Ranking the Briggs-Myers Personality Types By Who's the Most Addicted to Taking Risks

Hands up if you read this title and immediately answered, "ESTP!" I know I did. These types are renowned for being high-adrenaline risk takers who live life in the fast lane. If there is a type that's the most likely to zoom down the face of an active volcano on a plank of reinforced plywood, it's surely the ESTP.

So, imagine my surprise when I did some digging and decided that, when it comes to risk-taking, ESTPs are outgunned by a couple of other personality types. They may be reckless, but these guys are cowards when it comes to taking risks consistently and living their entire lives outside the comfort zone.

Intrigued? Here's what's going on.....

What does taking risks mean, anyway?

It's easy to associate risk with putting yourself in extreme physical hazard, like heli-skiing or big wave surfing but, actually, risks are of different types and happen in different situations. Some risks you might not even recognize as such because they are part of our everyday lives. For example: 

Stepping outside your comfort zone and becoming more courageous in your choices is taking a risk because there's a hint of failure attached to the idea. Some people have an insatiable curiosity to try different things, from eating in a new restaurant to switching jobs every couple of years. Others avoid novelty as much as possible and prefer routine.

Choosing one opportunity over another is taking a risk because you're putting your faith in a single outcome. By deciding to commit your time and energy to one opportunity, you risk missing a better opportunity and getting uncertain results.

Taking the road less travelled is taking a risk because not everyone will appreciate the value of your choices. When you follow your own path, you stop people-pleasing. Some people may not handle that you're operating on your own terms and you risk closing the door on certain relationships.

Doing anything that could lead to perilous results is definitely taking a risk, and most of us will do this only if the results are worth the risk. We all have different levels of analysis, though, such that one person's calculated risk is another person's foolish one.

Now that we understand what risk is, let's see what happens when we throw personality into the mix.

The biggest risk-taking personalities, ranked from most to least

Personality factors play a big role in determining how daring, competitive, flexible, cautious, easygoing and careless you are, so it stands to reason that they should also play a big role in whether someone is inclined towards risk. The problem is, there's no definitive research on which personalities are the most risk-taking (or none that focus on the 16-type personality system). Some studies have linked a high score on the Big Five trait of "Openness to Experience" and a low score on both "Agreeableness" and "Neuroticism" with risk-taking behaviors, but that's about as far as the research goes.

So, this is my list, based on what I know. Let me know if you disagree!  

1. ENTP

ENTPs have a high focus on novelty and are very willing to jump into new ideas, try out different possibilities and even move in completely different directions if it's going to add to their learning experience: to an ENTP, there is no comfort zone! As Rationals, you might expect them to run a full risk-benefit analysis before confronting the unknown (again and again). But, ENTPs are so confident that they can get themselves out of any hole they dig themselves into, they often plough ahead with little evidence of a contingency plan. It isn't risk taking in the sense of jumping off cliffs, but this willingness to live life outside the comfort zone makes ENTPs the type most willing to take risks.

2. ENFP

Extraversion and Perception go hand-in-hand with a craving to make life as exciting as possible, so it's no surprise to see ENFPs running a close race for the top spot when it comes to taking risks. People who lead with extraverted intuition are entrepreneurial, highly exploratory and love taking risks with ideas. They pretty much have no brakes when it comes to looking for the next crazy scheme to pursue or explore. There's some evidence to suggest that Thinkers are more inclined to take risks than Feelers, which is largely due to their compassion for others. For that reason, ENFPs will have to be content with second place on my list.  

3. ESTP

Now we're in familiar territory! ESTPs are the adventurous thrill-seekers of the 16-type system - the type most likely to chase tornadoes for fun. Sensation-loving by nature, everything they do tends to be impulsive and excitable, especially if it scratches an itch they're having in the present moment and they can make things up as they go along. ESTPs take risks for sure – so why the #3 spot? Well, even adrenaline junkies need security. ESTPs really value the idea of family and working with familiar people is important to them. It's this need for a backbone of stability that bounces them to number three on my list.

4. ESFP

ESFPs would rather take risks than remain stuck in the same place for too long, which puts them right up there with ESTPs in terms of risk-taking behavior. If something feels right, they are just going to do it and to heck with the consequences. True happiness, however, stems from the moments they spend with the special people in their lives. Having a family and being of service to others is important, and this can temper the propensity for risk taking into something more subdued. 

5. ISFP

ISFPs have one ambition in life, and that's to follow their hearts wherever it may lead them.  They have no problem with stepping outside of their comfort zone if that's going to help them pursue their passion. Spontaneous and experimental, ISFPs will grab whatever idea enthuses them in the moment, to the point of being quite unpredictable. They do get stressed quite easily though, and may shut down when a situation gets out of control. The healthy ISFP will learn from this experience and use it as a reminder to curb excessive risk taking; hence, number #5 on the list.

6. ENTJ

If Extraverted-Perceiving goes hand-in-hand with taking risks, then our Extraverted-Judgers take a different route by having excellent impulse control. ENTJs make the list at #6 because they are willing to take a long-term risk if it fits with their vision of the future, and strong-willed enough to know when they can beat the odds and push a calculated risk through. They won't waste their time on low-payoff risks, however. ENTJs do a lot of study before they switch to play to win mode, so they're generally pretty confident that a risk will work out before they decide to take it.

7. ISTP

ISTPs are practical people, solving problems by troubleshooting and trial and error, and you cannot explore the world this way if you are held back by fear. So, there's a definite tolerance for risk-taking here. It's not risk-taking in the conventional sense – ISTPs are unlikely to do things they consider to be truly dangerous – but their tendency to get bored easily often leads them to boundary-push in the pursuit of something new and interesting. Rational and practical, ISTPs will typically weigh up their chances before making an educated decision. Where that leads, really depends on the individual's take on risk and reward.

8. ENFJ

ENFJs take a mixed view of risks. They are not averse to risk itself, but will only take action after thorough analysis and preparation. Along with ENTJs, ENFJs are our "composed" risk takers – not usually very reckless, but can demonstrate quite a bit of nerve if the situation calls for it. They tend to be much more heart-ruled than ENTJs, however, and spend a lot of time tending to the needs of others. This makes them more risk averse, since they'd be deeply upset if their own actions hurt anyone else in some way.

9. INTJ

INTJs have open minds and healthy egos, and are not unnerved by the idea of taking calculated risks as long as there is clearly something to be gained from it: it's illogical to have to deal with risks if you are not receiving something beneficial in return. If, on a cost-benefit analysis, the risk is worth it, then INTJs will go right in with a solid strategy - thinking ahead, anticipating the consequences and preparing a back-up plan. It's all a bit sensible – some might even say prudish – and for that reason, INTJs occupy the middle ground at number #9 on my list.

10. INTP

INTPs are even-tempered and highly rational, which means their risk-taking is governed more by their heads than their hearts. They enjoy stepping out of the ideological comfort zone and realize that taking risks is necessary to accomplish anything worthwhile. What they won't do, is risk life and limb for cheap thrills. Above all, INTPs are free thinkers. They are more balanced than radical in their approach but enjoy challenging the status quo and definitely will take risks in order to break new ground.

11. INFP

Aristotle said, "virtue is at the midpoint," meaning that most of us find worth in leading a relatively stable life, without eternal chain routines or continuous leaps of faith. And that just about sums up the INFP's attitude to risk. They tend to be spontaneous of thought and slow of deed, with a pattern of analysis paralysis that stops them taking too many risks. INFPs will take a chance if it's the right thing to do. But they'd much rather do their own thing and stay within a familiar pattern to avoid disastrous consequences.

12. ESTJ

ESTJs are dependable souls, favoring predictability and continuity over change and innovation. Taking risks seems imprudent when you could just carry on having an orderly life. While the young ESTJ may take a few moderate risks (after thorough preparation), it only takes one or two catastrophic failures for them to become much more cautious in their approach. Generally, ENTJs play not to lose. They will take risks to avoid losses but are less willing to take risks that promise high rewards.

13. ESFJ

Like ESTJs, ESFJs opt to tie their boats to the safest harbor in their personal and professional lives. They value order and convention, and the ambiguity inherent in risks makes them feel deeply uncomfortable - when an ESFJ does take risks, it's only when the outcome is fairly secure. Natural peace keepers, ESFJs do everything they can to keep their loved ones happy. They are unlikely to take any kind of risk, even one that has a good chance of a positive outcome, if it could jeopardize harmony or negatively affect the people close to them.

14. INFJ

Like INTJs, INFJs will take risks only if they can clearly identify the reward and it exceeds the risk they're about to take. If the reward is great enough, INFJs will go all in with 100 percent of their energy. For the altruistic INFJ, however, it is uncommonly rare for the reward to match the risk, even less to exceed it. INFJs think beyond their immediate experience and if there's even a small chance that other people could be hurt by the INFJ's risk-taking – something they see all too clearly – then the risk is just not worth it. Hence: #14 on the list. 

15. ISTJ

ISTJs are vigilant, cautious and wary of risk, which means there's zero chance of them doing anything that could cause permanent damage to their body! They have a strong fear of change and of failure, and feel deeply uncomfortable when placed in situations they don't understand. Put simply, ISTJs are fact people. They trust what is true and verifiable and will not take a chance on something based on a hunch or abstract possibilities. Security is their watchword. Even if they know what is expected of them, they still will need a lot of pushing to try out a novel solution to a problem.

16. ISFJ

As Guardians, ISFJs are always going to value tradition, convention and the tried-and-the-true over novelty; they may deliberately structure their lives to avoid taking risks. There's also some evidence to suggest that ISFJs suffer from more stress-related issues than we would expect based on their proportion in the overall population. So, there's a fair chance that any situation that has potential for failure will scare them away. If an ISFJ does take a leap of faith, it is because he has meticulously weighed up all the pros and cons – and has a good safety net to catch him if he falls.

Jayne Thompson

Jayne is a freelance copywriter, business writing blogger and the blog editor here at Truity. One part word nerd, two parts skeptic, she helps writing-challenged clients discover the amazing power of words on a page. Jayne is an INTJ and lives in Yorkshire, UK with her ENTJ husband and two baffling children. Find Jayne at White Rose Copywriting.

Comments

MH (not verified) says...

Hello, good article.  I happen to be ENTP and my wife ISFJ.  So, we always get a chuckle to know that we're complete opposites in every letter.  Truly opposites have attracted here.  Also, did you intend to swap the names Myers and Briggs in your title?  

Greg Wochlik (not verified) says...

The description of the INTJ is spot on, if you ask me. I do take a risk when the reward-risk ratio is correct.

My recent 'risk' was a 700km solo road trip done in a single day. I researched the route, and came up with a very rough plan. There were two moutain passes which needed visiting (both on untarred roads).

I had my credit card as a contingecny plan; The trip was done on a Saturday: if I need to spend the night somewhere, I had Sunday available to me. My vehicle is a Suzuki Jimny, which is a "baby 4x4", with low-range. I have attended the relevant courses, and have the rudementary rescue equipment.

The section that I wanted to explore didn't dissapoint: In Google, I found a road tunnel on a dirt road. Obvioulsy I needed to drive through it. However, there was a stretch of road of extremely poor quality which took much, much longer than anticipated. (1 hour planned, 4 hours executed). That was an acceptable risk for me to take. It was an intelligent risk: I used that trip as self-training for a big, multi-day solo expedition in December. I wanted to be off the dirt roads before sunset. That didn't happen: I looked on the bright side (pardon the pun) and saw it as experience gained driving on dirt in the dark.

I expected to be home by 6 or 7pm. I arrived at 11pm. I took a few intelligent risks; the pay off was about 110 photos from the trip. The day trip felt like a much longer holiday.

 

Marcia Reisz (not verified) says...

As an INTJ I thought our ranking of moderate risk takers was pretty accurate. I'll risk something if the odds are 50/50 or better. Like starting a small business (which I did) or changing jobs (which I also did). But I always have a backup plan or two. My ESTJ hubby is a zero risk kind of guy and thinks I'm crazy sometimes ... lol.

Terry Chi-town (not verified) says...

i wasn’t surprised to see that ENTP was #1. That’s my personality type and I’d often seen the look of pure horror on the faces of colleagues when I suggested ideas for future projects. To me they seemed bold but completely doable and my colleagues clearly thought they were risky. I live to learn and am bored if things aren’t changing in interesting ways. I’m not bothered by risk because I believe that I can find a way to fix or mitigate any trouble we might run into. 

Kyra (not verified) says...

As an ENFP, this is spot on! I bungee jumped because I drove past a place and yelled to my friends, pull over we have to do this. I had never done it and it looked legit, so it was a new experience, a new adventure and done. I dated an ESTP and spot-on for him as well, he was a professional skydiver, rode motorcycles, but he did it with his group of friends and was consistent about it for years. He wasn't chasing an adventure or open to as wide of an array of options for new adventure as I was. But he was WAYYY better at me at all physical endeavors - that's the artisan trademark for sure.

NPC (not verified) says...

When I saw ENTP on top I chuckled. I'm an ENTP myself and would agree. It's a mystery to me how others often perceive me as a person with a plan. I don't have a plan and I don't plan. I enjoy contemplating different choices as a rational but ultimately my gut has the word, or I just go with what I have. And it works, so why change anything about it? Guess what, I changed something about it. Recently, mainly because of an ESTP in my life actually, I started being invested in the idea of creating my own  comfort zone and breaking out of it / have people pull me out of it, to experience what it is like for non-ENTPs. What to be afraid of, what to take pride in that can be attacked by something, all that social construction that I can observe in others. It's always startling for me to see people who are struggling with change or spontaneity, who get irritated and insecure in such situations, I don't understand what they feel like. So I'm trying that out, and I could actually find some minor things that I care about a bit more than I thought, which makes me more mature in how I handle situations related to those. I also play around with having (ridiculously) strict goals, stick to them, fail and be disappointed. Just to get the concept and see if I like it. Maybe that will develop my Si... It would surely help with being even more resourceful to manage even more "risks". Is that called moving out of the comfort zone? I don't know. I don't think this can work the other way around for others, to have that swashbuckling attitude to life... or if it does, why do they not try it? Well, I hope that little rant was enjoyable to read. I also want to emphasise that, while ENTPs might not have what is called a comfort zone, they do enjoy comfort and do have principles they don't understand themselves, so be cautious in assuming that being open minded risk-takers means that ENTPs are going to take whatever provocation it may be. As we are remotely aware of what risks can mean for others, our "comfort zone" ends where others come into play and the value of integrity is at stake. To prevent further misunderstanding I've faced in the past: When an ENTP talks about implementing change, even if it's a remark along the lines of "I think everybody could do better if...", it's not necessarily because they are disappointed in the current status! They're just one step away from getting super excited about how it could change. Rantin

Lu (not verified) says...

as an INFJ, I found this utterly wrong. I’m a serious risk taker - this year I’ve gone shark cage diving, trekked across the Sahara for three weeks, trekked through mountains, gone on safari, etc. However, I assessed each risk, knew the cost versus the reward, and acted. I think this post is presented in a way that skews in a direction that doesn’t truly understand nuances of the INFJ personality.  

NPC (not verified) says...

Read again. Your understanding of risk doesn't match the context given here, hence the interpretation. You're a serious risk-taker you say, and this article is ranking those on top who do not see any risk as a serious risk.

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