In the world of improvisation, there is one foundational principle that all improv actors live by, and that is the concept of “Yes, And...”
The idea behind this is that when two performers walk out on stage together for an improv scene, the first to speak may say something like, “Wow, the waves sure are getting choppy, Captain.” This gets the audience to start envisioning a pirate ship on rough waters.
Then the other replies in a way that both validates the picture the first actor has started to paint and also adds something to it by saying something like, “Yes, and I’m starting to worry we may not have enough food left to feed the crew.”
Together, by engaging their creativity and imaginations, the two improv players set the stage for an intriguing world full of possibilities.
That’s sort of what it’s like to be an ENFP—except, instead of two actors on a stage, it’s just us in our own heads. We are constantly “Yes, And…”ing everything in life—including our very identities.
When I took a certification course on Myers and Briggs' personality theory, our instructor told us that the people who have the most difficult time determining their type are usually ENFP personality types. He said this is because ENFPs are so mutable that they relate to almost every other personality type to the point that it can be confusing for them to peg down which one is the best fit. And yet, the fact that we are ever changing and struggle to easily define ourselves is, in and of itself, a trait that defines us.
Since we can be difficult to spot (even, if not especially, when we may be one ourselves), here are just a few of the most surprising traits one may find among ENFPs—or, as I’ve often heard us referred to, walking contradictions.
When we think of a textbook ENFP, words like “spontaneous,” “disorganized,” or even “flighty” may come to mind. While these may be true for us at times, underneath it all, we tend to be rather strategic.
Sometimes this trait is demonstrated in small ways. For example, I like to buy toothpaste and shampoo in bulk to save money since I know I’ll use them eventually. And yet I often wait to fill my fridge until it’s left with nothing but a week-old takeout box and a half-used jar of mayonnaise. Priorities, right?
Other times, our strategic capabilities may come out to play when we are in positions of leadership and need to determine the best course of action on an issue that will benefit employees, customers, and stakeholders.
Because of our strong, natural inclination to take in information via our intuition, we often see how things interconnect. Just as we ourselves are often in a state of flux, we see everything else in the world in much the same way. We have a sense for how life often operates like more of a spider’s web than a straight line, with one small tap of the filament on one side causing shifts and changes on the other.
So when the need arises, we can be quite skilled at assessing the multiple factors, timelines, and possibilities at play in order to devise a foolproof plan. We typically find great joy in the brainstorming and strategizing phases of a new project and thrive in the areas of generating ideas, devising strategies, and engaging others in the excitement.
2. Future-focused and nostalgic
Yes, this is a two-for-one with an “and” in it because these seemingly dichotomous traits are actually like two sides of the same coin. Plus, we ENFPs have difficulty choosing one option.
We are typically portrayed as people who live in the present and don’t worry too much about the past or future. While that can definitely be true, we also spend a lot of time consulting our hearts/guts to analyze what has happened in the past as well as mentally and emotionally prepare for what we predict may happen in the future.
It’s helpful to be able to shift in and out of focusing on the past, present, and future. However, if we ever find ourselves focusing too heavily on either the past or the future, we may romanticize the past or idealize future possibilities.
When we’re stressed, we may even focus a bit too much on the details and worry about potential outcomes that are not very likely to happen. While we may usually be carefree, if you catch us during a time when we’re particularly frazzled, something like noticing we have so much as a sniffle may lead us straight to browsing WebMD to draw the absolute-worst-case-scenario conclusions.
That’s why it’s so important to tap into our core personal values and center ourselves again, right here in the present.
ENFPs are often characterized as being happy-go-lucky, heads-in-the-clouds children at heart who love unicorns, rainbows, puppies, and all things magical. And while we absolutely do our best to enjoy life to the fullest, doing so often also involves a lot of deep exploration of even the most difficult or painful sides of life.
We want to experience both the breadth and depth of life—the full, colorful spectrum of existence. (Okay, so maybe rainbows really are kind of our thing.)
We not only love learning about all different people and ideas, but we also get great joy out of discovering a deeper meaning in everything. The way ENFPs make sense of the world is through our feelings and values, or our gut sense of intuition. So for every hour you may see us talking and laughing with friends at a party, we spend almost equal amounts of time processing the conversations and events of the evening on our own later.
So don’t be surprised if an ENFP friend ever approaches you a day (or even months or years) after a conversation with you, sharing that they want to apologize for something they had said after giving it some thought.
While our thoughts and opinions may fluctuate as we take in new experiences and information, one thing that never changes is our wanting to stay true to our values. And those values often include a deep love and appreciation for people, especially our family and friends. In fact, we probably think about them a whole lot more than they will ever know.
Due to our preference for Feeling, ENFPs naturally tend to operate from a very heart and/or gut-centered place when making decisions. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t take facts and rational reasoning into account when coming to conclusions. In fact, we are quite adept at talking things through to reach metered, level-headed decisions.
While much of our emotional processing takes place internally, a lot of our mental processing takes place out loud as we discuss our thoughts with others. Sometimes we may even write down what’s floating around in our heads so we can organize it and make sense of all the factors going into a decision.
Overall, ENFPs try their best to put stock in both the emotional and logical aspects of decision making. Because they are very dualistic in nature themselves, they see and respect the inherent value in both perspectives and seek to combine them to arrive at the most holistic, logical conclusions.
ENFPs are often referred to as “Champions” or “Advocates” because they have a knack for seeing potential in others and encouraging them to believe in themselves. One might assume that their confidence in others would extend to their having a strong sense of confidence in themselves, so it could seem counterintuitive that ENFPs often engage in self-deprecating humor.
However, we don’t necessarily poke fun at our own quirks or imperfections due to having feelings of low self-worth. More often than not, we simply do so as a means of connecting with others and helping them feel comfortable being who they truly are. See, I told you we can be strategic! And what better strategy to use to connect with others than humor?
ENFPs value authenticity so much that they not only strive to be fully themselves but also to be a safe haven for other people to be their most genuine selves as well.
In a way, we ENFPs are like water, taking many different forms yet always composed of the same elements. And just like a rushing river, an ocean tide, or even an improv actor in a quick-moving scene, we are adaptable.
Yes, we are always changing, and we are always the same.
Yes, we are light-hearted, and we take life seriously.
Yes, we listen to our heads, and we follow our hearts.
It is our ability to ebb and flow while somehow maintaining a strong sense of self that makes us ENFPs through and through.
So, yes, ENFPs are exactly as you’d imagine, and they are nothing like you’d ever expect.