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ESFP - Extraverted Sensing
You Only Go Around Once in Life
Of all the sixteen types, ESFPs are the most in touch with the
here and now and live primarily for the moment. As with ESTPs, their slogan
could easily be "Act now, pay later". As Extraverted-Sensors, their only certainty
is the here and now. They personify the bird-in-the-hand-is-worth-two-in-the-bush philosophy. When the bird is in hand, they have all they need; when there is no
bird, their energies are focused on getting one. While their Introverted counterparts
might reflect a bit before acting, ESFPs' are driven by their Extraversion to act
first to achieve the immediately tangible.
ESFPs may be the inspiration for Madison Avenue pitchmen: they exemplify such
slogans as "You only go around once in life..." and "If I only have one life to live,
let me live it as a blonde."
Can't we all just get along?
Their focus on the immediate leaves them with a low tolerance for procedures,
routines, and anything else that stands in the way of immediate gratification.
The combination of Extraversion, Sensing, and Feeling drives ESFPs to make each
moment a successful interpersonal experience. They are very accepting of others
and believe people should "Live and let live". So strong
is their need for harmony that they constantly tend to accentuate the positive,
denying and repressing anything that is less than positive, often employing
diversionary tactics to circumvent a conflict. If an argument
erupts, ESFPs may quickly start a conversation about something pleasant, hoping that
the combatants will join in and forget their differences.
Although Extraverted-Sensors are the ultimate realists, with a firm
grasp of the outer world, they tend to lose their way very quickly
in the nether regions of their inner world of abstraction. They tend
to become quickly enmeshed. Like their ESTP first cousins, given half
a second to speculate, they can proceed to the worst possible
conclusion. A mate or guest who is late for dinner is presumed, after a
moment's reflection, to be killed en route; when the guest then shows up
and offers a prefectly plausible excuse, it will be viewed with distrust
and suspicion. The imagination of the ESFP tends to run wild if given
half a chance.
All of this gives ESFPs an uncanny skill for making life a three-ring
circus, juggling many activities and people, and, for the most part,
enjoying the hustle and bustle, and the spotlight that is on them.
Unfortunately, they have low tolerance for those times when the circus
lights are down or the curtain is closed. Their need for action can
earn them negative labels like "flighty",
"hyperactive", or even "egotistical", which may
appear to be accurate even when they are not. In the presence of an
ESFP, one often feels positive, enthused, and excited, albeit somewhat
tired and out of breath from trying to keep pace and follow each new
dynamic as it surfaces.
Sex makes a difference
Gender has a lot to do with how ESFPs are viewed by others. Female
ESFPs, unfortunately, are often cast as "dizzy blondes"
(whatever their hair color), while male ESFPs are viewed, at best, as
"spacy" and, at worth, as wimps. Both males and females
constantly bemoan the fact that "no one takes me seriously".
The characteristics usually linked to ESFPs are considered more
traditionally female than male, such as "works well with
children" and "enjoys serving others" as well as
"conflict-avoidant" and "fuzzy-headed". As a result,
when a male ESFP demonstrates some or all of these traits, his
masculinity may be suspect. Because of their tendency to be somewhat
abrupt and quick-spoken, ESFPs can be seen at first blush as harsh --
although in the long run, they are caring and sensitive -- so an ESFP
male sometimes must work harder at giving in to his natural
"soft" side without feeling his masculinity is threatened.
More weak points
In general, both male and female ESFPs are often misperceived. The
spontaneity and immediacy of their nature (Perceiving) and their
firm grounding in "what is" (Sensing) as opposed to "what
can be" may make the ESFP appear lacking in depth, direction, and
purpose. But this is not the case. It's just that their depth,
direction, and purpose are always interpreted in light of the demands of
the existing moment. "I don't need a long-range plan if I make the
most of what I'm doing right now", they are likely to say. It is
precisely such sentiments that cause them to be perceived as shallow.
Like all Extraverted-Perceivers, ESFPs make more starts than finishes,
and it is therefore vital that they somehow develop a system of
benchmarks against which their accomplishments and progress can be
measured. This will act as a check on the ESFP's tendency to live
only for the excitement of the moment, with no real long-term
satisfaction, or sense of self-worth.
ESFP parents bring their three-ring circus into their homes as well as
their jobs. Multidirected, they can pack into a single evening for
their children everything from Little League to dance class, a church
meeting, and a home-cooked dinner. While this can be very exciting
for all involved, it also results in a feeling of overextension and
scatteredness that can ultimately cause guilt and self-flagellation
over all the things left undone. (One of those things left
"undone" can, unfortunately, be paying attention to a mate.)
Even when they themselves are not overextended, ESFP parents can make
their children feel that way, especially children of a different type.
In fact, ESFPs can seem like competition to their children. After all,
as believers in "living for the moment", they'd much prefer to
be one of "the kids" and get involved in an activity than to
sit on the sidelines as spectators with all the other parents. All of
this makes ESFP parents very popular with the neighborhood kids (and
their parents) but may lead an ESFP's child to conclude that "Dad
doesn't care about me personally, he's always off with my friends.
There's never time for just me". For the child, there are times
when the circus needs to stop. But even children who find life with ESFP
parents tiring will enjoy their warm supportive, easygoing ways.
One possible drawback to being so easygoing is that it can frustrate
the family with not enough restraints, directions, and general
discipline, to say nothing of "thinking about the future" --
any or all of which may be important to family members of different
types. Judging children, for example, while appreciating their parents'
fun-loving nature, may go to bed frustrated, hungering for a plan,
a schedule, an overall pattern for their lives.
The thrill-a-minute intensity ESFPs bring to parenting also
characterizes their intimate relationships. They are good at translating
the excitement of falling in love, or the intensity of commitments, into
each day's experiences. Today's passion, for example, may be tomorrow's
home-cooked meal, and the next day's "special surprise". All
of which, while exciting, may be misunderstood by a mate of a different
type. An Introverted mate may wonder why the relationship needs constant
external affirmation; the Judging mate may long for less upheaval and
Relax by doing things
As with everything else, relaxation for an ESFP involves
"doing". Remember: to spend too much time alone or reflecting
can lead an Extraverted-Sensing-Perceiver to leap to all sorts of bad
conclusions. So, "doing anything" beats "doing
nothing". "Relaxation" can include a great many demanding
activities that other types might not find so relaxing. But for the
ESFP, such activities provide not only fun and relaxation but the chance
to do more of the many things they've "always wanted to do".
Going to the beach for a relaxing weekend may result in a variety of
activities that may include exploring all the interesting shops on the
boardwalk or gathering a multitude of shells and making them into gifts
An ESFP child must often struggle to be understood. The ESFP child sees
himself as entertainer, dancer, garbage collector, car washer, train
engineer, the identities changing daily. As a result, these children
can often be seen as hyperactive, constantly needing strokes and
affirmation. The plus side is that they are very capable of
self-entertainment -- though their activities may not necessarily meet
with parental approval.
The need to be "doing" also applies to learning. When learning
is fun and social and a chance to entertain or be entertained, the ESFP
excels. When it begins to become more abstract and theoretical, the ESFP
starts to withdraw and ultimately loses interest. While
Sensing-Perceiving types tend not to do well in college (which requires
considerably more facility for the abstract and conceptual than earlier
education) and often drop out before graduation. ESFPs do well once they
learn that college can be a four-year party at parents' expense. They
may not excel academically, but they manage to perform well enough to
stay in school, making the most of campus social life.
At bedtime, ESFPs, like other Extraverted children, would rather fall
asleep at the top of the stairs than miss any excitement that may be
going on downstairs. And if any of the activities can serve as an
opportunity to be in the spotlight for one more moment, the ESFP child
is ready, willing, and able. Therefore, family rules, bedtime rituals,
study hours, and all other regimens will be stretched to the limit --
as will be the patience of the parents.
ESFPs generally make family events exciting and entertaining, though
they are generally are "happenings" rather than carefully
planned rituals. The lack of planning can cause family members of
different types (particularly Judgers) to become highly stressed as the
event approaches, although they may greatly enjoy the outcome. ESFPs
can work wonders at the last minute, pulling together a successful
party in mere minutes, often to the consternation of those watching
on the sidelines.
Career choices for ESFPs often include service to humanity such as
teaching, especialy elementary school, or working in the arts or
theater. They love athletics and anything else that provides relatively
instant gratification and allows for self-expression, concern for
others, and a challenge to accomplish, improve, and grow. Conversely,
careers requiring adherence to rigid routine or other kinds of
constraints will not only have low appeal for ESFPs but, in the long
haul, will be very frustrating. They are challenged by things that
are different, fun, and require some special effort to accomplish.
Later in life
In later life, the hunger for the unknown and the unexpected does not
end. This may best be illustrated through a woman we know who when her
husband died, met with a minister the night before his funeral. When
asked by the clergy man whether there was anything special she wanted
included in the service, she thought briefly, looked up, and replied,
Famous likely ESFPs include people who are viewed as flighty by all but
those who know them well. The character played by Gracie Allen --
flighty to everyone but George Burns, who viewed her as the backbone
of their team -- could easily be an ESFP. So could Edith Bunker, seen
by the audience as flaky, called "Dingbat" by husband Archie,
who nonetheless recognized that she was his Rock of Gibraltar. Both of
these women viewed the world in very concrete, literal-minded terms,
which made for much of the comedy of their roles. They were usually
to be found in the midst of a variety of activities, juggling several
people's problems and doing so in caring ways, acceptings of others'