The ENFJ “Teacher” Personality Type
First of all, I want to acknowledge to the ENFJs out there that this is going to seem like a long article and you may or may not suffer from what is known as “Monkey Mind.” If you take the time to read it I promise there will be insights and some self-discovery. I think you’re gonna like it. -Antonia
We talk a lot about “blending” here at Personality Hacker. Blending is the phenomenon when an iNtuitive in the Myers-Briggs system pretends to be a Sensor for the sake of not ruffling feathers and being acceptable. Of all of the N types in this system, it may be the ENFJ type that has the easiest time blending.
This isn’t a good thing. But it’s totally understandable and maybe even inevitable. For those of you that are ENFJs reading this: I’m going to do everything I can in this article to talk you out of blending. I’m also going to explain why you may have Monkey Mind, why other people may take you for granted, why you reach for the cookies when you shouldn’t, and why you sometimes can get a little bitchy (especially toward yourself).
The ENFJ Personality Type
To get inside the experience of an ENFJ it’s important to acknowledge how they relate to the world and how the world responds back.
Harmony is the process that naturally understands relationships, interpersonal dynamics and social systems. At its best it wants to get everyone’s needs met and create win/wins.
The Co-Pilot process is Perspectives.
Perspectives is the process that helps ENFJs watch their own minds form patterns, get inside the minds of others and allows them to see implications far into the future.
The 10 Year Old process is Sensation.
Sensation, when done well, is how we stay present in the moment, and process the extraordinary amount of sensory detail that is coming at us at all times. It’s also where we get in touch with what gives us an adrenaline rush and how we improvise with our bodies.
The 3 Year Old process is Accuracy.
When done well, Accuracy is the part of us that asks, “Does this make sense?” It scans for incongruities and/or when information doesn’t add up. It seeks truth without judgment.
(If you’re a Myers-Briggs geek, the primary cognitive function for this type is Extraverted Feeling, the auxiliary is Introverted Intuition, the tertiary is Extraverted Sensing and the inferior is Introverted Thinking.)
How the Mental Processes Influence ENFJs
From a very early age the Harmony process is riveted by people’s responses to each other. The Harmony user is highly aware of how their actions impact other people emotionally.
An example is: I brought flowers to my mom and she smiled. I didn’t share my toys and the other kid cried, but when I shared my toys they were happy. And so on.
As the ENFJ’s world expands so does the Driver process. The Harmony process gets more sophisticated over time, eventually taking in complex systems of interaction that we’ll call “culture.” This can mean the culture of a room (who’s high status, who’s low status, who’s got a crush on whom, etc), all the way up to the culture of nations.
Getting people’s needs met becomes top priority, since that’s how we help manage everyone feeling at their best. In order to maintain smooth interactions, “unspoken social contracts” become the name of the game. And it truly baffles ENFJs when other people commit faux pas that are so obviously avoidable.
Harmony is also tuned into emotional expression (it is called Extraverted Feeling, after all). Emotional displays can cause both interest and discomfort to the ENFJ. If two people are fighting with each other it can be both embarrassing and captivating. This means there’s always a draw toward the dramatic, but also toward reconciliation.
When Harmony is well-developed and healthy it becomes a master of healing discord. Conversely, the more toxic and unhealthy the Harmony user the more they’re just looking for the next hit of drama, not particularly caring about reconciling. This is why ENFJs can span the range of regal state diplomat to basket-case Drama Queen.
Obviously at low states getting other people’s needs met stops being a priority. This is the sign of an ENFJ in deep depression.
If you’re an ENFJ, the Harmony process both crosses and supports you.
It supports you because it’s your natural super-power-flow-state and the thing you do better than anyone else of any other type.
It crosses you because it’s SO tied in with cultural norms and what’s appropriate it can encourage you not to develop your Co-Pilot process of Perspectives.
Perspectives is an intuitive process (Introverted Intuition). Using intuition as either a Driver or Co-Pilot process is found in only 25% of the population, and as we’ve discussed elsewhere the world usually falls somewhere between dismissive of intuition and downright hostile.
If you pick up over and over again that other people aren’t particularly friendly to your intuitive side it’s going to be really easy to pretend like it doesn’t exist – at least for other people’s sake. And that means there’s a part of you that no one really gets to see.
You may have noticed a lot of one-sided relationships, where you understand the other person completely but they’ve only scratched the surface of who you are. And when you start showing them that side they act like, ‘Who is THIS person?’ So you quietly put that part of you back to bed. And this is where the Monkey Mind starts to truly surface.
Perspectives is a deeply introspective process that considers long-term implications as well as meaning and significance. It’s a sloooow process, requiring a lot of quiet alone time to be at its best.
When you get feedback that it’s not okay to go there, you stop exercising your ability to slow down and think things through with intention. You lose (or never develop!) the ability to be patient. And you seek solace in Perspective’s polar opposite process, Sensation (your 10 Year Old process).
As mentioned, when Sensation is done well it’s about being in the moment, responsive to stimuli and adrenaline-oriented. If you get into the habit of skipping your Co-Pilot process and substituting it with Sensation your attention is now pulled by every little shiny thing.
Also, remember that your Sensation process is roughly at 10 years old, meaning that it will manifest itself in typically self-indulgent 10 year old behavior. As an adult that can be dangerous, since grown up over-indulgences can involve alcohol, substance abuse, sexual addiction as well as food.
This is the part of you that also makes you the life of the party and crazy fun, so don’t let it go completely. (Honestly, you couldn’t even if you wanted to.) But it can’t be taking over for ‘front seat’ adult decisions. Give more precedence to developing your Perspectives process, and allow Sensation to come out when it’s appropriate.
How do you develop the Perspectives process if Sensation has you by the grip?
The easiest way is to hypnotize Sensation while working on Perspectives. If this is a new idea to you, I recommend this simple version – a long, hot bath. Water quiets Sensation, and allows you some time to do high-quality thinking. Feel free to listen to a podcast, audio book, a meditation or binaural beats. Whatever gets you in the deepest parts of your mind for some true inner exploration.
When you “level up” consider running on a treadmill or elliptical, both deeply hypnotic for Sensation. This frees the Perspectives process enough to produce profound thoughts as well as having the added bonus of cardio. And eventually disciplines like yoga and deep meditation are great.
Yes, the more you develop Perspectives the more you’re going to be saying stuff that other people find ‘weird’. It might even feel ‘off’ or wrong to you.
This is where you need to focus on quality over quantity.
When you don’t take the time to develop and broadcast your intuitive side, you can end up being “lonely surrounded by people.” When you DO take the time to develop Perspectives and express your true self to others there’s a much better vetting process for finding ‘your people’, your tribe. There may be fewer friendships, but they aren’t one-sided.
And that’s real connection, not just synthetic little hits.
A note to ENFJ men:
Harmony is the process that is most represented in women. Easily 50% of all women use Harmony for decision-making. That means a couple of significant things:
1) A lot of what we think of as ‘women’s intuition’ is actually the Harmony function’s ability to “read” people, interactions and a crowd. You have this ability, it’s not reserved for women.
2) A lot of stereotypes about women being so “emotional” are really reflections of the misconceptions people have about the Harmony process, and so there is a lot of space given for women to use Harmony (since it’s expected). Men who use Harmony get no such space.
If you find yourself stuck between the rock of being emotionally expressive and the hard place of knowing it’s socially ‘unacceptable’, I recommend checking out Elliott Hulse on Youtube. Elliot appears to be a very developed ENFJ who is emotionally aware, very insightful and extremely masculine. You can find his channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/elliottsaidwhat
Here’s another bonus when you develop Perspectives: you’ll being taken for granted a lot less.
Harmony people – if they’re not depressed and self-destructive – often work tirelessly to meet other people’s needs. When you combine Harmony and Perspectives together you get the super power of knowing people’s needs even before they do, and generally meeting those needs even before the other person asks.
This is amazing, awesome and totally taken for granted. Usually people only notice when you haven’t met their need (since they’re so used to you doing so), and that means feedback can take the form of criticism, which is crushing. Positive feedback is imperative for an ENFJ, and you can find yourself in a loop of trying to meet other people’s needs even more (if that’s possible) to get that feedback.
Perspectives forces you to slow down and go inward. That means you remember who you are internally, that you have unique identity separate from others and that you’re part of “everyone” when getting everyone’s needs met.
It also means you’re focused on things being sustainable since Perspectives future paces and can anticipate breakdowns. To continue serving others you have to get your needs met.
The less healthy the ENFJ the more they focus on drama rather than reconciliation, shiny objects over self-reflection, and the more they’ll spin into a depression that the Harmony process can’t manage. Once this happens, the Accuracy 3 Year Old starts to take over the wheel of the car.
Have you ever found yourself in a black hole of self-criticism? Just an incessant, constant stream of self-loathing and hateful self-talk?
That’s the Accuracy process at its absolute worst. Accuracy is meant to be about trouble shooting and spotting incongruities, finding problems without making it personal. But as a 3 Year Old process it doesn’t have the sophistication to be dispassionate. You’re always personal, and so Accuracy becomes a weapon you turn on yourself.
If left in this state for too long the weapon can be turned on other people. But if that’s the case it’s a sure bet that the constant self-criticism preceded it.
There’s a pretty simple hack for this: let your Accuracy process get some attention, but control the mechanism (as opposed to being controlled by it). A great way to do this is to refuse all social interaction for a time and do something that challenges you mentally, like a puzzle. Sudoku and crossword puzzles are great, as is Solitaire or simple video games.
Don’t do anything too complicated (since this is designed to be R&R), but make sure no one else is around. Accuracy is Introverted Thinking. Give yourself permission to keep doing it until you feel like yourself again.
The ENFJ Personality Type at their Best
When an ENFJ is truly at their best they are incredible people: leaders, morale-boosters, teachers and the diplomats of people and new thoughts. Most of the world only knows who Eckhart Tolle is because Oprah Winfrey, an ENFJ, introduced him.
If you’re an ENFJ, please fully embrace your intuition. You can be a powerful bridge between Sensors and iNtuitives, an ambassador between what’s socially acceptable and what is possible. In this way you’ll find what’s truly satisfying. You’ll find quality (not quantity) because you will be quality, at the top of your game.
If you’re lucky enough to have an ENFJ in your life, the most important thing you can remember to do is give them tons of appreciative feedback. It’s not your job to remind them to get their needs met, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
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