For a while now, I have been saying that I’d write about ENFPs because they fascinate me (or I should say, “we” fascinate me). You probably want to know, what is an ENFP?
To understand what it is, you need a little background.
Back in the 90s and early 00s, you might have heard of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory and/or read a book called Please Understand Me II. Both resources include the comprehensive personality test commonly known as the Myers-Briggs. I think a friend introduced me to it in about 1999, and I continue to be blown away by the accuracy of the description of this, my personality type, over the subsequent decades.
So what is an ENFP?
If you are one, you might already know it, because we ENFPs are seekers, determined to learn more about ourselves. In the language of Myers and Briggs, ENFPs are people with personalities that score highest on measures of extroversion, intuition, feeling, and perceiving in the Myers-Briggs scale of 4 different dichotomous pairs of traits:
Extroversion (E) – Introversion (I)
Intuition (N) – Sensing (S)
Feeling (F) – Thinking (T)
Perceiving (P) – Judging (J)
Your score on each of these pairs is determined by your answers to carefully crafted questions. Once you answer them, you get a score for each pair, and viola! You have a “dominant personality type.”
So why do I keep referring to this little quartet of letters when I explain my desire to coach or my constant seeking for what’s next in my life? Because the description of the ENFP personality type—in particular the “NF” part—captures me and my tendencies so well. To wit:
Interact vs. Act Alone
“People-to-people work is essential for ENFPs, who need the feedback of interaction with others.” p. 175
Discover vs. Know
“The thought that the visible is all there is is untenable for the NF.” p. 65
Novelty vs. Certainty
“They can become bored rather quickly with situations and people and resist repeating experiences” [specific to ENFPs] p. 174
People vs. Ideas
“As with the NT, the NF is future oriented and focused on what might be. But, rather than thinking about the possibilities of principles as does the NT, the NF thinks about the possibilities in people.” p. 65
To sum up:
These quotes are, I think, from Please Understand Me II by Keirsey and Bates. I don’t actually know because in one of my many house moves, I sold all of my books. I only have photocopies of some of the pages regarding NFs and ENFPs. If anyone has access to either Please Understand Me or Please Understand Me II, could you tell which book these quotes are from? The page numbers I list above are accurate.
Who are ENFPs?
Typically writers, speakers, coaches, public figures. This explains my professional preferences so much! It also explains why I have become so painfully disenchanted with—indeed, disgusted and burnt out by—my current job. There is no interaction, only one-sided, asynchronous communication done in isolation with no real-time presence of another human being. It explains why I am still so enthusiastic about coaching here in Germany or in Italy. It also explains why I am determined to grab hold of every possibility to participate in my favorite fun things to do, starting now and hopefully not finishing until I’m dead.
My ENFP Journey
So when I say “because I am an ENFP,” it’s shorthand for explaining why I am acting the way I am acting and why something is important to me that is not important to most other people (only about 6% of the population is said to be ENFPs). It also explains so very clearly why most people I know, including my relatives, have no ability (or, perhaps, desire) to understand me and my life choices at all, and why I have naturally gravitated toward other ENFPs in my life.
The rather hilarious thing is that I married a non-ENFP. He has yet to do his Myers-Briggs (because, as a non-ENFP, he honestly doesn’t care what his type is!), but it’s probably the exact opposite of mine: an ISTJ or something like that. Our “opposite-ness” plays out so obviously in things like choosing an apartment. We were about 1 month into searching, in a VERY tight housing market, and J was getting incredibly impatient and huffy all the time. He HATES being in process. He feels intense pressure to do something and get it done, while I LOVE being in process because that means that many things are still possible. Once something’s done, it’s done—and possibilities for changing it are minute or very, very difficult. So in the case of our apartment search, despite my incredibly strong intuitive attack (the night we were offered our current place) that told me without any doubt NOT to move into this apartment because it would be “extremely temporary” and was “not right for us,” J insisted because he thought it was “good enough” and he could not fathom one more month—or one more day—of looking, calling, chasing, and uncertainty. He needed the apartment search to just be DONE.
So, we did it. And the apartment has been a struggle for me from the beginning. My intuition was right. It will be a temporary place for us, despite the fact that the region/town are almost perfect. And now I am in the process (my favorite place to be) of planning where I will spend the winter this year because it will not be in this apartment. Part of that has to do with my need for fun, exploration, and relationships with new people, which also can’t be adequately met living where we now live.
I read the ENFP chapter to J to help him understand why I act this way, why I love being in process, and why I always listen to my intuition. And although he kind of gets it, it actually has been a bigger help to me, knowing that I can understand and explain my behavior even if the receiver of the information doesn’t get it.
That’s just one small example of how this personality inventory can help you and your loved ones better understand where each other is coming from. I’m excited to see what J’s type is so we can both better understand his behavioral traits, too. Because even though we have clearly demonstrated that we are opposites in many ways, we are lucky in that we still share many goals, priorities, morals, ideals, and preferences in life—clearly, or we never would have gotten married. This personality inventory can be useful in helping us both understand where the other is coming from and why we react to certain circumstances the way we do. And what can be better for any relationship than understanding? With the Myers-Briggs, maybe you can get some more of it, too?
Check out this link to the Myers & Briggs Foundation for tons of useful info about the test and what the results mean. It's SO much fun!
Sara Hauber, MA
Coach, listener, observer, writer, and erstwhile teacher; constantly curious
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