By Dr. A.J. Drenth
The ENFP personality type is one of sixteen types. ENFPs constitute up to 8% of the general population, with females outnumbering males at a clip of two to one.
ENFPs are enthusiastic, idealistic, restless, and open-minded, with wide-ranging interests. Because of these personality traits, they are among the most versatile of all types, working well with both people and ideas. As Extraverts, they are not opposed to action, while as Intuitives, they are not opposed to reflection. In this sense, ENFPs represent a sort of hybrid between Introverts and Extraverts.
ENFPs are novelty-seekers. They are constantly scanning for new and interesting people, ideas, and possibilities. Like the INFP, they enjoy abstract as well as more experiential forms of learning.
While seeking success in their careers and relationships, ENFPs generally take life less seriously than IP or EJ types (i.e., types with a dominant Judging function). At the end of the day, ENFPs want to have fun and may not be highly discriminating with regard to how that happens. Perhaps more than anything, ENFPs fear boredom and stagnation. Even sleep can seem a bit too boring or mundane for ENFPs.
The minds of ENFPs can move at a frenetic pace. They can be restless, anxious, and plagued by erratic sleeping patterns. As with the ENTP, one can even observe this restlessness in ENFPs’ eyes, which are commonly darting broadly from one side to another, as though searching for something in their surroundings. What they are actually searching for, however, is more mental in nature, such as words, ideas, or possibilities (i.e., Ne). ENFPs are constantly generating new ideas, associations, and quips. They can often seem random, scattered, distracted, and flighty and, rightly or not, are commonly diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
ENFPs are predominantly “right-brained” personality types. While the left side of the brain is concerned with order, control, and systematizing, the right brain is oriented to novelty, people, and emotions. The right brain is also the more random or “creative” side (i.e., divergence), while the left hemisphere is concerned with analysis and predictability (i.e., convergence).
Like other NP types, ENFPs place high value on their personal experiences when it comes to discerning truth. Though not to the same extent as ESFPs, for ENFPs, “experiencing is believing.” Because of the high value they place on their personal experiences, ENFPs may feel they cannot fully know themselves until they have tried just about everything (contrast this with INJs, who feel they know whether they will like something without needing to experience it). For this reason, ENFPs are quintessential seekers and dilettantes, wanting to experience as much of life and the world as is humanly possible.
ENFPs are among the least judgmental and most inclusive of all types, both inwardly and outwardly. Much like INFPs, they are champions of diversity and multiculturalism. Their Extraverted Intuition (Ne) allows them to readily see different points of view, while their Introverted Feeling (Fi) supplies a sense of empathy and respect for individuality.
ENFPs are also connoisseurs of and participants in the arts and culture. They are commonly drawn to all sorts of creative endeavors. In particular, they often enjoy music, drama, and photography. Those with sufficient mental focus can also make great writers, be it fiction or non-fiction. ENFPs are highly represented among journalists, excelling with both the written and spoken word.
With regard to ENFP careers, they are often drawn to ministry, counseling, or teaching. They love seeing and cultivating potential in others. While some ENFPs are content with working largely with ideas, others seek to combine this with action and adventure. Such individuals may take up work as missionaries, tour guides, or diplomats. Others may try their hand at politics. ENFPs’ inferior function, Introverted Sensing (Si), may contribute an interest in history that may add to the allure of religious, political, or journalistic work.
ENFP Personality Type Development & “Functional Stack”
Each personality type prefers to use four of the eight functions first described by Jung. These four functions comprise its “functional stack.” The relative strength of preference for these four functions is expressed in the following manner: dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior. ENFPs’ first preference is Ne, followed by Fi, Te, and Si respectively. This is depicted in the arrangement of their functional stack:
While we will soon discuss each of the above functions in greater depth, will now turn our attention to another feature of ENFPs’ personality—their type development. As is true for all types, ENFPs’ type development consists of three phases. These phases roughly correspond to the ordering of the functional stack, with Ne being the first function to blossom, Fi the second, on so on. But as we will see, the inferior function is sort of a special case, summoning ENFPs’ attention at an earlier phase than might otherwise be expected.
Phase I (Adolescence)
Extending from early childhood into adolescence, Phase I involves the development and strengthening of the dominant function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). ENFPs spend much of Phase I developing and differentiating their dominant Ne. While tending to remain open-minded and curious throughout their lives, this is especially pronounced during this phase of their development. Beyond the requirements of school, Phase I ENFPs are generally free to sit back and absorb the world without undue worry or concern. This grants their Ne ample time to form extensive connections and associations. ENFPs may further expand their horizons through any number of means: reading, travel, the arts, engaging with people, etc. This exploratory phase may continue well into their twenties.
Phase II (Adolescence-30s)
Once the dominant function reaches a certain threshold of strength and dominance, ENFPs’ inferior function, Introverted Sensing (Si), enters the picture and begins to play a more influential role. This can be confusing because the inferior is not next in line for development in the functional stack, but the inferior’s undue influence derives from its bipolar relationship with the dominant function. Phase II ENFPs are also working to develop their auxiliary function, Introverted Feeling (Fi). They use their Fi to refine and clarify their values, worldview, and identity. The process of “finding themselves” entails both inner (Fi) and outer (Ne) exploration. Their Fi also helps them weigh and evaluate the needs and wishes of their dominant versus their inferior function. As ENFPs develop and utilize their Fi, they may become more serious, focused, ambitious, and goal-oriented.
Phase III (30s, 40s, & Beyond)
Phase III, a phase which many individuals never reach or complete, is characterized by an attempt to understand and integrate the tertiary and inferior functions. By bringing these less conscious functions into the light of consciousness, we can better envision our path toward wholeness. For ENFPs, Phase III entails an exploration of the nature of and challenges associated with their tertiary Extraverted Thinking (Te) as well as their inferior Si.
ENFPs’ Dominant Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) seeks outer novelty. At first glance, Se and Ne types can appear quite similar, as both ESPs and ENPs can be outwardly active, playful, or restless. Ne differs from Se, however, in that it is more concerned with seeking new ideas, connections, and possibilities than it is with seeking novel sensations.
Ne is an extraverted Perceiving function. It can function either perceptively or expressively. The verbal expression of Ne amounts to something like “brainstorming aloud.” When orating, ENFPs may not always seem to “have a point” as they randomly move from one idea to the next. Often times, the “point” is for ENFPs to find their way to a judgment (Fi), but this first requires them to explore multiple options by way of their Ne. While others may not trust the seemingly arbitrary and haphazard ways of Ne, ENFPs realize its value. They know that, in time, that truth or wisdom will reveal itself. Their only job is to express their Ne, trusting that it will lead them in the right direction. Granted, some ENFPs are much more coherent and polished in their expressions than others; much depends on the context of the conversation. In some instances, ENFPs call on their tertiary function, Extraverted Thinking (Te), which is not at all random, but more direct and to the point.
In its receptive role, Ne works to gather information. It does not merely gather overt information as Se does. Se is more straightforward, involving a direct apprehension of information through one or more of the primary senses. Ne is different in that it goes beyond or looks behind sense data. This allows ENFPs to discern otherwise hidden patterns, possibilities, and potentials. Their Ne is constantly scanning for relationships and patterns among facts and experiences. ENFPs commonly employ the receptive side of their Ne in activities such as reading, exploring the arts and culture, and conversing with others. They enjoy asking questions that allow them to gain insight or knowledge from others, making them good facilitators of conversation. ENFPs often hone and apply this talent in careers such as journalism.
As an extraverted function, Ne is more divergent and open-ended than its introverted cousin, Ni. Once Ni has done its work, INJs are more apt to feel there is a single correct solution. ENFPs, by contrast, are disposed to multiplying rather than reducing the number of options or possibilities.
ENFPs also use their Ne to sniff out intriguing possibilities. They enjoy the role of wanderer or seeker. They rarely know in advance precisely what they are seeking, which is partly why they find it so exhilarating. Ne entails a sense of blind anticipation and expectation, of not knowing who or what will manifest next in their life journey.
Extraverted Intuition can also be associated with open-mindedness. It helps ENFPs see truth on both sides of an issue without forming premature judgments or conclusions. Ne can also involve an openness to alternative or Bohemian lifestyles, allowing ENFPs to consider things like going vegan or joining a commune.
Like ENTPs, ENFPs can have a sort of love-hate relationship with Ne. On the one hand, they like that it helps them stay open-minded and to see a variety of options and perspectives. They also enjoy its sense of adventure, expectancy, and wonderment toward life’s mysteries. But Ne also has its challenges, including making it difficult for ENFPs to draw firm conclusions, make lasting commitments, or feel confident about their decisions.
ENFPs’Auxiliary Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Introverted Feeling (Fi) is the auxiliary function of both ENFPs and ESFPs. One of Fi’s primary concerns is the development of a personalized worldview, independent of societal conventions, which can serve as a platform for self-understanding and decision-making.
Fi is quite similar to Introverted Thinking (Ti) in that it involves an ongoing process of building an inner worldview and approach to life. The primary difference is that Fi focuses more on personal tastes (i.e., “likes and dislikes”) and moral judgments (i.e., “good and bad”), whereas Ti thinks more in terms of “true and false,” “logical or illogical.” Consequently, ENFPs first inclination is to use Fi to make moral, artistic, or taste-related evaluations, whereas ENTPs use Ti to evaluate the validity and veracity of concepts.
The difference between Fi in ENFPs versus INFPs is its place in the functional stack. For INFPs, it comes first, which makes them quicker to judge. Afterward, they use their Ne to probe the judgment to see if it is valid or whether it should be kept open or “grey.” For ENFPs, the order is reversed. They do not start with an initial judgment or presumption like INFPs. This is particularly true in Phase I of their development. ENPs are wired to approach each situation with the openness of their Ne. After exploring things by way of their Ne, they use their Fi to form a judgment. Then, if they feel confident in that judgment, they may express it through their tertiary Te.
One of the more important features of Fi is its direction. Namely, because it is introverted, outsiders may not have easy access to ENFPs’ emotions, with the exception of their general spiritedness and enthusiasm. Like ESFPs, ENFPs express their Feeling judgments somewhat indirectly through their Te. This may at times lead others to view ENFPs as Thinking types, while seeing ENTPs, who extravert their judgments by way of Extraverted Feeling, as Feeling types.
ENFPs’ Tertiary Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Extraverted Thinking (Te) involves the outward expression of rational judgments and opinions. Since Te is ENFPs’ preferred extraverted Judging function and falls lower in their functional stack, ENFPs are generally less comfortable extroverting judgments than keeping their judgments to themselves (Fi). This may lead them, along with other Perceiving types, to habitually defer to others’ wishes rather than asserting their own. And since ENFPs have independent minds, they can grow resentful of those who try to control them. With that said, ENFPs tend to be somewhat more self-assertive than IPs, but their relative discomfort with utilizing their Te can still land them in relational trouble.
As with other Perceiving types, ENFPs can also disposed to passive-aggressive behavior, involving the expression of negative feelings in indirect and underhanded ways. For instance, an ENFP might suddenly discontinue correspondence with a friend after furtively feeling offended by something he said.
To improve their communication in relationships, ENFPs can develop the ability to confidently assert themselves through their Te. In hoping to live up to their ideal of authenticity, they can learn to express themselves more honestly and directly.
Self-actualizing ENFPs find a source of strength and confidence in their Te. They find the courage to stand-up for themselves, to overcome their fear that conflict or disharmony will necessitate a bad outcome. They come to see how forthright expression can enhance intimacy. Te can also contribute to ENFPs’ leadership capacities.
ENFPs’ Inferior Function: Introverted Sensing/Sensation (Si)
For those unfamiliar with the powerful influence of the inferior function on personality, as well as common strategies for dealing with it, I encourage you to explore my post, Understanding the Inferior Function. As with other types, ENFPs can be readily blinded to the degree to which their inferior function impacts their decisions and behavior. Consequently, ENFPs seeking self-knowledge and personal growth must work to understand the ways their inferior function, Introverted Sensing (Si), manifests in their personality.
Si uses information from the past to inform the present. It is attuned to past ways of doing things, engendering a concern for preserving certain traditions and conventions. Si types (i.e., SJs) are creatures of routine and habit. In contrast to Se types, they have a diminished need for novel physical pleasures, lavish surroundings, or material comforts.
Si is best understood in juxtaposition with its functional opposite, Ne. Despite being opposites, when considered together, Ne and Si constitute a meaningful whole. As we’ve seen, Ne is concerned with exploring new ideas and possibilities. Si, in contrast, is focused on preserving the past. Ne knows no limits, seeing options and opportunities as endless, while Si sees clearly defined limits as determined by past precedent. Ne seeks the new and novel, Si the tried and true. Interestingly, all of these opposing forces can exist within the same personality type. ENFPs tend to consciously identify with the needs and values of their Ne, while their subconscious rallies for the values and desires associated with Si.
Mind (N) & Body (S)
A most overlooked feature of Si is its perception of internal bodily sensations—the body as felt and experienced from within. This element of Si becomes more evident during activities that direct attention to one’s internal bodily state, such as meditation, yoga, or Tai-Chi.
Since Si is their inferior function, ENFPs can lack some degree of inner bodily awareness. In their attempts to compensate, they may grant too much attention to certain physical sensations. This can make them more susceptible to hypochondriasis or psychosomatic illnesses, in which a heightened focus on bodily sensations cultivates or amplifies physical symptoms. Because of the powerful role of the mind in both health and illness, negative imaginings may even promote the development of real physical problems and illnesses.
Big Picture (Ne) vs. Details (Si); Perfectionism
When operating in Ne mode, ENFPs tend to be oblivious to details. They focus on abstract ideas and the big picture rather than details or minutia. They may struggle to effectively attend to the concrete details of daily life, such as forgetting to pay the bills, eating a poor diet, or failing to take enough exercise. When engrossed in a creative project, however, ENFPs can look like INFJs. They can become perfectionistic and obsessive over details. It can be hard for them to accept anything less than the perfect material embodiment (S) of their imagined design (N). Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, both of whom were ENPs, exemplified this N-S perfectionism.
Past vs. Future; Traditional vs. Novel
Si concerns itself with the past, while Ne focuses on future options or possibilities. ENFPs’ Si, combined with their tertiary Te, can conjure an interest in the facts and details of history. They may also enjoy using their Ne to explore historical meanings, as well as the implications of history’s lessons for a better future. This is why many ENFPs and ENTPs turn to politics or journalism, careers that allow them to use their knowledge of history to analyze current events and speculate about the future.
ENFPs often experience a sense of tension between the familiar and traditional (Si) versus the novel and unconventional (Ne). This is especially common for ENFPs in their teens and twenties. At some level, ENFPs are attached and drawn to the traditions of their childhood (Si). On the other, their Ne and Fi may encourage them to reconsider those same traditions. This can contribute to identity confusion among ENFPs, finding themselves unsure of the degree to which they should break from their childhood traditions versus reinventing themselves.
ENFPs raised in strong religious families may even experience a sense of guilt in allowing their Ne to roam free. But they are also motivated by their inferior Si to fashion a life that is more predictable and routine than would be possible if their Ne went unchecked. Such struggles can leave ENFPs with questions like: Do I want to start a family or do I want to live a freer and less fettered lifestyle? Should I take a good-paying job in a conventional career (Si) or try my hand at something more creative and risky (Ne)?
In weighing such questions, ENFPs, like other types, are wise to ensure they are leading with their dominant function rather than their inferior. As Ne-dominants, ENFPs’ signature strength is creative exploration. To best utilize their creativity, they need to ensure they are not allowing their Si to impose excessive limitations or boundaries on their explorations. ENFPs are typically better to use their Ne, as well as the reasoning capacities of their Fi, to hash out truth, rather than deferring to Si tradition. Their Si may however supply some of the raw material for their Ne and Fi to explore and analyze.
For example, an ENFP who leads with her Si might start with the conclusion that the religion of her youth is true. She might then use her Ne and Fi to further explore that religion, without really questioning whether she had the right starting point. In contrast, an ENFP leading with Ne would not start with the assumption that the religion is true. While she would include her Si experiences in exploring its merits, she would not allow religious dogmas to restrict or bias her initial analyses. Only after exploring all the options, a process that typically takes years, would her beliefs grow clearer and allow her to draw firmer conclusions regarding the teachings of her youth.
To learn more about ENFPs’ personality preferences and functions, explore my latest eBook:
ENFP Celebrities/ Famous People
Michael Foucault, Paul McCartney, Ellen Degeneres, Lindsay Lohan, Stephen Colbert, Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Madonna, Anderson Cooper, Ben Affleck
*ENFPs may find some areas of overlap with Enneagram Threes (3w2, 3w4), Fours (4w5, 4w3), Sevens (7w5, 7w6), Nines (9w1, 9w8), and perhaps even some Eights (8w7, 8w9).