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ESTP, or Extroverted Sensing Thinking Perceiver

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

What Is Personality Type

What Is Personality Type

Dominant: Extroverted Sensation (Se)

"As much as I can, I try to keep moving at all times. I have to be involved in something exciting and I get bored easily if there's not some kind of challenge to conquer or new area to explore and figure out. When I see an opportunity to try something new, I tend to jump in with both eyes open and just deal with whatever happens. I'm really good at adjusting to whatever is going on around me--I know how to impress people and I like it when I'm able to show off my skills and gain recognition for my abilities. I'm really competitive and I'll usually put a lot of energy into whatever I'm doing. I get annoyed with silly or pointless rules and I tend to ignore them when they get in the way of whatever I'm trying to do. Sometimes I can be so directly aggressive that my bluntness and high energy level can even offend people, but I'm usually not really trying to upset anyone (although I'm not above occasionally prodding people for reactions--it's all in good fun.) I just need a lot of freedom to get involved in a lot of things and interact with a lot of people, and if I can't feel the level of energy and excitement that I need, I'll just move on to something else. I have a kind of natural way with reading people, too--I can just look and listen and figure out what they're doing. I don't like spending a lot of time talking about or planning things when I could be experiencing them instead--whatever problems may come up, I can always figure them out when I get there. I just have to get moving! I respect people who can back up their words with real actions--nothing gets the point across better than getting out there and doing it. If you're not willing to go out and show the world what you're made of, how can you ever expect to have any real impact on anything?"

As Se dominants, ESTPs are, of all types, among the most directly engaged with their external sensory environments. Constantly scanning their surroundings for sensory information and opportunities to respond, adjust to, or interact with it, ESTPs tend to be easily recognizable by virtue of the fact that their primary value system makes a point of making itself obviously and tangibly apparent to others through direct sensory stimuli and universally understandable direct impact. The stereotypes commonly associated with ESTPs--that they need constant stimulation and action--are not, in most cases, far from the truth. Characteristically disinterested in that which is not immediately applicable to the situation at hand, the ESTP's aggressively confrontational demeanor and emphasis on objectivity may result in some difficulty with distinguishing him from the similarly aggressive ENTJ. The primary difference, of course, is that ESTPs are motivated by different primary goals and mindsets than ENTJs--while the latter is more intently focused on long term strategic planning, seeking to control his environment and promote efficient resource distribution for deliberately planned ends, the former is inspired primarily by a desire to feel connected to and in tune with the sensations of his surroundings.

ESTPs want to feel actively engaged as often as they can--and while they may superficially resemble ENTJs in terms of their blunt interpersonal style and desire for tangible action and measurable impact, their approach is, on the whole, far less methodical and substantially more focused on the experience itself than on its long term strategic implications. ENTJs think, plan, focus, deconstruct, and evaluate--ESTPs simply act when the external conditions of the moment call for it. While ENTJs tend to insist on planning for every contingency, ESTPs trust their natural adaptability and instinct for opportunity to guide them toward the right action when the right time comes. Unlike ENTJs, they often cannot explain how or why they choose the right moment for action--they simply see it when it happens and act on it before the window of opportunity closes. They live not in the world of abstraction and organizational efficiency, but in that of bold actions and instantaneous reactions. They are the ultimate tactical responders, and they show little patience for procedural standards or regard for what they see as unreasonable rules or restrictions on their freedom to act and respond in whatever way makes the most sense at the moment.

Like their ESFP cousins, ESTPs know how to impact the senses of others around them. They're often seen as the go-to people when their friends and family want to know what's fun and interesting, and they tend to have an unusual flair for the nuances of presentation and visual style. Less scrupulous ESTPs may not be above saying whatever they know their audiences want to hear in order to get to whatever it is that they want. Their constant high-stimulation lifestyles and characteristic personal charm and charisma may often make them the life of the party, true purveyors of "the good life." ESTPs will rarely shy away from a challenge, and they're typically willing to take substantial risks in favor of pushing toward whatever they've set their sights on. Often, it's not so much the goal itself as the thrill and challenge of its pursuit that attracts the ESTP persona. As life-long high-wire dwellers, most ESTPs try their best to live life without boundaries: life is a high-risk, high-reward proposition, and they play to go broke or win big.

Auxiliary: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

"A little more moderation would be good. Of course, my life hasn't exactly been one of moderation." --Donald Trump, ESTP

"As an auxiliary function, Ti serves the primary purpose of balancing out dominant Se's prodigious appetite for new and exciting experiences by lending the ESTP a greater sense of the depth involved in true mastery of the skills and hobbies he tends to center his life around. It's easy for the young ESTP to fall into the trap of becoming a "jack of all trades, but a master of none"--naturally talented in a wide variety of different areas, and heavily invested in competing and besting his competition, early life may find ESTPs having difficulty choosing any particular area of focus. Because they tend to operate most effectively in situations where their quick instincts and on-the-spot resourcefulness lead to success, the time and dedication required to develop serious long-term skills on a deep level may strike them as boring, uninteresting, or simply not worth the time investment. As Ti introduces itself into the ESTP's cognitive system, she gradually begins to reach two key realizations: one, that real success requires the development of genuine expertise in specific areas, and two, that a sense of universal fairness and consistency is vital to her ability to look at herself in the mirror and feel comfortable with the way she deals with life on a day to day basis.

Unfortunately, less balanced ESTPs tend to create a negative reputation for the whole type in terms of impulsive/aggressive behavior, brash arrogance, and poor self-control. While these qualities certainly tend to characterize the more immature end of the ESTP spectrum, it's important to note that development of auxiliary Ti tends to balance out and rectify these issues in most cases. Many new or less experienced typologists may have never even met a truly well-rounded ESTP, and may hold inaccurate impressions of the entire type as unscrupulous pleasure-seekers with little regard for much beyond their own immediate gratification and desire to explore, conquer, and indulge. As Ti develops, ESTPs will see in themselves a gradual increase in their sense of personal integrity--they will begin to realize that their talents carry great responsibilities, and that if they wish to criticize others for failure to maintain personal consistency, they must uphold a certain code of honor for themselves as well as others around them. Despite the common stereotypes, the balanced ESTP is capable of discerning which situations warrant personal restraint, which people are worthy of his respect, and which opportunities are truly worth taking advantage of without forcing himself into roles and habits that he cannot truly respect himself for. Sometimes, the wisest move is to back down, to walk away, to retreat into oneself and reflect on a sense of universal truth and innate human values. Via Ti, the ESTP discovers himself and defines his personal boundaries and limitations.

It's worth noting that, unlike the NTP types, ESTPs do not tend to apply Ti toward formal logic or hypothetical argumentation. While they do enjoy a good competition, they may grow irritated and impatient quickly with what they see as irrelevant hypothetical discussion and continual argumentative posturing. (In this way they are easily distinguishable from ENTPs, who will play devil's advocate and dance conversational circles around both friends and foes purely as a means of exploration and entertainment.) When ESTPs do engage in arguments, it's generally a function of removing whatever obstacle (most often another party in disagreement) is preventing them from getting back into the action where they feel most at home. In most cases they'd much rather get back to doing something that makes a tangible and objectively obvious difference to something in the outwardly observable world. Some may even use argumentation as an outlet for their natural competitive drives, but this may confound other types who can't seem to find any rhyme or reason in the argument itself--for the ESTP, it's just another form of generating external stimulation, of directing the external world toward a more actively engaging scenario in which dominant Se can do what it does best. There's rarely any intention of proving any particular theoretical point, because theoretical points are rarely the point. In lesser moments of clarity, excessive Se may use argumentation as a means of proving its bravado or physical presence, its immediate influence on the perceptions of the surrounding audience. Talk is cheap--actions will always speak louder than words.

Nonetheless, ESTPs with strongly developed Ti may display somewhat unexpected command of dense technical and theoretical material when they can see its direct application to one of their areas of interest. It's important to recognize that, while they may tend to avoid by-the-book approaches and theoretical rhetoric in most cases, they're not fundamentally against abstract conceptual approaches--they just need to see a realistic application for them, some sort of obviously apparent reason that such abstruse language need be applied. The typically action-oriented ESTP may surprise and even astound friends and colleagues with unexpected mastery of technical jargon or conceptual ideas--as long as she can see how they relate directly to the activities she's constantly immersed in. Once an idea on paper is given realistic and tangible context, the connection between external sensory response (Se) and internal logical modeling (Ti) grants an all new level of meaning and completeness to the ESTP's mastery of the hands-on skills at which she finds herself most naturally adept.

Tertiary: Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

Most commonly, tertiary Fe seems to manifest itself in the ESTP through a gradual replacement of self-centered hedonistic tendencies with a deeply felt sense of loyalty toward one's familial responsibilities, friendships, and cultural heritage. This sudden burst of interest in sticking up for the virtues of "my people" may seem bizarre and out of place to outsiders, as the ESTP (typically in early adulthood) begins to recognize, and perhaps even feel guilty over, his obligations to the people that keep his life moving in the exciting direction to which he's become accustomed. It's not uncommon to see young ESTPs in the process of Fe development show unprecedented (and often quite unexpected) displays of affection and warmth for their loved ones--while those loved ones look on in bemused but pleasant surprise as the brash and competitive ESTP they're used to begins to turn over a new leaf and display his more caring and compassionate side.

It's quite common for ESTPs to be utterly oblivious to how little positive feedback and appreciation they show overtly for the people they care about. They may simply assume that those close to them know how important they are, and their insistence on a constantly active lifestyle may preclude them from providing the sort of emotional support that most people require higher doses of than they do. Indeed, others may wonder if their ESTP friend or family member even cares about them at all--the sudden introduction of Fe is often marked by confused or exaggerated emotional outbursts that lack context or nuance, as most ESTPs possess at least a rudimentary awareness of their emotional shortcomings, and are more than a bit insecure about their ability to show the true depth of their appreciation for the people that matter to them. They may end up filtering Fe through their preferred Se perspective, showing their appreciation through powerful displays of visual or other sensory flash and showmanship. While these responses may appear on the surface to be simple attempts to garner attention, there's often a less pronounced (but very real) desire to express and validate interpersonal camaraderie wrapped up in the ESTP's grand displays and gestures. Especially among male ESTPs, there may exist a certain anxiousness that more straightforward explanations of emotion may produce an undesirable appearance of weakness or excess sensitivity, which tertiary Fe fears may lead to social isolation and lack of any real companionship. The resultant behaviors can be confusing, to say the least.

When Fe is granted too powerful a position in the ESTP's cognitive hierarchy, she may overreact to perceived displays of disloyalty, and feel especially inclined to aggressively counteract this perceived betrayal through an increasingly disturbing series of oneupmanship games. Without a strong Ti perspective to balance out the subjective world, the SeFe loop ESTP can become entirely too wrapped up in the opinions of others, struggling constantly to balance her social image as cool and exciting (Se) against the moral and ethical expectations of her peers (Fe). When the two meet head on without the aid of auxiliary Ti, often the only solution that occurs to the beleaguered ESTP is to further increase her externalized displays of status and power, indulging in aimless hedonism and overreacting to the slightest loss of approval among her peer group. Trapped between her role as trend-setting entertainer and the increasingly uncomfortable realization that her life requires more externalized ethical structure, the SeFe ESTP may experience substantial difficulty in finding any cohesive balance between these disparate sides of her personality.

When developed properly, tertiary Fe should balance itself against auxiliary Ti to provide more than an additional tool for persuading and manipulating others into doing the ESTP's bidding. It adds a sense of genuine affection, of legitimate responsibility and selflessness, to the ESTP's total cognitive worldview. With a better defined sense of context for defining his social and interpersonal roles, the ESTP will learn to identify situations in which making the maximum sensory impact is not always the most important priority--he'll learn to introduce practical responsibilities and a sense of structure into an otherwise hectic and unpredictable lifestyle. In touch with the needs and expectations of his closest allies, the Fe-savvy ESTP will proudly symbolize all the best characteristics of his culture and community (and still keep an eye on stylistic impact in the process.)

Inferior: Introverted iNtuition (Ni)

The infamous inferior function of the ESTP cognitive makeup comes in the form of introverted iNtuition--that mysterious and elusive world of internalized perception of symbolic meaning and privatized significance. While the world of immediate literal meaning and split-second instinctive responses comes as naturally as breathing, that of deceptive or hidden significance strikes the ESTP as so foreign, so uninviting, so irrelevant and esoteric as to be completely avoided at all costs. In Se's world, that which is directly observable speaks volumes--while that which is implied or subtly suggested is rarely worthy of immediate attention. The Ni approach seems to conflict with all discernible standards by which the ESTP conducts himself and his associations with the world surrounding him: when he wants recognition, he draws attention to himself. When he wants to convey a message, he says outright what he means. Anything less seems puzzling at best, and utterly illogical at worst.

In practice, inferior Ni tends to manifest itself in the form of inexplicable claims of seemingly supernatural insight into areas in which the ESTP clearly has no direct knowledge or evidence. When confronted with a threatening situation which forces him to call upon his inferior attitude, the gradual realization that his preferred direct and straightforward approach will no longer serve him adequately accompanies an increasing nervousness and mounting insecurity. Forced to adopt an intuitive approach with which he is uncomfortable and compete in an arena in which he is brutally outclassed, the ESTP may conclude that, in order to remain genuinely competitive, he must do what he perceives Ni types to be doing--what is actually a relatively systematic and predictable process of pattern perception and anticipation appears to him as a totally haphazard and unsubstantiated system of random guesswork and logical non sequitirs. Missing the central point of the Ni dominant's approach, he will respond to threatening situations by assuming he must "start over" and eliminate all perceptual assumptions, giving rise to all sorts of absurd and nonsensical perceptions about the secret motivations and hidden implications in everything and everyone around him.

Worse yet, dominant Se's desire to continually adapt to changing external conditions may result in a woeful inability to maintain depth of focus on one area long enough to intuit its true significance. In his attempts to imitate what he sees as irrational leaps in reasoning, he himself may become irrationally suspicious of the motives and intentions of everyone around him, entrenched in self-indulgent cynicism, increasingly isolated from the world of sensory call and response where his cognition finds itself most comfortable. The gut feelings upon which he bases his reactions--normally rooted in concrete sensory data continually updated in real time--will give way to bizarre and unsubstantiated intuitive hunches: when his trusted gut instincts continually turn out wrong, utter perceptual disorientation is unavoidable. Detached from the constant stream of concrete external information upon which his preferred outlook depends so heavily, the ESTP in the grip of inferior Ni may feel as if none of the information upon which he normally relies can any longer be trusted to provide any real sense of context or valuable input. He descends into paranoia and dreaded inaction, convinced that any attempt at a rational response will result in predetermined and unavoidable failure.

In time, inferior Ni can eventually approach the other function attitudes in terms of its application in a positive and useful light. The most balanced ESTPs will eventually learn to appreciate the internal world of symbolic imagery, and may even learn to enjoy its profound subconscious effects on their perception as the unconscious gradually moves toward the realm of conscious control. While this level of development is unusual and often inordinately difficult, the ESTP who commands it will surpass her peers in terms of cognitive balance and total perspective. Gradually building awareness of the unstated meaning, the perceptual road less traveled, the fully self-actualized ESTP ceases to be a slave to the perceptual expectations of her surroundings. Fully capable of realizing and completely understanding her own potential and the far-reaching implications of her words and actions, she will leave her mark on the world in a far more long-lasting and significant manner than she ever believed realistically possible.