This is essentially a manual on what not to do to an ISFJ unless you are a heartless, well . . . you know what.
Do not manipulate your ISFJ's emotions.This can mean literally anything. ISFJs are ripe for abuse because we are Fe (external feeling) users, meaning we care about the feelings of others and will usually give those feelings precedence over our own.
Picture this, a wife who barely goes out anymore because of home responsibilities, has planned to spend an evening with her girlfriends. The day of the event, her husband gives her “the look.” He doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t have to because “the look” says it all. She’s being selfish and abandoning her family when they need her to cook dinner and give the kids their baths. So, what does she do? No ISFJ in the world would have a good time at that dinner after she’s been given “the look” of condemnation by someone she loves. So, she cancels, and goes another long stretch without seeing her friends.
Do not do this to your ISFJ! We have hopes and dreams and plans just like anybody else. We want to go see a movie so we plan to go. Don’t give us the evil eye when we choose to do something for ourselves for once.
Speaking from personal experience, I suffer immense amounts of guilt when I’ve displeased, or think I’ve displeased, a family member. If I even suspect that a family member doesn’t want me to do something then I’ll likely cancel my plans because I don’t want to cause friction. It's sort of a stupid martyr complex, but that's how we are, putting others first. Trust me, it’s no fun being on this side of that equation! I’d give anything to let myself be selfish and not really care what others think, but that’s not who I am. I put others first, as do all ISFJs since Fe is our secondary function.
Do NOT take advantage of this weakness in your ISFJ.
Why you ask?
Because eventually your ISFJ will have an emotional meltdown that could result in them hiding in their room for days at a time or, possibly worse, they will leave you in a fit of rage. You stifle an ISFJ’s plans or goals over a long period of time and you’re setting yourself up to eventually be dropped like a hot potato when they reach the breaking point.
Do not take away an ISFJ’s sensory enjoyments.
A lot of Se users don’t understand this and never will, but for a Si (internal sensing) user, things that hold memories are practically our life’s blood. For an ISFJ, memory, or Si, is our primary function! We connect everything to our past. Everything we learn now has some correlation to what we have learned before. I can look at anything and everything in my room and I know who gave it to me or where I purchased it.
If you want to make your ISFJ miserable, toss out all of the sentimental knick-knacks.
All ISFJs need a safe haven where they can be themselves. Mine is my bedroom which I decorate the way I want. Everything in my room holds some special meaning to me, a connection to my past experiences and happiness. The worst feeling in the world is when I take down décor and don’t have time to replace it. I get irritable and depressed in a very short period of time.
ISFJs don’t do well with voids. We can’t just take something away and not replace it with something else that also has sentimental meaning. I don’t keep a lot of personal photos in my room, but I do keep objects that harbor memories.
Keep that in mind the next time you’re frustrated with your Si user’s “clutter.” Sure, they might be messy, but that can be remedied. More importantly, they’re cherishing the memories they’ve built. That hideous old teddy bear might disgust you, but it was their first toy and brings them comfort.
Let your ISFJ, or really any Si user, have their space, and don’t try to control what they put in that space (unless, of course, it’s creepy and obviously bad for them, then consider intervening)!
Show your ISFJ that you need them.
ISFJs are hard-wired to help people. We have immense amounts of sympathy. If someone is going through a difficult time, we want to help that person, even if it means just offering gentle verbal support. If a person is genuinely suffering or worried through no fault of their own, an ISFJ will jump right in and offer any support that is needed.
Because we are Fe users, and other people’s feelings are our thing!
If you are constantly pushing away your Fe user, refusing to confide in them about your problems, well, at some point that Fe user will shut off the caring. We love to help others, but you need to let us help. I don’t know if this is indicative of most ISFJs, but for me, if someone keeps shutting me out, eventually I’ll stop caring about that person and just let them go. It might seem cruel, but it’s only rational.
The ISFJ only stays where they’re needed. If you’re not showing your ISFJ that you need them, expect them to walk away at some point.
Don’t play mind-games with your ISFJ.
We don’t like it.
For any fans of BBC’s Sherlock, think back to The Hounds of Baskerville in the 2nd season. Take this commentary with a grain of salt and remember that I love this show too. Remember that moment when Sherlock (ISTP) locked John (ISFJ) in the lab after dosing him with a hallucinogen? Sherlock treated John like a lab rat, his supposed “best friend.”
Don’t do this to your ISFJ. Don’t try to trick them into behaving a certain way so you can observe a reaction, or just because you want to. And when I say mind-games, I mean ones that are designed to emotionally harm or manipulate the ISFJ. John is a mentally strong man and he gets angry just like anyone else, but I got even angrier in that episode. If it had been me, I’d have walked away from Sherlock because he abused my trust. This might be simply because I’m female, but take this to heart, your ISFJ will in all likelihood leave you if you try to pull evil, Sherlockian mind-games on them, particularly if you’re doing it just because you can.
Keep in mind that your ISFJ is intuitive to your moods.
Ne (or external intuition) is my weakest function, but personal necessity has developed it more than usual. Because it is enhanced and combined with my Si and Fe, I am highly intuitive of other people’s moods. Sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right, but if there’s even a hair out of place in another person’s mood, especially a loved one, I worry, immediately. And because I’m a Fe user, I am like a sponge to other people’s moods. Not only do I know that something’s wrong, but in a very short period of time, my good mood can turn to reflect someone else’s bad mood.
Talk to your Ne/Fe user about what’s going on. Even if it’s just a few sentences, be sensitive to the fact that they already know something’s up and you’re freaking them out. If you’re having a bad day, say so, but if your bad mood isn’t because of them, assure them that it’s not because one of the first things a Ne/Fe user will assume is that they’ve caused your bad mood.
I hope my little post on the ISFJ has helped you in some way. If you are an ISFJ, then maybe it’s helped clarify some things and shown you that you’re not alone in how you react. You’re totally normal, I swear. And if you’re dealing with an ISFJ, well, maybe this will help you understand them better. We are sensitive, much more than most ISFJs let on. Respect that, and us, and you literally have a friend for life. John sticks with Sherlock through an act of God, Sherlock's occasional apologies, and clever writing.
For some terrific posts on the cognitive functions of the MBTI, try the following links on the Funky MBTI Fiction Tumblr: Understanding Ne and Ni, Understanding Se and Si, Understanding Fe and Fi, Understanding Te and Ti.