Determining Rachel Green’s type
Rachel Green from Friends is one of the hardest characters I have ever had to type. She comes from a show with consistently inconsistent writing – each character changes by the episode, displays personality traits that often contradict one another, and are frequently subject to out-of-character moments for the sake of humour. Despite this, she is still a human character, and shows plenty of traits that we can analyse and try to understand through a personality type.
Let me begin my discussion with a brief glance at Rachel’s basic MBTI preferences. We can tell immediately that she’s probably an extravert, as she appears to be energised by the presence of others. Rachel doesn’t really see the value in spending time alone – she’s taken aback when Monica suggests she go out to dinner by herself, and when she tries it out, she gets bored of her own company by her second dinner date (The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line, 4x07). Rachel also appears to have a strong sensing preference – she’s fairly practical, tuned into the matters of day-to-day life, and unlike Phoebe, sees little value in abstract theories or intangible concepts. Rachel is unmistakably a feeler, as she reacts to things with her heart rather than her head – when Ross sleeps with someone else, she focuses on how hurt she feels (“I used to think of you as someone that would never, ever, hurt me”), rather than the rationalisation that they were on a break (The One the Morning After, 3x16). Whether Rachel is a judger or a perceiver is a little more ambiguous. On one hand, she appears to be flexible, happy to go with the flow, and comfortable with making things up on the spot, such as stalling Monica on her wedding day with an improvised spiel about how she was never going to get married (The One With Monica and Chandler’s Wedding: Part 1, 7x23). On the other, she seems to display a need for closure, expressing anxiety about not knowing what the future holds when first moving to New York (The One with George Stephanopoulos, 1x04), or creating a specific plan to lock in the next five years of her life after turning thirty (The One Where They All Turn Thirty, 7x14). If we’re sure that Rachel is an extravert, a sensor and a feeler, but unsure about whether she is a judger or perceiver, this leaves us with ESF…something.
Now let’s have a look at the functions. Most people type Rachel as Se dominant because she is fairly flexible, attracted to things in the here and now (such as fashion), and enjoys adrenaline filled activities (like fast driving). For Rachel to be Se dominant, she would need to be an ESTP or an ESFP.
Right off the bat, ESTP makes no sense because Rachel is such a feeler. As we have established, Rachel is guided by her heart rather than her head. She frequently makes decisions on the basis of her emotions, such as freezing Ross out after they break up the first time out of anger (The One Without the Ski Trip, 3x17), or deciding not to go to Paris out of love for Ross (The Last One: Part 2, 10x18). Rachel’s feeling decisions are often irrational, too – she buys an extravagant cat for a thousand dollars because she felt it was something she needed to do, despite already being indebted to Monica for three hundred dollars (The One with the Ball, 5x21). If Rachel used auxiliary Ti, she would probably need greater logical justification for her actions, and would be quick to realise the inconsistency of spending so much money on something when she already owed money to someone else. Rachel doesn’t show any other qualities that suggests she uses Ti highly, either – she doesn’t seem to care about how things work, and is fairly disinterested in using logic to make her decisions – when Ross writes a list comparing her qualities to Julie to make a decision about who he should be with, Rachel doesn’t see the value in the logic and is instead hurt that he can view her in such a cold, unfeeling way (The One with the List, 2x08). In a last resort attempt to justify Ti for Rachel, we could claim that she can be insensitive and cold in her dealings with others, and that this would somehow justify her using a thinking function over a feeling function. However, Rachel is mostly insensitive and cold when her feelings are hurt, and she acts that way because knows how to cause pain to others through an understanding of how they are feeling. For instance, Rachel freezes Ross out after he sleeps with someone else because she is angry, hurt, and knows this will hurt him back (The One Without the Ski Trip, 3x17). All things considered, Rachel does not appear to use Ti prominently enough for it to take precedence over a feeling function. There’s still a chance that she may use it as an inferior function, but as a way of justifying Se from a cognitive functions perspective, it doesn’t provide a strong enough argument. Therefore, Rachel cannot be ESTP.
Rachel also can’t be an ESFP, because while she is certainly a feeler, she hardly shows any signs of introverted feeling. She doesn’t seem to care about remaining true to herself and her values (when other people talking about Phoebe’s personal principles, Rachel openly admits, “I don’t have any!”), and is often completely oblivious to how she’s feeling. For example, Rachel is clueless that she doesn’t love Barry until the day of their wedding (The Pilot, 1x01), doesn’t know how she feels about having a baby until she expresses her disappointment when Phoebe lies that the test is negative (The One After ‘I Do,’ 8x01), and has no idea she is still in love with Ross until Phoebe suggests that it’s “so obvious” (The One With Ross’s Wedding: Part 1, 4x23). If Rachel were an introverted feeler, she would be more in tune with her own feelings.
Rachel is an extraverted feeler, not an introverted feeler. This is made obvious through a comparison with Phoebe, who as an ENFP, uses Fi in the same auxiliary position Rachel would if she were ESFP. When Phoebe and Rachel go jogging together, Phoebe runs in a strange manner because she is concerned with being true to herself and the way she feels (Fi). She’s unconcerned about looking strange in the context because being true to herself (Fi) is much more important than fitting in with others (Fe). In contrast, Rachel is embarrassed by Phoebe’s running style because she can tell immediately that it upsets group norms (Fe). Rachel doesn’t think about how she feels in the situation (Fi), but instead focuses on how Phoebe’s behaviour will make other people feel (Fe).
If Rachel uses Fe rather than Fi, then she can’t be an ESFP. And if Rachel is neither an ESTP nor an ESFP, then she can’t be Se dominant. We could try to keep Se in her stack by placing it in the auxiliary position, but this would mean she would have Ti or Fi first, which we have already established are not her strong suits. We could also try to hold onto Se by pushing it down to tertiary position – in this case, Rachel would be an ENFJ or ENTJ. We’ve already established she isn’t a thinker, so ENTJ is out. This leaves us with ENFJ – to a degree, this typing would make sense, as it places Fe in the dominant position, which Rachel clearly uses quite strongly, and allows for the presence of Se in tertiary form. But it would also mean Rachel uses Ni as an auxiliary function, which she clearly doesn’t do. She isn’t tuned into vibes and impressions (“What? Ross is in love with me?”), rarely shows any interest in big picture thinking, and is primarily concerned with things as they appear (S) rather than the things they might symbolise or represent (N). Thus, Rachel cannot be an ENFJ. We could make a last resort attempt to keep Se by making it an inferior function, which would make Rachel an INTJ or INFJ, but these options border on ridiculous, as it is unlikely for Rachel to be an introvert or an intuitive.
If Se doesn’t logically fit into her stack, then we can conclude Rachel doesn’t use extraverted sensing at all. We still know she uses sensing rather than intuition, so considering introverted sensing is the next logical step. It took me a couple of re-watches to notice it, but Rachel actually uses Si quite evidently. She’s very nostalgic about her past, frequently referencing memories from her childhood in affectionate detail, such as such as riding in her boat (The One with the Cookies, 7x03), skiing with her family (The One Where Underdog Gets Away, 1x09), or playing with her grandmother’s cat (The One with the Ball, 5x21). She continues to be influenced by past experiences well into her thirties, disallowing Emma from going to the playground because of a single negative experience she had as a child (The One with the Home Study, 10x07), and tends to trust “tried and true” methods that have been successful in the past, using a cheerleading outfit to seduce Joshua because it has worked for her “every time” (The One with the Fake Party, 4x16). Rachel is very sentimental, keeping a box of past items from her relationship with Ross that have personal meaning (The One with Chandler in a Box, 4x08). She is also surprisingly good with details – Rachel has to deal with the logistics of orders and shipments every day through her job in fashion, and her boss confirms that she’s good at what she does (“she is good”).
If a logical argument can be made for Rachel using Si, then the insistence on trying to squeeze Se into a badly fitting type (ESTP, ESFP, ENFJ) becomes unimportant. Instead, we can focus on the idea that Rachel can be a type who doesn’t use Se at all. Instead, perhaps she is a type that uses Si.
If Rachel is definitely a sensor and uses Si, then Si would need to manifest as one of her top two functions. This leaves us with ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ and ISFJ. We know Rachel isn’t a thinker, so that cancels out ESTJ and ISTJ. We also know she’s probably an extravert, so that cancels out ISFJ. Several other traits make ISFJ less likely – Rachel is too open to change and new possibilities (for instance, moving to New York, having a baby, ditching her stable waitress job for an uncertain career in fashion) to have Si as her dominant function, and is too feelings driven to have Ti as her tertiary function. ISFJ seems unlikely, so let’s consider ESFJ. If Rachel were ESFJ, she would use Fe first – this makes sense, as we have already demonstrated Rachel uses Fe quite predominantly. She would use Si second, which also makes sense – this would make her less traditional than an ISFJ, but would still allow room for her sentimentality, her reliance on past experience, her ability to deal with small details, and her nostalgia about past memories. If Rachel were ESFJ, she would use Ne third – this would make sense, as it would explain her openness to new possibilities and directions. She would also use Ti last, which definitely makes sense – we have already established that Rachel’s thinking function appears to be her weakest. All in all, ESFJ seems like a pretty good fit for Rachel. It enables her to use sensing and extraverted feeling as her stronger functions, and pushes functions that are less evident (her thinking and intuiting) to the bottom of the list. It also eradicates the problems that were evident in trying to include Se in Rachel’s stack – we don’t need to pretend she uses auxiliary functions (like Fi and Ti) that she clearly doesn’t to justify her Se dominance, nor do we need to pretend she’s an intuitive type (ENFJ, ENTJ) to justify the coexistence of Se and Fe. ESFJ provides a completely logical explanation for how Rachel can be both a sensor and an extraverted feeler without needing to rationalise types (ESFP, ESTP, ENFJ, ENTJ, INFJ, INTJ) that make absolutely no sense.
Though I could see a lot of merit in this argument, I was initially reluctant to type Rachel as ESFJ because of the high positioning of her Si, believing this would make her more anxious about new changes and possibilities (which she definitely isn’t by the time she decides to leave her friends in New York for a job in Paris). However, after re-watching some season one episodes (in particular, The One with George Stephanopoulos, 1x04), I realised Rachel hasn’t always been open to change, and has instead developed the trait after starting her life over in New York. When Rachel first arrives on the show, she’s deeply unsure about her decision to “give up everything” (in other words, her stable, traditional life as a married socialite), and frets about not having a stable plan for the future, saying to Monica and Phoebe, “what if it doesn’t come together?”(The One with George Stephanopoulos, 1x04). She appears to be most comfortable with a life of predictability, and comments on her old life with positive regard by saying, “It was a plan! It was clear! Everything was figured out!” (The One with George Stephanopoulos, 1x04). Rachel is slow to adapt to life in New York at first – she struggles with doing her own laundry (The One with the East German Laundry Detergent, 1x05), emptying the rubbish (The One with the Ballroom Dancing, 4x04) and gaining paid employment (The Pilot, 1x01). As the show goes on however, Rachel appears to embrace the possible and the uncertain, remarking in season two, “I do not want to have everything decided for me! I spent my whole life like that! […] I like not knowing right now!” (The One Where Old Yeller Dies, 2x20). Rachel continues to display an increased openness to possibility for the remainder of the show – she quits her stable job as a waitress to pursue an uncertain career in fashion (The One Where Rachel Quits, 3x10), decides to have a baby despite not feeling completely prepared (The One After ‘I Do,’ 8x01), and chooses to accept a job in Paris even though she feels scared about the change (The One Where Estelle Dies, 10x15). From these examples, it would seem that Rachel is more comfortable using Si when she first moves to New York, but develops her Ne as a way of adapting to the challenges of her new life. Rachel’s Fe, which is well tuned to adapt to different social circumstances would have helped this process along.
I think recognising the possibility that Ne could be the reason for Rachel’s character transformation is important, as it provides a logical explanation for how she can be a prominent Si user and still be flexible to new changes and possibilities.
If Rachel is probably an extravert, definitely a sensor, and absolutely a feeler, then ESFJ makes perfect sense for her. Though she’s flexible and open to change, Rachel cannot be a Se dominant, as she uses neither introverted feeling (ESFP) or introverted thinking (ESTP) as her auxiliary function. Nor can she be Se tertiary, as she is not an intuitive type (ENFJ, ENTJ). Rachel appears to have Se because she is flexible and open to change, but these traits actually manifest through her naturally occurring ESFJ functions. Her dominant Fe enables her to adapt well and be flexible to new social circumstances, while her tertiary Ne enables her to embrace new possibilities and directions. Rachel shows plenty of evidence of Si in her personality (sentimentality, reliance on past experience, being good with small details), which makes it possible for her to be a sensor without being an extraverted sensor. By typing Rachel as an ESFJ, we enable her to keep hold of her Se-like characteristics without needing to justify a presence of introverted feeling (ESFP), introverted thinking (ESTP), or introverted intuition (ENFJ) that does not exist. ESFJ for Rachel just works.
Note: To read my official analysis for Rachel’s personality type, please visit my post here. For other Rachel-is-an-ESFJ arguments, please consider reading mbtiinpopculture, who provides an excellent justification for Rachel as an ESFJ here.