Getting to know who we are ought to be easy. We look at ourselves in the mirror everyday. That only gives us a snapshot or perhaps a delusion if we think that is all there is. Using the MBTI as a tool for gaining self knowledge is an excellent choice, but as my response to this reader’s request illustrates it isn’t always accomplished with a first glance.

Can you do an article about ENFP and INFP differences?
I’m NFP but don’t know whether E or I.
(To make things more complicated I’m Enneagram 3 which is externally focused, so it is confusing me.)

When people first meet the MBTI model, they often look at it as a collection of preferences. So they try to decide am I really “Extroverted” or am I more “Introverted”. The four letters that make up the MBTI type are really a code that determines how the four functions of Intuiting, Sensing, Thinking and Feeling interact. This means that a person with preferences for INFP has a different dominant or leading function than a person with ENFP preferences. I sometimes think of dominant function as a persons first language. While we use all functions they are not all used equally and this flavours how we show up in the world.

The INFP leads with Introverted Feeling. They approach life looking through a lens of what is important and what is of value in a universal context. They can see the subtle differences in a constellation of factors such as the relative value of all the component parts involved – the various groups, the individual people, their actions, the beliefs and thinking underlying the issue. All of this is measured against their own inner value system to see what is in alignment and what isn’t.

The INFP “loves” the authentic in people and draws that out in them. Integrity, harmony, values and identity are words that resonate with the INFP. They are interested in what is deep and meaningful to the individual and they are not interested in people who don’t live up to their ideals.

On the other hand ENFPs lead with Extroverted Intuition. Having this dominant function is like having radar for the unspoken, the random occurrences surrounding a situation and a sudden knowing of what it all means. Brainstorming is like oxygen and the ENFP floats possibilities out to see which ones will rise to the top. They often follow several tangents at once without attachment and this ability allows them to navigate change as part of exploring life.

The ENFP is an inspiration junkie and wants to inspire and be inspired. They are known for their enthusiasm but have to watch to temper their enthusiasm with reality.

Your Dominant Function
Again it comes down to how do you know? The best way is always to combine taking the MBTI assessment tool through a certified practitioner combined with the coaching they will offer to do a self- determination of type.

I also recommend getting curious over a period of time and becoming a detached observer of your behaviour. On a personal note- even though I spend oodles of time alone and have become less and less social over time – the ENFP dominant function of Extroverted Intuition stands out a mile. Not only do I experience it I hear feed-back from others that this is what they experience too. At the same time I know that while I appreciate deep meaningful conversation I have no interest in sustaining that in the same way an INFP can and does.

The Step 2 Distinctions
To go back to the attitudes of Introversion and Extroversion for a moment. When I use the MBTI, I prefer the Step 2 inventory which breaks down each of the preference pairs into 5 sub-pairs.
People may be out-of-preference on one side of the equation that differs from their type code and this not only adds a layer of complexity but also explains a lot.

One individual who stands out had results that said he was ENTP but he was out-of-preference on the Introverted side for 2 of the 5 distinctions for Extroversion and Introversion. He determined that INTP was a better fit for who he was and how he operated in real life. The team that reported to him also gained an understanding of how to best communicate with him. They could see that he “went to his cave” literally and figuratively at times and yet he would respond when asked so that they had permission to ask.

Also I have seen it work that understanding potential out-of-preference distinctions allowed the person to be really comfortable with their MBTI results and yet fit in this seemingly confusing aspect of their behaviour. One person who typed as an Extrovert was out-of-preference for one of the 5 distinctions on the Introverted side. He was able to explain to his team that there were times were he felt quite shy. The team members confessed that they had experienced this and felt that understanding this distinction helped them not to take this shift in behaviour personally.

As for the Enneagram
Each of these personality tools needs to be first looked at on their own before trying to see how they work along side each other. They do not readily overlap in all places and even so experts do not agree on how they do. My ENFP preferences are not typical for an Enneagram 6 but make sense to me when I see my strong 7 wing.

My suggestion is to look at these 2 tools as separate entities for now. The Enneagram is not a fast study IMHO so be okay with being curious. You are simply fascinating and worth the time investment to explore.

I’d love to hear if this helped you come to a landing place and also love to hear how others resolve MBTI type confusion.

Category: MBTI Facts / Other Assessments
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