What fictional characters do you relate to as an ESTP?
Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic and intriguing characters are ESTPs and today we’re going to talk about seven that I think real-life ESTPs will find relatable.
One great thing about looking at character personality types is that it helps us better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional ESTPs can serve as examples for what real-life ESTPs might be like, and also show how much variation can exist between individuals with the same type.
Much like ISTPs, ESTP characters make fantastic action heroes. But they’re also far more than that. You’ll find ESTPs in fiction (and in real life) using their natural strengths in a variety of ways as they lead others, solve problems, and adapt to life moment by moment. The way their minds work make them compelling, dynamic characters that often capture our hearts and imaginations.
James T. Kirk
Lenore Thomson types Jim Kirk as an Intuitive type in her otherwise excellent book Personality Types, but I’m more inclined to agree with Susan Storm that he’s an ESTP. To quote her article about The Greatest Movie Heroes of Every Myers-Briggs® Personality Type, “Jim Kirk embodies the impulsive, opportunistic nature of the ESTP personality type. He lives fully in the moment and is quick to react to changes in his environment. He loves a fast-moving, daring lifestyle and loves to experience new and novel things.”
Kirk is every bit as charming as you’d expect from ETP types with tertiary Extroverted Feeling. This function also gives him an edge in understanding people (though as a tertiary function it isn’t his strongest suit) and lends an easy carelessness to the way he presents himself to the world. People may initially misinterpret him as shallow and/or “boyish,” but he continually demonstrates that he thinks deeply about things. He’s quick to come up with clever plans, to understand what’s going on in unexpected situations, and often shares deep insights about complex ethical questions he’s working to make sense of.
I like using Star Wars characters Han Solo and Lando Calrisian to illustrate the difference between ISTPs and ESTPs. Unlike ISTP Han Solo, Lando is comfortable in a very public leadership role organizing and managing a large group of people. He thrives in the outer world of leading battles, running a profitable enterprise, and charming all the people he meets.
I once read a description of ESTPs that said they act first, then fix their mistakes as they go. They can usually get away with this because they’re so good at improvising. We see this as Lando manages to navigate his shifting allegiance with Vader, and he even plays a key role in getting the better of a Sith Lord (not an easy thing to do, even with Vader distracted by Luke). He’s also charming, clever, and perfectly capable of making the most of whatever circumstance he finds himself in.
Merida of Disney’s film Brave excels at skills requiring hand-eye coordination and has an adventurous spirit. Like other ESP types, she focuses on what is observable and real, and puts a lot of faith in her own senses (for example, she believes in magic because she saw a wisp and therefore it must be real). ESTPs are often natural leaders, and I think Merida will show that more and more the older she gets.
ESTP types use Introverted Thinking as their co-pilot function, which means they like to make sense of things for themselves and check new information against their previous convictions. When Merida does make emotional decisions, she’s using less-developed tertiary Extroverted Feeling. It’s fitting, then, that the worst decision she makes in the film is the one fueled by emotion and lack of information (asking a witch to change her mother). The best decisions she makes are the ones where she analyzes available information and acts on it using her Thinking function (figuring out the spell’s history, mending the tapestry, and saving her mother).
I was torn between putting Neal (my favorite ESTP in fiction) on this list or Ethan Hunt from Mission: Impossible but in the end Neal won because he’s an example of an ESTP who doesn’t fill the role of an action hero. He’s also an example of the sort of character who proves that Sensing types can be incredibly clever (personality type doesn’t determine intelligence, despite rumors to the contrary) and that your Thinking/Feeling preference doesn’t describe how much emotion you experience.
Extroverted Sensing types are life-of-the-party people who often enjoy presenting themselves well, are easily bored by routine, and actively seek out new sensory experiences. Neal is constantly seeking a new rush and taking risks that ISTJ Peter Burke thinks are foolish (usually by stealing something and/or solving a crime). He’s also really good with activities that require sensory skills, whether it’s forging a painting or base jumping off a skyscraper.
As a Thinking type, Neal primarily approaches problem-solving from a perspective of getting things done efficiently (as opposed to worrying about how each option will affect the people involved). He experiences emotions deeply, but doesn’t process them easily (Introverted Feeling is not in his function stack) and tends to put up a charming facade with tertiary Extroverted Feeling instead of addressing what’s going on inside.
I’ve been trying to present a good mix of different types of characters in these “Fictional Characters You’ll Relate To” posts, but it was hard to find examples of ESTP women in fiction. Scarlett O’Hara, however, is one character that ESTPs online bring up again and again as someone they relate to. So even though I haven’t seen or read Gone With the Wind she deserves a place on this list. Click here for a link to my reference.
Scarlett is an opportunistic, impulsive character who gets unbearably bored without new experiences. That’s her Extroverted Sensing side focusing on the real, sensual things that can be experienced in-the-moment. She’s also resourceful and cunning, finding way to make the most of both people and situations. Her tertiary Extroverted Feeling gives her an advantage in charming and manipulating people, but it’s also something of a blind-spot for her and she doesn’t always understand her own feelings. She does grow as the story progresses, though, and it seems that quite a few real-life ESTPs find her a relatable character.
I’m not entirely sure Tasha is an ESTP instead of an ISTP, but even if she is introverted that doesn’t mean she can’t be a relatable character. And there’s the aforementioned difficulty with finding ESTP women in fiction … so here she is. In the little time we get to know this character, Lieutenant Yar revealed herself as a person who responded quickly to changing circumstances and whose first impulse was to take action and fight against threats and/or protect those she cared about.
Though impulsive, Yar tempers this with the sort of strategic intellect that you can often find in TP types. When she takes the time to slow down and think rather than just reacting, we see why she’s risen to the rank of trusted chief of security on a Galaxy-class starship. We also get to see a bit of her tertiary Extroverted Feeling as she builds teams, encourages her crew, and connects with the ethical framework that Starfleet principles provides.
It’s awfully hard for me to pick a favorite character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Thor is a strong candidate. Early on in his story, he’s 100% defined by Extroverted Sensing traits such as impressive physical skills, a live-in-the-moment focus, and a disregard of future concerns. He progresses beyond that, though, particularly since Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame provided him with some stellar character development. The current state of his character offers a more well-rounded and relatable example of a fictional ESTP.
Thor maintains the strong Sensory side of his personality, but learns to balance it with his co-pilot Introverted Thinking. He becomes much more adept at analyzing his own actions and at strategic planning. He also learns to use his tertiary Extroverted Feeling to connect with other people and (to a certain extent at least) see things from their perspective. We also get to see him spiral into the “grip” of his Introverted Intuition after the Snap. When under extreme stress, ESTPs tend to withdraw, feel overwhelmed and confused when trying to deal with the outer world and/or future plans. They may also act paranoid and irritable, struggling to objectively interpret facts.