The ESFJ Personality Type: Key Traits, Strengths, Weaknesses & More
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), we all fall under one of 16 different personality types. And of all 16 personalities, the ESFJ stands out as the likable, socially gracious one in the bunch.
Whether you or someone you know is an ESFJ, here's what to know about this type, from their love life to best careers, according to MBTI experts.
The ESFJ personality type.
ESFJ stands for extroverted, sensing, feeling, and judging. According to Marta Koonz, principal consultant and certification faculty at The Myers-Briggs Company, ESFJs make up 5.7% of the U.S. population. They're also over twice as likely to be women, with 7.5% of women being the ESFJ type versus only 3.5% of men.
As licensed therapist De-Andrea Blaylock-Solar, MSW, LCSW-S, CST, tells mbg, this type is sometimes referred to as the "consul," which can be thought of simply as diplomatic, team-player energy. "They are seen as being really outgoing and observant. They take note of their surroundings and are in touch with their feelings," she adds.
And according to Koonz, "Warmhearted, empathetic, personable, conscientious, energetic, gregarious, cooperative, practical, and organized are some of the words often used to describe those with a personality preference for ESFJ."
5 key traits:
One of the most notable qualities of the ESFJ type is their selflessness and prioritization of others. As Koonz explains, "You have probably met someone who values so much living in harmony that to achieve that, they put most of their focus on considering people's needs and feelings that often they forget their own—these people probably have ESFJ preferences." She also adds that this type tends to feel uncomfortable with conflict and will try to avoid it at all costs.
ESFJs are very observant, being of the "Sensing" category. As psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP, previously explained to mbg, "I think of Sensing as information gathering through the here-and-now physical senses and generally more grounded in practicality." In the case of an ESFJ, they use their observations astutely to help them read a room, get along with others, and keep the peace.
These folks have no problems in group settings and, in fact, actually thrive in them. As Koonz tells mbg, ESFJs are sociable and outgoing, and it's very important for them to feel there's unity within their families and in the workplace.
If you're in need of someone to rally troops, boost morale, and bring people together, call on an ESFJ, according to Koonz. She notes that they tend to be the link to keep groups together, plan activities, call once a week, and remember everyone's birthday.
Lastly, while this type is harmonious and graceful for the most part, Blaylock-Solar explains that these folks can have a stubborn streak when it comes to the status quo. "They can be a little judgmental—they have this idea of taking their responsibilities very seriously but also struggle when people have different ideas with what they believe is right and wrong," she explains, adding, "It can be very challenging for them when someone else has a different opinion." As Koonz notes, "They stand for their values and enjoy traditions—going above and beyond to stick with them."
- Making others feel comfortable
- Observational skills
- Social graces
- Unifying others
- Can worry about what others think
- Can focus more on others' needs than their own
- Need frequent validation
- Can stifle their own or others' creativity
- Stick to the status quo
The ESFJ in relationships.
This type isn't into flings and is typically much more interested in long-term relationships, according to Blaylock-Solar. "They really like the stability of long-term relationships more than a casual flame, and they can be very tenderhearted, trustworthy, and loyal," she says, though she adds that, sometimes, trusting others is hard for them to do.
On the other hand, one type ESFJs may not mesh as well with is an ISTP. According to Hallett, loyalty and commitment are paramount to ESFJs. "Matched with an ISTP (logical thinker, less interpersonally oriented), roadblocks in relationships may center around the ESFJ's need to be needed (since from the ISTP's perspective, that's an indicator of insecurity and a big turnoff)," she explains.
But ultimately, as Koonz tells mbg, compatibility is much more than a matter of type. "We could be compatible with someone with the same preferences, or opposite preferences, or anywhere in between. It's not differences or similarities that make us compatible; it's taking the time to understand and appreciate our preferences that matter," she says.
The ESFJ at work.
In the workplace, people with the ESFJ personality type want to feel like they're part of a team or community, which Koonz notes is often extended to work relationships with third parties, such as clients. Blaylock-Solar also notes that they don't have a problem being in positions of authority, in which case they are typically supportive without micromanaging.
"They would be someone who brings a lot of structure to things, and they're good at getting what needs to be done, done—but they also need very clear and direct instructions, very clear hierarchies without a lot of ambiguity, to do that," she adds.
ESFJs want to ensure that others feel included, says Koonz, so they tend to be the individual that creates bonds in the workplace. "They are enthusiastic about onboarding new people, making meaningful connections, and upholding the company ethos," she explains, adding, "While type preferences shouldn't be used to limit or exclude someone from specific career paths (any type can do any job!), those with ESFJ preferences tend to choose careers that allow them to focus on the needs of others and determine how best to promote harmony or create a familial atmosphere in the workplace."
Little by little, their greater goal is to make a difference in the world. They are likely to be great team players and try to support their co-workers as much as possible. You can expect someone with this personality type preference to complete their tasks accurately and punctually. When in leadership positions, one of their main concerns is the emotional well-being of their teams as they're constantly considering the impact of their decisions on people. Among the careers that are likely to be good choices for ESFJs are roles in medicine, education, nursing, counseling, and human resources.
- Human resources
How to thrive as an ESFJ:
Refine your support system.
Blaylock-Solar and Koonz both stress the importance of ESFJs having a genuine and trusted support system. As Koonz suggests, "Find ways to connect with others who value and support you. When you're feeling stressed, find someone you know and trust to talk things through with. Communicate your thoughts and feelings."
Blaylock-Solar adds that ESFJs often fall into situations where being practical or kind can be more of a liability than an asset. "So, making sure they are in trusting relationships before going all in, and making sure that foundation is there, will help them to then flourish in other areas of their personality," she says.
Don't neglect yourself for the sake of others.
While certainly a virtue, the people-pleasing behavior of an ESFJ can mean they become so concerned with harmony that they neglect their own needs. As such, Koonz recommends being sure to find time to take care of yourself. "With so much focus on others, it's easy to forget how important it is to prioritize yourself," she says.
Learn to embrace differences.
Lastly, Koonz says that while ESFJs may not love conflict, engaging in open and honest communication is key to healthy interactions. "Remind yourself that disagreement and conflict are natural and happen all the time. Don't accept other people's opinions and views too quickly merely to avoid them. People won't always think, act, and react the way you expect—be open to the fact that differences are what make individuals unique and interesting," she says.
What are female ESFJ personalities like?
ESFJs are more than twice as likely to be women over men, making up 7.5% of the female population in the U.S., according to Koonz. Women of this type are likely going to be outgoing, friendly, and warm, and they may lean toward people-pleasing behaviors if their inclination toward harmony isn't checked with a bit of self-assuredness.
Who should an ESFJ marry?
According to experts, an ESFJ may likely fair well with an ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ENFP, INFP, or another ESFJ compared to other types. That said, it always comes down to the individuals and their willingness to understand and love each other's differences.
Does the ESFJ fall in love easily?
The ESFJ type is more interested in long-term loving relationships than casual ones, but experts say they can also struggle with opening up, trusting others, and even worry about rejection. So, no, they do not fall in love easily. But once they do, they are incredibly loyal and attentive partners.
Are ESFJs clingy?
Because the ESFJ can have a preoccupation with what others think paired with a certain need for validation, yes, they can seem "clingy" or needy, needing reassurance to feel safe in their relationships.
Each of the 16 MBTI types has its specific nuances, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. In the case of the ESFJ, this type makes a great friend, partner, and co-worker, someone who's sure to take one for the team, get everyone smiling, and make everyone feel comfortable.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.