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ENFJ, or Extroverted iNtuitive Feeling Judger

is a label borrowed from MBTI nomenclature and now applied to the Jungian Cognitive Function set {Fe, Ni, Se, Ti}.

What Is Personality Type

What Is Personality Type

Dominant: Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

"I think I would say that my most valuable gift is that I understand people. I know what their needs are, and I know how they relate to other people's needs, and I'm good at connecting different kinds of people in a way that helps them help each other. I think it's really important to know who your friends are, and to remember to stay loyal to the people you're close to. I'm a really good listener, and I try my best to take people's concerns seriously and respond in a way that I know will make them feel more comfortable, more at ease with whatever problem they're having. I'm good at figuring out what people think is important, and then fitting in with their expectations and making a positive, lasting impression when I interact with them. I like to be seen as confident and capable, but also sympathetic to people's feelings and ideas. I don't generally have any problem organizing people and leading them toward a common goal--since I can identify so well with most people, I can be pretty persuasive; often I can see very easily the middle ground between opposing perspectives, and from there it's just a matter of explaining people's differences in a way that makes both parties happy. I really like it when I can make a positive difference to someone in a meaningful way--I try to show the world my best side as often as I can. More than anything, though, it's important to be there for the people that matter to you--if you can't do that, how can you expect anyone else to be there for you?"

Often mistaken for a variety of other types due to their renowned interpersonal abilities, ENFJs may very well be the one type least in need of typological methodology. As type theory itself is intended primarily to increase understanding of foreign value systems in order to improve ability to interact effectively with others--something healthy ENFJs tend to do so naturally they can scarcely turn it off--they may often find themselves so naturally adept at accommodating and outwardly validating the values of others that they can appear almost chameleon-like in how their behavior may change from one group to the next. As dominant extroverted feelers, ENFJs are champions of the values espoused by their communities, and they make concerted efforts to make themselves into living examples of those values, both for their own benefit and for that of those around them.

When discussing Fe dominants, it's important to note that the collectivized moral ideals by which they define their identities are not limited to traditional family or community groups. It's a common mistake to assume that ENFJs will automatically change their values to fit whatever group happens to physically surround them at the moment--and while they may do this when they wish to make a particular impression, or when the group immediately surrounding them holds values that don't conflict substantially with those they find important, their primary focus in life is aligning themselves with groups of other people with whom they can develop a common moral viewpoint and thus establish an objective system of ethical expectations by which everyone can be held accountable. Unlike Fi types, who develop highly individualized, internal moral compasses, ENFJs may often wonder how they can make any meaningful moral decision without knowing how the people they find important (i.e., those with whom their relationships create the fabric of their public identities) feel about the issue in question. This is not to say ENFJs don't have any moral ideas of their own; they simply conceptualize morality as a concept that should be discussed and agreed upon by the groups of people who intend to define their relationships to each other through common adherence to them.

As Fe dominants, ENFJs strive to make themselves into paragons of the ideals and values represented by their connections to others. They're generally very aware of the implications of who they choose to associate themselves with, and they tend to know just how to say whatever it is that they need to say to get others on board with their causes and goals. It's not uncommon to see them championing the causes of the weak and downtrodden--in many cases, their rare ability to "translate" between competing value systems combines with their natural interpersonal organizational skills to produce an unusually powerful, charismatic presence. The skills commonly associated with this mindset may be applied toward both positive and very negative ends. While few can unite a crowd under a common goal with the ENFJ's unique balance of personal charm and decisive vision, not all of them are above abusing this gift for purposes of ousting or defaming an enemy--no one can an appeal to an entire group's collective sentiments and convince them to brand someone "an outsider" faster than an ENFJ.

Another major issue that often arises for both Fe dominant types (ENFJ, ESFJ) is the tendency to spend so much time focusing on the feelings and needs of others that one's own emotional necessities may become neglected or, worse, completely ignored. Intent on adjusting the way they feel to the way the people close to them feel, Fe dominants may run into substantial conflicts of interest when their own private assessments of people or situations fly in the face of the cultural and social expectations espoused by the people they love and respect. Conflict avoidance and mediation become major points of interest--since conflict between members of the same party suggests discord among the values that create the bond between the members thereof (which threatens the fabric of cultural connection upon which interpersonal groupings are founded), ENFJs view ability to set aside one's own misgivings in favor of that which will benefit their associates to be the ultimate sign of selflessness and maturity. Manifestations of this outlook may be something of a double-edged sword: while this leads many ENFJs to develop their natural talents at conflict resolution and caregiving, it may result in a confusing disconnect between what the ENFJ really does want, and that which he is expected to want--that which the others to whom he holds obligations desire. Overemphasis on dominant Fe may result in difficulty with defining any sort of clear sense of self at all!

Auxiliary: Introverted iNtuition (Ni)

"In most cases, ENFJs seem to describe the function of auxiliary Ni in their own cognitive hierarchies as providing a sense of direction and/or spiritual connection to something greater than themselves. They rarely feel it necessary to define or "box in" this connection in directly explicit terms--doing so would violate the spirit of personalized, subjective definitional freedom upon which the Ni attitude thrives--but rather, it seems to represent finding that which impresses upon them a sense of global significance (especially the recurring theme that "everything happens for a reason"), that there is something much more important than ourselves and our immediate needs and everyday struggles going on beneath the surface of our outwards selves. I've heard ENFJs describe Ni's role--even those who don't know typology and don't realize this is what they're describing--by focusing on the development of their own self-awareness, especially in terms of the social and interpersonal situations where they feel most comfortable and in control. ENFJs are known for their strong communicative abilities, but only as auxiliary Ni develops do they begin to develop total awareness of the inner workings of the effects of their own cognitive tendencies on their outlooks and approaches to life.

For ENFJs, development of auxiliary Ni seems to coincide with a revelatory (and somewhat sudden) increase in total perspective. Priorities are rearranged, unhealthy or counterproductive relationships are severed or restructured, while new and more fulfilling ones replace them as the ENFJ begins to develop an idea of what she wants the long-term implications of her life and actions to signify. "What does it all mean?" Life may strike them as a random series of meaningless events that can only be granted value and structure through the cultural and moral approval of others they feel close to--and while these sorts of personal connections are and always will be the central focus of their lives, the development of Ni will create a sense of individual perspective by which the normative values promoted by Fe can be put into context and understood more completely, in a way that operates outside the confines of the assumptions by which dominant Fe would normally lead the ENFJ to define her entire outlook. In short, Ni grants the ENFJ a much-needed self-analytical disposition, an ability to rethink, redefine, and (hopefully) improve the boundaries of the obligations by which she creates her relationships to others and the outside world. The balanced ENFJ recognizes that even though her cultural values and the relationships she builds upon them are the driving forces in her own life, there are many other possible value systems and many other ways of interpreting them. To be truly happy and satisfied, she must keep an open mind toward new possibilities and potential epistemic viewpoints--or risk becoming lost and entrenched in a misguided set of collective values, associating with all the wrong people and not even realizing it.

Earlier in life, ENFJs may find themselves so naturally adept at telling people what they want to hear that they become accustomed to auto-piloting through social interaction and emotional support of others. Without substantial Ni, they may neglect the deeper implications of the social "scripts" they find themselves effortlessly repeating day in and day out. If, on the other hand, Ni is applied in excess, the ENFJ may end up isolating himself to a much greater degree than he's truly comfortable with, primarily out of fear of being unprepared to deal with interpersonal problems and situations. With every problem solved, he will see only further problems with more implications, each requiring tremendous investments of time and personal consideration before any real action can be taken. He may find himself reading much further into the words and actions of others than practical considerations dictate--he may struggle with the fear that no one truly respects him, that everyone is hiding a secret desire to force him out of the group dynamic and leave him alone to fend for himself. While the proper dosage of Ni provides a balancing effect and a refreshing sense of perspective, excess focus on unstated and implied meaning may lead to some degree of paranoia, short-circuiting the interpersonal skills upon which the ENFJ builds his self-confidence.

Tertiary: Extroverted Sensation (Se)

Often serving as a distraction in times of stress and disorder, tertiary Se can have a variety of both helpful and harmful effects on the ENFJ's cognition. On one hand, Se can support and improve Fe's interpersonal dynamics by increasing understanding of their immediate sensory impact: wielded skilfully, FeSe can actually make doing the right thing (according to the standards associated with the family or organization in question) seem "cool." Surely, in addition to this, there is an Se component to the personable charm and charisma upon which ENFJs build their reputations: they can combine the serious sense of duty and obligation behind Fe with the impressive spectacle and guttural impact of Se--this unlikely combination, responsible for the enormous interpersonal influence on their peers that ENFJs tend to command, is matched by few other function combinations.

One of my favorite ENFJ tertiary Se examples comes from Vito Corleone, Marlon Brando's character in the classic Godfather films. It's a line that made its point so succinctly that it's embedded itself into modern popular culture. When asked how he intends to persuade an adversary to conform to his wishes, Vito delivers the classic line: "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." On the surface, his answer seems to reflect the common courtesy and social propriety that Fe demands: the parties in question are simply bargaining, politely negotiating toward a solution that can mutually benefit everyone, and that all parties concerned will be happy with. By terming his approach an "offer", Vito implies that his adversary is free to turn down the offer and cease negotiations at any time he pleases--this is simply a friendly discussion, you see, as anything less would surely offend the opposing party and violate his culture's ethical standards regarding proper treatment of others. And by invoking the common figurative phrase "he can't refuse", Vito subtly promotes the impression that not only is he willing to negotiate, but that he's so generous that he's willing to offer conditions so favorable to the other party's interests that he would be foolish to turn them down. What a stand-up guy!

And yet, we all know that this isn't really an "offer" at all--that the only real choice the other party has is to comply with Vito's request or die. And this is where tertiary Se enters the picture: well-balanced ENFJs are socially savvy enough to recognize the problems with a directly and bluntly aggressive approach. Vito's strategy in this situation not only makes others more comfortable by using culturally familiar and socially acceptable phrasing (Fe), it also implies exactly what needs to be said ("You're going to do what I want, or I'm going to show you the kind of physical force you don't want to have to deal with"--Se) without ever having to lift a finger or break the ostensible air of polite negotiation. On the surface, "he can't refuse" implies that he can refuse, but that he would be missing out on a good opportunity if he did. Beneath the surface, Ni implies that the commonly accepted interpretation of this phrasing (in this case, a non-literal one) may not tell the whole story--and, in a brilliant twist on an old saying, Vito defies surface expectations (Ni) by using the phrase in a context where its meaning should, uncharacteristically, actually be taken quite literally (Se): the target literally can't refuse, on pain of death.

Applied negatively, tertiary Se tends to affect ENFJs in much the same way it affects their ENTJ cousins: with their natural interpersonal skills leading them into all sorts of different social contexts, it's all too easy for the FeSe loop ENFJ to become lost in the sensual pleasures that litter the party and entertainment scenes where their social adeptness will invariably lead them on numerous occasions. I've seen ENFJs develop serious substance abuse problems as a result--tragically, Fe can work against them by providing them with more contacts and more ability to procure the intoxicants that Ni should remind them will likely not lead to positive long-term results. Failure to support these increasingly unhealthy habits may lead to angry and aggressive outbursts (on these occasions it's actually not too hard to confuse them with poorly balanced ESTPs), manipulative behavior, and even unscrupulous abuse of their influence on others in order to get what they feel they rightfully deserve.

Ideally, the healthy integration of tertiary Se into the ENFJ's mindset should lead to more complete people skills and a balanced focus on the real meaning of immediate reality, which helps to round out the constant suspicion of missing or understated meaning for which Ni is characteristically on the lookout. The well-balanced ENFJ will recognize Se's ability to help him connect to others more directly and immediately, to keep up with their interests and desires as well as their emotional and cultural needs. When integrated in balanced degrees, Se should grant a sense of personal style that will, in time, bolster Fe's insistence on developing useful relationships with wide ranges of different kinds of people and cultural backgrounds.

Inferior: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Recall the aforementioned conflict between the ENFJ's personal desires and those of his groups and associations with others: at the core of this conflict lies Fe's struggle against inferior Ti. When a situation arises in which the ENFJ's sense of personal logic and causal reasoning contradicts everything his external obligations suggest he should support, substantial psychological difficulties can arise. Torn between the objectively supported mutual responsibilities by which his conscious mind defines his identity and the unconscious personal/subjective desire for personal consistency, Ti manifests itself as an uncomfortable representation of his personal conscience, pestering him in the back of his mind: "Something here just doesn't make sense."

The real difficulty will occur when the ENFJ is forced to confront a disconnect between the needs of others and his own need to behave in a way he can feel consistent and fair to himself about--this will almost invariably shower him in feelings of guilt and selfishness for failure to set aside his own needs in favor of upholding the overall welfare of the larger group. Since dominant Fe sees the individual's well-being as near-unconditionally subservient to that of the larger group or preservation of group obligations, the process of rationalizing subjective, individual judgment and balancing it against his outwardly substantiated connections and responsibilities to others will certainly be an arduous process at best.

In practice, this tends to manifest itself in the form of self-denigrating behavior, and some rather disconcerting attempts to redouble the ENFJ's efforts to support the group's well-being in a (typically futile) attempt to squelch out the personal desires and private values that she views as the cause of her problems. In reality, it is not the simple presence of personalized judgment that is the source of the problem, but rather the inability to integrate its role in cognition into a cohesive worldview that balances personal needs and concerns against those of close family/friends/associates. Because the ENFJ's entire self-image rests on her ability to reliably care for and support the needs of her loved ones, and to provide a living example of the values she shares with them, indulging any personal whim or logical critique of the customs and moral values she sees as central to the group's ethos comes as a difficult challenge that may threaten the whole idea of that which her dominant attitude rests on. Only through the realization that her commitment to centralized ethical standards and placing the emotional needs of others above her own is in itself a personal value on her part will the ENFJ learn to equate and integrate the (seemingly) opposing forces represented by dominant Fe and inferior Ti.

ENFJs in the grip of inferior Ti may become harshly critical and uncharacteristically aggressive--especially when accompanied by issues with tertiary Se. The most common way for this sort of episode to occur tends to involve someone directly and brazenly attacking the values or culture by which dominant Fe defines its place in the world and grants itself meaning and purpose. When the opposing party cannot be persuaded by Fe (because s/he directly and openly opposes everything the ENFJ's group holds to be an important value), inferior Ti is thrust into the spotlight as the ENFJ is forced to support her beliefs purely through personal reasoning that can stand on its own without objective validation from relationships to others. This area is more than a bit uncomfortable for most ENFJs--as inferior Ti rises, they may find themselves insistent that, "The way we feel about it obviously just makes sense, and if you can't see why it works then there must just be something wrong with you!" Inevitably, Ti's internalized logic ties back into Fe's preferred method for confronting enemies: referring back to the group's standards as self-referential (and unfortunately circular) evidence for their own universal, "logical" validity.

As ENFJs grow and develop, they will eventually learn to accept that others can maintain value systems which are inconsistent with their own, yet still internally consistent with themselves. (The helping hand of auxiliary Ni may also step in to provide a fresh sense of perspective, and a new interpretation that helps the ENFJ avoid boxing himself into Fe's objective standards too completely.) When Ti is approached in a healthy manner, it grants the ENFJ an ability to take competing or opposing values on their own merits, to evaluate them purely for internal consistency without damning them from the start through the near-automatic assumption that their opposition to his own group's values must necessitate their inherent incorrectness.

In addition, developing a balance between Fe and Ti will help ENFJs to recognize and stand up for their own personal needs, and to inject pieces of their individual understandings into the continual recreation and molding of the collective values they rely on to connect with others. With a fully balanced functional hierarchy, ENFJs will find themselves not only increasingly able to connect, support, and identify with the needs of others, but to expand the borders of their own interpersonal groups and aid the development of those groups' values by bridging the gap between their collective ideals and their own subjective interpretations. From there, it's not long before they're able to achieve the respect and importance they desire, while still maintaining a sense of personal integrity--and with that in place, there's very little that's out of their range of possibilities.