By Dr. A.J. Drenth
The ENTP personality type is one of sixteen types. ENTPs are versatile, open-minded, and restless. Easily bored, they are constantly toying with new ideas and scanning for possibilities. Because of their insatiable thirst for novelty, their interests can seem limitless.
As is true of ENFPs, ENTPs’ minds move at a frenetic pace, contributing to restlessness, anxiousness, and erratic sleeping patterns. Not only are they constantly scanning for new possibilities, but also generating new ideas and associations. Moreover, ENTPs enjoy sharing and exchanging their ideas with others. Considering how their minds are drawn in so many different directions, it is no wonder that ENTPs can seem restless, scattered, distractible, and, rightly or not, are commonly diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
Unlike ENTJs or other types with a dominant Judging function, ENTPs do not carefully screen and filter incoming information. They are truly among the most open-minded of all types when it comes to absorbing ideas from without. However, just because they are permeable to new information does not mean they are quick to accept it as true. As ENTPs ingest ideas over time, they gradually develop, even if somewhat passively, their own theories about the world and human nature. When these theories don’t square with conventional thinking, which is often the case, they grow increasingly skeptical and critical of majority viewpoints. So despite their status as Extraverts, ENTPs can resemble INT types with regard to their skepticism and unconventional thinking.
When engrossed in their dominant function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne), ENTPs are not highly intentional or agenda-driven (their only agenda might be one of avoiding boredom). Hence, they may not be as consciously driven or obsessed with hammering down truth as some INTPs are. Nonetheless, many ENTPs, especially those who have developed their auxiliary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti), come to recognize their penchant for philosophizing. Like INTPs, they enjoy exploring unifying patterns and broad metaphysical speculations. Despite these propensities, they seem less apt to develop an exclusive focus on intellectual pursuits. As Extraverts, they can be reluctant to focus on any singular pursuit, preferring to distribute their energies across different hobbies and interests.
ENTPs’ tertiary function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), is a strong interpersonal function. This, along with their verbose Ne, contributes to ENTPs’ love for engaging with others possessing similar interests. Despite their tendency toward restlessness and distractibility, ENTPs can focus when partaking in stimulating discussions or activities. Like INTPs, they are more interested in discussing ideas than engaging in small talk. Their Ne, Ti, and Fe confer an interest in analyzing what makes people tick—their motivations, interests, patterns, and propensities. Through their relationships, ENTPs sharpen their theories of human nature and enjoy themselves along the way.
When it comes to schooling, the degree to which ENTPs feel engaged depends largely on the circumstances. Like other NTs, they generally excel in math and science. But as dominant Intuitives, they tend to have broad scholastic interests that extend into the arts and humanities. Their inferior function, Introverted Sensing (Si), may also contribute to an interest in history. As abstract learners, ENTPs are more apt to enjoy traditional schooling than ESTPs are. Teachers often appreciate their intelligence, creativity, and genuine intellectual curiosity. However, if the instructor or coursework fails to be stimulating, they can quickly become bored, restless, and tuned out. ENTPs are also notorious for procrastinating too long, sometimes producing work that fails to reflect their true capabilities.
ENTPs are often better at finding their place among people (Fe) than they are at identifying an ideal job in the system (Te). Their Ne (as well as their lack of Te) can make ENTPs reluctant to work within highly structured systems or organizations. Unfortunately, the modern working world seems primarily suited for those with Te in their functional stack (especially TJ types). Rife with rules, policies, and regulations, nearly all professions, as well as academic and research institutions, have become Te-laden in their methods and operations. Consequently, ENTPs often struggle to find jobs and careers that allow them to function authentically as ENTPs.
Career-wise, ENTPs are best suited for working with people and ideas. Since many ENTPs are effective writers and orators, they often do well as journalists, writers, or editors. While apt to grow weary of the increasing systematization and bureaucracy of the modern education system, ENTPs may also enjoy teaching. ENTPs with religious affiliations may function as missionaries, pastors, or ministers, although their knack for deviating from conventional dogmas and traditions may precipitate problems. ENTPs may also enjoy work as actors, mediators, diplomats, or entrepreneurs.
ENTPs’ Functional Stack &Personality Type Development
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. ENTPs’ first preference is Ne, followed by Ti, Fe, 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, for now, we will turn our attention to another feature of ENTPs’ personality—their type development. As is true for all types, ENTPs’ 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, Ti the second, on so on. But as we will see, the inferior function is sort of a special case, commanding ENTPs’ attention at an earlier phase than might otherwise be expected.
Phase I (Childhood-20s)
Extending from childhood to early adulthood, Phase I involves the emergence and differentiation of the ENTPs’ dominant function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). While ENTPs are generally curious and open-minded throughout their lives, this is especially pronounced during this phase of their development. Beyond the requirements of schooling, Phase I ENTPs are free to sit back and absorb the world without undue worry or concern. This allows their Ne to make all sorts of connections and associations, which can eventually coalesce into a coherent worldview.
Phase II (20s-30s)
Once the dominant function reaches a certain threshold of strength and dominance, ENTPs’ inferior function, Introverted Sensing (Si), enters the picture and begins to play a more influential and mischievous 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. Unfortunately, the inferior’s influence peaks in Phase II of type development, which happens to be the same time people are making life-altering decisions about their careers and relationships. We discuss ENTPs’ inferior-function related issues later in this profile.
In addition to the increasing presence and influence of Si, Phase II ENTPs are also developing their auxiliary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti). Ti brings greater order and clarity to ENTPs’ ideas, worldview, and identity. As ENTPs develop and utilize their Ti, they may also become more serious, focused, and driven.
Phase III (30s, 40s, & Beyond)
If fortunate enough to enter Phase III, ENTPs become increasingly aware of the insidious ways of their inferior Si. As they become more aware of their inferior and learn to function more authentically as ENTPs, they experience greater balance between their Ne and Si. They discover that integrating their Si happens naturally and indirectly as they go about authentically using their Ne and Ti. As they cultivate conditions that support their natural strengths, they come to experience a heightened sense of peace, wholeness, and satisfaction.
ENTPs’ Dominant Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
As described in my latest eBook, My True Type, EPs are really “purer” Perceivers than IPs are. Not only do EPs display the outer characteristics commonly associated with Perceiving (e.g., spontaneous, easygoing, adaptable, receptive), but their dominant function (Ne or Se) is also a Perceiving function.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) is a novelty-seeking function. At first glance, Se and Ne types may seem fairly similar (such conflation can be seen, for instance, in the Enneagram Seven), since both ESPs and ENPs can be outwardly active, energetic, and playful. Ne differs from Se, however, in that it is more concerned with ideas, connections, and possibilities than it is with novel sensations or material goods.
Extraverted Intuition can function either perceptively or expressively. The verbal expression of Ne amounts to something like “brainstorming aloud.” Although typically not to the same extent as ENFPs, when orating aloud, ENTPs may not always seem to “have a point,” quickly bouncing from one idea to the next. In many cases, “the point” is for ENTPs to find their way to a judgment, but they must first explore the options by way of their Ne. While others may distrust the seemingly arbitrary or haphazard ways of Ne, ENTPs realize its value, recognizing that in time, truth or wisdom will reveal itself. ENTPs’ primary job then, is to employ and express their Ne, trusting that it will lead them in the right direction. With that said, some ENTPs are much more cogent and streamlined in their expressions than others. Many ENTPs learn to develop and express themselves via their tertiary function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which is not at all random, but more direct and coherent.
Ne also works receptively, gathering information from without. Unlike Se, it does not gather overt information, but goes beyond or looks behind sensory data. It is what allows ENTPs to discern otherwise hidden patterns, possibilities, and potentials. Ne is constantly scanning for new connections and patterns. They often employ this receptive side of their Ne in activities like reading, watching movies, and conversing with others.
Because it is an extraverted function, Ne is more divergent, extensive, and open-ended than Introverted Intuition (Ni). Ni is more intensive and convergent, conferring a greater sense of conviction and closure. Once Ni has done its work, INJs are apt to feel there is a single correct solution. Ne, by contrast, is disposed to multiplying rather than reducing the number of possible options or solutions. Only through use of their auxiliary Ti can ENTPs move toward convergence.
Ne also confers open-mindedness. It helps ENTPs see truth on both sides of an issue without forming unwarranted judgments or premature conclusions. It also contributes an openness to alternative or Bohemian lifestyles, allowing ENTPs to entertain options such as vegetarianism or joining a commune.
Ne also resists excessive external structuring, which can feel like an imposition to ENTPs’ sense of personal freedom and autonomy. ENTPs scoff at what they see as unnecessary or overly rigid rules, regulations, or procedures. They also dislike unchanging or sterile surroundings. When the environment is too bland or sterile, they can quickly become bored and restless.
Like other NPs, ENTPs can have a love-hate relationship with their Ne. They love the fact that it helps them remain open-minded, to see the bigger picture, and to appreciate different options and perspectives. They also enjoy its attendant sense of adventure, expectancy, and wonderment toward life’s mysteries. But Ne also has its challenges. It can make it difficult for ENTPs to feel calm and satisfied, to arrive at firm conclusions, or to feel confident in their decision-making.
ENTPs’Auxiliary Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
As dominant Perceivers, ENTPs are disposed to taking a more passive approach to life, particularly with regard to the outside world. Like other EPs, they are content to remain in a mode of open Perceiving until they are prompted, whether inwardly or outwardly, to employ their auxiliary Judging function, Introverted Thinking (Ti). When ENTPs feel compelled to engage their Ti, they become more inwardly focused and intense, similar to the typical mode of operation for INTPs. But because Ti is introverted in its direction, onlookers may fail to notice this more rational side of the ENTP.
Ti involves the application of logic and reason for the sake of understanding a given situation, system, or problem. It also works to bring structure and order to the inner world. This inner structuring grants ENTPs a good sense of inner control.
When engaging their Ti, ENTPs dig into the background of their thoughts to better understand their origins and to ensure their ideas are logical. Like INTPs, they can quickly find inconsistencies or logical shortcomings in a given theory or argument. They excel at identifying exceptions or imagining scenarios in which the proposed explanation might breakdown. They find it easier to identify logical shortcomings or inconsistencies —to assert what is not true—than to confidently assert what is true.
The difference between Ti in ENTPs versus INTPs is its place in the functional stack. For INTPs, it comes first, which makes them quicker to inwardly judge. INTPs then use their auxiliary Ne to open up and further explore their initial judgments. In ENTPs, the order is reversed. Rather than starting with an initial judgment or presumption like INTPs, they approach things through the fresh eyes of Intuition. They then employ their Ti to analyze and enhance the logic and structuring of their Ne perceptions.
In addition to the different ordering of their functional stacks, ENTPs, as dominant Perceivers, can more easily leave things open-ended or ambiguous than INTPs can. Their Ne dominance also makes them more open to “playing” than INTPs are. I once administered a values inventory and was surprised when a couple ENTPs marked “having fun” as one of their top priorities in life. To most INTPs, whose dominant Ti compels them to take life seriously, such a response smacks of hedonism and would likely be among their lowest ranked values. ENTPs’ dominant Ne may also confer a greater interest in the arts and culture than typically seen among INTPs
The difference between Ti and Fi seems largely a matter of interests and emphases. Fi types (FPs) are more concerned and skilled with moral judgments (Fi) than logical ones (Ti). They judge in terms of good and bad, love and hate, like and dislike. TPs, in contrast, start out with a need for sound logic (Ti) and are generally less concerned with matters of taste or morality upfront. They think less in terms of love and hate than reasonable and unreasonable, logical and illogical. With that said, since T and F are adjacent in ENTPs’ functional stack, it can sometimes be a bit tricky, especially early in their development, to tease out their T-F preference.
ENTPs’ Tertiary Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
ENTPs’ tertiary function is Extraverted Feeling (Fe). Fe is the most interpersonal of all the functions, striving for interpersonal peace, harmony, and understanding. This not only involves attending to what is said, but also how something is said. While ENTPs may be less disturbed by or sensitive to external disharmony than some other types, they still work, even if largely unwittingly, to cultivate good feelings in the environment.
We can also approach ENTPs’ Fe more theoretically. Namely, since Fe is their preferred extraverted Judging function and falls lower in their functional stack, ENTPs are less comfortable extroverting judgments (Fe) than keeping them to themselves (Ti). This can lead ENTPs, along with other Perceiving types, to habitually defer to others’ wishes rather than asserting their own. And because ENTPs have strong minds, they may grow inwardly resentful of those they see as trying to control them. Granted, they are generally more self-assertive than IPs are, but their discomfort in deploying Fe can still get kindle problems in ENTPs’ relationships.
ENTPs’ Inferior Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
As is true of other types, ENTPs can be easily blinded to the degree to which their inferior function impacts their decisions and behavior. ENTPs seeking self-knowledge and personal growth must work to understand the ways their inferior function, Introverted Sensing (Si), manifests in their personality.
Introverted Sensing is best understood when juxtaposed with its functional opposite, Ne. Despite their oppositional nature, when considered together, Ne and Si constitute a meaningful whole. As we have seen, Ne explores new ideas and possibilities. Si, by contrast, is concerned with preserving the past. Ne knows no limits, seeing infinite options and possibilities, while Si sees clearly defined limits as determined by past precedent. Ne is liberal and unfettered, Si conservative and careful. What is fascinating is that all of these opposing forces can exist within the same personality type. ENTPs tend to consciously identify with the needs and values of their Ne, while their subconscious pushes for the interests of Si.
When using Ne, ENTPs can be rather oblivious to details. They may fail to effectively attend to the concrete details of daily life, such as forgetting to the bills, being careless with their diet, or not taking enough exercise. When engrossed in a creative project, however, ENTPs can look like INTJs, becoming perfectionistic and obsessive over details. As N-dominants, it can be difficult for them to accept anything less than perfection when it comes to the physical embodiment (S) of their vision or ideas (N).
A most overlooked feature of Si is its perception and awareness of internal bodily sensations—the body as felt and experienced from within. But since Si is ENTPs’ inferior function, they may feel out of touch with their inner body. To compensate, they may grant too much attention to certain physical sensations, making them more susceptible to hypochondriasis or psychosomatic illnesses, in which an increased focus on bodily sensations cultivates or heightens symptoms.
N and S also have a temporal element. Si concerns itself with the past, while Ne is focused on future possibilities and potentials. ENTPs’ Si can confer an interest in the details of history. They also enjoy using their Ne to explore historical meanings, interpretations, and implications. This is why many ENTPs take up politics or journalism, careers that allow them to use their knowledge of history to analyze current events and speculate about the future.
ENTPs also experience tension between the traditional (Si) and the novel or unconventional (Ne). This is especially common for ENTPs in Phases I and II of their type development. To some degree, they remain attached and drawn to their childhood traditions (Si). At the same time, however, their Ne and Ti may encourage them to deconstruct and even rebel against those traditions. This can engender identity confusion in ENTPs, unsure of the degree to which they should break from their childhood traditions versus reconceiving themselves. Such struggles can leave ENTPs with questions like: Should I opt for family life or an unconventional lifestyle? Should I pursue the security of a conventional career (Si) or something more creative and potentially risky (Ne)?
In considering such questions, ENTPs, need to ensure they are leading with their dominant function rather than their inferior. As N-dominants, ENTPs’ best strengths involve creatively exploring ideas, theories, and connections. To best utilize these strengths, they need to ensure they are not allowing their inferior Si to impose undue limits or boundaries on their explorations. They are generally better off using their Ne, as well as the reasoning capacities of their Ti, to hash out truth, rather than deferring to Si traditions.
You can learn more about ENTPs in Dr. Drenth’s latest eBooks:
Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, Ivan Illych (social critic), Socrates, Howard Stern, Julie Mason, Michael Pollan, John Fugelsang, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Rick Ungar, Steve Inskeep, Pete Dominick, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Jeffrey Mishlove
*ENTPs may find some areas of overlap with Enneagram Threes (3w2, 3w4), Fives (5w4), Sevens (7w8, 7w6), and perhaps even some Eights (8w7).