A Few Caveats
Please bear in mind that none of this has to be a stereotype that rules your life. You're a unique individual with a unique background, and this description is simply a generalization based on statistics and averages. Don't take what you read here as limitations, but as an invitation to grow outside your core strengths. And especially don't use this description as an excuse. You're better than that! :) Besides, why box yourself in? Type is a starting point, not an ending place. Enjoy it and then grow from it.
ENFPs are estimated at:
- 7.60% of the American population (sample size 9,320; Myers & McCaulley, 1985)
- 6.3% of the UK population* (sample size 1,634; Kendall & McHenry, 1998)
- 10.11% of the Australian population (sample size 3,373; Macdaid, McCaulley, & Kainz, 1986)
- 5.7% of the New Zealand population (sample size 993; Bathurst, 1995)
- 5.5% of the Singapore population (sample size 1,733; Lim, 1994)
*Be chary about comparing the UK estimate with the others. There's a long explanation.
A caveat. Isabel Myers (INFP) married a man named Chief, an ISTJ and a good man. They were happy together, but according to Isabel's own type theory they weren't predicted to be perfect for each other. Later on, Myers said that if she had known about type theory, she probably wouldn't have married Chief. Hm! There is a lesson to be learned here: type is not everything, nor should it be the decisive factor in choosing your lifemate. Take it from the founder of type herself.
Then too, the connections between type, attraction, love and marriage haven't been well studied yet. (The question is more complicated than you'd think.) You can read about this question and the various attempts to answer it here.
The Idealist Temperament and Love
Do opposites attract? Not always! Tieger and Baron-Tieger (2000) found that Idealist-Idealist pairings have an average satisfaction rate of 73%--the highest attraction rating for all the NF pairings, and almost the highest possible satisfaction for all pairings.
- Idealists were 73% satisfied with Idealists.
- Idealists were 64% satisfied with Rationals.
- Idealists were 51% satisfied with Artisans.
- Idealists were 46% satisfied with Guardians.
But satisfaction between the temperaments was not equal. Seen from a reverse perspective, here is how Idealists are viewed by the other temperaments:
- Idealists were most satisfied with Idealists (73%)
- Rationals were second most satisfied with Idealists (65%)
- Guardians were third most satisfied with Idealists (58%)
- Artisans were fourth most satisfied with Idealists (54%)
As a further note, the Rationals had a higher satisfaction with an NF mate than with any other temperament.
Isn’t this a fascinating mess of information? Let’s put it into context. Green = Guardian, Blue = Idealist, Purple = Artisan, and Teal = Rational.
- SJ x SJ 79%
- NF x NF 73%
- SP x NT 73%
- SJ x SP 71%
- NT x NF 65%
- NF x NT 64%
- SP x SJ 63%
- SJ x NT 62%
- SP x SP 59%
- NT x NT 59%
- SJ x NF 58%
- NT x SP 54%
- SP x NF 54%
- NT x SJ 52%
- NF x SP 51%
- NF x SJ 46%
Now, it is a mistake to generalize by temperament--it’s frequent that types will go counter-temperament, and temperament is not the definitive factor in explaining type-based behavior most of the time (CITE)--but since we don’t have anything better to go on... So just remember: These observations are generalizations that may or may not apply to all Idealist types.
Ever since Keirsey published Please Understand Me II in 1998, it has generally been accepted that the Rationals are the best partners for the Idealists. This appears to be true--at least from the Rational point of view. The Idealists, however, actually tend to be more satisfied with other Idealists.
But Rationals are the second favorite choice for the Idealists. Indeed, NF-NT and NT-NF satisfaction rates fell within 1 percentage point of each other--a very equal evaluation indeed.
Idealists gave the lowest ratings of all to Artisans (51%) and Guardians (46%). It seems that Idealists strongly prefer other intuitives.
One further thing that should be noted here is that the Idealists reported a broad range of satisfaction compared to other types.
- Idealists: 46% - 73% (27 percentage points of difference)
- Artisans: 52% - 73% (21 percentage points of difference)
- Guardians: 58% to 79% (21 percentage points of difference)
- Rationals: 52% - 65% (13 percentage points of difference)
Compared to other types, the Idealists appear to have the most to lose if they make a wrong choice.
What Types do ENFPs Like?
About all we know is that ENFP-ISTJ couples tend to seek therapy more often than other combinations.
Do ENFPs Have Satisfying Marriages?
One study found that males (any type) married to female ENFPs had a very high satisfaction rate (about 90% were satisfied with their female ENFP). ENFPs, for their part, have a moderately low satisfaction with their marriage/intimate relationship. (Note that almost all the Intuitives were less satisfied with their marriage than almost all Sensors, but the ENFPs were on the high end of the low end.)
ENFPs were the type least likely to indicate that they preferred the work environment characteristic "Everything done by the book." In fact, only 4.5% of ENFPs liked this characteristic! In confirmation of this finding, the MBTI manual notes that ENFPs were the only Intuitives that did not like, perform, or have confidence in their ability to perform "Conventional" tasks, i.e. bookkeeping, word processing, computer work, filing and other office duties. ENFPs were also underrepresented for the organizational value "Achievement within system."
Over 80% of ENFPs indicated that they liked the work environment characteristics "Variety of tasks," "Independence and achievement," "Teamwork," "Clear structure," and "Loyalty/security." They were among the top four types for liking "Independence and achievement," "Teamwork," "People from different backgrounds," and "International opportunities." (The first three characteristics were liked by over 50% of ENFPs.)
So what sort of jobs do ENFPs end up in? One intriguing study examined career paths of software technical professionals. The path choices were "Managerial," "Technical," "Challenging project," and "Own company." Each path was preferred by 1 - 3 specific types; the ENFPs, however, preferred each path almost equally. What can we make of this? I'm not sure. They like diversity?
According to Hammer (1993), occupational trends for ENFPs include "Counseling," "Teaching," "Religion," and "Arts."
Overall, ENFPs seem to be neither particularly satisfied nor particularly unsatisfied with their jobs. They don't turn up in the list of types who really liked certain aspects of their job. Nor do they turn up in the lists of types who really hated certain aspects of their job. What we do know about them is that they were dissatisfied with "Promotions" and "Salary" (like pretty much all types). By contrast, ENFPs were satisfied with "People I work with." (Only the ESFPs listed this same characteristic; seems to be an EFP thing.)
In relation to this, it makes sense that ENFPs were the type that most liked "Social" jobs entailing "Helping others, teaching, [and] counseling." ENFPs were also the type most confident in their "Artistic abilities," i.e. their capacity for producing and consuming art, music, literature, etc (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk & Hammer, 1998). The artistic and social spheres seem to be the areas in which ENFPs excel. In confirmation of this, ENFPs were the type that placed the most value on "Relationships/friendships" and "Being creative."
Findings regarding ENFP giftedness are mixed. ENFPs were ranked second in a study on type and I.Q. in a sample of 133 8th graders. But then a study on 458 9th - 12 graders found that they had the lowest I.Q. of all types. It seems more likely that the former study is closer to the truth. Various studies have found ENFPs disproportionately overrepresented among groups of gifted students. Also, ENFPs tend to score above average on aptitude tests; in fact, among the extraverts, only the ENTPs had better average scores. (Note: Introversion is associated with higher scores on aptitude tests, which coincidentally are taken alone.) In terms of grades, however, ENFPs are solid middle-of-the-roaders--they ended up in eighth place in terms of the types with best grades.
However, there may be trouble when they arrive in college. ENFPs were among the types with the lowest college retention rate, and a study found that they were often referred for substance abuse training. Psychologists rated ENFPs as one of the three types most likely to have trouble in school. ENFPs may also have trouble deciding upon their major. A study of undecided students found that among females, 22.4% were ENFPs, and among males, 16.3% were ENFPs. This was the highest of all types.
ENFPs are the type that turns up third most frequently among people majoring in Education. They seem to be good at it too; after the ENTJs, ENFPs were the type that turned up most frequently in the national CASE finalist list for professor of the year. Interestingly, ENFP teachers were the type least likely to view student behaviors as problematic.
ENFPs are one of the less stressed out types. A study compared type and stress to see which personalities were stressed out about what. For three categories of stress ("Children," "School," and "Other") ENFPs were among the bottom four types, indicating that they were some of the least stressed out people. In fact, for the category "Other" ENFPs reported being the least stressed out of all types. ENFPs have some of the lowest rates of heart disease and hyperension.
For one category of stress ("Finances") ENFPs were the third most stressed out type. Apparently this area is the ENFP's archilles' heel.
ENFPs cope with stress mainly by developing physical symptoms; they were the type most likely to do this. They also cope with stress by seeking out the help of a professional. (Most professionals are NFs, and nonsurprisingly most NFs rate "Talk to professional" very highly.)
NFs seldom make their way into positions of leadership (none of the Presidents have been NFs) but when they do they bring their own unique style to the table. Now, we could just leave it at that and go over some aspects of the ENFP leadership together. But wouldn't it be more interesting to analyze the leadership abilities of Adolf Hitler, the ENFP who tried to conquer the world?
In spite of being pure evil, the man did have great leadership ability, and he has been studied at length by countless scholars, providing much material for us to analyze. However, Hitler's value as a research subject is limited by the fact he was a very screwed up ENFP. This was mainly thanks to his father, a violent, verbally abusive individual.
It should be noted that contrary to internet opinion, Hitler was not an INFJ. At the very end of the war, he was extremely stressed out and began to take on some unhealthy INFJ traits. But these were not normal for him--his true, unstressed personality was ENFP.
So. Bearing in mind that we are talking about a very unhealthy, utterly evil individual who was unable to form even one intimate relationship with another human being--including his mistress--we can now proceed to examine some of the strengths of Hitler's leadership style. It is particularly interesting to note that so many ENFP talents can exist outside the expect NF framework of caring and concern for others.
- Charisma, charm, warmth, personal magnetism
- An ability to read others (an audience, a person) and adapt his communication style to their needs and group culture
- Bringing out others' talents and skills
- Inspiring hope for the future even when all seems dark
As leaders, ENFPs are engaging and bring a personal sparkle and vivacious charm that draws in their listeners. Hitler is usually portrayed in videos as a ranting demagogue. But in fact, he could just as easily be a calm, even hesitant speaker who projected an air of concern and optimism for the future. He simply used the approach that he instinctively knew would work best with each unique group of people.
On this same note, ENFP leaders are skilled as sizing up their followers and choosing the approach that will reach them best, speaking to their culture and needs. An ENFP corporate trainer, for example, may take quite a different approach with a group of human resources workers than they would with a group of engineers. Many other types adopt a "one size fits all" interaction style, but not the people-saavy ENFP. They know their audience and how to best engage them.
Another thing that ENFPs leaders are adept at is bringing out the best in their subordinates by engaging their latent talents, gifts, and enthusiasm. To some extent, all NFs do this; the ENFJ Teachers are particularly known for it. However, the ENFPs have this ability in a strong measure as well. An ENFP leader encourages their followers to give their best, and so inspiring are they that others naturally want to respond. Individuals who lack confidence to perform a task can be charged up by an ENFP's warmth and encouragement. One prominent member of Hitler's circle referred to him as "my catalyst."
One of the things that distinguished Hitler from his compatriots was his optimistic, even delusional faith in a good future. In the 1930s, when the economic and political situation in Germany was grim, Hitler stirred hope in the nation and began to revitalize things. Similarly, when the war was totally, utterly, completely lost, he nevertheless had an almost magical ability to draw his staff into a shared dream of future victory. (Then he decided to wipe out the entire German nation in a scorched earth policy. But I digress.)
When there is no sane, rational reason for hope, an ENFP leader will say, "I see a light--let's go!" Undaunted by setbacks and unwavering in their faith in the cause, an ENFP can inspire courage and hope in their followers when all the odds are stacked against them. ENFPs may achieve their goal, if only because no one else would dare to believe it could be done. Then again, they may end up committing suicide in a bunker and becoming the most hated person in the western world.
There, wasn't that more interesting than a dry, boring summary of ENFP leadership strengths? Told ya.
The activity that ENFPs were most overrepresented for was "Writing." All NFs liked writing, and the ENFPs liked it the third most of all types. They also enjoyed "Appreciating art" (another favorite NF pastime), "Playing a musical instrument," (ENFPs were the only type that chose this) "Listening to music," "Education/learning very important," and "Reading." Along with ENTPs, ENFPs listed the most leisure activities of any type. ENPs seem to have the most fun of everyone.
ENFPs were underrepresented for the activities of "Watching TV for leisure" and "Watching TV 3 hrs or more per day."
Tieger has noted that ENFPs prefer clothing, hairstyles and accessories that express their unique, individual self. The emphasis on "unique" and "individual" implies that it will pretty much not be normal and traditional. ENFP garb may seem a bit eccentric, offbeat or avante garde; they may wear clothing with curious colors or patterns or dress with a "60s" flavor. Generally speaking, the ENFP style is more dramatic than average. Tieger further notes that ENFPs may wear tokens of the causes they support, i.e. a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, or a "Save the Children" pin. Presumably an ENFP car will feature similar bumper stickers.
As Perceivers, ENFPs tend to dress casually and comfortably. They "let their hair down" and are not too particular about getting everything right.
I won't be covering type dynamics or cognitive functions here. Type junkies may be wondering why not, since Ne, Fi, Te, and si are widely considered to be characteristic of ENFPs. But there is doubt over whether the cognitive functions exist. You can read about it here.
Although many of the observations that have been explained by cognitive function theory are valid, many simply are not. I believe that cognitive function theory causes more confusion than it clears up--particularly in the all-important area of figuring out one's type. I just don't see much point in pouring more time and effort into a bucket so full of holes, and have opted to leave out this part of type theory.
- Adolf Hitler - Fuhrer of the Third Reich, initiator of WWII, mass murderer. (Note: Hitler is often mistyped as an INFJ. At the very end of the war, he was extremely stressed out and began to take on some unhealthy INFJ traits that were not normal for him. However, his true, unstressed personality was ENFP.)
- ENFP Forum - A forum devoted to ENFPs!
- Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type - And Become a Better Parent - Dig up more info on parenthood and type here.
- The Art of SpeedReading People - Learn how to type people you meet within minutes.
- Mother Styles - Type and parenting.
- 16 Ways to Love Your Lover - Type, romance, and making things work after the marriage.
- See the Citations page.