How to Destroy an ESFJ or ENFJ

If you want to destroy an ESFJ or an ENFJ, you’re in luck—they are relatively easy to take out. 

“Most important to E*FJs are people. They love being valued and valuing others. This is the area you need to attack.”

(Note, this series is portrayed with devilish intent simply for humor—I’m writing in hopes that people will better understand what stresses various types, how they function under stress, and ways to recover when the stress is on. The information is largely based on Dr. Quenk’s work, In the Grip, published in 2000.)

ESFJ & ENFJ:
Dominant Cognitive Function: Extraverted Feeling
Inferior Cognitive Function: Introverted Thinking

E*FJs use their favorite function, Extraverted Feeling, to focus on the outside world of people, things, and activities. Their major goal is to maintain good feeling and harmony among people. They’re usually sickeningly talented, radiate goodwill and enthusiasm, and are optimistic about life—especially human potential. They love and care deeply for people.

So, how do you take out these people-loving optimists? 

E*FJs are energized by work environments that allow them to practice their core values. They want to contribute to society at large, and to work with people in a supportive, cooperative way. They welcome responsibility and are energetic in pursuing organizational goals—as long as those goals are in accord with their personal values and principles. Most important to E*FJs are people. They love being valued and valuing others. This is the area you need to attack.

Triggering Tactics:

Here are some simple ways to weaken an ESFJ or ENFJ:

Overload them.

Because E*FJs typically value excellence in everything they do, you can add stress by assigning them unplanned, last-minute projects that are impossible to get done in the time available.

Copmpared to other types, E*FJs do not find their work lives very stressful, but they do struggle to balance their work and home life. Overload them with work and you will impact their relationships at home. They have a tendency to be people-pleasers, so when they let people down, the internal awareness of their failure will cause them to perform even worse.

ESFJs, more than ENFJs, have a hard time saying no to people. They sincerely want to help everyone they come in contact with. Overload them with needy people who are not likely to get better any time soon, and their capacity for good will be severely reduced.

Make them believe they’re not trusted.

First give them too much to do, then make them feel unappreciated for the things they ARE doing. Since they have such a high standard for personal integrity and values, if you question their motives, or if you don’t take them seriously, you can trigger them into a negative spiral.

Create interpersonal conflict.

Create situations in which conflict prevails over harmony. This will create stress for the ESFJ or ENFJ. Best is when they cannot discuss or resolve the issue quickly. Their internal worry will errode their effectiveness.

Their Downward Spiral:

As pressure builds, E*FJs will initially exaggerate their dominant function, Extraverted Feeling, and try to force everyone to feel good. This overbearing approach creates more failure, less harmony, and more pressure—forcing their brain to seek a different solution. As Extraverted Feeling recedes, the ESFJ and ENFJ’s typical enthusiasm, care for people, and optimism will give way to withdrawl, low energy, pessimism, and depression.

Eventually, Introverted Thinking, their weakest function, takes over.

For INTPs and ISTPs, Introverted Thinking (their dominant function) shows up in healthy ways: criticism, logical analysis, and a search for accuracy and truth. However, for the E*FJ, it’s their weakest function, and it manifests as excessive criticism, convoluted logic, and a compulsive search for truth.

Excessive Criticism:

They will think, “I’m giving to everyone and no one gives to me. No one loves me, they just use me.” They will be judgmental of people they normally love and care for. They may yell, slam doors, and be cruel to those around them. As they lash out and treat people poorly, they will eventually turn their criticism inward, judging themselves to be a failure. 

Convoluted Logic:

E*FJs will create categorical, all-or-none judgements based on irrelevant information. “Everyone hates me.” “I’m a total failure.” “This system will never work.” They create logic models that don’t make sense, trying to solve problems on their own, instead of their typical sharing. They make up unsubstantiated stories and plots to explain their own or others’ behavior.

Compulsive Search for Truth:

In the grip of their Introverted Thinking, E*FJs seek absolute, ultimate truth in an obsessive way. They turn to self-help books and systems, gurus and experts. If they can’t find a truth that fits their circumstance there, they create internal answers that are illogical. When they see their own flawed logic, they despair even further, becoming more negative and withdrawn. Many end up in support groups for the comfort of having others validate their experience and feelings.

Crush them:

Keep the pressure on, eventually, because the E*FJ doesn’t know how to say no or selectively release people from their care, they will become unproductive at work and abandon everyone they are responsible for helping. They will spiral: they see their failure to care for people or meet expectations, this causes them to withdraw, which causes them to perform worse, which causes further withdrawal, etc.

If you can keep the pressure on for months or years, the E*FJ will become negative and pessimistic, overly rigid and controlling, cold and critical, withdrawn and depressed, self-doubting, and inefficient.

How to keep them from recovering:

Don’t give them time to reflect and reset.

Keep them busy, continue to give them people to care for—people in crisis. The more people can be with them, around them, the harder it will be for them to regain some perspective. Especially don’t let them write in a journal, as this can help them reconnect to their dominant Feeling functions.

Don’t let them start a new project.

ESFJs should be kept away from starting a task that require systematic attention to detail. This allows them to engage their second strongest function, Sensing, which helps them regain control and perspective. ENFJs should not be allowed to plan a new project, which allows them to engage their second strongest function, Intuition.

If E*FJs do manage to recover from these dark episodes, you’ll still have won. People will still see them as talented and fun to be with—but they won’t give them the same responsibilities as before the failure. In short, people will like them, but won’t trust them.