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, 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 how they can apply those functions in real life.

The ENFP Functional Stack

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, each personality consists of four primary functions that comprise 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 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 good at bouncing between different ideas and using their intuition to ultimately conclude. Sometimes when they’re thinking out loud, it can sound like they’re simply rambling on, when in reality, they are simultaneously exploring ideas from multiple perspectives. Of course, they do all this, assuming they will find a conclusion in the end.

Some of the benefits presented by Ne include:

  • Seeking new things: ENFPs tend to 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 encompassing many ideas. This is because, with their Ne, they connect things that others miss and organically carry over all they know into any field.
  • Engaging in abstract thinking: ENFPs are ideally suited for abstract thought because they are okay with ambiguity. 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 because it initially seems minor.
  • Difficulty staying on one topic: Though their ability to make connections between things not initially obvious can 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 hesitation when necessary.

Some of the benefits presented by Fi include:

  • Having a solid moral center: ENFPs have a strong sense of right and wrong. This means they are more likely to stand for something even when it isn’t popular.
  • Always striving to be a better person: The robust value system of ENFPs often pushes them to strive to be a better person every day.
  • Having genuine relationships: ENFPs are drawn toward people they deem honest. This leads to deeper relationships with those around them, where both parties feel comfortable being themselves.
ENFPs are characterized by a solid 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 tough 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 never to make the same mistake twice.

ENFP Tertiary Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)

He is essentially the opposite of Fi (introverted feeling) in that it allows people to analyze the world around them using logic and reason rather than their feelings. Though ENFPs tend to use extraverted intuition more often, a part of them 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 prevent 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 ENFP develops their Te during their second and third phases of development, they become better at being more accurate in their analysis of situations.
  • Becoming more organized: It’s easier for an ENFP to become more organized as 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 facts and logic to assess a situation can sometimes come across as cold and lifeless. This is why it’s so essential 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 simultaneously. 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 their memory and adjust 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 tough to transition between taking in new information and changing it all at once. With a well-developed Si, on the other hand, this process happens naturally.
  • Creating a coherent worldview: Constantly connecting to past experiences can help an ENFP fashion a more cohesive 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 their open-mindedness. They can miss new things they haven’t seen before because they’re comparing everything they see now with the past.
  • Difficulty being in the moment: A person with too much reliance on Si can have trouble 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 functions an ENFP uses let’s briefly discuss the types of operations (perceiving/thinking) and why they are divided the way they are. It is essential 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 how a person takes in information and explores ideas. This can deal with conscious thought or what a person’s attention will naturally 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 analyzes situations and people. Often 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, while others–like ENFPs–are more likely to feel based on their feelings.

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 parts (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, ENFPs develop over a lifetime. Their development is tracked in three stages, wherein each function grows and changes how they experience the world. Below we briefly describe each phase and roughly when it creates:

  1. Phase I: From a very early age, young children develop their Ne. Usually, this phase lasts through adolescence and allows them to absorb a lot of information while exploring all kinds of topics. Their Ne is far more apparent during this period and evident in how they find school more exciting than stressful.
  2. Phase II: This phase occurs between adolescence and a person’s early 30s.This is where an ENFP begins to develop its 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. Because of their Ne, they often connect more 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 integrating them with the primary ones. An ENFP would try to merge how they use their Ne and 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 you might enjoy a myriad of careers. 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. Psychologists: ENFPs 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 their clients’ internal emotional life and be open enough to talk about it. This goes perfectly with an ENFP’s Ne.
  3. Actor: With their Ne, ENFPs constantly take in subtle information others miss about how 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 vast capacity for empathy and 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 better at understanding their students’ needs and 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 require 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, small elements 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 must set aside their 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 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 terrible 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 close attention to detail when 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). They develop Extraverted Thinking (considering) and Introverted Sensing (perceiving) to counterbalance these.

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

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