How can two people of the same type be so extremely different? It’s sometimes hard to even see any similarity between them at first glance. Enneagram plays a big role here, creating a vast difference between, for example, an LIE 5 and an LIE 8. However, there’s another important aspect that explains the difference. Subtypes.
Socionics uses different theories of subtypes, but I’ll focus on the most used one, the inert – contact subtypes. This system uses two different subtypes for each type, one that focuses more on the creative function than a “normal” person of that type would, and one that focuses more on the leading function. But there’s more than just the leading or creative function that is influenced. The name of the system comes from which functions it affects, the inert or contact functions (which I will get into in a later post).
When a type has their dominant function as the subtype, it’s the inert subtype, strengthening and putting more value on the inert functions. Another way to see this, using LIE as an example, is that if Te is strengthened, that means that Ni is weakened. Which in turn means that Se needs to be strengthened, which weakens Fi. This translates to the unvalued functions as well, where the (in the case of LIE) thinking and sensing functions are strengthened and given more attention.
For a contact subtype, focus is put on their creative function (though it does not become stronger or more valued than their leading function), which also means that all their contact functions, for an LIE N and F, are strengthened and more highly valued.
When written, the subtypes are “attached” to the type by -Te (or whichever function), and a number between 1 and 3. This indicates the strength of the subtype. Having a 3 subtype is extremely rare, and a low or lack of subtype is the most common.
This of course looks differently for each type, depending on which functions are strengthened. Using LIE as an example, an LIE with contact (Ni) subtype would be more emotional, less dry and stiff, and less efficient in general. They would look similar to an ILI in many ways because of this. An LIE-Te on the other hand would be more stiff, rigid and T-heavy.