Thursday, January 9, 2014

Things to Know about an ISFJ

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.

11 yorum:

  1. I've had to learn many of these things the hard way with you -- and some of them I still struggle with, but I'm learning to open up and share my problems. I repress them, and internalize my emotions, and then have meltdowns. My realization of the primary role that Si plays in your life gives me a lot more insight into how your mind works and also how to relate to it. I almost envy your ability to remember things -- me, I don't know where that particular book/trinket came from! It just appeared at some point.

    I'd never emotionally manipulate someone to the extent that Sherlock did, but a tiny part of me finds it amusing that he did it -- until I stop and think how much terror he put John through, then my Fe kicks in and I feel sorry for John. That's the problem with Fe as a lesser function -- it usually kicks in thirty seconds too late, unless the situation is completely dire. It's that little voice inside my head right after I've said something that thinks "Oh... crap, did you just say that out loud?"

    1. I love you. The trinket just appeared at some point. To be fair, I have some of those too. An angel ornament that I look at and go, "Hmmm, I have no clue. Did I buy this or what? And if I did, why did I buy it?" I have a feeling you'll remember where those PotO pillows came from, though. ;)

      When you emotionally manipulate, it's harmless. And you're not an ISTP, so you're not like Sherlock. You would never put me, or anyone else you cared about, through an experience where they actually believed they could be hurt or killed. When you do the manipulating, it's more of keeping something secret so you can revel in the shocked reaction. Like BD Part 2. And that, personally, was fun. I liked that kind of surprise. ;)

      We've both developed through our friendship, gauging how to respond to one another. It's a learning curve. But, the more you learn about personality types, the more I pick up by default. I was able to write this post because of the stuff I've learned from you, how sensing internal vs. external, etc. And that's really awesome because now I understand myself better, i.e. learning to accept and value who I am instead of feeling that I'm flawed in some way because I'm not like so-and-so. I know mastering the cognitive functions has helped you immensely, but it's also helped me a great deal, so I really have you to thank for this post. :)

    2. If I think about it long enough, I can usually figure out where a trinket came from. It's weird -- some things I remember strongly, others not at all.

      Sherlock and I have the same function order, but I have a better developed Fe -- I'd say that's because I'm a girl, but that doesn't really count -- one of my guy friends was a very warm and caring ISTP. Sherlock is just... warped. And hilarious.

      Yes, I've noticed that my interests and knowledge tend to rub off on the people around me -- but that's good! It means I have someone to discuss these things with! It's also helpful, because now I can't say, "Oh, I ought to be more like..." If that person has a different personality, I CAN'T be more like them!

  2. Oh. My. Goodness. Yes and yes and yes. I'm an ISFJ too, and I'm going to share this with some people in my life because it so explains things about me. Like my photos and knicknacks and sentimental clutter. I have such a hard time letting go of anything that has memories attached -- "So-and-so gave me this on my thirteenth birthday..." I've tried time and again to "declutter" my house, and I can get rid of some stuff, things I bought myself especially, but if it's got a memory or a person attached, I struggle. I did finally realize last year that I don't need to keep everything that a friend has given me, just try to keep maybe six things that I really, really like and associate with them, and then I can give away (or use up!) the others if they're not things I love or use a lot. But it's tough.

    Also, you know from my blog that I got really mad at Sherlock for what he did to John. Like you, I was left thinking, "Why is John still friends with him? I would not be." Unspeakably mean, that trick, and I've not quite gotten over being mad at Sherlock for it. Because if someone betrays my trust, it's so, so, so hard for me to get over that.

    Your other points spoke to me too, but those two especially resonated. Thank you.

    1. I've finally met another ISFJ! Well, I may have met others, but not known they were one. This is so neat, and rather fulfilling. No wonder we hold a lot of the same interests, like Elvis and Bobby Darin!

      I tend to hoard the clutter. I was much worse when I was younger, but there are still little things that my sister made me when she was 10 that I'll never be able to part with. And you're right, it's always easier to get rid of something I buy for myself. One of my favorite gifts of all time from a friend is a photo album that she made for a specific year of all the fun we had together. It's a beautiful reminder of this one year in my life, and I'll always cherish it.

      I think part of our reaction to Sherlock's treatment of John is because we're women and have the hormones to go along with it. We know how we would react in a situation, but men are different, and by that point John was . . . accustomed to Sherlock's selfishness. It is possible, just possible, that John isn't an ISFJ and that's why he stays friends with Sherlock. One of my other friends thinks he could be an ISFP due to some of his behavior. This means he is absolutely backwards to the way you and I think and react to situations. I'm not sure I agree since John appears sentimental and compassionate towards the needs of others, utilizing empathy on a level Sherlock can only dream of. But, I suppose it is possible. If I understood cognitive functions better then I would know for sure, but I'm still quite the novice.

    2. As soon as I saw the title of your blog, I knew I needed to read more of it and see if I'd found a kindred spirit :-)

      And you're right, it could be that there's a gender difference in our reactions versus John's. I hadn't thought of that.

    3. Well, as my BFF reminded me, guys have testosterone. Where we would burst into tears, they get angry. I think that's the main difference between John and myself. There are times I would give almost anything to have his level of emotional control because he really does a great job of it.

    4. Anger is often my first response, and then I'll cry later. Either cry from frustration or from annoyance at myself for losing my temper. I cry a lot more over movies and books than I ever do over real life.

      But John definitely has the whole, "clamp down and just look annoyed" thing down pat.

  3. Not really certain about MBTI-typing, but I'm pretty certain that if I'm any type, the closest would be ISFJ. And I'd say the guilt trip and the sponging off other people's moods is so me. And pulling away from anyone betraying trust. And yeah, it's not really that fun feeling those feelings. At all.
    don't really think I'm sentimental about most of my stuff though. I can't tell you where most of it came from..

    1. Hmmm, it would be interesting to type you. I think you're probably Se (external sensing) instead of Si (internal sensing). And you're most likely a Ne (external intuition) instead of Ni (internal intuition). So, probably not an ISFJ.

      Try evaluating these last 2 functions, Thinking and Feeling:

      External Thinking: by the book, organization for efficiency, systematic

      Internal Thinking: analyzing everything, wants to know how things work

      External Feeling: adapts to the emotions of others, takes care of them

      Internal Feeling: strong personal emotions, independent of others

      Which are you? You're either Ti (internal thinking) or Te (external thinking), Fi (internal feeling) or Fe (external feeling). Once you determine which you are then we can figure out which is your primary function, 2nd function, and so on, and we can type you. :)

  4. Hmmm....I think I'm borderline INFJ/ISFJ..... Everything about wanting to go deeper in relationships and exploring life, languages, writing, and the whole INFJ in general seem to fit me, but at the same time, I am super sentimental, and remember so many things that people said to me ages ago.... Their exact facial expressions, their exact words...etc. I know the two are supposed to have opposite S/N functions, but is it possible to be both??


Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!