ENFP Functions: Cognitive Functions and Stages of Development of this Personality Type

ENFP personality types are known for being enthusiastic go-getters whose combination of charisma and creativity allows them to flourish in social situations. Still, what are the cognitive functions that lead to their behavior?

Cognitive Functions of an ENFP
Functions Description
Dominant: Extraverted Intuition (Ne) The ability to freely explore multiple ideas without getting hung up on not knowing where they lead.
Auxiliary: Introverted Feeling (Fi) A solid moral center that informs decision making more than analytic thinking.
Tertiary: Extraverted Thinking (Te) The ability to analyze situations, people, and things with facts and logic rather than emotions or personal values.
Inferior: Introverted Sensing (Si) The ability to find patterns from past emotions, experiences and senses, and apply them to the future.

If you’re either an ENFP type yourself, you know someone who is, or you’re just curious, this is for you. Below we’ll break down the primary cognitive functions that an ENFP type generally displays, and then we will turn our attention to how they develop and the ways they can apply those functions in real life.

The ENFP Functional Stack

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, each personality consists of four major functions that make up their functional stack. For the ENFP personality type, these are Extraverted Intuition, Introverted Feeling, Extraverted Thinking, and Introverted Sensing. Every identifiable characteristic of ENFPs can be traced to one or more of these functions.

Below we will break down each function of an ENFP personality type and briefly describe how it can influence their behavior in both beneficial and challenging ways.

ENFP Dominant Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)

ENFP’s primary perceiving function allows them to be really good at bouncing between different ideas and using their intuition to ultimately reach a conclusion. Sometimes when they’re thinking out loud, it can sound like they’re simply rambling on, when in reality, they are exploring ideas from multiple perspectives simultaneously. Of course, they do all this with the assumption they will find a conclusion in the end.

Some of the benefits presented by Ne include:

  • Seeking new things: ENFPs tend to really enjoy novelty. They seldom get tired of learning new things and expanding their perspective. They aren’t afraid of not knowing an answer but rather just excited to find one.
  • Making connections others miss: ENFPs often have surprisingly coherent worldviews that encompass a wide range of ideas. This is because with their Ne, they make connections between things that others miss and organically carry over all that they know into any field.
  • Engaging in abstract thinking: Because they are okay with ambiguity, ENFP’s are perfectly suited for abstract thought. This allows them to be more creative than the general public.

Some of the challenges presented by Ne include:

  • Missing precise details: While ENFPs are great at abstract thinking, they tend not to like getting hung up on tiny details. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing depending on the situation. However, it presents the challenge of manually ensuring you don’t miss something important just because it initially seems minor.
  • Difficulty staying on one topic: Though their ability to make connections between things that are not initially obvious can certainly help them, ENFPs may sometimes feel like they can’t just focus on one thing at a time. This presents challenges in more formal settings like school or work.

ENFP Auxiliary Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)

The decision making of an ENFP personality type can sometimes be hindered because they tend to make decisions based on their internal moral compass and emotion instead of logic. On the other hand, they can make quick gut decisions without too much hesitation when it’s necessary.

Some of the benefits presented by Fi include:

  • Having a strong moral center: ENFPs have a strong sense of what is right and wrong. This means they are more likely to take a stand for something even when it isn’t popular.
  • Always striving to be a better person: The strong value system of ENFPs often pushes them to strive to be a better person everyday.
  • Having genuine relationships: ENFPs are drawn towards people they deem to be genuine. This leads to deeper relationships with those around them, where both parties feel comfortable to just be themselves.
ENFPs are characterized by a strong moral compass due to their Introverted Feeling.

Some of the challenges presented by Fi include:

  • Coming across as rigid: Though ENFPs are noted for their open mindedness in learning new things, their strong sense of right and wrong sometimes comes across as rigid and closed minded to others.
  • Feeling like a failure when they don’t live their values: Because their sense of right and wrong is so strong, many ENFPs feel like failures when they fail to live up to it. Knowing this tendency can help ENFPs use their negative feelings as fuel to never make the same mistake twice.

ENFP Tertiary Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)

Te is essentially the opposite of Fi (introverted feeling) in that it allows a person to analyze the world around them using logic and reason rather than their feelings. Though ENFPs tend to use extraverted intuition more often, there is a part of them that engages in extraverted thinking–especially as they develop their personality.

Some of the benefits presented by Te include:

  • Avoiding the hangups of Fi: Once an ENFP develops their Te sufficiently, they can avoid many of the hangups caused by their more primary function Fi. Instead of making a snap decision based on emotion, they can take a step back and have more perspective.
  • Becoming more objective: As an ENFP develops their Te during their second and third phases of development, they become better at being more objective in their analysis of situations.
  • Becoming more organized: It’s easier for an ENFP to become more organized, the more they work on integrating their Te with their Fi. This is because a well-integrated Te helps ground them in the reality of a situation rather than in their idealized imagining of it.

Some of the challenges presented by Te include:

  • Coming across as cold or unfeeling: To others, using merely facts and logic to assess a situation can sometimes come across as cold and unfeeling. This is why it’s so important an ENFP integrates their Te with their Fi, and doesn’t overcompensate for the pitfalls of Fi.
  • Hindering creativity: It’s hard to be creative and strictly logical at the same time. Again, integrating an ENFP’s Ti with their Fi can avoid this problem.

ENFP Inferior Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)

Once an ENFP develops their Si, they can take in information and automatically compare it to what their memory and make adjustments to their responses. For example, if they’re trying to teach their kid how to hit a baseball, they would compare what they see the kid doing to the method of hitting a ball that they know works.

Some of the benefits presented by Si include:

  • Adjusting to situations quickly: If an ENFP hasn’t yet begun to develop their Si, it can be very difficult for them to transition between taking in new information and adjusting it all at once. With a well-developed Si on the other hand, this process happens naturally.
  • Creating a coherent worldview: Constantly making connections to past experiences can help an ENFP fashion a far more coherent worldview.
  • Applying experiences to help others: If a friend or a family member of an ENFP needs help, a well developed Si can equip that ENFP to share their experiences and be more helpful.

Some of the challenges presented by Si include:

  • Difficulty staying open minded: If an ENFP overcompensates for their Ne with too much Si, it can limit how open-minded they can be. Because they’re comparing everything they see in the moment with the past, they can miss new things they haven’t seen before.
  • Difficulty being in the moment: A person with too much reliance on Si can have difficulty feeling like they are in the moment, because the world in their mind is ever present.

Explaining the Types of Functions

Now that we’ve seen the specific functions that an ENFP uses, let’s briefly discuss the types of functions (perceiving/thinking) and why they are divided the way they are. It is important to understand this because if you just know what type a given function is, you can already begin to understand just what that function does.

Perceiving Functions

Perceiving functions deal with the ways in which a person takes in information and explores ideas. This can deal with conscious thought or merely what a person’s attention is naturally going to drift towards.

This is why both Ne and Si are considered the perceiving functions of an ENFP. They both, in seemingly contradictory ways, explain why ENFPs notice the things that they do.

Below you will find a list of all the perceiving functions available in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator:

  • Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • Introverted Sensing (Si)

Judging Functions

Judging functions deal with how a personality type will typically analyze situations and people. Oftentimes this can lead to both practical and moral judgments of the world around them. Some people are more likely to judge from logic and reason, whilst others–like ENFPs–are more likely to make judgments based on the way they feel.

Below you will find a list of all the perceiving functions available in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator:

  • Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • Extraverted Thinking (Te)
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti)

What Makes an ENFP Personality Type: The Phases of Development

If you’re an astute reader, you’ve probably noticed that the primary functions (Ne, Fi) seem to contradict the more secondary functions (Te, Si). This is not by mistake, as it is partially due to the complexity of individuals and the principle of paradox. However, it can also be traced to how an ENFP personality develops.

Like all personality types, ENFP’s develop over a lifetime. Their development is tracked in three stages, wherein each function develops and changes the way they experience the world. Below we briefly describe each phase and roughly when it develops:

  1. Phase I: From a very early age, young children begin to develop their Ne. Usually, this phase lasts all the way through adolescence and allows them to absorb a lot of information while exploring all kinds of topics. Their Ne is far more obvious during this period and evident in the way they tend to find school more exciting than stressful.
  2. Phase II: This phase takes place between adolescence and a person’s early 30s.This is where an ENFP begins to develop their Fi and Si.
    • Their Fi aids them in discovering their internal self. They can combine this knowledge with what they learn from their Ne to have a more coherent view of the world.
    • For their Si, they start comparing their current experiences with older ones in the moment. Because of their Ne, they are often making more connections to things than the average person.
  3. Phase III: Phase three can happen anytime between a person’s early 30s through the rest of their life; however few ever complete it. Phase three involves bringing a person’s secondary functions into their conscious mind and then integrating them with the primary ones. An ENFP would try to merge the way they use their Ne and their Fi.

5 Good ENFP Career Paths

One of the benefits of having an ENFP personality type, is that you’re so outgoing and flexible that there is a myriad of careers you might enjoy. Most of these careers deal with working with people and being able to keep your eye on the big picture. Two things ENFPs are known for doing well.

The following careers are great for ENFPs:

  1. Psychologist: ENFP’s are fascinated by the human condition and the internal lives they experience. Psychology is ripe for this exact kind of exploration, making it the number one career path for ENFPs.
  2. Counselor: Similar to psychology, counselors have to be able to understand the internal emotional life of their clients, and they have to be open enough to talk about it. This goes perfectly with an ENFP’s Ne.
  3. Actor: With their Ne, ENFPs are constantly taking in subtle information others miss about the way people think and behave. They can channel this understanding to create memorable performances as an actor.
  4. Human Resources: At the end of the day, ENFPs tend to be more interested in people than things. This is due to their wide capacity for empathy and their desire to understand others and the world around them. To have an effective HR department, businesses need people with this skill.
  5. Special Education Teacher: The same empathy that allows for ENFPs to be great HR reps works in SPED as well. They’re not only better at understanding their students’ needs, but they also tend to be better at conveying information because of their focus on the big picture.
ENFPs enjoy careers where they can help people through their problems while learning more about human nature,

5 Careers to Avoid as an ENFP

Most of the careers that an ENFP should avoid are ones that require an extreme attention to minute detail. Whether it’s the details a police officer has to take down, the math an accountant must do or the careful construction of an engineer, the role smalls details play in these careers will be a put off to most ENFPs.

The following careers are best avoided if you are an ENFP personality type:

  1. Judge: Judges have to set aside their own sympathies during a case and pay close attention to minute details. This is difficult for an ENFP, who has a strong sense of morality from their Ne and prefers not to use the analytic thinking of their Te as much.
  2. Police officer: Police officers have to deal with situations where their own sense of right and wrong must be set aside for morality as interpreted by law. For example, if a person assaults someone who did something very bad to them in the past, the officer may sympathize, but they can’t let them get away with it. This is hard to do due to their Ne.
  3. Bank Teller: Bank Tellers have to pay very close attention to detail when they are taking in and giving out money. If an ENFP has an underdeveloped Te, this can present serious challenges, and even if their Te is as developed as possible, they still probably won’t prefer it.
  4. Editor/Proofreader: An ENFPs dominant function (Ne), makes them far more interested in the overall ideas a piece of writing is trying to express, than the nitty gritty grammar and style of prose they’d need to pay attention to.

So Really, What are the ENFP Functions?

Over their lifetime, ENFPs develop four of the eight cognitive functions established by the Myers Briggs Type indicator. Their front and center cognitive functions are Extraverted Intuition (perceiving) and Introverted Feeling (judging). To counterbalance these, they develop Extraverted Thinking (judging) and Introverted Sensing (perceiving).

The primary functions develop earlier and are much more apparent in their personality. The functions that develop later can help to balance out some of the weak spots in their primary ones.

Not everyone fully integrates these functions together. In order to do so, they must first understand them (formally or otherwise) and bring them all into the forefront of their mind.


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