By Dr. A.J. Drenth
Like the INFJ personality type, the ENFJ is among the rarest of the sixteen types, comprising only about 2-3% of the population.
The ENFJ is warm, engaging, charismatic, persuasive, and talkative. These personality traits contribute to their status as kings and queens of the social realm. ENFJs can quickly read and establish rapport with others. Because of their love for people and formidable social intelligence, ENFJs develop extensive networks of friends, acquaintances, and social connections; they are networkers par excellence. Just as ESPs seek a breadth of sensory experiences (Se), so it is with ENFJs’ relationships and interactions with people (Fe).
Like INFJs, ENFJs excel when it comes to reading people, quickly assessing and mirroring their emotions, expressions, and body language. This grants ENFJs great insight into people, contributing to their effectiveness in education, counseling, sales, public relations, and other ENFJ careers.
ENFJs discover their people skills rather early in life. Indeed, their self-esteem and self-image develops in large part around their social prowess. With each new person they encounter and connect with, their self-concept and self-worth are reinforced. Over time, ENFJs gradually become aware of their power to influence and persuade others. At some point, they realize they can use their powers of persuasion to get nearly anything they want. From that point forward, they must wrestle with the degree to which they are willing to use their charm and charisma to achieve their goals. They can take an “ends justifies the means” approach, manipulating and politicking their way to the top. Or, they can forgo the temptation of quick success and preserve their integrity.
While “working a crowd” or charming an audience is undoubtedly invigorating for ENFJs, their desire to engage with people goes beyond mere superficials. Their auxiliary function, Introverted Intuition (Ni), adds a degree of depth that is less apparent in their ESFJ counterparts. Like INFJs, ENFJs see it as their job to help others live more authentically, ethically, and healthily. Utilizing their insight into people, they can be quite effective at diagnosing problems and formulating solutions that spawn personal growth. And because ENFJs are the most convincing (even if a bit forceful) of all the personality types, others often respond well to their counsel.
Although ENFJs certainly wanting to help and support others, their reasons for doing so cannot be considered entirely altruistic. After all, as Fe types, their own sense of self is inextricably interwoven with that of others. So while ENFJs genuinely want those they help to succeed, if those individuals end up failing, the ENFJ may come down hard on them. After all, failure on the part of their students can seem threatening to ENFJs’ ability to self-actualize, since their students are extensions of themselves. Deep down, the ENFJ may feel that a “poor student” is a reflection of a “poor teacher.”
Another element of ENFJs that cannot be overlooked is their desire for self-mastery. As we will discuss later, this pertains to their inferior function, Introverted Thinking (Ti), which compels them to be self-controlled, self-directed, and self-regulated. Unfortunately, like other types, ENFJs often overestimate the skill and development of their inferior. So while they may aspire to or even believe they have achieved self-mastery, they are typically far better at evaluating and managing others (Fe) than they are themselves (Ti).
In sum, ENFJs are driven by several things. They are invigorated by social novelty and networking with people. They are also motivated by personal excellence and self-mastery, including the sense of validation that comes from being esteemed and admired by others. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, they strive to quicken the personal growth of others, which, in turn, fortifies their sense of purpose and self-worth.
ENFJ Personality Type Development & Functional Stack
ENFJs’ functional stack is composed of the following functions:
ENFJs’ personality type development can be broadly conceived as consisting of three phases:
Phase I (Childhood)
This phase is characterized by the emergence and differentiation of ENFJs’ dominant function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe). In developing and strengthening their Fe, Phase I ENFJs can seem inflexible and opinionated, quick to make judgments and draw conclusions about the world. Since their judgments are not yet being weighed and balanced by their auxiliary Ni, they are prone to jump to conclusions.
Since Fe is a rational Judging function, ENFJs tend to take themselves and their lives quite seriously. Even from a relatively young age, ENFJs are self-disciplined and goal-oriented, striving for excellence in whatever they do. They can differ markedly from INFJs in this phase, whose dominant function (Ni) is a Perceiving function. Ni prompts INFJs to be more open and take life less seriously than Phase I ENFJs are wont to do. While both types utilize Fe, INFJs are more concerned with ingesting and digesting the world (Ni), while ENFJs are already working to change or control it (Fe).
Phase II (Adolescence-30s)
Once their dominant Fe reaches a certain threshold of strength and dominance, ENFJs’ inferior function, Introverted Thinking (Ti), enters the picture and begins to play a more influential role. This can be confusing because Ti is not next in line in their functional stack. Its undue influence derives from its bipolar relationship with ENFJs’ dominant Fe. It is somewhat unfortunate that the influence of the inferior peaks in Phase II, when most people are making life-altering decisions about their careers and relationships. ENFJs’ Fe-Ti tug-of-war will be elucidated later in this profile.
In addition to the increasing presence and influence of their Ti, Phase II ENFJs are also developing their auxiliary function, Introverted Intuition (Ni). As they encounter complex problems and situations that call for greater patience and reflection, they turn to their Ni for assistance. In doing so, they become increasingly capable of grasping and incorporating the bigger picture (Ni) into their Fe Judging process. Ni insight may also compel them rescind or revise some of their previous premature judgments.
Phase II ENFJs may also begin to differentiate and incorporate their tertiary function, Extraverted Sensing (Se). For ENFJs, Se represents a further relaxing and opening of their judgments. It helps them loosen their grip on life, tempering their need for constant outer control (Fe). As their Ni and Se develop, ENFJs take on more Perceiving qualities, displaying more openness, flexibility, and acceptance.
Phase III (30s, 40s, & Beyond)
If all goes well and they are fortunate enough to enter Phase III, ENFJs become increasingly aware of the insidious manifestations of their inferior Ti. By increasing their inferior awareness and learning to function more authentically as ENFJs, they experience greater balance between their Fe and Ti. They learn that integrating their Ti happens naturally and indirectly as they go about authentically using their Fe and softening its judgments and its need for control through their Ni and Se. As they cultivate conditions that support their natural strengths, Phase III ENFJs come to experience a heightened and enduring sense of peace, wholeness, and satisfaction.
ENFJs’ Dominant Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) is ENFJs’ dominant and most preferred function. As a Judging function that is extraverted in its direction, ENFJs are considered Extraverted Judging types. In laypersons’ terms, this means they are quick to outwardly express their feelings, opinions, and grievances. They Judge before they Perceive, speak before they listen. This can be both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, it contributes to ENFJs’ quick responsiveness and capacity for leadership. On the other, it can dispose ENFJs to judging too quickly or too severely.
Fe also imbues ENFJs with a propensity to manage or otherwise influence other people. This desire for control should not immediately be considered “bad” or unhealthy. As we’ve seen, Judging is a viable and commonly used approach to navigating life. While ETJs are more quickly recognized as controlling commanders, ENFJs’ Feeling preference makes their means of control more subtle and in some ways more effective. Because of their ability to read and understand people, ENFJs can quickly and intuitively discern the quickest and most effective route to influencing them. This often involves schmoozing through eloquent language packaged in Fe warmth and friendliness.
While ENFJs are subtle and smooth in the public sphere, those who work with or have a closer relationship them will eventually see their more controlling or judgmental side. While Fe involves a penchant for maintaining interpersonal harmony and good feeling, this can be trumped by its commensurate desire for outer control and assertiveness. ENFJs are in many ways wired to express their feeling judgments as soon as they come about. This is obviously of great importance for their intimates to understand, recognizing that what comes out of the ENFJ’s mouth is often their first reaction, one they may later come to reverse upon further reflection (Ni). Unfortunately, parents and teachers often fail to understand this about their ENFJ children and end up stifling their Fe expressiveness. This most certainly produces great frustration and possibly even psychological harm in young ENFJs.
Fe also plays a prominent role in reading and empathizing with others’ emotions. It helps ENFJs recreate another’s emotion state within themselves, allowing them to feel what the other person is feeling. Interestingly, ENFJs have a more difficult time when it comes to perceiving and making sense of their own emotions. This is due to the fact that Fe is directed outwardly rather than inwardly. Unlike IFPs, ENFJs don’t spend much time trying to independently sort out their emotions. Inwardly, they deal largely in the currency of Intuition (Ni). Hence, when ENFJs find themselves in emotionally troubling circumstances, they often (and should) turn to others for support or guidance. Expressing themselves through their Fe is critical to their psychological and physical health and well-being. Even if doing so does not provide them with an immediate solution to the problem at hand, they tend to feel better once they have expressed their feelings, be it through words or through tears.
Fe is more influenced by cultural norms and expectations than Fi is. Just as Extraverted Thinking (Te) involves collective methods for evaluating and ordering information (e.g., the scientific method), Fe entails socially accepted ways of engaging with people. For instance, ENFJs typically display ample warmth, friendliness, and congeniality in their interactions. While Fi types may disparage ENFJs as emotionally superficial or disingenuous, most ENFJs have good intentions of improving morale or finding consensus. Even their attempts to control or schmooze others may be rooted in a larger desire for peace, diplomacy, and mutual understanding.
Finally, the dominant position of their Fe, combined with their auxiliary Ni, makes ENFJs among the most consistently goal-oriented of all types. ENFJs tend to take themselves, their lives, and their endeavors quite seriously. To the casual onlooker, this may not always seem evident, since ENFJs spend so much of their time engaging with people. But for ENFJs, their interactions with people are a key part of their life’s work. ENFJs are highly intentional and often have an agenda—to teach, motivate, unite, persuade, etc. If they see little opportunity to effectively execute their agenda, they can quickly become restless and move on to something different.
ENFJs’ Auxiliary Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
As stated earlier, ENFJs Judge before they Perceive. In many cases, it is only after making an upfront judgment by way of their Fe that they open themselves to alternative perspectives presented by their auxiliary function, Introverted Intuition (Ni). They differ in this respect from INFJs, who use Ni first and are therefore slower to express an initial judgment. ENFJ-INFJ differences emerge in social contexts as well.
As Fe dominants, ENFJs are first and foremost concerned with shaping what is happening in the immediate social environment (Fe). They want to ensure that good feelings are maintained or to accomplish whatever social objective they have in mind (e.g., teaching, advising, motivating, etc.). For ENFJs, Ni concerns take a backseat to Fe.
INFJs, by contrast, are more concerned with obtaining an accurate perception of what is happening (Ni) than they are with accomplishing any specific social objective. If they are faced with the dilemma of stating truth versus saving face, INFJs are more inclined toward the former. ENFJs, by contrast, are more likely to take an “ends justifies the means” approach than INFJs are. In order to accomplish their J agenda, ENFJs may be willing to say or withhold things that would not sit right with INFJs. They may also be more willing to feign happiness. ENFJs might reason, even if unwittingly, that if good feelings can be cultivated out there (Fe), then a sense of inner happiness will likely emerge in due time.
All of this is not to say that INFJs are somehow more moral or upstanding than ENFJs. Rather, this discussion illustrates the importance of the relative ordering of the functions in the functional stack, which invariably influences a given type’s priorities, motivations, and actions.
ENFJs’ Tertiary Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Extraverted Sensing (Se) serves as ENFJs’ tertiary function. While Si involves an intensive connection to the remembered past, Se is more extensive and present-oriented. It amasses concrete details and sensory information from the environment by way of the five senses (i.e., sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste).
Unlike Si, Se is not content with the routine and familiar. Rather, it seeks sensory and material novelty. Se types love novel sensations and appearances, physical thrills, and material comforts. They are more liberal than Si types in their approach to and use of the material world.
Se can also be linked with a concern for beauty and aesthetics (especially in Feeling types). ENFJs often have refined tastes when it comes to their material surroundings, their physical appearance, as well as their palate. They commonly display a taste for the finer things in life—fine arts, food, music, culture, etc. Consequently, some ENFJs may be perceived as snobbish or uppity, taking themselves or their sophisticated tastes a bit too seriously.
ENFJs’ Inferior Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
For those unfamiliar with the workings and powerful influence of the inferior function, as well as strategies for dealing with it, I encourage you to explore some of my posts on the inferior function. Like other types, ENFJs can be easily blinded to the degree to which their inferior function impacts their decisions and behavior. Without sufficiently understanding their inferior function, Introverted Thinking (Ti), ENFJs will continue to feel incomplete and be prone to unhealthy decision-making in their careers, lifestyle, and relationships.
Like ITPs, EFJs can be seen as trying to find the right balance between their Ti and Fe, independence (Ti) and interdependence (Fe), self (Ti) and others (Fe). For ITPs, Ti is far more conscious than it is for EFJs. While ITPs may feel they have little control over or influence with regard to the outside world (Fe), the inner structuring granted by their Ti confers a strong sense of inner control. This allows them to independently manage and order their thoughts and experiences so as to better cope with a world they see as outside their control. ITPs also use their Ti powers of logic to discern their own truth.
Because their Ti is inferior, ENFJs don’t enjoy the same sense of inner control that ITPs do. Nor do they experience the same aptitude or confidence in their ability to consciously wield logic. Just as feelings are slippery and elusive for ITPs, so it is with logic for ENFJs.
However elusive their Ti, ENFJs are still captivated by it (as all types are with their inferior). In many ways, Ti represents a source of wholeness and self-actualization for ENFJs. Since Ti and Fe comprise a functional whole, they intuitively realize the importance of integrating these two functions for them to feel whole and complete. Consequently, ENFJs can be seen as striving for a greater sense of inner control and logical competence (Ti), which is why they may exhibit some of the same interests or self-conceptions as INTPs.
For instance, ENFJs may conceive of themselves as highly logical, independent, and self-sufficient. They may extol the virtues of independent thought (Ti), lauding the value of “cognitive-behavioral” strategies. They may also fancy themselves as self-aware or self-taught. When indulging their Ti, they may lose themselves in stacks of non-fiction books or journals. Their Ti may even impel them to take up formal study in subjects like mathematics, science, or philosophy. Some ENFJs may even consider themselves Introverts because of their Ti attraction to heady or intellectual topics.
But just as other types misinterpret or overestimate the skill and competence of their inferior function, so it goes with ENFJs. In truth, ENFJs are not as logical or independent in their thinking as they imagine themselves to be; the majority of their Thinking-related ideas are typically culled from without. Moreover, as Extraverts, ENFJs are far better at reading, understanding, and controlling others (Fe) than they are themselves; they are more “other-aware” (Fe) than “self-aware” (Ti).
Since ENFJs are ultimately unsure of the soundness of their own logic (Ti), they may unwittingly try to convince themselves through the act of convincing others. The more people they can convince that an idea is sound (Fe), the more confident they hope to feel about its veracity (Ti).
Personal Growth for the ENFJ
As I’ve described elsewhere, personal growth is more about utilizing our natural strengths and enhancing the conditions for functioning authentically according to our type than it is about directly developing or “improving” the inferior function. In this light, integrating ENFJs learn to regularly employ their Fe and Ni, while allowing the Ti endpoint to take care of itself. Rather than over-emphasizing their skills as independent logicians (Ti), for instance, they are better off focusing on their relationships and social networks (Fe). While it may sound paradoxical, the best way for ENFJs to self-actualize and discover themselves is through consistent engagement with other people. By helping others discover and actualize their potential, ENFJs move ever closer toward self-understanding and personal wholeness.
For a more extensive look at each of the ENFJ’s personality preferences and functions, be sure to explore my book:
Frasier Crane, Princess Leia, Oprah Winfrey, Neil Patrick Harris, Raymond Reddington (main character on Blacklist)