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Protectors - ?A stitch in time saves nine.?

ISFJs are extremely practical, organised and methodical types who take their responsibilities very seriously.


ISFJs have a great need for their lives to be as structured and controlled as possible. For example, they like to be able to plan what they are going to do in advance. They dislike the unexpected and would prefer not to do things on the spur of the moment. They find routine comforting and will often establish routines for themselves during periods of change when they may otherwise feel insecure. 


ISFJs also like to anticipate future needs for themselves or others and don’t like to be caught short in any way. For example, they would carry an umbrella or a first aid kit just in case they may need them. 


This desire for order and control means they prefer things to be black and white and may find it difficult to tolerate ambiguity. They respect rules and think they are there to be obeyed. They are often privately critical of anyone who breaks “the rules”.  


Indeed ISFJs have a very pronounced sense of right and wrong. This leads them to expect very high standards of behaviour both of themselves and others. Normally supportive people, they can become privately critical of those who behave in ways which the ISFJ thinks is inconsiderate of others or is a betrayal of that person’s duties. 


Duty is an important word for ISFJs. In fact, ISFJs, like ISTJs, are the most dutiful of all the types. They are extremely hard working and dependable. If an ISFJ is responsible for something, or has said they will do something then they will not let you down. Their word is indeed their bond. 


An ISFJ’s favourite function is sensing which, as introverts, they use primarily in their inner world. This means that ISFJs store in their memory banks a rich source of material drawn from their personal experience. As feelers much of this relates to people. They routinely file away in their head stories people have told them and things they have noticed about people in their interactions with them. 


ISFJ preferences are such that they are often attracted to work where they can be of practical service to people. For example, they find nursing, teaching, medicine and secretarial work attractive. Many go into the ministry. Family, life, church and voluntary work are also outlets for ISFJs’ need to serve others. 


ISFJs are naturally quite reserved and won’t be very talkative until they get to know someone well. But relationships matter greatly to ISFJs. They use feeling most to engage with the outer world and while they are not such pronounced feeling types as ENFJs and ESFJs, for example, they are still very motivated by meeting others’ needs. It is important to them to be kind and helpful to others. They have usually no problem at work, or at home, in adopting the role of helpmate. Often they see their role in life as protectors in that they often want to provide a safe, secure environment for other people to develop or do their best work. They have a great need to be needed. 


However, ISFJs have to carefully balance their need for relationships with their need to spend quality time alone planning and structuring their lives, or mulling over the day’s experiences.  


ISFJs’ dutiful, quiet and conscientious manner often means they get on with things in the background. Not only do they undertake their own duties in this way but they also anticipate problems and forestall them happening. ISFJs’ quiet and unassuming manner (they will never blow their own trumpet) means it is easy for ISFJs to be taken for granted. Sometimes it is only when they are absent for some reason that their true value becomes evident. Being taken for granted can cause ISFJs’ pain as they do need some positive feedback from others to feel good about themselves. However, not getting feedback will rarely undermine their sense of duty and they will carry on regardless. 


Of all the types, ISFJs find it hardest to be assertive. They really don’t like conflict and they positively like to be seen as “obliging”.  But other people can easily take advantage of this aspect of an ISFJ’s character. This can then further undermine an ISFJ’s confidence and add to the stress in their life. Some ISFJs can also become overly apolgetic for themselves and their actions. 


Ultimately ISFJs must learn to value themselves and their time more. They must also ensure that the true value of their work and effort is recognised and that they do not get taken for granted. Coming to terms with the essentially ambiguous nature of life can also be helpful.  ISFJs may also find it beneficial if they can reduce their need for routine and create space in their lives for times when they can plan to be spontaneous and make decisions on the spur of the moment. 


ISFJ overview


Words to describe ISFJs

loyal dutiful harmonious

organised patient         traditional

reflective  devoted         helpful

practical      considerate conscientious

efficient         responsible meticulous


Careers attractive to ISFJs

Ministers and clergy, teaching, GPs, librarianship, health service, administration. 


Needs at work

  • The opportunity to work on their own and at their own pace.
  • Appreciation and recognition for their effort. 
  • A stable, organised  and calm environment. 
  • Encouragement to express their views.

Anticipated work/team strengths

  • Practically supporting others.
  • Being organised and prepared and forestalling problems.
  • Tasks which requires attention to detail.
  • Completing tasks.
  • Being totally reliable and dependable. 

Potential problem areas

  • May be so ‘obliging’ and unassertive that they are taken for granted. 
  • May sweep potential problems under the carpet and not deal with them in a timely fashion
  • May not see the big picture and be too limited by their own personal experience
  • May find it difficult to change the way they do things and get stuck in a rut. 
  • May not think about the future enough or try to see the bigger picture.

Likely areas for improvement

  • Learning to be more assertive and raising their self-esteem.
  • Learning to confront difficult issues and people.
  • Learning to be more philosophical about life and accept its essential ambiguity.
  • Trying to reduce their need for routine and certainty.
  • Looking beyond the detail to see the “big picture”. 

Common relationship Issues for ISFJs

ISFJs show caring by anticipating others’ needs, particularly for comfort, security or protection. 


ISFJs like others to take their needs for predictability and security into account (e.g. not springing things on them.)


ISFJ Type Dynamics

Dominant – sensing – introverted

Auxiliary -    feeling -   extraverted

Tertiary   -   thinking

Inferior   -    intuition   


This profile information is copyright and for review only. If you would like to buy a version of this for workshop/coaching use please see details about Enspired Profiles. 


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the UK.



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