“I warned you. I took you out to dinner to warn you of charm. I warned you expressly and in great detail. Charm is the great blight. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art; I greatly fear, my dear Charles, it has killed you.” – Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
It’s no secret that all types have liabilities that they need to overcome. Some MBTI resources touch upon the problems of given types (INTJs are know-it-alls, ESFPs are boastful and rash), but they do so only lightly as they cannot risk alienating people from a system that they simultaneously wish to evangelize, spread, and market.
In this article we will explore a typical problem area for ENFJs and ENFPs: That of sincerity. At first glance, this mention of sincerity as a problem area might strike us as odd. After all, these are the intuitive feeling types who are usually described as people’s persons. Most dramatically so in David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me, wherein he describes all NF-types as valuing sincerity, authenticity, and benevolence, but also so in Isabelle Myers’ Gifts Differing where she says that they “Value, above all, harmonious human contacts.”. – How, then, can these types possibly have problems with sincerity?
The premise for the assertion is that all ENs will have an easy time tuning into what people want while feeling types will naturally try to accommodate. In regards to smaller or insignificant matters this is insanely charming, and makes people around the ENF feel at ease, even valued. But when applied to larger, more serious issues, it is exactly these people pleasing tendencies that turn around and become a liability to the sincerity of these types. As one INTP succinctly put it:
“It can make it a bit more difficult for me to trust them, when I can’t determine if they’re committed to what they’re saying or not.”
Indeed, to put it short, it’s a blurry and often unconscious slide from the quality of pleasantness to the vice of insincerity, and ultimately hypocrisy. We are here speaking of hypocrisy in the sense of social hypocrisy, defined as the act of pretending to have beliefs, virtues and feelings that one does not truly possess. In practical terms, this can often take the form of agreeing to a certain viewpoint in one company or context, only to turn about and agree to the contrary a few hours later, perhaps even never to internalize either position fully. Ultimately, this amounts to the ENF not sticking to her word; neither to the group to whom it was uttered nor to themselves and yet the ENF probably won’t even recognize it because it was never their motivation in the first place; – they simply aimed to please.
By far the easiest cure here is simply to present a given predicament to the ENF in sufficiently neutral and dispassionate terms. This allows them little room for accommodation, thereby allowing you to gauge what they truly value, beyond their layers of people pleasing behaviour. In many cases this is actually the optimal approach to handling ENFs, as it is the least time-consuming and requires only minimal personal allegiance from the ENF. A notable exception is in the case of friends, however; in heart-warm relations this approach is truly a disservice, as it allows your ENF friends to retain their liability indefinitely, with you working around it rather than them working on it.
While there are many outwards similarities between the people pleasing behaviours of the ENFJ and the ENFP, we must also understand that the ENFJ and the ENFP are widely different personality types in the sense that one is governed by Extroverted Feeling (Fe) and the other by Extroverted Intuition (Ne). If you don’t know the concept of dominant functions already, I recommend that you look into it at some point in order to familiarize yourself further with the idea. For now, you can simply note that ENFJs purposefully apply their Extroverted Judgment in order to supply warmth and goodwill while ENFPs operate on impulsive energies that they erratically employ to entertain, hoping that others will like them.
Let us, then, examine each type in turn.
ENFJ – The Harmonizer
Within the MBTI, Feeling and Thinking are traditionally referred to as judging functions while Intuition and Sensation are traditionally referred to as perceiving functions. I will not go further into the reasoning behind this here (instead see the essay “Dominant Functions”). Consequently, like all judging functions, Extroverted Feeling is concerned with generating attitudes and value judgments towards the objects that surround it, while in fact it is the perceiving function does the actual observation and perceiving. For the ENFJ, the Perceiving function is Introverted Intuition (Ni), which means that their primary mode of perception is actually inwardly directed and as such the ENFJ’s observations are actually somewhat negligent of the external situation compared to types whose perceptive function is outwardly directed. There is indeed a trade-off here: At the cost of this negligence the ENFJ instead receives greater constancy instead and is thus capable of pursuing ideas and projects all the further.
Now the Feeling function generally operates based on value judgments; while Introverted Feeling (Fi) allows a person to know what they value, Extroverted Feeling (Fe) allows a person to adjust their behaviour to the needs of others. As with all types dominated by Feeling the ENFJ typically has a strong belief in their value judgments. But coming from Extroverted Feeling (Fe) these value judgments will tell the ENFJ nothing about their own needs and values beyond what they have internalized of their surroundings. Never the less, ENFJs tend to place great stock in the judgments generated by their Extroverted Feeling (Fe) because to the ENFJ these judgments will appear to be based purely on objective observations. Yet as perceiving functions tend to operate unconsciously, the observations that end up ringing true to the ENFJ and are in fact predetermined by the ENFJ’s personal standard of agreeable- / disagreeableness.
With the lack of Introverted Judgment, an ENFJ who has not developed his or her capacity for introspective reflection will unconsciously elevate the external situation to a tyrant of the psyche. These ENFJs will be so preoccupied with external situations that they will do everything in their power to honour whatever needs or wishes there contained therein (be they voiced or unvoiced), even to the extent of breaking a promise or being untrue to their own opinions.
As I mentioned earlier, the MBTI Literature already touches upon many of these points. Actually I believe the points above can be satisfactorily summarized in three compact quotes:
“Apparently the [ENFJ’s] urge to harmonize extends even to intellectual opinions. A very charming ENFJ who has been interested in type since her high-school days to me earnestly, ‘So-and-so asked me what I thought of type, and I didn’t know what to tell her, because I didn’t know how she felt about it.’” – Isabelle Myers, in Gifts Differing
“ENFJs have definite values and opinions which they’re able to express clearly and succinctly. These beliefs will be expressed as long as they’re not too personal. ENFJ is in many ways expressive and open, but is more focused on being responsive and supportive of others. When faced with a conflict between a strongly-held value and serving another person’s need, they are highly likely to value the other person’s needs.” – From Personalitypage.com
“All thinking that might disturb [the process of extroverted] feeling is suppressed. It is possible for [external situations] to become so important that constantly changing feeling states result in accordance with the changes in surroundings.” – C.G. Jung, in Psychological Types
Finally, on a more anecdotal note, I wish to offer the following story once told to me by an ENFJ:
“This co-worker of mine is slimy and slick, he’s very charming and funny but it’s obvious that he shouldn’t be trusted. He made a joke and I was the only that laughed. I didn’t think it was funny I just laughed because my other co-workers were giving him the cold shoulder. I don’t blame them; he’s not a nice person in my opinion.
When I think about most of my interactions with this guy, I know I give a different impression than what I feel. I don’t like him, have never liked him, but he would never guess it, or rather I’d go to great lengths to hide my true feelings for him.”
The best way for an ENFJ to grow beyond these liabilities is to ardently balance their Extroverted Feeling (Fe) with well-rounded introspective observations. With regards to the MBTI and the order of functions (again, see the essay “Dominant Functions”), this would mean nurturing Introverted Intuition (Ni) to grow beyond the point where its observational input is no longer a slave to the judgments of Extroverted Feeling (Fe).
An Exercise for ENFJs
The easiest way to bring about the growth of your Introverted Intuition is probably to cheat your Extroverted Feeling. Commit a day to solitude and while sitting there focus on the fact that you are not really alone but in fact you are there. Resist the urge to go out or contact friends, but externalize yourself instead: If you were sitting opposite your clone in the room, what would you do to please him or her? This then, is what you must do; be true to yourself and you will eventually realize that you bring needs and wants into a given situation yourself. It is not always about the wishes and needs of others.
ENFP – The Pleaser
As previously mentioned, ENFPs are somewhat different from ENFJs in the sense that ENFPs don’t have clear-cut and implicitly-understood value judgments to guide them. When we look at this in relation to the order of functions, we see that this is because the ENFP’s dominant function is Extroverted Intuition (Ne), whereas the ENFJ’s dominant function is Extroverted Feeling (Fe). The beautiful thing about Extroverted Intuition is its ability to react to external stimuli, offering all sorts of novel connections and theories, but Extroverted Intuition will never be able to provide Judgment. Lacking such outwards judgment themselves, the undifferentiated ENFP will all too often be forced to rely on others for approval and validation. ENFPs who exert this behaviour are only rarely prompted by insincerity, however, but in fact they do so because it is the only readily available way for them to feel good about themselves.
What’s worse; were the ENFJ can maintain a point of praise delivered onto them by others, and thus keep drawing satisfaction from it, the ENFP with its lack of judgment cannot keep a focused history and so they find it absolutely imperative to please everyone around them over and over. This is not all bad for the ENFP and all good for the ENFJ, however: If this lack of a focused history has a tendency to render the ENFP fickle it conversely has a tendency to render the ENFJ self-satisfied on the grounds of things long since past, perhaps, even to the degree of removing the ENFJs incentive for the real introspective work that precedes personal growth.
As we have seen this ENFP fickleness arises from a perpetual and partly subconscious thirst for emotional affirmation and personal validation. Coupled with typical Ne love of being the centre of attention, this leaves the ENFP in a situation where they will go to great lengths to obtain this admiration, and with such much value placed in accommodation and true judgment being so inaccessible to the, they tend to have an easy time valuing accommodation and the present situation over “distant” principles they just don’t perceive the insincerity and hypocrisy that invariably follows, thus rendering them social hypocrites in the eyes of more stern and principal onlookers.
Or take the following quote on a supposed ENFP:
[His] essential character flaw isn’t dishonesty as much as a-honesty. It isn’t that Clinton means to say things that are not true, or that he cannot make true, but that everything is true for him when he says it, because he says it. Clinton means what he says when he says it, but tomorrow he will mean what he says when he says the opposite.”
Now I will turn to a personal example. I do not expect anyone’s opinion to be swayed by personal anecdote; I provide the story to illuminate on the points above.
I once worked with an ENFP producing a television show. Our editor had aired some intentions of censorship regarding our show and its content, should it prove too radical. Not having signed anything, I knew that the intellectual copyright still pertained to us, the authors, and I made this ENFP promise me that we wouldn’t let ourselves be censored.
Then one morning my ENFP partner calls me and says that our editor has started editing our show out of her own volition. Maintaining that the editor has no right to do so without our approval I rush to the television station and prepare to browbeat the editor, only to discover that my ENFP partner had given the clear some 20 minutes prior, caving into accommodation-pressure from the editor.
To be fair, the part they ended up censoring wasn’t particularly good though. But that is another story.
The ENFP in question admits to having caved to accommodation pressure twice (first the easy thing to do was to make the promise, then the easy thing to do was to break it). He didn’t even know what his own position was, he said but the question remains if not having no opinion is simply another and more advanced form of accommodation, as no-opinion cannot collide with other peoples opinions thus creating social uncomfortability.
ENFs themselves and they probably wont even recognize it because it isn’t their motivation. They set out to please or harmonize, but all too often loose themselves in the process. They merely aimed to please, but an evil done with good intent is still an evil, never the less.
Philosophically it is the problem of Dogville over again; the ENFP being the dog.
On a deeper psychological level, ENFX hypocrisy can be explained by the fact that ENFXs usually wallow in Fundamental Attribution Error. Being Extroverts they are more likely to explain their own actions by their environment, yet they attribute the actions of others to ‘innate characteristics’, thus leading towards judging others while justifying ones’ own actions. In other words, another prime example of hypocrisy.
Nietzsche once remarked that “man is the animal who can make promises”. Within the frame of the MBTI I take this to mean that man can manifest himself into a given situation by giving his word. This capacity embedded in man’s self-awareness which allows him to project his internal intentions awareness onto the external situation. Ironically enough, this means that a man with little natural regard for his internal world will regularly feel as if promises are something which the external world forces upon him: Like an animal will naturally identify with social (external/collectivist) needs or promises, that is, the anthill, the bee hive or the antelope herd.
One further remark on this matter pertains to the matter that the word responsible is composed of prefix re (meaning “to return, come back”) and sponsible meaning “to answer or promise”. From this matter we can deduce that being responsible in fact has to do with being able to internally identify with whatever word one has set out (or given) into the external world. If the counterweight of introverted cognition is missing, the ENF (or indeed any other person suffering similar problems) won’t perceive himself as untrue to his word but will instead see two external situations untrue to each other. If he hasn’t already, it is absolutely imperative for the ENF who treasures his personal development overcome this.