feel they must “find themselves” before fully committing to a career or relationship. Unfortunately, the process of clarifying their identity and vocation rarely proceeds as quickly as they would like. Indeed, it can take years, sometimes decades, for them to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. For this reason, many INFPs are well-described as “seekers” or “wanderers,” avidly searching for self-insight and self-direction.
The term “INFP” is by no means a new one. The 16 types were first proposed by Myers and Briggs in the mid-20th century as part of their attempt to standardize and apply the seminal work of Carl Jung. Only recently, however, has the notion of two INFP types—the INFP-T vs. INFP-A—been set forth by the website, 16 Personalities. This addition of the T and A variables effectively expands the number of personality types from 16 to 32, which is deeply ironic in light of their website moniker.
According to 16 Personalities, the T variable stands for “turbulent” while the A variable for “assertive.” In my view, this is a rather strange juxtaposition when one considers that being turbulent isn’t really the opposite of being assertive. Terms like “steady” or “consistent” would seem to comprise a more appropriate contrast with turbulent, as would a term like “passive” with assertive. Even more problematic is the fact that, according to Google search data, nearly 80% of searches pertain to the INFP-T rather than the INFP-A type, suggesting that this distinction may not be a terribly useful one, at least among INFPs.
INFP-T vs. INFP-A Personalities
INFPs are not the only personality type characterized by lower levels of assertiveness; the other three IP types —ISFPs, INTPs, and ISTPs—also tend to be less assertive. This can be explained by the fact that IPs tend to introvert rather than extravert their judgments. In other words, rather than directly expressing what they feel or think, IPs are inclined to bite their tongue or express their concerns in less direct or more roundabout ways. This can prove problematic in their careers as well as their relationships, an issue I explored in my post, INFP, INTP, ISFP, ISTP Relationship Challenges.
In the end, it appears that only unusual or highly developed INFPs are apt to test as the INFP-A type. In order for INFPs to assert themselves in a healthy fashion (rather than in a passive-aggressive manner), they must not only be sufficiently self-assured, but must also show ample development of their inferior function, Extraverted Thinking (Te). For it is largely through the development of Te that INFPs can learn to directly express their judgments and opinions to others, a skill which constitutes an important part of their growth and development. So even if the majority of INFPs don’t score high in assertiveness, they can nonetheless embrace it as a goal toward which they can strive.