Dominant Fe-users get a bad rap for being “fake” or “overly-bubbly” too much in my opinion. When my ENFJ sister was in college, she’d run into classmates who would accuse her of being fake, or not being “real” enough. It drove me crazy (and her) because I knew the outgoing, friendly, enthusiastic person she was was very, very real. Why does this happen so much? Why are these types so often accused or misunderstood as being fake or manipulative?
ENFJs and ESFJs are people-oriented individuals who are known for their friendliness, warmth, and understanding. However, their friendliness and positivity can confuse thinking-types or Fi-users who may see Fe expressions as disingenuous.
The negative views of Fe-users have always bothered me (as well as the negative views of Fi-users). However, the bias between the two became especially evident last week, when I was reading a paper by another typologist about the cognitive functions. She was a dominant Fi-user and when she described Fi she used words like ethics, values, morals, authenticity, creativity, and originality. I would agree with all of these traits (for a healthy Fi-user), and so I was also curious to see what she would say about Fe-users.
What she said had some elements of truth, but it went too far. It described unhealthy or immature Fe more than healthy, normal Fe as used by FJ types. The article said that Fe-users were focused on making everyone adhere to social norms. She said they have to get validation from external sources constantly. They have no independent morals. They will do anything for harmony. They may “play a part” to fit in.
Nothing in the article discussed their empathy, helpfulness, understanding, or values (aside from values that are apparently pulled at random from any external source). In fact, all her descriptions seemed to embody a very immature, exaggerated, corrupted form of Fe.
I don’t know about you, but I sense some bias here, and also some downright falsehood. Unhealthy/corrupted Fe should not be described as “normal” Fe. Almost any FJ will relate more to the Fi description than the Fe description in this case.
In the typology community it’s fairly common for people to pick favorites between Fi and Fe. I hear things like “Fi is self-absorbed” or “Fe is fake and manipulative” regularly. In fact, a quick google search of “Are ENFJs” and “Are ESFJs” resulted in “Are ENFJs fake” and “Are ESFJs fake”.
Why Fe-Dominant/Auxiliary Types Get Labeled as “Fake”
ENFJs and ESFJs are driven to understand and see the best in others. They thrive on connecting with people and improving morale. They desire harmony in their outer world so they do their best to be peacemakers and focus on people’s gifts over their flaws. They make excellent supporters and friends because they see and encourage the best in others. If there are differences, they will try to understand and focus instead on how they can find a “meeting of the minds” and beliefs that are shared.
Example: I am friends with an ESFJ and an ISFJ who both have very different religious beliefs than I do. We disagree about a lot of things, but when we’re together and I express my disagreements they kindly try to veer into areas where we do see eye-to-eye. They quiet down when I’m expressing an opinion that doesn’t match up with theirs. I see them trying to understand it. They remain my friend anyway, and we both try to focus on shared values and not get caught up in every single value we don’t share.
My ENFJ sister and I don’t agree on absolutely everything, but she tries to understand my viewpoint regardless. She’ll try to thoroughly grasp where I’m coming from and she’ll say “I understand” a lot. She does understand. But she doesn’t always agree. And that’s okay. She prefers to focus on areas where we do see eye-to-eye.
None of these people are “fake” because they courteously accept who I am and don’t try to win an argument with me about who’s right. They aren’t “fake” because they are kind and polite to the people who annoy them. They aren’t “fake” because they’re expressive and “bubbly” and inviting. They aren’t “fake” when they try to put other people’s comforts above their need to be right.
Here’s the thing…all feeling types are especially focused on morals, values, ethics, and a sense of right and wrong. All feeling types crave harmony. All (healthy) feeling types have a knack for empathy. Plenty of thinking types crave harmony and have a strong moral compass as well. Your thinking or feeling preference merely indicates where you go first; with a logical, objective stance, or with a focus on values and harmony.
While the feeler “steps in” and gets in another person’s shoes when making a decision, the thinker “steps out” to get an objective view and make a rational, unbiased decision.
FJs are very concerned with morals and values. However, they may seek to understand their values and ethics in an external way. They tend to talk about their feelings, values, and emotions to find clarity. They are more likely to look at external sources (their community, religion, family, books, etc,.) to find support or validation for their values and beliefs. FJs can form very independent values and morals, but they usually will be more influenced by external moral/feeling “rules” (i.e. “love your neighbor”, “the golden rule”, “say please and thank you”).
Can FJs break away from the values they were raised with or the values of their community? Absolutely. This will just take more of a concerted effort than it would take for a Fi-user who is naturally wired to form an independent, individualistic set of values.
Are FJs Better than FPs?
Absolutely not. They are all equally amazing. They just experience emotions and hold to values in a slightly different way.
Mature Extraverted Feeling
Mature extraverted feeling is deeply empathetic and understanding. Mature FJs “feel” other’s emotions instantly and can quickly “get into another person’s shoes”. If they are with someone sad, they will feel sad for them. If they sense someone is lonely or feeling left out, they will try to include them. They often know just the right words to say to someone to help them feel understood, accepted, and cared for.
Healthy FJs are the ones at a party who try to find the outsiders and welcome them in and make them feel at home. They are helpers, counselors, listeners, and inspirers. They seek to improve the world for other people and they derive great joy from maintaining harmony and peace in their relationships. They will be conscientious and kind when people’s opinions differ from their own. Healthy FJs can eloquently express their emotions and values and inspire people to be their best selves. They are warm, thoughtful, polite, and understanding. They think of life as a shared human experience where everyone should be looking out for their neighbor’s welfare and mood.
Healthy FJs include Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Leo Tolstoy, Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, Andrew Carnegie, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dante Alighieri.
I don’t think “fake” is the first word I would use to describe these people. They were/are inspiring, authentic, understanding, creative, deep, compassionate people driven to help or understand humanity and its purpose. This is healthy Fe. This is not fake or shallow or manipulative.
Immature Extraverted Feeling
Immature extraverted feeling can be manipulative and phony. The FJ type can be so focused on serving and understanding others that they completely disregard their own needs. As a result, they become “martyrs” and may resent the same people they serve. They may give and give and give while inside they feel increasing turmoil and bitterness. They may “put on a happy face” while inside their feelings of resentment grow.
Immature/unhealthy FJs can become so obsessed with fitting in with other people’s values and morals that they form no independent viewpoints. They cave to peer pressure, swaying from one belief to another depending on who they are with.
At its worst extreme, Fe can be so attuned to other people’s emotions and motivations that the FJ can convince people to embrace to their corrupt goals. They can “toy” with people, manipulating them to their own ends and using emotional awareness and strategies to gain control. Adolph Hitler is a rumored FJ who has done this. Another good (fictional) example is someone like Hans from the movie Frozen (yes, I just made a Disney reference).
So yes. ENFJs, ESFJs, INFJs, and ISFJs can be “fake”. They can be manipulative. But is that the norm? No. Anyone can develop their type in an immature, unhealthy way. Any person can twist their dominant function to create massive turmoil in our world.
Unhealthy Fi can be self-absorbed and narcissistic. Unhealthy Te can be controlling and dictatorial. Unhealthy Se can be hedonistic. Each cognitive function can have an immature manifestation depending on how it is used. That doesn’t mean that all types who use that function are doing that.
Healthy Fe is empathetic, kind, and understanding. Healthy Fi is authentic, honest, and compassionate. Healthy Te is logical, responsible, and hard-working. Healthy Se is optimistic, adaptable, and sharp-witted. Each cognitive function has a healthy state, a normal state, and an unhealthy state.
Most ENFJs and ESFJs who are friendly and warm are simply trying to show you they care. They aren’t trying to manipulate you, use you, and they aren’t being “fake”. They really do care. It’s in their nature.
What Do You Think? Do you have any thoughts or experiences to share? Let me know in the comments!
Sources (These are referral links):
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type
MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 3rd Edition
Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People
Personality Type (Jung on the Hudson Book Series)
The 16 Personality Types: Profiles, Theory, & Type Development
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