As one of the 16 different Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types, ENFPs (A.K.A The Optimist or The Campaigner) have their own unique set of characteristics. They are considered to be very warm, enthusiastic and creative. This is due to their unique combination of personality preferences, as well as their cognitive functions.
But what exactly makes The Optimist the way they are? What is the secret formula that gives them their outstanding charm and quirkiness?
This article will go in depth about the ENFP personality traits and characteristics that this personality type is shaped by. We will explain what preferences and cognitive functions are and what they mean in the context of ENFPs. We will also take a look at their strengths and weaknesses and whether there are any prominent differences between male and female representatives.
What is ENFP?
The ENFP personality type is an NF (Empath) temperament type. Personalities that fit in this category are known for being idealistic, intuitive and emotional. ENFPs encompass all of these characteristics but also add a unique twist on them because of their specific combination of preferences. They are enthusiastic and expressive, often possessing very charismatic personalities. They are spontaneous dreamers, who are driven by their values and fearlessly advocate for causes they believe in.
ENFPs are warm and people centered, always focusing on possibilities with a contagious enthusiasm that is hard to match. Their zest for life, spontaneity and energy often draws people like a magnet. ENFPs enjoy working on their own personal growth, and they also like helping others discover their own potential, as well. Their great communication skills aid them perfectly in those endeavors, allowing them to easily pass along their ideas to anyone who is willing to listen.
What makes ENFPs behave the way they do? What makes them these incredible bundles of energy and positivity? Their bouquet of traits and characteristics is best explained by the unique set of preferences and cognitive functions this type has, which this article will explore in depth. We will explore what drives them, and what makes them tick, to better shape our understanding of this personality type.
Characterizing personality is hard. Luckily the MBTI theory was able to narrow down 8 important aspects which, when combined, can define 16 personality types. These so-called “Preferences” are a way of categorizing a person’s natural tendencies in a wider context. The 8 preferences are:
- Extraversion vs Introversion — This describes how people derive their energy — either outward or inward.
- Sensing vs Intuition — This describes how people receive and process new information — either pragmatically or imaginatively.
- Thinking vs Feeling — This describes how people make decisions — either by logic and rationality, or by subjective feelings.
- Judging vs Perceiving — This describes people’s approach to the outside world — either in a structured or more flexible manner.
ENFPs have the Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving preferences. Let’s take a closer look at what each of those mean and in what way they shape this personality type’s character.
Extroverted personality types tend to interact more with the world around them, be it the environment or other people. Extroverts recharge through social engagement and have trouble staying alone for long. Usually, these people are very enthusiastic, talkative and enjoy being the center of attention. They are also adventurous, and enjoy taking risks and pushing their limits. Boredom is an extrovert’s greatest fear, which is why they are more prone to engage in activities just for fun, rather than for a more serious reason. Their charisma and enthusiasm are contagious and they often find themselves the life of the party. ENFPs also often have a great sense of humor.
Here is a summary of prominent Extraversion traits:
- Likes big groups and parties
- Energized by social interaction
- Expressive and enthusiastic
- Easily distracted
- Has many friends
- Easy to approach
Intuitive personality types keep their eyes on the future and are immersed in a world of ideas and unexplored possibilities. It’s easy for them to see patterns and connections between broader concepts, that others would be oblivious to. They are adept at looking beneath the surface of a situation and extracting deeper meaning. They love exploring the theoretical and are likely to spend hours pondering the question “What if…?” Intuitive personalities aren’t very grounded in reality and certainly can’t be categorized as practical. However, their deep imagination and different perspective can be greatly valued when innovation and creativity is needed. With this set of traits, it’s no surprise that ENFPs make for natural entrepreneurs.
Here is a summary of prominent Intuition traits:
- Able to see deeper connections and possibilities
- Good in abstract and unorthodox idea generation
Feeling personality types make decisions based on their personal values and feelings. They don’t like to take facts and logic into consideration, and instead choose to follow their heart. Another important aspect on which they focus when a decision has to be made is how other people feel about the situation as well. Often, Feeling people are very warm, compassionate and empathetic. They are very concerned for others and place heavy importance on interpersonal connections. Feeling types dislike interpersonal conflict and aim to create a harmonious environment in which everyone is happy and feels good. They also don’t take it lightly when someone disregards their feelings.
Here is a summary of prominent Feeling traits:
- Let their heart guide them
- Very driven by feelings and emotions
- Empathetic and caring of others
- Dislike conflict
- Sensitive and get easily hurt
Perceiving personality types deal with unexpected situations in a flexible manner. They dislike rules and regulations, and prefer to keep their options open. These people are very adaptable to changes and view routine as a needless limitation. Their spontaneous nature tends to keep their environment busy and interesting — which is a blessing, in their book. To Perceiving people, deadlines are optional and they tend to move through life at their own pace. They are also much better at starting new projects, rather than methodically seeing old ones through. People with this personality trait have a dislike toward commitments, since they want to be open and ready when a new opportunity appears on the horizon.
Here is a summary of prominent Perceiving traits:
- Very adaptable and spontaneous
- Dislike structure and rules
- No issues changing their mind halfway through
- Tend to procrastinate
- Like to keep their options open
- Flexible and carefree
ENFP Cognitive Functions
Each Myers Briggs personality type operates through 4 hierarchical cognitive functions. They are expressed by a Preference, combined with how the individual directs their energy – either inward (Introverted) or outward (Extroverted). These cognitive functions follow a strict order in each personality, with the dominant and auxiliary ones playing the biggest part in how the MBTI type behaves. The remaining two have their own influence but can only apply to certain situations or scenarios.
The ENFP function stack looks like this:
- Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
- Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Extraverted Thinking (Te)
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
Below we will take a look at each of these cognitive functions and will analyze what part it plays in shaping the character of the ENFP type.
Dominant: Extraverted Intuition
Extraverted Intuition (or Ne as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to gathering information. Types that are dominated by Ne (including ENFPs) are driven by never-ending possibilities. These people enjoy theorethizing and connecting the dots in order to form a bigger picture. Their heads seem to always be in the clouds but if someone was to peek in their minds, they would find an intriguing thought process. These people prefer to see what things could become, rather than focus on what they currently are. They stray away from the conventional approach and prefer to flex their brain muscles and come up with unlikely solutions.
You may ask yourself, what is the difference between Ne and Ni? Compared to types with Introverted Intuition (such as INTJ and INTP), types with Ne have to reflect on the patterns they see and actively use their brain power to connect them in a meaningful way. This isn’t the case for the Ni type — these people mysteriously reach the same conclusions just by observation, without having to think too much on the patterns they see.
Auxiliary: Introverted Feeling
Introverted Feeling (or Fi as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to the individual’s decision-making process, as well as their personal beliefs and values. It concerns authenticity, sincerity and individuality. Types where this cognitive function is more prominent have strong beliefs and a concrete sense for self love. They rarely doubt their feelings and are confident in their intuition. People with Fi have a strong need to stay true to themselves and have a good sense of wrong and right. They also tend to form deep connections with a select few and once they perceive something (or someone) as good, it can be very hard to change their mind.
On the other hand, Extraverted Feeling types tend to associate themselves more with the feelings of others. This shouldn’t be confused with empathy — while ENFPs are empathetic, they do not have the Fe cognitive function. Even when they can put themselves in the shoes of others, their sense of self is stronger than their urge to sympathize and absorb outside emotions.
Tertiary: Extraverted Thinking
Extraverted Thinking (or Te as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to the way a person makes his judgement. Typically, it means that an individual with this function conveys their thoughts in a logical and concise way. These people are unmoved by emotions or outside factors — they are solely focused on facts and arguments that logically make sense.
Something here might not make sense to a confused reader — how come ENFPs have both Fi, meaning they are very driven by intense emotions and their personal beliefs, and also Te, which is the exact opposite. This indeed doesn’t make sense, but as we stated above, the second two cognitive functions only appear in particular situations. In the case of ENFPs, it helps them when they need to process through complicated information. An ENFP may voice their thought process out loud, making it easier to spot connections or patterns surrounding the matter at hand. It also means that ENFPs can be good at organizing people and taking charge, although as a tertiary function it doesn’t come that naturally to them.
Inferior: Introverted Sensing
Introverted Sensing (or Si as abbreviated) is a cognitive function connected to gathering information. People with this cognitive function rely on their past experiences, as well as tradition and rules when trying to understand the world. This allows them to take on a methodical and logically sound route when encountering an unknown situation. These people are perceived as responsible, reliable and cautious.
Introverted Sensing is ENFPs inferior cognitive function. Inferior functions are harder to grasp and the individual doesn’t have much control over them, compared to the previous three. However, even as their “weakest” function, it still plays a part in shaping their behavior. Si can help an ENFP call upon memories and experiences in different situations, making it easier for them to see connections and patterns. Si is responsible for ENFPs remembering little details about the people they care for, such as their birthdays or interests. You can see how this function works on a subconscious level and aids ENFPs to further strengthen their personal relationships.
ENFP Strengths and Weaknesses
To summarize, ENFPs are often seen as energetic and cheerful people, who have deep belief in themselves as well as others. Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock, John Lennon, and Barack Obama are just a few famous ENFPs who share these characteristics. While their positivity and great people skills are admirable, there are other areas in which they find themselves lacking. But which exactly?
Here is a summary of ENFP’s the most prominent traits.
- Enthusiastic and warm
ENFPs are quick to get fired up about almost anything. Their heads are constantly bustling with unexplored ideas and they are eager to pour them out on anyone willing to listen. Since they are also very supportive of others, they take on their ideas with equal energy. This enthusiasm is often contagious and is likely to have people flocking to ENFPs, drawn by their sheer excitement.
- Excellent communication skills
ENFPs love human interaction of any kind. They always seem to find a common ground with people of any background. Given that they are so adept at engaging others verbally, they enjoy small talk, as well as discussing deep and meaningful topics. No choice of conversation is off-limits to ENFPs — they simply have too much to share.
- Deeply imaginative
ENFPs always seem to have one foot set in the land of imagination — and that’s a good thing! They are flamboyant people who disregard traditional ways of doing things with a flick of their finger. Instead, they prefer to leave their own, personally branded mark on the world. These people don’t shy away from challenges and instead take them on as a way to prove themselves.
ENFPs enjoy exploring every last bit the world has to offer them. They are not afraid to venture out of their comfort zone and march into the great unknown. These are people with many interests, and are likely to find plenty of things to captivate them on their life’s journey. Broadening their horizons is just another piece of the great puzzle that’s called life.
- Friendly and approachable
All the combined characteristics of ENFPs — adaptability, spontaneity and natural knack for enjoying life — make them very popular. People perceive them as interesting and exciting, as well as people who are genuinely interested in others. ENFPs are great at cooperation and enjoy it tremendously. It’s easy for them to get along with nearly anyone, which often makes them likable in the eyes of many people.
- Easily distracted
Trouble maintaining their focus is a well-known ENFP trait. These people need to be constantly engaged with something they find interesting, otherwise they are quick to slip away. This is why they are notoriously bad at routine or very tightly specialized tasks. They see the bigger picture and appreciate when they are allowed to freely ponder upon it.
- Very independent
ENFPs don’t like to be told how to do things — instead they prefer to find their own unique process. For this reason, they don’t take too kindly to following strict rules or being micromanaged. If put in such a predicament, an ENFP is likely to rebel against the system or simply become miserable. However, they should keep in mind that they live in a world of regulations… at least some of the time.
ENFPs identify themselves a lot with their emotional world. They pride themselves on being in touch with their emotional side, but this can lead to problems. ENFPs are prone to overthinking and misunderstanding people’s intentions or situations, which can lead to outbursts. Their reactions can sometimes come across as “too much,” or simply inappropriate.
- Easily stressed out
Since they are so prone to overthinking, it’s no wonder that ENFPs burn out easily. They like to be fair to others and please them but sometimes this proves impossible to do. Given their popularity, it’s not rare for people to actively seek their opinions and advice. The thought of letting their loved ones down or hurting others’ feelings is unbearable to ENFPs and can push them to an extreme emotional state.
Difference in Male vs Female Personality Traits
There isn’t much difference in the way male and female ENFPs project themselves. While they tend to be very similar in behavior and interests, however, there is an important thing to take into consideration. Generally, there is still a certain stigma around ENFP males as they are very in touch with their emotions. In some cultures this is viewed as inappropriate male behavior, and they can unfortunately be misunderstood or considered as too sensitive.
Below we have outlined some of the most visible differences between the two ENFP genders.
In typical ENFP fashion, the ENFP male is very in touch with his emotions. However, he often expresses it in an atypical way. These people find strength in being in tune with their emotions and being able to properly label each of them. They are very charming and know how to enjoy life. And while some people may be quick to judge them as too fragile, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here are some traits of the ENFP male:
- Tend to be more relaxed for prolonged periods of time, compared to female ENFPs
- Internalize their feelings more and don’t let them out in the open as much
- Conform more to established social norms
- Have more trouble with long-term commitment
- They keep more to themselves in a larger gathering of people, but are very loud in smaller groups
- More in tune and enjoy using their Si cognitive function
- Have a bigger preference for sugarcoating, compared to females
- Judge others less than their female counterparts
ENFP females are widely regarded as being stereotypically femenine. They aren’t afraid of being emotionally expressive and can quickly make natural connections with those around them. They are charismatic and energetic, but beneath their bubbly surface lies an unexpected depth of personality.
Here are some points worth knowing about the ENFP female:
- Tend to care slightly less about others’ opinions of them
- Don’t mind acting strangely in public and don’t mind any attention on them
- Laugh more and are more bubbly than their male counterparts
- Rant more often and place their complete trust in their closest friends
- Use their Te more than ENFP males do
- Sometimes get more emotional without any obvious reason
- Slightly louder in public than males
- More edgy and alternative — they are likely to be dubbed “social justice warriors”
- More perfectionist when it comes to their hobbies and passions