The ENFP's Guide to Choosing Your Drama

Sensitive and empathetic, ENFPs are prone to taking on the weight of other people's problems. Whether it's a guilty friend or a boss with control issues, you have a tendency to strap on their baggage and carry it around as if you were their personal valet.

It's great that you care for people, but life's too short for toxic friendships. Here's how to stop overloading yourself with other people's problems and cut the cord on these energy-sapping relationships.

#1: Understand the "Why?"

Why are you so willing to take on other people's baggage? For most ENFPs, it's because you feel your happiness depends on other people. You are afraid that if you don't fix someone's problems, then they won't like you. Or that if you say 'no' to someone, then they will criticize you behind your back.

When you allow yourself to be so affected by the emotions of others, then you are making the problem about you rather than about them. You might think that you're being selfless, even noble, when you step in to help a person in need. But what you are actually doing is trying to make your own life easier by freeing yourself of those nagging fears.

Reframing the problem is important since it allows you to recognize that the problem lies with you, and not the other person. When you see the problem for what it is, then you will be motivated to step back and start establishing some healthier emotional boundaries.

#2: Assert your personal space

Alone time tends to make you uncomfortable - you are, after all, an empathetic extravert who craves connectedness. The problem for empaths like you is that spending too much time with others is counterproductive. Why? Because you tend to absorb others' energy and become anxious, overloaded or exhausted when you don't have time to unwind in your own space.

Asserting your personal space is the only easy way to make sure that other people's problems don't bleed you dry - so make sure that you have a safe space to retreat and take regular breaks from the drama. Even a five-minute bathroom break can help stop emotional overload. ENFPs can't fully escape emotional contagion until they do this.

#3: Stop trying to please everyone

If someone is dumping their emotions on you or using you to fix the problems they can't be bothered to fix themselves, ask yourself, is this really the type of person you want to like you? Even if you love the person, is it really OK for them to take advantage of you this way?

Accepting that you don't have to please people, or be responsible for their feelings, can be a radical idea for ENFPs. You might struggle with this concept at first. But in the long run it helps everyone, since you can get on with the task of helping the person in need in a calm, supportive and entirely non-dependent way. You'll give better advice that way, since you'll have detached yourself from the outcome.

#4: Set clear and consistent boundaries

It sounds obvious, but it's astonishing how many people are reluctant to set limits on a difficult situation. Knowing how much you can stand and setting meaningful boundaries is vital to coping with an overwhelming situation.

Realize that you don't have to stand around listening to someone whine about a coworker or brag about an affair. If you're not comfortable with the conversation, say "I'm not comfortable talking about that." Or simply hold up your hands and shake your head - this small gesture is usually enough to shut the conversation down.

Another option is to put a time limit on the conversation. Say, "I've got five minutes to listen to you, but no longer." If you feel guilty about turning people away, remember: if you're too overwhelmed to think straight, you will help no one. All those good intentions will go to waste.

#5: Return the baggage to the person who owns it

Returning baggage does not mean that you stop being compassionate or supportive of other people - that would run counter to your instincts. However, itt does mean listening carefully to the other person, then holding them accountable for their own choices and actions. If you don't do this, you're letting the other person down. You're taking away their sovereign right to manage their own emotions.

The bottom line is, it's not your job to fix problems unless you yourself caused the problem. And it's not your job to make other people happy or take on their problems as if they were your own. What people do with their feelings is entirely their responsibility.

As an ENFP, you are blessed with the ability to truly care about people. Part of that caring is giving them the space, time and respect to let them choose their own response. Learn to honor your own boundaries, and it will be easier for you to respectfully back off and allow others to do the same.

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. Since 2006, she has specialized in helping individuals and organizations utilize personality assessments to develop their potential.

In 2012, Molly founded Truity with a mission to make robust, scientifically validated personality assessments accessible to everyone who may benefit from them.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and racing toy cars with her son.


Guest (not verified) says...

Thank GOD!! I'm NOT alone in this situation. As an 'pure' ENFP I thought something was really wrong with me. Every ENFP discription tells me I should be really extroverted, but I'm soo tired of all these people around me dumping emotions, problems and negativity on me that I have come to shy away from every contact. I do not feel energized or connected at all anymore. And I was blaming myself for not having the strength to do something about it anymore. I'm really resenting people at the moment.

But knowing I'm not abnormal makes it a lot better. And knowing what to do also is a relief. The problem is that all the people I know rely on me listening, helping and be patient. I have started to state my boundaries but nobody listens. I usually start off with hinting that I do not want a conversation that is negative or emotion-dumping. In the process I have to become clearer (which I hate!) but still no response. In the end I force myself to say I'm really sorry but I cannot help you with this, I do not have the space in my head to listen to this right now etc. And then they get angry. Which is hell for me. I understand this is their problem and I should let go of this feeling. After much practice I have learned to do this with people I do not know very well. But with friends (especially the ones who will be expressing their emotions very loud en clearly to me) I cannot seem to do it. I retreat in myself and start resenting them and myself for not speaking up.

The good thing is, I know it's all about me. If I change, everything will change. But to whip up the courage to stand up for myself in a yelling situation is still to hard for me. The problem is that others know that yelling will do the trick to keep me quiet. Or telling me I'm egoistic, not a teamplayer, etc. etc. that does the trick as well. I'm so hurt by this that further communication becomes impossible. That really feels like a knife in my back since I do not see myself that way at all.

So I need to find a way out of this. The funny thing is I keep running into people that behave this way. So it seems clear that this is something I need to learn and a situation I must address otherwise this will haunt me forever ;)

I'm so glad you wrote this article! It certainly helps me along my path of 'drama'... (I have a difficult ESTJ in mind for practising!)

I'm grateful for sharing your insight with me, and others who could feel the same way

Lots of love,


Guest (not verified) says...

Great post! I think this is exactly what I needed to hear today.

Guest (not verified) says...

I couldn't have read this article at a more appropriate time. Thank you for sharing, fantastic post!!

Share your thoughts