These two types can often look very much like each other.
What would make the difference?
I've found many who had identified with ENFP for a long time, yet decided ESFP was a better fit.
Same Interaction Style. ESFPs and ENFPs seek involvement of themselves and others and tend to have the natural facilitative attitude of the Get-Things-Going™ style. When I did the Interaction Styles research, I noticed all four types (ESFJ, ESFP, ENTP, and ENFP) with that style tend to easily fall into facilitative roles, not just those with NF preferences. Both tend to use informing language, but ESFPs will have a little more of a drive to immediate tangible action. ENFPs are more willing to talk about things for a while when talking is moving things along. Both want an upbeat mood and love to make others happy.
Different Temperaments. Differentiating Improviser™ versus Catalyst™ is key. Often those with ESFP preferences will talk a lot about helping people so they relate to much in the ENFP (Catalyst™) descriptions. For the ENFP, there are always new potentials to be explored. For the ESFP there are always new possibilities for action and ESFPs don't want to miss opportunities.
Roles. Very often the first clue in recognizing the ESFP pattern is pragmatism. Pragmatic means having autonomy and calling the shots on your own actions. It means taking a utilitarian approach to things rather than seeking consensus or adherence to norms-taking independent action.
Language. It helps to listen for the abstract language of the ENFP, which is about meaning and purpose, using metaphors that many people can relate to while keeping their own unique meanings. ESFP language tends to reference tangibles with specific details when relevant.
Interest in Motive. Both types are interested in why people do things. The ESFP tunes in to what is in it for the other person, whereas the ENFP is interested in their deeper motives.
Different Cognitive Dynamics. ENFPs lead with Ne-Interpreting meanings. ESFPs lead with Se-Experiencing and Noticing subtle changes. Both "read" the room. ESFPs notice physical clues to people's feelings, picking up the actual physical energy. ENFPs may not even notice the physical cues and energy, but will just "know" the meaning of what is or has been going on. Both types will describe the experience as getting a feeling of what is going on. You have to probe a little to get identify which process is being engaged.
It makes sense that those ESFPs identified with many ENFP descriptors. They were pleased to finally have recognition of their Improviser™ core needs, values, and talents. And understanding the richer definitions of Se that are now available, they felt much more validated than before.
Linda V. Berens, Ph.D. is a human and organizational development practitioner who has spent over twenty-five years teaching professionals as well as helping individuals and teams recognize their strengths, transcend their weaknesses, and work together better. After founding Interstrength® Associates (formerly known as Temperament Research Institute), a corporate consulting and training organization, she has turned her attention to developing a more complete and integrated look at individual differences through Integral TypeWorks, LLC. Linda is recognized internationally for her theoretical contributions to the field of psychological type and for developing user-friendly training materials for practical application of understanding individual differences.She is the author or co-author of multiple books and training materials.
I founded Temperament Research Institute or TRI in 1988 to provide a source for solid information about individual differences. In 2005, TRI was renamed to Interstrength Associates and it was the premier source for research, education, applications and training support for the understanding of individual differences and change facilitation using applications of Temperament Theory, Jung's theory of psychological types and the Berens Interaction Styles Model. Interstrength Associates became internationally recognized as a provider of exceptional Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Qualifying Programs as well as training in advanced applications of the works of Carl Jung, Isabel Myers, and David Keirsey.
As President of Interstrength Associates, I made it my goal to attract training, coaching, and organizational development professionals who are experts in their own fields such as leadership, teams, communication, training, coaching, counseling, and creativity to become faculty for Interstrength Associates and to develop applications of the study of individual differences to those fields.
Licensed in California as a Marriage, Family and Child Therapist (currently inactive status) and an Educational Psychologist I have worked with the theory of personality types since 1975. Over the last 15 years, I conducted extensive qualitative research into the characteristics of the sixteen personality types and the four temperaments. As a result of this research, I integrated the work of Carl Jung, David Keirsey and a theory of living systems into a methodology for helping people understand themselves and others, placing myself and my associates on the leading edge of work in this field. In my most recent work I refined the popular social styles theory to see patterns of interaction styles. This recent addition places me as a leading contributor to the study of individual differences.
I have conducted thousands of training programs in this theory and its applications to counseling, education, career development and organizational development. I qualified (now called Certified) over 2500 people to purchase the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment and am frequently called upon to be the consultant's consultant. I have trained and consulted with professionals in a wide range of companies.
I am the author or co-author of multiple books and training materials, including the groundbreaking, web-based self-discovery workshop-Interstrength® Explorer Series and several books.