t took me a long time to have an interconnected group of friends, even longer to understand the interpersonal dynamics at play between us, and the longest to appreciate everyone’s unique role as a friend. There are planners, there are innovators, there are those who serve as the group’s glue, those who soothe tensions. There are spark plugs who make life more exciting.
Around the time my group of friends came together several years ago, I was getting really into the old psych principles behind the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. (Today, if you talk to me for more than an hour, I’m probably going to ask you if you know your four letters.) Although the MBTI framework isn’t completely infallible — some contest its usefulness (or misuse it) — I’ve seen the patterns play out in real life and have learned to appreciate personality differences in a new way as a result. Perhaps more than anything else, the system has helped me see that everyone plays a different role with different strengths. When it comes to friends, that realization has been crucial. It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting everyone to react or behave exactly like you, or of thinking there’s a “right way” to operate, but expecting the same effort and energy from different people sets everyone up for failure.
Through meticulous (fine, obsessive) cognitive function research and near-constant behavior tracking, I started mapping out my friends’ unique roles in our group and in my life at large. This process has helped me continually notice my friends’ positive qualities and learn not to sweat differences as a personal attack on my way of being. Below, I’ve cataloged my findings of how the 16 different types translate to friendship style. Look for yours and tell me if I’m right on or way off. I never get tired of analyzing this stuff.
INTJ: The Corner Sage
The INTJ is one of the most independent, private types in the MBTI. You choose your friends carefully and invest your time wisely as to preserve your energy and still reach your goals. You don’t always show up to social gatherings, but when you do, you’re the fly on the wall observing everything — and handing out pearls of wisdom in the most unexpected moments. Everyone comes to you for advice. It’s exhausting, but it makes all your relationships worthwhile and full of purpose.
INTP: The Detached Philosopher
You pop in and out of your friends’ lives all the time, but never intentionally; you’re just introverted and kinda loathe plans. That said, you’re never far from the picture. You keep in touch in your language of memes and inside jokes, but you also provide your friends with intellectual fodder to chew on, theories about the world and philosophies about how one should “do life.” You only invest in relationships and ideas that make sense to you, and your friends count on that honest, forthright effort.
ENTJ: The Intense Leader
You’re crazy-passionate about everything you do. You are a straight-shooter, no-nonsense, “let’s do this” kind of friend because you’re here to BOND, dammit. You’re bold, you plan fun stuff for everyone you love and you show up for people. If your best friend needs to ask for a raise, you are on text offering advice. If she’s going through a breakup, you are buying her favorite wine, heading to her place and letting her spill for six hours on a work night. You view friendships as serious investments and, while your intensity can intimidate some people, your friends love you for your commitment.
ENTP: The Chameleon
Ever the innovator, you are friends with absolutely everyone in your periphery and are always down for anything. Discussion about AI? Sure! Venting about work? Of course. Taking a last-second camping trip? TOTALLY. In fact, you are such an optimistic presence that your friends tend to be blindsided when you take a step back from your role (you’re actually the most introverted of all the extroverts!). Your tendency to overcommit comes from a place of love and enthusiasm, but do remember it’s also okay to say no when you need time to yourself.
ISTJ: The Off-Duty Hero
ISTJs have a rep for being dutiful at work and in commitments, but in a friend group, this typically translates to the unsung hero of social gatherings. You quietly move things forward, whether it’s coordinating that trip everyone has seemingly dropped the ball on planning or simply getting your friend out of the same bar as her ex on a Friday night. You don’t get enough thanks for your low-key, uncomplaining, behind-the-scenes efforts, ISTJ. I know you like it that way, but do know you’re a rock to your friends.
ESTJ: The Background Best Friend
Ever the ambitious one, you’re often low on time to see your friends. However, you’re never far from view and want to see them excel in life, love and career. You have a great memory for details. You’re the first to send your friend a “good luck” text before her work presentation, will remember when she is supposed to move and ask if she needs help, and will move mountains to attend that destination wedding in the middle of an office crisis. You are not always constant, but you are a consistent, supportive, calming presence in the lives of your closest friends.
ESFJ: The Giver
As a friend, your thoughtfulness knows no bounds. You plan parties, give the most clever and attentive gifts, remember at least a half-dozen people’s hyper-specific coffee orders for bad days and send cards for your friends’ big accomplishments (and occasionally “just because”). You’re a detailed doer, but every action is taken with sincerity and emotion. When you’re half your massive friend group’s emergency phone call, you know you’re doing something right. (Just make sure you have a reliable number to call, too.)
ISFJ: The Glue
You’re the shy, understated one in the group. At a party, you’re hanging out on the wall as the people come to you. In the car on a road trip, you’re quietly soaking up your friends’ stories before sharing any of your own. On a Friday night, you’re gladly going along with the group plan. You seem happy, accommodating, fun! However, very few realize how you’re subtly serving as the group’s metaphorical bottle of glue. You keep people together, whether that’s by patching an argument between two friends or making sure everyone feels included.
ESTP: The Spark
ESTPs roll with the punches and smooth out pretty much any social dynamic. You’re not the most reliable friend ever — no one knows when you’re going to show up to a gathering or event, but everyone knows when you do show up. With your uncanny ability to read emotions and adapt to an environment, you instantly charm everyone with your wit and laid-back nature, and you’re the spark plug for spontaneous action. Although you might occasionally irk the “structured” types as you commandeer previously established plans, you usually find a way to improve upon them in the name of more fun and bonding. Chances are, said structured types will end up thanking you.
ISTP: The Team Player
You’re the kind of friend who, when mentioned, everyone nods knowingly like, “I love that woman.” You’re not the most emotive person on the planet, but you will always listen when your friend needs an ear. You might not plan events, but you show up to every single one. You might not be the most vocally encouraging, but you help out with tons of practical stuff, like helping change a friend’s flat tire or showing up with dinner when they’re leveled with the flu. No one ever has to ask you twice, and that’s some killer commitment.
ESFP: The Party Animal
You’re the most fun friend EVER. Everyone secretly wishes they had your gift of livening up a dead room in 10 seconds flat. But while you are “party” on the surface and lead with outward fun energy to loosen people up, you are also a passionate crusader underneath. You know what you want out of life and aren’t afraid to pursue it, all while remaining fiercely protective of your friends and encouraging them to pursue their wildest dreams.
ISFP: The Mystery
No one knows entirely what to make of you, and that’s not a bad thing. You’re artistic and soulful, funny and empathetic, fully engaged and then suddenly MIA — the kind of friend who will sit around for hours unpacking the mysteries of life with your closest friends before disappearing for weeks to chase other dreams and adventures. Even your best friends are finding new layers to your personality all the time. Your free-spirited independence reminds everyone to live life on their own terms.
ENFJ: The Facilitator
If there had to be a single person appointed as your friends’ unofficial leader, that’d be you. And it’s not because you are the most demanding or have the biggest personality but because you make everything easier. Your quiet confidence allows people to easily approach you and rely on you for wisdom. You are a unique blend of humble and caring and engaging. You make sure people feel welcome and see to it that plans actually move forward in the process.
INFJ: The Band-Aid
At once super-social and very reserved, it takes a while for you to learn your friends’ personalities and get a pulse of group dynamics. But once you’re fully integrated into a friend circle, you really want to help. Your powers of intuition and emotional “temperature reading” are magical, integral pieces of your friend group’s functioning. You are the “Band-Aid,” fixing problems others are not even aware of — whether it’s serving as counselor through a friend’s fight with her brother or snuffing out pointless gossip that might cause a rift. Just remember to take time to yourself: As an empath and an introvert, your gift to self is recharging with whatever serves you, be it bad TV or an adult coloring book.
INFP: The Soul Friend
The INFP is the kind of friend who five or six people call a “best friend” and almost everyone would call a “good friend.” Everyone loves to talk to you, and not just because you’re quirky and cool. You just connect easily with others because you know how to meet your friends wherever they’re at in a wholly non-judgmental way. If you’re at a get-together or night out, you start by bringing your optimism and energy but will inevitably end up having heart-to-hearts before the night is over. You’re the heart and soul of your group, a soother and an energizer, like comfort food on a rainy day.
ENFP: The Brainstormer
The ENFP is a thrill ride of never-ending ideas for bonding and growth, powered by a passion for bringing people together. As a friend, you are the perpetual brainstormer, both interpersonally and logistically. If two people have a problem with each other, you can usually intuit the best way to bring them back together. If your friend is planning a weekend away for 12 people, you are right there with a dozen cool ideas for how to make it more fun. Your goal is getting everyone on the same page, having the best time and doing new things, which is where your mental flexibility and people smarts come in handy.
Illustrations by Emily Zirimis.