ENFJ (FeNi) 8 Cognitive Functions Explained
by Lisa Sparrow
Have you ever wondered what distinguishes ENFJs from other MBTI personality types? While we can easily say that it’s “the combination of their personality traits” and be right, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
To understand why ENFJ people behave the way they do, we must delve into the depths of their cognitive processes. This guide will help you decode the ENFJ cognitive functions and will help you learn about:
- The 4 Primary ENFJ Cognitive Functions
- The 4 Shadow ENFJ Cognitive Functions
- How Do ENFJ Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?
- How Do Unhealthy ENFJs Express Cognitive Functions?
What Are MBTI Cognitive Functions?
MBTI cognitive functions represent cognitive processes and preferences that define how each personality type behaves. In other words, there are eight mental processes that describe how a person perceives the outer world or makes important decisions.
These functions are divided into two categories:
- Judging functions—the ones that help a person make decisions, including
- Perceiving functions—the ones that allow a person to understand the world in a specific manner, including:
All these cognitive processes are further categorized as introverted or extraverted, depending on whether they are directed at a person’s inner or outer world.
Each of the 16 MBTI personality types has four primary functions (the ones they use the most) and four shadow ones (the ones they use the least).
It's now time to learn more about the primary and shadow cognitive functions of the ENFJ personality type. Let’s see what the ENFJ function stack looks like:
Primary ENFJ cognitive functions
Shadow ENFJ cognitive functions
The 4 Primary ENFJ Cognitive Functions
Let’s start this analysis by exploring the four primary ENFJ cognitive functions and the way they affect the ENFJ personality.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) is the dominant function of the ENFJ function stack, and it explains how this personality type communicates and makes decisions. Since it’s the primary one, all other functions are subordinated to it.
This mental process is responsible for the people-oriented nature of ENFJs and their gift of having a positive impact on others. It brings them a particularly warm-hearted and cheerful attitude, encouraging people to approach and confide in them. So, thanks to their Fe, ENFJs make others feel comfortable more than any other personality type.
Also, since this function makes ENFJs Extraverted Judging types, they often don’t restrain from expressing their reactions and emotions straight out. This may sometimes make ENFJs look impulsive or reckless.
Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Introverted Intuition (Ni) is also known as the auxiliary or “background” function of the ENFJ function stack. It indicates the ENFJ personality growth and determines whether a person is prone to developmental issues.
While the dominant Fe allows ENFJs to perceive what is happening in their immediate environment, the Ni helps them accurately interpret the future.
When Ni is well-developed, an ENFJ person can predict things that are yet to happen and use such insights to strategize and accomplish their goals. This function helps them remain aware of their potential and choose their life paths more easily.
Also, since this personality type loves people, they’ll use their Ni to help others realize how valuable they are. They usually do it by encouraging their friends and colleagues to pursue their dreams and offering them great advice for the future.
Extraverted Sensing (Se)
The ENFJ tertiary function, Extraverted Sensing (Se), shows how this personality type perceives concrete details in their surroundings. This function is present-oriented, which is why ENFJs are so responsive to external sensory information, such as taste, smell, sight, touch, and sound.
So, what does this mean? The answer is simple—ENFJ people are likely to remain highly alert to what’s happening around them. However, since Se is in the tertiary position in the ENFJ function stack, they can sometimes forget the small details while focusing on the bigger picture.
This mental process makes people with the ENFJ personality type creative and bubbly. It doesn’t allow them to settle for monotonous routines or boring jobs. Instead, it makes them yearn for new sensations, experiences, and material joy. In other words, Se is the main culprit behind the ENFJs’ hopelessly hedonistic nature and refined taste.
Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Even though Introverted Thinking (Ti) belongs to the primary functions, it’s in an inferior position for ENFJs. This means that it often trips ENFJs up and represents their weakest point. In this case, it’s the ability of this personality type to summarize the external information they receive.
Ti brings a sense of organization and affection for order and structure. ENFJ people love acquiring new knowledge and collecting information, which helps them grow and learn. The data they collect remains in their brain and can be the basis of many amazing ideas. Still, due to the inferior status of this function, ENFJs won’t know how to use such data in a logical, objective way.
Because of this, people with the ENFJ personality type may have trouble connecting all the data they receive into one piece. In such cases, they may get confused if they need to choose between several options or struggle to understand what each one brings. They may sometimes think logically and then suddenly lose track of what’s reasonable without apparent reason.
The 4 Shadow ENFJ Cognitive Functions
Let’s now turn to the other part of the ENFJ function stack and learn more about the four shadow functions of this personality type.
Introverted Feeling (Fi)
As you may already have noticed, Introverted Feeling is the direct opposite of the ENFJ dominant function. While Fe focuses on how to meet other people’s needs, Fi moves the spotlight to a person’s individual needs and makes this personality type more self-centered.
However, since Fi belongs to shadow functions, it doesn’t come to the fore as much. It remains hidden and appears only in cases when an ENFJ is stressed or worried about something. Until that happens, ENFJ people keep taking care of other people’s welfare rather than paying attention to their own needs and emotions.
People with the ENFJ personality type may find their Fi annoying or even try to smother it. This happens because they don’t feel good if they put themselves and their needs first. Still, when they realize that it’s good to care more about themselves, they’ll embrace this side of their personality.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
You’ve already learned that ENFJs rely on their inner intuitive abilities thanks to their Ni. However, if they switch to its opposite, Extraverted Intuition (Ne), they may start paying more attention to external patterns, which can utterly confuse them. When Ne is activated, it makes ENFJs lose sense of what’s right due to the numerous possibilities the outer world offers.
Having so many options to choose from, ENFJ people may start feeling irritated and refuse to acknowledge this side of their character. Such a hassle happens because they believe this function distracts them from their primary goals and planned activities.
Moreover, ENFJs can also become annoyed by people who have similar issues and start considering them incompetent. However, throughout life, people with this personality type can learn to appreciate the breadth this mental process may provide.
Introverted Sensing (Si)
Introverted Sensing (Si) is the antithesis of the ENFJ tertiary cognitive function. It helps ENFJs to seek stability and find a sense of continuity in their life. To do this, they must use Si to compare the present and the past and detect the crucial changes that may affect the future.
When this mental process is active, ENFJs start looking back on their past experiences in a negative way. They often overlook the good things the past has taught them and focus on painful memories instead.
Since ENFJs usually look forward to the future due to the numerous plans they make, they may consider Si redundant and distracting. For them, remembering bad moments doesn’t make sense—what they long for are new and better memories.
Yet, once they discover how to learn from hurtful experiences, ENFJs can change their minds for the better and learn to harness this function accordingly.
Extraverted Thinking (Te)
The role of the demon, the most suppressed cognitive function of ENFJs, belongs to Extraverted Thinking (Te). Its main goal is to awaken logical reasoning in a person and make them observe the world more rationally.
When an ENFJ is under the influence of this function, they stop being guided by their feelings and turn to their logical side. They don’t do their best to meet people’s needs anymore—instead, they start focusing on objective facts and empirical knowledge.
Since this isn’t the natural state of ENFJs, they find it vile. Also, they see other Te users as too cold and overbearing, which makes them hate this function even more.
If ENFJs become aware of the good aspects of logical reasoning, they’ll know how to use Te for a good cause.
How Do ENFJ Cognitive Functions Affect Personality Development?
We’ve learned how ENFJ cognitive functions affect specific parts of the personality. Now it's time to observe their role in the ENFJ character development at different stages in life, including:
- The first personality developmental phase (childhood)
- The second personality developmental phase (from adolescence to 30s)
- The third personality developmental phase (30s and beyond)
First Personality Development Phase
The ENFJ character evolution begins with the development of their dominant cognitive function, Extraverted Feeling. It’s the first mental process people with this personality type develop.
During childhood, young ENFJs are prone to hasty actions and tend to jump to conclusions quickly. Still, this doesn’t prevent them from achieving great things. They work hard to excel in their favorite disciplines and take their lives and goals quite seriously.
ENFJ children are rather cheerful and eager to communicate with others. As their Fe develops, they learn how to take care of their little friends and maintain harmony in their relationships with others. Their childhood is also the period during which they start developing their belief systems, to which they will stick throughout their lives.
Second Personality Development Phase
Once their childhood is over, ENFJs begin developing other cognitive functions, starting with the inferior (Introverted Thinking) and auxiliary ones (Introverted Intuition).
The period from adolescence to their 30s is the time when ENFJs face great challenges, such as choosing a suitable career or partner. When making decisions related to these aspects, ENFJs rely on their Ni to stay patient and gather necessary insights. This function helps them see the wider picture and make informed choices.
During these years, people with this personality type also start incorporating their tertiary function, Extraverted Sensing. This mental process helps ENFJs alleviate their need to constantly be in charge, relax a bit, and enjoy life. The combination of well-developed Ni and Se functions brings them more flexibility and open-mindedness.
Third Personality Development Phase
If an ENFJ enters the third development phase with well-developed cognitive functions, they’ll be able to detect the harmful influence of their inferior Ti. They should use the remaining years of their life to learn more about the weaknesses their function stack brings.
If they manage to spot the things that distract them from being their best selves, ENFJs get an amazing chance to find the best way to overcome them. Once they learn how to tame their demons and cultivate their positive qualities, they’ll achieve the peace and fulfillment they long for.
How Do Unhealthy ENFJs Express Cognitive Functions?
What happens when the primary ENFJ cognitive functions don’t develop well? Let’s find out!
Unhealthy Fe Expression in ENFJs
An unhealthy Fe expression can affect an ENFJ by bringing them:
- Too much emotional investment, since they tend to forget that not everyone will act the same way toward them
- Lack of ability to draw reasonable boundaries
- Constant feelings of guilt and shame when they don’t meet other people’s needs or expectations
- Confusion when it comes to facing conflicts with other people
- Self-sacrificial attitude without any apparent reason
- Tendency to self-dramatize
Unhealthy Ni Expression in ENFJs
An immature Ni function in ENFJs is characterized by:
- Hasty mistakes ENFJ people make while searching for the meanings of things
- Strong focus on the negative past or present experiences
- Tendency to rationalize their strange behavior as if it was purposeful
- Too much self-confidence when it comes to the depth of their insights
- Eagerness to pursue egotistical ideals even though they come across as people-oriented
Unhealthy Se Expression in ENFJs
If an ENFJ’s tertiary Se remains underdeveloped, they may:
- Hide their own insecurities by trying to control the people and situations around them
- Fail to compartmentalize their private or personal life
- Claim they’re special but still pursue superficial goals
- Use social comparison to define their own worth
- Be impatient when drawing conclusions, making judgemental errors
Unhealthy Ti Expression in ENFJs
An ENFJ will know that their Ti expression is unhealthy if they:
- Feel lonely and detached from the world
- Become too self-critical and feel doubtful about themselves
- Feel the need to justify their insolent behavior with unconvincing backstories
- Are considered irrational by other people, even though they don’t think so
- Come up with various reasons for maltreating or manipulating others
12 Personal Growth Tips for ENFJs
As we already mentioned, the best way for ENFJs to fully develop their character is to listen to their inner self. By performing solid self-introspection, people with this personality type can recognize their strengths and weaknesses and learn how to nurture their good side.
That being said, we’ll teach you some amazing tricks on how to better develop your inferior and shadow functions and avoid dissonance!
To develop your Ti, you need to:
- Engage in activities or games that require strong strategic skills, such as complex board games or puzzles.
- Practice your critical thinking by organizing debates on various topics with your family/friends.
- Work on bringing back your inner focus by meditating or doing other calming activities.
If you want to have a healthy Fi, here’s the catch:
- Work on defining your personal values by noting them down and reminding yourself to read them on a daily basis.
- Don’t forget to analyze your feelings and needs.
- Learn not to care too much about the norms and expectations imposed by society.
Developing your Ne is easy if you:
- Aren’t afraid to question your views and beliefs.
- Don’t hesitate to improve the parts of your life you aren’t happy with.
- Make sure you surround yourself with imaginative and interesting people that will support your growth.
And finally, to polish your Te, you’ll need to:
- Stop feeling bad when expressing your opinions—because they matter.
- Consider all the pros and cons before making important decisions.
- Avoid hasty actions and jumping to conclusions without thinking.
And that’s all about the ENFJ cognitive functions! Hopefully, you now know everything about the crucial mental processes in the ENFJ function stack.
Remember that learning about the ENFJ cognitive functions can help you decode the secrets of your own personality as an ENFJ or better understand the ENFJs around you. This way, you’ll also learn how ENFJs differ from other personality types!