The 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types
S = Sensing Types - SJ & SP N = iNtuitive Types - NF & NT
analytical gif Drivers Gif
amiables.gif Expressives GIF

What Do The Letters Mean?


"The Protector"

Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judgement

ISFJs are characterized above all by their desire to serve others, their "need to be needed," and to minister to individual needs. In extreme cases, this need is so strong that standard give-and-take relationships are deeply unsatisfying to them; however, most ISFJs find more than enough with which to occupy themselves within the framework of a normal life. (Since ISFJs, like all SJs, are very much bound by the prevailing social conventions, their form of "service" is likely to exclude any elements of moral or political controversy; they specialize in the local, the personal, and the practical.)

ISFs carry a sense of history, a sense of continuity with past events and relationships. Traditions and the conservation of resources are valued highly. The least hedonistic of all types, ISFJs believe work is good, play must be earned. ISFJs are willing to work long, long hours. When they undertake a task, it will be completed if at all humanly possible. Adhering to an established way of doing things and doing them well is valued and respected. The efficiency and effectiveness of an established procedure is not often questioned. Procedures dictated by handbooks are law. If others violate or ignore these standard operating procedures, ISFJs are annoyed and irritated, although they may not always display this reaction. Usually, such irritation is turned inward and may be experienced as fatigue and muscle tension.

ISFJs are often unappreciated, at work, home, and play. Ironically, because they prove over and over that they can be relied on for their loyalty and their high-quality work, those around them often take them for granted--even take advantage of them. Admittedly, the problem is sometimes aggravatedby the ISFJs themselves; for instance, they are notoriously bad at delegating ("If you want it done right, do it yourself"). And although they're hurt by being treated like doormats, they are often unwilling to toot their own horns about their accomplishments because they feel that although they deserve more credit than they're getting, it's somehow wrong to want any sort of reward for doing work (which is supposed to be a virtue in itself). (And as low-profile I's, their actions don't call attention to themselves as with charismatic E's.) Because of all of this, ISFJs are often overworked, and as a result may suffer from psychosomatic illnesses.

In the workplace, ISFJs are methodical and accurate workers, often with very good memories and unexpected analytic abilities; they are also good with people in small-group or one-on-one situations because of their patient and genuinely sympathetic approach to dealing with others. ISFJs make pleasantand reliable co-workers and exemplary employees, but tend to be harried and uncomfortable in supervisory roles.

ISFJs are super-dependable and seldom are happy working in situations where rules are constantly changing. They prefer the rules to remain stable. Their major need to be of service to others leads them into occupations such as nursing, teaching, secretarial work, medical practice (especially general practice), librarian work, and middle-management adminstrative jobs. They relate well to people who need them, for example, the sick, the ignorant, students, and the "boss". Much satisfaction comes to them when they are taking care of the needs of another and they render the service gently and helpfully. When the recipient is no longer in need, the relationship may change in character, the ISFJ becoming disinterested. They enjoy assisting the downtrodden and can handle better than other types servility to others. If a situation calls for such behavior on thier part, they will show "due respect". ISFJs have an extraordinary sense of responsibility and an outstanding talent for executing routines which call for repeated, sequential procedures; for example ISFJs make excellent secretaries, highly efficient nurses, and dedicated teachers. Speculation and theory do not intrigue ISFJs, who would rather leave the less practical matters to others while remaining themselves practical and down-to-earth.

They are capable of forming strong loyalties, but these are personal rather than institutional loyalties; if someone they've bonded with in this way leaves the company, the ISFJ will leave with them, if given the option.

Traditional careers for an ISFJ include: teaching, social work, most religious work, nursing, medicine (general practice only), clerical and and secretarial work of any kind, and some kinds of administrative careers.

While their work ethic is high on the ISFJ priority list, their families are the centers of their lives. ISFJs are extremely warm and demonstrative within the family circle--and often possessive of their loved ones, as well. When these include E's who want to socialize with the rest of the world, or self-contained IT's, the ISFJ must learn to adjust to these behaviors and not interpret them as rejection.

Being SJ's, they place a strong emphasis on conventional behavior (although, unlike STJ's, they are usually as concerned with being "nice" as with strict propriety); if any of their nearest and dearest depart from the straight-and-narrow, it causes the ISFJ major embarrassment: the closer the relationship and the more public the act, the more intense the embarrassment (a fact which many of their teenage children take gleeful advantage of). Over time, however, ISFJ's usually mellow, and learn to regard the culprits as harmless eccentrics :-). Needless to say,ISFJ's take infinite trouble over meals, gifts, celebrations, etc., for their loved ones--although strong J's may tend to focus more on what the recipient SHOULD want rather than what they DO want.

Like most I's, ISFJ's have a few, close friends. They are extremely loyal to these, and are ready to provide emotional and practical support at a moment's notice. (However, like most F's they hate confrontation; if you get into a fight, don't expect them to jump in after you. You can count on them, however, to run and get the nearest authority figure.) Unlike with EP's, the older the friendship is, the more an ISFJ will value it.

One ISFJ trait that is easily misunderstood by those who haven't known them long is that they are often unable to either hide or articulate any distress they may be feeling. For instance, an ISFJ child may be reproved for "sulking," the actual cause of which is a combination of physical illness plus misguided "good manners." An adult ISFJ may drive a (later ashamed) friend or family member into a fit of temper over the ISFJ's unexplained moodiness, only afterwards to explain about a death in the family they "didn't want to burden anyone with." Those close to ISFJ's should learn to watch for the warning signs in these situations and take the initiative themselves to uncover the problem.

ISFJs are devoted to mate and family an usually are excellent homemakers. The home of an ISFJ is likely to be well kept inside and out. Interior and exterior are meticulously maintained and appointed in the traditional manner. As a parent, the ISFJ expects the children to conform to the rules of society and has a feeling of personal responsibility to see to it that these rules are honored. An ISFJ is apt to find the putting on the airs of offensive and tends to prefer modest, quiet friends, rather than more boisterous ones. For the ISFJ, people should behave according to their position in life, and the ISFJ may be annoyed by others who act either above or below their social or economic station.

The ISFJ female often displays a flair for making the interior of the home attractive in a time-honored style, provides attractive, nourishing meals, and maintains the environment in a meat and orderly state. To the ISFJ male and female, the home territory is important to own and to preserve.

While ISFJs are super-dependable, they may be fascinated by and attracted to the irresponsible, the lush, the glutton. Many ISFJs marry alcoholics an dthen proceed to conduct a rescue-rejection game without end, with the rescuing phase taking the guise of an attempt to reform. Occasionally an ISFJ mother may reveal a tendency to find humor in the "waywardness" of a son, while raising her daughters to respect traditions and to do the Right Thing at the Right Time - always.

ISFJs are frequently misunderstood and undervalued. Their contributions often are taken for granted. This can cause an ISFJ to harbor feelings of resentment, and this bottled up emotion can gnaw inwardly, causing the ISFJ much indeserved suffering.