Living and working with ENFJ preferences

One of the most common criticisms about personality type theory is that it puts individuals in a box. I don’t see it that way. Jung wrote about “classifications” and how having a name for things helps us group them and understand them better. Our brain, after all, is a pattern-seeking, meaning-making organ. Our brains are lazy at that, always looking for the most comfortable path, the fastest solution

One of the most common expressions in our language is the phrase, “I am” – closely followed by “you are”. These sound rather final and can be quite damning, if you’re not careful about the words that follow. “I am empathetic.” – “You are organized.” Our thoughts create our realities, and often it’s this finite wording, “You’re an INTP” that makes it sound like someone puts us in a box.

A basic representation to describe a complex behavioral and psychic energy pattern, like e.g. four letters, makes understanding ourselves and others easier. So when I talk about ENFJ or any other Types, I know they hide a treasure trove of intricate patterns and systems. Four letters don’t describe a whole person, certainly not without taking also the cultural background, personal experiences, hobbies, education, family of origin etc into account. I try to use verbs – to indicate the activity of the mental process, the energetic tension that is held between the two opposing sides of preferences.

ENFJ Strengths

The literature is very generous in describing the many skills people with ENFJ preferences generally possess. That is handy and helpful, because not many would go out and proclaim their good qualities. Not if there’s a risk to be seen as arrogant or offending someone – and there’s always that risk.

John Beebe developed a model where he linked archetypes to the eight Jungian functions, depending on their position in the Type code. In other words, Jung described eight ways in which we use our brains to meet our psychological needs. All people of all types use all eight functions – but with a different order of preference. The higher up a function is, the more we have conscious access and control – to the point that it may become automatic and we no longer see that process as a skill. The lower down a function is in our Type’s particular hierarchy, the less conscious access we have, and the more likely it is for that process to burst out when we’re stressed.

Good with people

ENFJs lead with extraverted Feeling (Fe). Fe is the hero, or heroine as it were, of our functions, and it’s all about harmonizing and connecting. Establishing and maintaining relationships. Pleasing others. Sharing our values.

People with ENFJ preferences generally not only connect well with individuals, but also with the wider community. Society at large. How to make the world a better place. There is a love and understanding and empathy in our hearts that sometimes makes it feel fit to burst. Until a split-second later someone cuts in line and we’re reminded of why we can’t be friends with everyone.

ENFJ Blind spots

Like every other type, we find ways to get in our own way of development.

Not so good with listening

ENFJ’s auxiliary or second function introverted Intuiting (Ni). Ni takes the place of the “good parent”, the process we use to be helpful and supportive, and it’s all about knowing and foreseeing. Having insights about plans. Knowing what is best for people. Sharing our visions.

People with ENFJ preferences have a tendency to “should” all over themselves. Everyone, including them, should be doing things the right way. Intellectually, we know that there’s more than one way. But each way comes with its own piece of judgment, and there is one way that will simply be that bit closer to the perfection we seek.

Much like parents knows what’s best for their child, people with ENFJ preferences (think they) know what’s best for everyone they live and work with. That can get in the way of truly listening when a friend unburdens himself. When a leader distributes roles and responsibilities to work on the latest project.


Resisting the urge to blurt out “here’s what I would do” takes effort. ENFJ insights generally come from a loving place of “I mean well; I want to help you”, but they can get in the way of keeping harmony in the relationship – which is the foremost goal.

So, in time, it’s worth practicing to bite your tongue. Even though you may have an ample library of evidence where your hunches came true, and even though you know that you could have saved your friend weeks or months of agony if they had just done what you told them the first time.

Tricky thing about adults – your child has to learn from you, but peers tend to want to learn for themselves.