By A.J. Drenth
ENTPs are best known for the mental quickness, versatility, and creativity. These talents lend themselves well to any number of endeavors, such as the arts, journalism, politics, entrepreneurship, and various forms of leadership. The ENTP’s mental agility and cleverness also contribute to a knack for problem-solving, debate, and improvisation.
While it may seem there is precious little that the multi-talented ENTP can’t do, like any personality type, they do have their weaknesses. Like other intuitives, attending to the details of everyday life is not their strong suit. Since their heads are often “in the clouds,” they may lose track of time, forget to pay the bills, or struggle to locate their car keys.
Moreover, because the ENTP mind is always jumping from one idea to the next, this type can struggle with mental focus, which is why many ENTPs are diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADD). While they are invariably “idea people,” they can fall short when it comes to executing and following-through on their ideas.
With that said, it is important to recognize that ENTPs’ difficulty with follow-through is not merely a matter of their being distracted or unfocused. The fact is that this type is easily bored and can quickly lose interest in something once its initial novelty has worn off or no longer inspires creative thinking. In other words, ENTPs are all about novelty. Carl Jung got it right in his classic work, Psychological Types, where he observed that the extraverted intuitive type has:
…a keen nose for anything new and in the making…stable conditions suffocate him…he seizes on new objects or situations with enthusiasm only to abandon them cold-bloodedly.
New ideas. New possibilities. New projects. New ventures (and adventures). Such are the lifeblood of this type.
ENTP-A (Assertive) Personality
Neither Jung nor Myers-Briggs employed the assertive (A) vs. turbulent (T) distinction in their conception of the types. This variable was only recently added by the 16 Personalities website, which is ironic considering that it would seem to expand the number of types to 32. For several reasons, I am not enamored with this addition, preferring instead to stick with the four-letter type model. I will nonetheless offer my thoughts on the A-T variable generally, as well as the ENTP-A vs. ENTP-T types in particular.
As extraverts, ENTPs are all naturally assertive to a certain extent. According to “Big Five” personality researcher Colin DeYoung, Assertiveness constitutes one of two primary “meta-traits” of extraversion (the other being Enthusiasm). Thus, there is a sense in which appending the A variable to the ENTP (or any extraverted type) seems a bit redundant.
In what ways are ENTPs assertive? Assertiveness involves having a “strong personality,” being active / proactive, and avidly pursuing one’s interests or ambitions; some have described it in terms of being a “go-getter.” On an interpersonal level, assertiveness entails having the courage and confidence to express one’s views and to take the lead when necessary.
With this in mind, we would expect the ENTP-A type to not only be interpersonally assertive, but also to be generally proactive and intrepid. Thus, this type is particularly likely to assume leadership roles, be it as an entrepreneur, journalist, politician, college professor, etc.
The ENTP-A does not shy away from taking risks or tackling new challenges, but actually thrives on doing so. While other types may buckle in stressful situations, those of this type are confident that their nimble minds can help them navigate whatever new challenges come their way. Indeed, some will intentionally take risks in hopes of bringing more intensity or excitement to their lives.
ENTP-T (Turbulent) Personality
It’s difficult not to notice a substantial overlap between the Turbulence concept and the Big Five domain—Neuroticism. Individuals testing high in Neuroticism tend to be more anxious, depressed, moody, self-conscious, and/or emotionally volatile than lower scorers. One can thus understand why the notion of Turbulence might serve as a suitable descriptor for this realm of personality.
Although I don’t consider Turbulence to be the conceptual opposite of Assertiveness (passivity would be more suitable in this respect), one can nonetheless see how they might be inversely correlated. Here are some examples: If one is depressed, she’s less likely to be active and motivated. If one is anxious or self-conscious, he is less apt to assert himself in a confident way. If one is moody and volatile, she will typically be a less effective leader.
Moreover, we can imagine how the ENTP-T might have even greater problems with follow-through. Due to their volatility, the ENTP-T may lack the strength or tenacity to persist when times get tough, instead flitting from one job, project, or relationship to the next. Others may thus accuse them of being fickle, never satisfied, or lacking in patience or staying power.
Of course, some degree of turbulence is expected from any perceiving (P) type. It is challenging for P types to persist and follow-through once their initial intrigue or excitement with something has waned. Thus, we would expect the ENTP, in preferring both extraversion and perceiving, to have some measure of both assertiveness (E) and turbulence (P). The issue then is really only one of proportion.
Which is More Optimal?
Unlike other personality domains (e.g., E-I, S-N, T-F, J-P etc.), one could make the case that high Neuroticism / Turbulence is less desirable or optimal than low to moderate levels. Obviously, there is a point in which anxiety, depression, or related issues can become debilitating or even life-threatening. One might therefore argue that these issues ought not be grouped with what we might call “neutral” or “normal” personality traits but should instead be considered separately under the domain of mental health. This is likely why neither Jung nor Myers-Briggs included anything like Turbulence in their frameworks.
Irrespective of the A-T variable, all ENTPs strive to live meaningful and effective lives. They want to understand themselves, including their signature strengths, and discover their rightful place in the world. Understanding their personality type can help them move forward in this quest, furnishing them with important insights about the nature of their mind and how it might be most optimally and meaningfully employed.
To learn more about ENTPs, we encourage you to explore our eBooks as well as our online resources here at Personality Junkie®.