The Myers-Briggs personality typing system is comprehensive in its range and scope. Nevertheless, there have been occasional attempts to update the system by adding new layers to its interpretive framework.

An example of this dynamic in action has been provided by the personality evaluation site 16 Personalities, which has introduced a new dimension to the Myers-Briggs system that they conceived all on their own. They call this new dimension Assertive - Turbulent. Regardless of your four-letter personality code, they say you can be further classified as either Assertive or Turbulent. This means you would be an INFJ-A or an INFJ-T, and not just an INFJ, for example.

But what exactly are the Assertive and Turbulent personality types? And are they a good addition to the Myers-Briggs schemata, or do they add another layer of complexity to a time-tested personality evaluation system that is just fine the way it is? Let’s take a look.

The Assertive—Turbulent personality dimension

Assertive personalities

A person with an Assertive personality type will be supremely confident in their abilities. They are certain they know how to manage their lives effectively, and they rise to the occasion when a challenging situation or problem comes along. The Assertive type is secure at a core level, and is confident they can cope with life’s many challenges. This means they are:

  • Resilient and sure of themselves when faced with unexpected challenges
  • Comfortable when asked to assume a position of great responsibility
  • Able to perform well when required to think on their feet or improvise

Turbulent personalities

In contrast, the Turbulent personality type is acutely aware of everything that can go wrong and is always looking for ways to tip the odds in their favor. They are driven to succeed and achieve, but they often are anxious about life’s unpredictability. They are burdened by thoughts of failure. As a result, Turbulent personalities are:

  • Anxious when they have to think out-of-the-box or respond to situations on the fly
  • Constantly planning and paying attention to detail so they feel more secure
  • Convinced they could have done better, no matter how well they performed

What does this mean?

From the above description, you might assume the Assertive person is more confident and self-assured than the Turbulent personality type in every situation. But this is an overly simplistic way to define the differences between the Assertive and Turbulent personality types.

In fact, a Turbulent person may feel extremely confident about their chances of success after they’ve taken the necessary steps to educate themselves, eliminate potential obstacles and develop a comprehensive plan that accounts for every possible contingency. 

If they’re performing a familiar task and not being asked to try something new or alter a time-tested methodology, they will feel comfortable and safe. Turbulent personalities know that life is difficult to control, which often makes them anxious and unsure. But they try to address their anxieties by being proactive and ultra-prepared. This ‘fix it before it breaks’ attitude can be conducive to high achievement in many instances.

Conversely, the supreme confidence of the Assertive personality can sometimes work against them. While confidence is a blessing, overconfidence can be a curse. An overconfident Assertive type can assume too much and prepare too little, seduced by their past successes into thinking that failure is impossible. This can sometimes trip the Assertive person up and leave them struggling to understand why they failed. 

While the Assertive personality type benefits from eternal optimism and steadiness, the Turbulent personality type’s pessimism and fear of the unknown can be beneficial as well, if it encourages a more proactive approach when facing potential difficulties. Neither the Assertive nor the Turbulent categories are all good or all bad. And, while the Assertive type seems to be the more well-adjusted personality on the surface, adding a dash of Turbulent realism to the mix can help keep Assertive personalities on their toes and counteract their presumption of infallibility.

Assertive and Turbulent are already in the 16-type system

What does the Assertive vs. Turbulent dichotomy add to the 16-type system? 

Well, to have real value, it would have to capture an element of personality that is not covered in the conventional type descriptions. And the reality is, both Assertive and Turbulent personality traits have already been accounted for in discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type.

For example, if you read up on INTPs, you’ll find that they can be haunted by a fear of failure. This makes them overly self-conscious and prone to criticizing or second-guessing themselves for their past actions and decisions. In other words, they display some of the essential characteristics of the Turbulent personality.

Look more closely at ESFJs, and you’ll discover this type can struggle in situations where they need to improvise or innovate. Like Turbulent personality types, they prefer to stick with tried-and-true methods and strategies, trusting traditional ways over their own ingenuity. In addition, many ESFJs need praise and reassurance from others to feel good about themselves, and they can be filled with self-doubt if they don’t get that kind of feedback. This suggests a lack of self-confidence similar to that which can plague the Turbulent type. 

On the other hand, if you examine the strengths of well-adjusted ISTPs, ISFJs or ESTPs, you’ll learn that all are superior problem solvers who can think and react quickly and be as spontaneous and creative as they have to be to find a workable solution to any dilemma, large or small. These abilities emerge from an inner confidence that maps to Assertive personality traits.    

You could make the same kind of comparison with any of the 16 personality designations. This means you don’t need that extra label – the description is already there.   

Uncovering the True Depth of the Myers-Briggs System

In summary, we can say that the Assertive personality type and Turbulent personality type labels do reflect something real. But they don’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know from the decades of study and research that have helped identify both the positive and negative attributes that can manifest in each Myers-Briggs type.  

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.