What it means to be ISFJ

ISFJ is one of the 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicators. These different types determine the ways people prefer to process data or emotions and communicate with one another.

Types are identified through a 4-letter code. Each one is a combination of the letters below, one letter at a time from each row:

E (Extroverted) I (Introverted)
S (Sensing) N (Intuition)
F (Feeling) T (Thinking) 
J (Judging) P (Perceiving)

On the surface, ISFJ is Introverted-Sensing-Feeling-Judging. Not much information is revealed at this level, but you could still draw some assumptions. This letter code may signify that the ISFJ is a sensitive person who makes decisions based on their emotions. I’m willing to accept that, but we have a bit of time here, so lets dive deeper into the complexity of this personality type.

In MBTI, all types can be broken into four main functions: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Inferior functions. The functions are stacked in an order, with the primary being the dominant function, and the inferior being either the weakness, weakest, or neglected function.

ISFJ stack is:

Introverted Sensing (Primary) 
Extroverted Feeling (Secondary) 
Introverted Thinking (Tertiary) 
Extroverted Intuition (Inferior)

— -Introverted Sensing (shortened as * Si * ) — -

Si: Holding on to meaningful experiences.

With this as their dominant function, ISFJ is very sensitive; Easy to offend, but easy to please. Their lifestyle relies on securing specific sensations and avoiding negative experiences. Si encourages ISFJ to enjoy rituals and routines, because they can derive positive experiences from them over a long time, without getting bored. (I usually eat the same thing for breakfast everyday, and make the same lunch for work). This is also where ISFJ get their traits of dependability and loyalty.

In my opinion, ISFJ have a very weak core in Introverted Sensing. Si enables strong emotions. A major one, is the feeling of guilt; ISFJ can be easily manipulated or be push-overs.

However, on the flip side, ISFJ can also strongly feel love. This is why they are one of the most loyal and dependable personality types. Heavy offense or betrayal to the ISFJ are also not easily forgotten.

— -Extroverted Feeling (shortened as * Fe * ) — -

Fe: Seeking harmony, avoiding conflict.

Fe is the supporting function for ISFJ. I like to imagine Si as the small core, and Fe as the shell that protects it.

Fe in essence is about gathering data and requiring feedback from the outside world. This is what makes Si a weak core in ISFJ; Fe is the shell that protects it, but it leaves the back exposed. Fe invites the stimuli that is ultimately processed by a very sensitive Si.

Extroverted Feeling is a trait that seeks harmony and avoids conflict with others. This is how it protects Si. ISFJ are known to be selfless individuals, putting the needs of others ahead of their own. Making others feel good ensures that the environment around them will not cause harm back to them. ISFJ will also hide their true feelings to maintain this harmony. Fe is what hurts the ISFJ to stay mad at someone for too long. Usually forgiving.

This “Fe shell” can endure a lot. This allows ISFJ to have nicknames like “Peacekeeper” or “Mediator”, because they are willing to assert themselves to maintain the harmony around them. Fe is also the symbol on the periodic table for Iron; ISFJ are strong!+

— - Introverted Thinking (Shortened as * Ti * ) — -

Ti: Finding out the Truth

This trait is what initially confused me about the ISFJ. Other types seemed to have a clear how & why they interacted with the world. I expected the tertiary trait to tie it all together, but at first it seemed an analytical strength for a very emotional person seemed out of place. I figured it was meant to keep the ISFJ as a balanced individual; not necessarily influencing it’s other functions in any other direction.

After some pondering though, I realized that Ti is ISFJ’s secret weapon.

Ti allows ISFJ to analyze complex systems. They can see the small details with Ti, Si stores this information, and if it needs to be placed back into the world, Fe is the beautiful gift-wrapping. ISFJ are incredible gift givers for this reason, and are sentimental. Any emotions that come into the Ti zone are in for an interesting result. This is where an ISFJ decides to cut things out of it’s system, or build new branches.

Ti is the ISFJ antenna, mapping out their world in intricate systems. Si and Fe is ISFJ’s need to not only fit into the system of life, but positively impact it in some fashion. Ti is how the ISFJ finds the most capable position to align themselves; like a gear that’s always turning. All they ask in return is positive feedback. If you make the ISFJ feel appreciated, that they are a useful component to your system they will reward you with undying loyalty and support.

—-Extroverted Intuition (shortened as * Ne * ) — -

Ne: Craving new experiences.

All inferior functions are complex. They are the weakness of each type, but used sparingly, might give off a unique flare. ISFJ’s truly are balanced. Their Extroverted Intuition has a root in all the other three functions in the stack. Imagine the Ne being the tiny watch-battery for the ISFJ.

ISFJ’s nature is introverted. An inferior Ne will mean that they are not comfortable with breaking routine with new experiences, and being around large crowds & the center of attention. Fe is what draws out Ne, however. There is still a large part of ISFJ that gains some energy from interacting with people. Fe and Ne is ISFJ’s motivation to hang out with their friends & go to parties; experience the things their friends like. ISFJ is powerful enough with extroversion to participate, but their battery can drain quickly, and needs tons of alone time to recharge.

Ne and Si is what allows ISFJ to jump into the fray to protect their friends, or follow a trusted ally to the end no matter where their adventure may end up. By keeping their contacts list short, ISFJ can focus on creating long-lasting friendships, systems & relationships that work, and using their incredible gifts sparingly, with the right people. ISFJ can be stubborn to protect themselves & their routine; if you can get them to use their Ne with you, they obviously care deeply for you or your opinion.

Lastly, Ne and Ti is what can give the ISFJ, seemingly bogged down with all the small details, a humble ember of creativity. ISFJ can know the system well and enforce & abide by the rules, but a little bit of Ne sparks them with new ideas to improve the workplace, invent a new product, come up with an elaborate and sentimental plan to propose to their spouse, or be the best Christmas gift-giver three years in a row *ahem!*, etc..

Conclusion

ISFJ are generally the sort of people you wish you meet first when you get into a new city and need directions. They should come off as approachable, and when activated, willing to go an extra mile than the average for almost anyone. The co-worker that stays a few hours longer to cover a shift.

The ISFJ aren’t big on reading people; far more honest about themselves to foster an authentic relationship, than they are interested in manipulating others to get what they need. They harry themselves with high standards, but are generally optimistic and flexible about the world and it’s people.

The best and worst thing the ISFJ can do is hesitate. With very little intuition, they are calculated and prefer planning. They may know the right thing to say or do at a moment, but will hesitate, due to introversion, if they can be held accountable, as opposed to heeding the sudden call for justice to defend another.

ISFJ’s have a strong exterior. They can get dirty. They know how to fight. They can debate. They can be blunt. But everything is derived from that sensitive core. Ultimately, they want to be appreciated. Trustworthy. Supportive.

The true side-kick. The ride-or-die, to hell-and-back of the MBTI types. The ISFJ is there to the end if you want them to be!