I adapted the following insights from Lenore Thompson’s Personality Type book. If you wish to learn more, I recommend it as an excellent, in-depth resource with far more insights than alluded to here.
Se-dominance (Extroverted Sensing, ESPs) cultivate learning through hands-on involvement, by strengthening the link between sensing perception and instinctive response. Their bodies must get into the act. They believe true knowledge is always concrete, a product of first-hand experience. Like the person who wants to try deep sea diving and knows the only way to learn is through doing it—plunging in and getting a “feel” for what it requires. To a Se-dom, direct experience is all that counts. They take action, see what happens, and make adjustments when they do it again.
Se-doms are not just physically active, but socially. What is going on around them deeply influences them and cultivates a desire to take part in it. They get a “feel” for atmosphere, style, and image. They know what interests others and often want to be on the cusp of it.
ESPs depend on Se for their identity and relationship with others. They understand life by way of their surface perceptions and prefer situations that change rapidly enough to hold their attention. Their senses may be so in tune with the outer world, they seem to be anticipating things before they happen. They may get bored when a situation denies them hands-on experience or requires assessment without action. Their need for sensory input is so strong, these types may find it difficult to recognize relationships apart from their physical proximity and direct responses. They may live by the mantra “distance makes the heart grow fonder—of someone else.” They need to see and therefore know they are having an impact on others.
They choose professions, hobbies, etc., that ensure some form of sensory feedback. They gauge and tailor their performance by its immediate effect on the situation or on the people involved. ESPs are often witty, entertaining communicators who quickly read and connect with an audience. They know when their audience is “with them,” and stay with this feeling as long as it lasts. They assess what’s happening, play to it, and escalate it.
They physically embody what society regards as admirable, stylish, fascinating, outrageous, or exciting. Their self-assurance, charisma, and appetite for life can infect others. If they aren’t getting enough feedback, they will push others for it, goading them into some kind of a physical response. They need to see the raised brow, feel the touch of someone’s hand on their arm, hear an intake of breath, to feel connected to what is happening and know how to respond to it. They will avoid thinking about problems that cannot be easily bodily solved. Many of them prefer physical challenges and will deliberately seek them out, as a way to test their bodies and their capabilities.
All ESPs cherish freedom and individuality and don’t want to be trapped by others’ ideas about normal or typical behaviors. ESPs don’t see much use in developing viewpoints beyond their need to be “alive” and “true to myself.” They believe in going for it, not hiding behind other people’s doubts and expectations. Their response-ready approach to life commits them to circumstances as they exist, here and now. The more they work on developing their introverted judgment function, the better they are at improvising successfully. They may all take whatever opportunities arise that guarantee success, without meaning any of them. ESPs may take things at a surface value and assume “what you see is what you get,” which is not always the case. They need to shift into recognizing the larger implications of things.
ESPs believe “life is right now”—explosive, impulsive, kinesthetic, a matter of doing and having things. They lose interest quickly with information unrelated to their skills and interests. ESPs respond to negative situations by recognizing their responsibility to the situation, the part they play in it, and by moving to affect it for the good (taking action to change the situation or steer it in a new direction).
ESPs use their second function only when it supports their dominant aim and goals. Neglect of it makes them purely about experiences, rather than able to assess their contribution to the world in a meaningful way. But more often, they feel the pull of their inferior Introverted Intuition (Ni). Ni suggests to them that absolute meaning is an illusion, the result of having incomplete information. ESPs refuse to recognize this perspective as part of their internal make-up. It seems stupid and dangerous to them, the province of theorists who fear to take action. When experiencing Ni impulses, the Se-dom feels as if their way of life (direct experience) is being criticized by abstract standards and assumptions—by someone who wasn’t there and doesn’t know them. They are certain people are discriminating against them for their surface identity. When something contradicts the straightforward expectations dictated by direct experience, inferior Ni tends to foster the suspicion of conspiracy where none exists.
ESPs experience regular bouts of dissatisfaction. When Ni spirals outside their control, they interpret it as restlessness and seek new challenges rather than taking it as an invitation to go beyond their usual method of handling things. They must embrace this dissatisfaction as giving them time to reflect and determine what they want to bring to life rather than just what they can get out of it.
Distinctions between ESTP and ESFP
Both types enjoy action and excitement in forms dependent on a familiar framework of perceptual experience. They need some familiarity to count on for their adaptation, so they accumulate as much experience in their interests and field as necessary to give them the knowledge to adapt in a wide range of situations. But their judging functions (Introverted Thinking and Introverted Feeling) approach situations and people very differently.
ESTPs are realists of the first order, with a talent for evaluating variables and responding with action. They know far more than they can express about what’s likely to happen and what they can do to prevent or support it. They read people very well and are aware of the impression they’re making. ESTPs can be ruthlessly pragmatic, capable of depersonalizing a situation and seeing others as players in a game that results in winners and losers. They may believe most relationships are basically interchangeable. They have little patience for or interest in contemplating abstract knowledge. They prefer concrete facts with practical application.
They like the thrill of the game and play out their need for action and challenge in fast-moving careers that require think-on-your-feet decisions and split-second coordination. Often, they choose professions that require both mental and physical agility. They have a talent for evaluating variables and instantly responding with action. They take in so much information at a glance, they may appear to have a sixth sense. They are competitive, calculating, and prefer to aim for more rather than settle for less. If their profession won’t allow them to be active, they will find a hobby that will. Without such outlets, ESTPs can become reckless and self-destructive in their search for never-ending stimulation. They read people well and always know the impression they are making, and are entertaining in their stories of what they have done, seen, and whom they have met. They are so alert to others’ responses, they can use this skill to their advantage in negotiating ends favorable to their own interests.
ESTPs favor immediate achievement but may not care to build on the foundation they have established in favor of moving on to a new challenge. Once they have mastered something, they tend to move on. They are strategic in their romantic attachments and have their own honor code. They often sweep the other person off their feet with their charisma. But they are also utter realists who are not seeing much beyond their partner’s ability to embody the traits the culture associates with a desirable partner. They treat romantic gestures like a courting game, a challenge. They also have little patience for abstract knowledge and contemplation. They prefer facts with a concrete and practical application. They aren’t inclined to explain their motivations or justify their behaviors. Whenever Ni pulls at them, they will find a new challenge or seek external stimulation.
Without getting a sense of their own purpose, ESTPs focus their feelings of unhappiness on the reactions they are getting from others. Their first instinct is to go over “better” through larger and more impressive behavior, by doing something different, or finding a new audience. They may mistake behavioral engagement with emotional connections. When they realize how their individual choices can affect the outcome of other people’s lives, including those of their children, they’re more likely to set priorities and resist alternating between extreme behavior and being unapproachable.
ESFPs are lovers of tangible reality. They have a good eye for detail and are aware of and interested in anything that appeals to the senses. They are generous, vulnerable, and often naive, because they surrender themselves to the moment without restraint. Whatever they are into, they are into with their whole heart, and if they are not interested, they escape. ESFPs can appear not to take life seriously enough or not care about the consequences of their decisions. they are ambitious and want admiration and respect, but don’t think in step-by-step terms and instead stay alert to the opportunities life presents them.
They are interested in people—how they say things, how they look when they speak, the tone of their voice, and the language of their bodies. They know far more than they realize about others’ intentions and internal states. This makes them seem quite intuitive, but they are actually observant to a very high degree without realizing all the sensory information they are taking in. They are natural salespeople, but their attention is easily diverted by something else. ESFPs are so in tune with others, they may get over-involved in their lives. They may drive people to appointments, put up their storm windows, fix people’s cars, etc, without ever thinking about their efforts as more than a normal compassionate response to a circumstance (if this can be easily fixed with action, why should I not do it if I care about this person?). They like any appreciation to be tangibly shown (gifts, surprises, romantic gestures, trips, good food, etc).
ESFPs are excellent hosts because they focus on all the tangible needs of their guests and on providing a simulating experiencing. They are engaged and enthusiastic talkers who like an audience and are natural entertainers. They enjoy and require physical exertion, even if it’s just puttering around the house and garage. They may enjoy sports, even if it’s just a game of bridge with the neighbors. They want to use their reflexes and abilities in a concrete physical way so choose professions that require adaptation and response. They are especially good at crisis intervention and response, since it requires an immediate, effective, and sympathetic response to unexpected circumstances. They tackle difficulties as they arise with a combination of skill and improvisation. They are so good at this, anything they cannot solve in that manner (through immediate action) makes them feel out of their depth and trapped. This may make them appear to be unreliable.
ESFPs will resist experiences in which their adaptive skills have no value. They want to invest everything in a situation that interests them, but like ESTPs, want to enjoy action and excitement on a familiar plane in which they can easily adapt based on what they know about the experience. They may fine-tune their skills in a profession or a sport. They are seldom wrong about information they know first-hand, but it takes ESFPs a long time to accept wholly novel ideals, even if it promises pleasure. They will test all new possibilities against the expectations and experiences of people who have done it before they consider acting on them. They like doing things with others who are enjoying the same experience. ESFPs often remember a time when they felt shy as a child, and may champion others as adults, encouraging them to come out of their shell, feel good about themselves, and try things firsthand. They don’t understand people who prefer the sidelines.
ESFPs often choose partners who are physically attractive, dynamic, or in the public eye. They also experience periods of regular dissatisfaction and emptiness, but interpret these inner conflicts as depression or confusion, and will withdraw from others (it is actually an inferior Ni desire to push beyond their usual way of handling things). When ESFPs deal with these feelings of fatigue and depression, they can seem quite self-absorbed. They assume on a sensory level that diminished energy equals disenchantment, and may try to start their life over again or “find a new lease on life.” They need to cultivate enough Fi to look within, stop responding to life as it exists, and consider what they can bring to it. But this isn’t the sort of question most ESFPs ask themselves. ESFPs are susceptible to popular religions, political or psychological theories that make sense of life and involve themselves with others who are having the same experience. This gives them the illusion that they’ve come to terms with their convictions, but they have simply become players in a new arena.
Unless the ESFP develops Fi, they don’t know who they are or what they want apart from their social circumstances, and do not think much beyond the current situation. They respond skillfully to whatever comes at them, but lack a sense of purpose or an internal honor code. When they develop their lower functions, ESFPs realize some experiences are more meaningful and important than others, and more worth their time and energy. They also learn to pace themselves, to say no, and to be honest with others about their priorities, which keeps them from alternating between “going along” and being absent. ESFPs’ strongest values involve compassion, and their desire to take action on these feelings makes them hands-on advocates able to make a genuine concrete difference in the world.