“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
– Anne Frank, rumored ENFP
ENFPs are the quintessential “inspirers” of the Myers-Briggs® type community. They are extremely perceptive of possibilities, connections, and underlying meanings. They are master idea-generators, seeing visionary possibilities everywhere they look. The world around them is a veritable springboard of ideas waiting to be drawn out, created, and brought to their potential. According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, ENFPs make up 6-8% of the U.S. population. They are a relatively rare type, and many other personality types mistype as ENFPs so hopefully, this article will help clarify the type and bring attention to their many amazing strengths!
Getting to Know the ENFP
The ENFP’s Dominant Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Extraverted Intuition, or Ne for short, is how ENFPs absorb information in the outer world. It makes them highly attuned to possibilities, theoretical ideas, meanings, and interconnections. When you speak to an ENFP they will probably be very aware of anything you leave out, or any connection that what you say now has to what you might have said before. They will weave various contexts into the situation or conversation to pick up on different interpretations and meanings. This ability makes them very attuned to when people are being insincere or telling “white lies”.
ENFPs are inspired by possibilities in the outer world. In everything, they see huge potential and limitless creative ideas and options. They love brainstorming, juggling many different ideas and tangents at once, and looking for unique possibilities in very chaotic situations. The ENFP doesn’t look at things and see exactly what they are, but sees what they could be – or a hundred different versions of what they could be! They see profound meanings and mysteries behind everything. They are fascinated by the unknown and the abstract and aim to draw out the full potential of the things they love.
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive — it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for the imagination then, would there?”
– Anne Shirley, fictional ENFP
ENFPs have boundless enthusiasm and wonder for the world around them. They are always on a quest for self-improvement and are always stimulated by the idea of reaching their potential or exploring new and deeper sides of themselves (through a combination of intuition and feeling). Because Extraverted Intuition seeks novelty and new inspiration, ENFPs often have a variety of friends from all walks of life and seek out new experiences and environments to stimulate their imagination and sense of wonder. Many ENFPs enjoy traveling a lot or spending time in nature.
The ENFP’s Auxiliary Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Introverted Feeling, or Fi for short, is what ENFPs use when they make decisions. It helps them stay tuned into their values and understand what’s important to them and other individuals. They will get “gut feelings” that something is bad or good, right or wrong and they strive to live in accordance with what feels right. ENFPs mold and shape their value system throughout life, learning in a deep and complex way what all their feelings and emotions might be telling them and deciding what they truly believe is the right path for their life. They are often deeply caring, empathetic, and concerned with the needs of others, especially those that seem vulnerable.
Introverted feeling gives ENFPs a strong desire to be authentic and true to their word. Phony behavior or hypocrisy drives them crazy. They have a strong sense of knowing when what someone says and what they do doesn’t add up. This makes them quick to spot inauthenticity and fakery and can help them to sort out who is trustworthy from who is untrustworthy. While they hate anything false, ENFPs are also extremely conscientious individuals. As a result, they might sidestep questions like “Does this dress make me look fat?” by coming up with clever responses like “that blue one is much more flattering I think!” or “ruffles like that don’t help anyone out. Let’s try this other dress!”. Throughout life, ENFPs learn to blend honesty and tact in such a way that they appear very trustworthy but also kind and empathetic to the needs and feelings of others.
Another wonderful strength of Fi-users is the ability to instantly “mirror” other people’s emotional states. They put themselves in other people’s shoes almost instantaneously to try to imagine how other people would be feeling in their current circumstances. They don’t believe in assessing someone’s reaction or choices without first “getting in their head” and understanding what it would be like to be them. This makes them (usually) very slow to judge and very empathetic.
The Tertiary Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
The tertiary function is one that usually doesn’t develop until someone is in their 20’s or 30’s (sometimes later). The development of this function varies from person to person, but its role remains the same. Extraverted Thinking is something that ENFPs use as a “relief” function. As this function develops, ENFPs can find joy in organizing data, space, or clutter to make life more efficient. They become much more aware of where they are in a process and how to streamline that process to meet their goals effectively and in a timely manner. Explaining the logical reasons for their decisions and conclusions becomes easier at this time, as well as the ability to give and receive constructive criticism well.
The emergence of the tertiary function is usually a great relief to the ENFP, because before this function matures they tend to struggle with completing projects, staying on track, or knowing all the truths and facts to back up their decisions. They may feel that they are constantly pulled into an ever-churning whirlwind of ideas and theories and possibilities and that finding a firm footing and sticking with a plan of action is difficult. The older and more mature the ENFP gets the stronger this function becomes, to the point where ENFPs can become highly skilled at follow-through and organizing tasks and projects effectively.
The Inferior Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
The inferior function tends to be the Achilles heel of every personality type. It’s a function that often causes us to trip up or make mistakes or errors in judgment. It’s also one that we aspire to use well, but it seems to regularly evade us. For the ENFP, Introverted Sensing fills the role of the inferior function. Introverted Sensing is all about reviewing and recalling past experiences and sense-impressions. It seeks detailed information, facts, and data and trusts tangible, concrete reality. Si also gives the individual a strong awareness of inner-body sensations like hunger, thirst, or fatigue.
ENFPs tend to struggle with the details of day-to-day life. They may have a difficult time with record-keeping, thorough preparation, or seeing the value in “tried-and-true” repeatable methods. They may also struggle with being aware of their body’s signals. They may get so caught up in ideas, possibilities, and projects that they forget to eat, drink, or sleep enough.
The inferior function usually becomes more mature and developed as someone enters their 50s or 60s. It also can sporadically show up at other times throughout life. The ENFP might suddenly become nostalgic or they might find that they enjoy sifting through and reliving various memories and recalling all the nuanced details of those memories. They can also have moments of becoming too immersed in this function, obsessing over details and stockpiling information, getting lost in the details and losing their normal big-picture focus. This tends to happen more during times of chronic or extreme stress. You can find out more about that here.
What the Healthy ENFP Looks Like:
Balanced ENFPs are enthusiastic, innovative, and conscientious. They are driven by their visions of the future and are determined to make their dreams a reality. They are usually focused on improving the world, helping others, and making a difference with their life. They are honest yet kind, public about their many ideas and inspirations but more private about their feelings and emotions. They have the courage to stand up for the underdog and the curiosity to explore new and novel ideas and perspectives. They are open-minded, perceptive, and genuine.
A lot of stereotypes about ENFPs describe them as being kind of flighty, loud, or distractable. While this may be the case for certain ENFPs, it is far from the norm. They are often called “the most introverted extroverts” and they balance their enthusiasm and charisma with a deep awareness and curiosity into their own values, the meaning of life, and the theories and abstract ideas that stimulate them. As ENFPs reach mid-life they can also be very determined and focused when it comes to their work, following through on projects and effectively optimizing their schedule for maximum effectiveness. There are many varieties of ENFPs. After all, Oscar Wilde, Anais Nin, Salvador Dali, and Robin Williams are all rumored to be ENFPs!
Which type of ENFP are you? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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