“People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out into the world and happen to things.”
– Leonardo da Vinci, rumored ENTP
ENTPs are one of the most innovative and future-oriented of the Myers-Briggs® personality types. They are also a rare breed, making up only 3.2% of the US population! They have many nicknames, including “The Debater”, “The Innovator”, and “The Visionary”, and of all of these names, I think visionary is the best descriptor. Their innate ability to see grand potential in nearly any situation makes them inspiring to be around. They are engineers of possibility, and with their many gifts they find creative ways to improve systems, technology, and the lives of people. They can succeed in human fields as well as scientific and technical domains. My hope is that this article will give you an in-depth look at their many natural strengths (as well as a few weaknesses).
The ENTP Cognitive Function Stack:
Dominant Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Auxiliary Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Tertiary Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Inferior Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
We’ll start by taking a look at the ENTP’s dominant function.
The strongest function of the ENTP is Extraverted Intuition or “Ne” for short. This is their most-preferred process to use, and the one that enables them to experience a “flow” state. Extraverted Intuition is focused on interpreting situations and relationships and finding patterns and links between abstract ideas and the outer world. The ENTP sees everything as being connected, everything as part of a bigger picture, everything as having exquisite potential and possibility. Their remarkable ability to juggle numerous ideas, abstractions, and tangents simultaneously is confounding to many other types. They may seem random to other people, as if they are going through numerous unrelated rabbit trails in thought and speech. But if you listen closely you’ll see how each rabbit trail is part of one enormous “big picture” idea or theory.
ENTPs are so full of plans and so constantly tuned into possibility that in the time it takes them to brush their teeth in the morning they probably have thought up 100 ideas! The amount of mental stamina that they put into brainstorming and envisioning would exhaust many other types, but it excites the ENTP and gives them a zest for life and an energy that is contagious.
Extraverted Intuition also gives ENTPs a seeker-explorer nature. They want to immerse themselves in theories, abstract ideas, new cultures, environments, and experiences. They are fed by novelty and by anything innovative and unusual. As a result, they may find that they hate doing anything the tried-and-true way. The reliable past is boring to them and it’s much more fun for them to improve things or change them. In some ways, this can be a great strength. They are masters at finding innovative ways to improve systems and plans. Other times ENTPs can get stuck reinventing the wheel and regretting the time they spent doing something in a new way that could have been done faster the traditional way. Either way, ENTPs aren’t afraid to bypass rules, cultural norms, or conventions in the pursuit of a new idea about life. This gives them an open-minded, unconventional, enthusiastic demeanor that many find inspiring.
The second-most preferred mental process of the ENTP is called Introverted Thinking, or “Ti” for short. Introverted thinking is the process that ENTPs use when they make decisions. It looks at the subjective, internal world of underlying truths and principles to create original systems and categories. What many people fail to realize about ENTPs is that, though their exterior may seem impulsive or disorganized, internally they are very organized and want every bit of data to have an appropriate framework. They logically analyze everything they hear, see, and experience to try to figure out where it fits in the framework they’ve developed in their mind.
What does introverted thinking look like in real life? Here’s an example:
Say you notice a snake in your yard. You ask your husband (an ENTP) to kill it. I know, this might sound very gender-stereotypical but bear with me. You expect him to instantly grab a baseball bat and go out and bludgeon the snake to death. Instead, he wants to find out how the snake got in the yard, whether it’s venomous, how best to kill it, how to dispose of it, etc,. Introverted thinking wants to have all the data and categories organized before acting. Now granted, if the snake was a danger to anyone he would act appropriately and quickly. ENTPs are usually quick to act when there’s a danger at hand.
Because it can take a while for the introverted thinking process to categorize and analyze everything properly, ENTPs can seem slow to make decisions. They aren’t ready to commit to things until they have analyzed all the information and figured out what category it belongs in and how truthful it really is. Then they have to step outside the box and see if there are any perspectives or angles they aren’t considering. Because the analysis is done in an introverted way, much of it isn’t visible to other people.
The third-most preferred process that ENTPs use is called Extraverted Feeling, or “Fe” for short. Extraverted feeling is focused on understanding the needs and emotions of people outside one’s self. It notices relationships, social expectations, and is driven to maintain harmony.
Because this is the tertiary function of the ENTP and isn’t valued to the same degree that intuition and thinking are, they can suppress it, especially in early life. As children and teens, ENTPs can seem tactless or insensitive at times because they don’t have a very mature feeling process and may struggle to pick up on other people’s moods and emotions. It usually isn’t until mid-life that this function becomes more pronounced and mature. The exception to this is when ENTPs are raised in a very feeling-oriented family. In these situations, ENTPs may start to develop their feeling side at an earlier age.
Extraverted feeling gives ENTPs a certain charm and natural ease in social situations. It provides a sense of what people want and need. ENTPs legitimately enjoy making social connections or giving and receiving praise. They can feel pulled to take care of others if they think they might be in peril or if they are being misunderstood. The “trolling” stereotype of the ENTP isn’t exactly accurate, because true ENTPs want to gain respect, are in tune with other people’s needs, and are often viewed as friendly, charismatic, and interesting rather than cruel, belittling, and manipulative.
Unhealthy ENTPs can use extraverted feeling in a negative way. They may use it to manipulate people to reach a certain goal or to play on their emotions. However, this quality should never be considered the norm and is usually a sign of immaturity and poor development.
The inferior function of the ENTP is Introverted Sensing, or “Si” for short. This function is focused on reviewing and recalling past experiences and noticing concrete details. This mental process tends to be a weak area for ENTPs. They prefer to focus on big picture concepts and the future. The past seems boring most of the time. They also tend to see in impressions rather than details. They run the risk of neglecting details, ignoring past lessons, and starting new projects again and again instead of completing the projects they started, often because the detail-work gets mundane for them.
The older ENTPs get, and the more they mature and develop, the more sensing will develop in tandem. They may find themselves simultaneously drawn to the future, yet nostalgic about how things were before. They start to enjoy sifting through precious memories and enjoying annual traditions. Their memories start to become more detailed and nuanced. They will enjoy dwelling on favorite memories, and they will especially hate negative memories. They may even avoid situations where those memories might repeat themselves or come up in conversation.
When ENTPs are extremely stressed, they can get stuck in the grip of introverted sensing. When this happens, they become uncharacteristically focused on details and minutiae. They may stockpile things to avoid ever being unprepared, or they may start to notice minor bodily sensations and have symptoms of hypochondria. Some ENTPs develop tunnel-vision, becoming hyper-focused on the nitty-gritty aspects off a project they need to complete. You can find out more about the ENTP and stress here.
ENTPs in Relationships
ENTPs are usually playful, energetic and intellectual partners. They’re creative about their relationships and are always looking for unusual things to try and novel theories and ideas to explore. Some partners find their intellectual gusto and need to be expert on things over-stimulating or tiring. Others, often intuitives, find it inspiring! ENTPs are usually helpful and supportive of their partners, especially when they are going after their dreams or trying to achieve a goal. They are open-minded and excited about any new plans or pursuits their partner wants to explore.
The biggest problem that mates of ENTPs face is dealing with their somewhat scattered nature. They may forget to keep their commitments or get an idea and then fail to follow through on it. It can be hard for some partners to keep up with which ideas are serious, and which idea the ENTP has moved on from altogether. ENTPs are also very spontaneous people and partners who want a very structured, routine-oriented life might feel frustrated with their distaste for sticking to a plan.
Intellectual: ENTPs love to learn new, abstract concepts and theories. They love analyzing information and are often fascinated by technology, innovation, and science.
Original: ENTPs tend to eschew tradition in favor of new and unusual ideas and enterprises. They are able to look at long-standing problems and find unique, creative solutions.
Enthusiastic: ENTPs have a skill at being entertaining and informational all at the same time. They have an excitement for the future and for new possibilities that is contagious!
Quick Thinkers: ENTPs are able to handle a lot of disparate information and chaotic situations and find ingenious or creative solutions. They tend to think well in a crisis or under pressure.
Adaptable: ENTPs are often able to jump into new situations with confidence and enthusiasm. Change doesn’t scare them – standing still sometimes does.
Logical: ENTPS are able to separate themselves from emotions and biases to find logical, effective plans of action.
Distractible: ENTPs love generating ideas and being inspired, but they can have a hard time seeing their projects through to completion. They can side-step their commitments and obligations because there’s always something new and interesting to entertain their mind.
Argumentative: ENTPs enjoy a good-natured debate, and can struggle to understand people who think there is ill-will involved. They can misunderstand how their words impact people or when it’s time to stop arguing and respect the other person’s stance on things, even if it doesn’t seem rational to them.
Tactless: ENTPs can misjudge the feelings of other people or walk all over them in their discussion or debate. They tend to see emotions as irrational, especially at an early age, and they can be condescending towards people who seem illogically sensitive to them.
Impractical: ENTPs are so focused on the future and what could be, that they lose sight of current needs and practical concerns. They may forget to pay the bills, do the dishes, or keep on top of day-to-day activities that they see as mundane.
ENTP Fun Facts:
All facts are taken from the MBTI® Manual – Third Edition
– ENTPs are one of four types in college reporting the highest levels of assertiveness.
– In national sample, ranked highest in coping with stress by “Confronting the problem”
– The most important job features to ENTPs are creativity and originality
– In a national sample, ENTPS scored the highest of all types liking work environment characteristics “Independence & achievement” and “Opportunities for advancement & high pay, but not job security” and including “Variety of tasks” and “International opportunities” as a characteristic.
– Prefer the academic subjects of art and science.
– Males are among the three highest on two out of three measures of creativity; females among the three highest on one out of two measures of creativity.
What Are Your Thoughts?
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