ISFJ personality types are the people-centric doers, using their considerable organisational ability to make sure people are taken care of and protected. They are extremely conscientious, hardworking, loyal and dedicated, to people, organisations, groups. Once they are allied to the cause they take their roles very seriously. They have incredibly clear and precise memories and are scarily accurate with facts, figures, names, faces - oh and any person who has slighted them! The ISFJ gathers facts and data and are painstakingly accurate with incredible attention to detail, and extremely methodical in their approach.
It may be possible to overlook the value of an ISFJ as they are the behind-the-scenes 'glue' for organisations and groups. Unlike the ESFJ who will be more outspoken, the ISFJ will work steadily and quietly to ensure all the routine details are taken care of, and that people are happy. Rarely will they share their own values, preferring to keep their own counsel and make their focus the needs of others. It would be a mistake to underestimate the ISFJ as, although they may give very little out in terms of articulating their feelings, their 'S' detailed type memory stores everything of relevance, they will quietly know everything that is going on and has gone on. Because they don't necessarily share their feelings this does not mean they don't have any. It is easy to transgress the values of an ISFJ without ever knowing you have done it. Their values are so intrinsic to them, such a part of who they are, and they therefore share them with very few people. In the team the ISFJ will be the quiet one getting things done, almost invisible at times, but the strong glue holding the team together.
Loyal, shy, devoted to the cause, the ISFJ has an intense need to belong and will work tirelessly for the cause and will channel their considerable energies into their work, or indeed anything which has been asked of them. They have incredibly clear and precise memories and are scarily accurate with facts, figures, names and faces. Detailed and methodical, everything is stored up, in perfect order, in pristine grey filing cabinets in their heads, and may come out later in a tirade of facts and evidence dating back a very long way.
Although generally shy and reserved, the ISFJ takes work, indeed anything they do, seriously and much prefer it when others do the same. They are caring, sympathetic and want to help, but do not need the kudos, indeed they may be suspicious of those who try to bestow compliments on them especially in the early stages of a relationship. The ISFJ exists only in the present (and the past!) and will use actual, real concrete past experiences to deal with present problems. This means they may struggle with concepts or trying to imagine a future indeed the future may appear scary as it is full of the unknown and the ISFJ prefers the known. This means that change and the new and untried can worry the ISFJ as they fear looking foolish and being ‘in the spotlight.’ The ISFJ loves to be appreciated but does not like constant scrutiny, expecting others to let them get on with it. Although private and shy ISFJs are often sociable and characterised above all by their desire to support others, the ‘need to be needed.’ In extreme cases, this need is so strong that standard give-and-take relationships can be 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 specialise in the local, the personal, the obvious and the practical all in the here and now.
Although private and shy ISFJs are often sociable and characterised above all by their desire to support others, the ‘need to be needed.’ Conservative and dutiful, ISFJs like rules, protocols and conventions so that have clear groundrules within which to work. They would not like to wing it and like to be in possession of all the facts before they proceed as they have an underlying fear of getting it wrong. This means they will check and check again and so it is rare that an ISFJ will actually get it wrong, so worried are they about that happening.
Being SJs, they place a strong emphasis on conventional behaviour (although, unlike STJs), they are usually as concerned with being friendly, kind and sympathetic.
Linking ‘type’ and ‘careers’ would be easy if it was just about listing specific jobs that perfectly fit specific personalities. However in truth it is more difficult than that as ignores other, more important issues, such as the organisation, the values and the culture, which are far better determinants of suitability than a job title. Also individual jobs vary widely from industry to industry, organisation to organisation and person to person. Therefore our focus on ‘type’ and ‘careers’ will be far more on you: your personality, your aptitudes, interests, likes, strengths and weaknesses and then matching these to the sorts of environments, cultures and norms within organisations that will allow you, given your character, to thrive grow and flourish. We spend a lot of our time at work and so it is important to get these issues right or we could spend a lot of working time unhappy, unproductive and unfulfilled.
ISFJs have a strong combination of strong work ethic and desire to help people. They move step-by-step towards an agreed conclusion, preferring order to chaos and in the absence of a plan will be happy to create one. The ISFJ is hardworking, organised, responsible and likes things done properly, and will demonstrate extremely high standards. They prefer clarity and if there is none, again they will create it. This means they will expect, and set, tangible goals that they will work steadily and methodically towards with no deviation or shortcuts. They are efficient, reliable and although they may take time to understand what is required, this is simply so that they grasp all the facts to ensure they are clear and will not get it wrong, then they are best left alone to complete, on time, as agreed. The ISFJ prefers using their own experience and ‘the known, the huge store of knowledge and experience they have amassed inside their heads and will apply these to all activities to bring consistency and a drive for closure, ensuring that the needs of people are factored in and this makes them helpful, supportive and people centric. Taking their responsibilities very seriously they are happy to work for long periods on their own, immersing themselves in the facts and tangible details and making sure that the team is protected.
The ISFJ is people-centric, fact-based and detailed and so they tend not to like and surprises or even change unless the rationale is clear. Any deviation from ‘the plan’ can throw them as they get seriously locked into their drive for closure and so they prefer stasis and predictability to an ever-changing landscape as it can potentially blow their carefully laid out plans off course. This trait also means they tend not to be innovators, preferring the known and activities that they have had tangible experiences and they use these to make things happen and to support people. The ISFJ prefers to take in the specifics, the ‘here and now’ and so may not be looking over the horizon as their focus tends to be on ‘what is’ rather than ‘what could be.’ The new and untried worry the ISFJ, as they prefer things to be clear so that they become part of their ‘known’ world rather than an unpredictable world, which makes them uneasy. Their desire to follow through on what has been agreed, is linked to a real caring nature which means they may at times get taken advantage of as they want to ‘see good’ in others and their first instinct is to help but, although people oriented, they dislike noise or bustle, preferring a quieter, more focused atmosphere where they can concentrate on delivering the plan, one task at a time, and thus helping other people.
Risk-averse, traditional, factual and detailed the ISFJ is best suited to more established, stable and traditional organisations that value hard work, attention to detail and adherence to known rules and protocols with a strong people element as, although quite quiet, ISFJs really do care, seriously care. So, they will need a more people-centric environment, which is team-focused where their efforts, often understated, are appreciated. Their traditional nature and desire for clarity and fact means the ISFJ will fit best where the norms are clear, the culture is people driven and where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Deviation from the norm is not for the ISFJ. They prefer working with facts, details and the known, where the product or service is tangible rather than conceptual and there are clear lines of responsibility and a planning process. They do not like to ‘wing it’ or take risks without being in possession of the facts and having thought things through so that they are clear. They do not like ambiguity or harsh environments, wanting to make sure people are supported.
The ISFJ will not thrive in environments that are noisy, or where they have little room or space to work quietly and alone, or those that don’t value the efforts of people. The ISFJ draws their energy from within and so environments with lots going on will distract them from the task, and the ISFJ does not like to be distracted. ISFJs are patient and people centric, and so will value harmony and fairness. Therefore a harsh, uncaring environment, pitting people against each other would not be for them. Their need for structure and predictability means the ISFJ prefers the known and so any surprises or the ground moving will not be right for them. The ISFJ feels safer with processes and protocols as this structure provides the basis and impetus for them to drive forward for closure, sticking to the plan and delivering on time and as agreed. A fast paced uncontrolled and aggressive environment, which is ever-changing or where the norms are unclear or there is ambiguity will make the ISFJ feel insecure and this will remove their ability to have the clarity and stability they require to succeed to help people.
ISFJs prefer stability and security and so will not thrive in careers where there is risk and uncertainty. They also prefer harmonious, people-centric environments. Constantly changing environments, with no clear guidelines, will not be for them. IT, 1-1 Teaching, Production, Health and Safety, Auditing, Administration, Procurement and Process Control type roles will all suit the ISFJ as they are primarily ‘doing’ roles but with a strong emphasis on helping people as well as a clear basis for doing things.
In a team situation, the ISFJ will bring order, clarity, organisation and planning. Although introverted and so not the most vocal member of the team, the ISFJ will seek to make sure the team is best placed to move towards a 'known' conclusion in a thorough, planned and detailed way. The ISFJ is painstaking, orderly, conscientious and anxious and they have a superb capacity for follow-through and perfectionism, although they have a strong tendency to worry about the smaller things and a reluctance to ‘let go.’
Often the ISFJ personality type can appear to slow the team down a little as they seek clarity and fact, but this is not the case as they prevent the team from going down rabbit holes or haring off in the wrong direction or without all the facts to hand. The team is all the better for the ISFJ intervention, having an individual who naturally sees the downside and seeks to protect. The ISFJ will actively search for aspects of work which need more than usual degree of attention and the serious-minded nature of the ISFJ will actually maintain a sense of urgency within the team, as they want to complete and want to make sure that the team moves in the right direction.
ISFJs have a great capacity for follow-through and superb attention to detail. They are unlikely to start anything that they cannot finish and are motivated by internal anxiety to ensure the team is protected and doesn't fail. At times they can be intolerant of those who don’t take it seriously and they are not often keen on delegating, preferring to tackle all tasks themselves as then it will be done to the requisite standard, something that is really important to the ISFJ. The ISFJ will always meet deadlines and are concerned that things progress as agreed and ensuring that nothing ever slips between the cracks.
ISFJs are more of the behind the scenes operators rather than being a charismatic leader. Yet their incredible memory, their vast store of knowledge and experience, their caring and practical nature and planning ability will be brought to bear and make them good team leaders. Ironically, because they prove over and over that they can be relied on for their loyalty, attention to detail and high-quality work they can be taken for granted. Give them clarity and trust, they will deliver. They will be more factual and practical than overtly creative, motivated by the worry that the team might fail.
ISFJs are an unusual combination, of quite shy and understated, not wanting ever to be the centre of attention, and extremely kind, caring and supportive, especially so if you’re in their ‘gang’. So, never gushing or demonstrative the ISFJ is a practical carer in that they’ll help find practical solutions to someone’s problems. They like to be busy, and always will want to “do something” to help, but unlike, say, the ESFP who is just as caring but who will jump in and offer a shoulder, ISFJs will want to quietly fix the problem. Deep and very private, the ISFJ is quite difficult to know and ‘knowing’ them is like an unwrapping, it will occur slowly, over time, only when they’re ready, and they’re so understated that they tend to surprise people by how much they know, the things they’ve done and how every single waking fact is stored in the grey filing cabinets in their heads just waiting ready for the right moment when they’re needed, and pulled out of the bag. These facts also include all the occasions when people have slighted them, ISFJs are kindly and helpful but they are incapable of forgetting anything, as their memory is so factual.
ISFJs usually say very little. They think long and hard, indeed they overthink, about absolutely everything, and keep it all in their heads, worrying, fretting, thinking of what could go wrong, all the potential downsides. So, they communicate, generally, very little, keeping it all in, catastrophising about what might be, “well it could, couldn’t it?” When they do open up it’s usually not for its own sake, but off the back of other, non-related conversations, when they suddenly say: “I wonder if…” then they hold the silence for what to an extravert seems like an eternity, and then it all comes out, in such factual, linear terms, one long stream of detailed consciousness that demonstrates the issue has clearly been going around in their heads for eons. Then they’ll feel guilty and apologise!
ISFJs are super planners and organisers but they are such deep thinkers that they can prevaricate as they’ll want every single shred of information before proceeding. They are quite risk averse and so they will check, and check again, just to make sure. And then…they’ll check again, or ask someone’s advice, off the back of an unrelated conversation, just to make sure. Clarity for the ISFJ needs to be triple locked, mulled over relentlessly, and, when the decision is made, they then fret, not about deciding, but about if it was the right decision. Helping friends and family decide and plan is no problem, making sure everyone is safe comes naturally to them as they are quite traditional in their beliefs. But asking an ISFJ to “just do it,” would not be the way to motivate them. ISFJs can also get taken for granted as they’re so helpful to other people and so feel underappreciated.
ISFJs do not enjoy conflict. This is not fear of it, but because they get embarrassed when there’s disharmony, it upsets their equilibrium, and also conflict means you have to be ‘out there,’ and ISFJs do not like opening up, especially to those they don’t know or trust. So, that is the reason they dislike conflict, it creates an openness they don’t like. Paradoxically, because they dislike it, they will go to great lengths to diffuse it and so, the ISFJ, the quietest person in the group, will often be the one taking the lead in making sure harmony reigns. ISFJs also have deeply held values about right and wrong, fair and unfair, this is why they’re often called the ‘defender,’ they will stick up for those who’re not being treated right and they will always do the right thing, and that is follow their values.
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