Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The MBTI Blog Challenge: How to Write an ISFJ

Kicking off this new blog feel has been made somewhat easier by the wonderful Gemma, who tagged me for this post. It's aimed at writers, but even if you're not one, hearing about an ISFJ from one of their own can be helpful, especially if you know one.

A word of caution. I am an ISFJ, but I have a strong Thinking side, and some of what I say here might be influenced by that.
For you fellow writers out there, be forewarned: at first it may seem like your ISFJ should be loyal and sweet and kind. Please, please don't stop there, unless he is a very minor character. ISFJs are so much deeper than that, and often their more subtle traits are completely ignored by writers. Don't make that mistake or you'll have a shallow, weak character.

Since maybe some of you aren't really familiar with the ISFJ type, I'm going to take a little while to describe it. I may get a little excited. I'm really fond of my personality type.

The stereotypical ISFJ is the loyal, kind, and sensitive friend who bears more abuse than he should and is well liked by everybody. You might think of John Watson (Sherlock), or Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings), both of whom are generally agreed to be ISFJs.

As I said before, though, don't stop there. Don't write a character that is only significant because of his loyalty or kindness, especially if this ISFJ is your main character.

You may know an ISFJ yourself and not realize it. We tend to be reserved, but are one of the more extroverted of the Introverted types. We like being around people sometimes, and really love one-on-one conversations when they're about meaningful things. We are also really underrated, especially by certain other types (I think usually ENs). They don't realize how hard we're trying, and either ignore our efforts or brush them off as nothing, both of which annoy or hurt us sensitive ISFJs.

Although we like calm and peace and hate it when people get overly emotional (or that might just be my T side talking), we can be extremely passionate about some things. I'm not sure if it's true of all ISFJs, but injustice gets me riled faster than anything else. If I think that someone is being unfair, I can get angry.

But okay, I've rambled enough. On to:

ISFJ: Core Traits
ISFJs are quiet and reserved, as I said before. We have a strong attachment to home and cozy places and comfort food.
This might just be my favourite gif of all time.
People are nice, and we like them a lot, but mostly from a distance, and preferably not all at once.

Contrary to popular belief (I'm looking at you, Gemma), we really do like people a lot. Although certain people upset me, or make me angry, I can't think of very many individuals that I genuinely dislike on a personal level. But when I do like someone, I like him from a distance. You won't find me walking up to someone and introducing myself unless coerced with the threat of hot pincers and pins under fingernails egging me on.
I'm sure not all ISFJs are like that; it is one of my weaknesses. But even the more extroverted ISFJs have a reserved nature, and I think we all prefer small groups to large.

ISFJs want to be safe. We really do. We're not an adventurous type, and prefer vicarious excitement found in books and movies to actual real life danger. In essence, we're a lot like hobbits. We like comfort and home and peace and quiet, and sometimes we want to be left alone.
If you don't love Bilbo, you're wrong. 
Honestly, though, Bilbo in some ways is my spirit animal-- Hobbit, I mean.

When we're not safe, we get flustered and make poor decisions. Don't put your ISFJ into danger unless you're willing to live with the consequences-- like him never trusting you again. Which leads us to the next trait:

ISFJs are extremely distrusting when it comes to certain things. It's hard to gain their trust, and it's easy to lose it. Being a very loyal type (see below), we are thoroughly disgusted when other people don't live up to our standards of loyalty. If you break a promise to an ISFJ, he probably won't forget it for years-- maybe not ever, if he's an especially sensitive one. We are also suspicious of people's motives, and can attribute a good action to some evil master plan faster than lightning for no reason at all. Or maybe that's just me? If you give an ISFJ a cookie... he'll think you have some plot to make him fat. But he'll eat it anyways, so as not to offend you.

Personally, I don't open up to people easily, being distrustful. It really matters to me what people think, and that's part of it, too. It hurts when they ridicule or judge or even just aren't as enthusiastic about something as I am.

ISFJs can't make decisions without advice, but hate being controlled. It's one of the tragedies of our existence. Since people see that we have trouble making decisions, there is a tendency for them to want to helpfully step in and make them for us. Please don't. This is not what your ISFJ needs. Advice, yes. Force, no. And please be aware that your ISFJ is an easily persuaded type, and what you say influences him probably more than you realize. He may feel forced into doing something simply because you recommended it so forcefully. You (or a character in your story) might be controlling your ISFJ without realizing it. That could make for a fun (well, sad for the ISFJ) point of conflict in your novel between your ISFJ and another character.
*goes that way*
The ISFJ is fiercely loyal. When we finally grow close to someone and start really caring about him, we can be extremely protective-- thus the name we are sometimes called by: The Defender. I'm going to use another Bilbo example, because he is a shockingly accurate representation of us. (Minor The Hobbit spoilers ahead.) Bilbo is loyal to Thorin. He isn't an adventurous fellow, really, but his loyalty to Thorin brings him to do things he would have otherwise never considered-- like attacking the Orcs and Wargs, or facing a live dragon to get him what he wants (also an example of the ISFJ's strong wish to please and tendency to be easily manipulated). BUT

ISFJs can be extreme micro-managers. We hate being controlled, and have trouble making decisions, but when we feel sure that someone is doing something wrong, we might up and say so, or even try and manipulate them into stopping. Bilbo defies Thorin, who he is still firmly loyal to, because he knows that what Thorin is doing is wrong, and it's hurting Thorin himself more than anyone. This usually only applies to people we care deeply about, so if your ISFJ friend is manipulating you into going on a diet, don't feel too bad. He is doing it because he cares about you. And... it probably means that you really should go on a diet.
Because no ISFJ post would be complete without a Lindir gif. 
I know this post is rambling on and on. I get really excited and passionate about us ISFJs. But let's move on.

ISFJs: What Makes them Happy 
I've mentioned this above, but I'll say it again: we love simple comforts of home. Being next to the fire with a mug of cocoa and maybe watching our favourite film is pretty much perfect. Throw in a blanket and someone we really love to watch it with, and we're in heaven.

Someone they love openly caring for them. Although we are really empathetic and attuned to peoples' feelings, we can be very doubtful when it comes to their feelings towards us. Since we're of a suspicious nature and think everyone has some hidden agenda, sometimes a hug or kind word just won't do it. When you're feeling especially fond of your ISFJ, be sure to show him in an easy to understand way. We can be extremely dense about this. Don't love on him publicly, though, or he'll be extremely embarrassed. He'll accept the care anyhow, 1) to not offend you (it's one of his main motivations for everything) and 2) because he appreciates the thought. But he'd prefer if you did it in a one-on-one way. No big surprise birthday parties, in other words. Or hugging and kissing in public. *shivers*

Having goals. Not having goals is rather paralyzing for me. I need them to get anything done. It's the J side, I think. We're not spontaneous individuals. We like a plan; we like lists. In fact, there are few things that make us happier than a schedule completely checked off. Just thinking about it gives me this nice tingly feeling. Absolutely beautiful.

Doesn't mean we always follow our plans very well, but we really like having them.

Things that make us feel deeply. I can't say this is more of an ISFJ trait than any other type, but this is why I love films and books that give me the feels. Even if it's the sad feels. I love them in a kind of masochistic way. They mean something so much deeper. We're calm, in general, and we like things that make us passionate.

Really dumb jokes, especially ones we made up. Our sense of humour is atrocious. We like changing song lyrics (for example, Vader got Run Over by a Reindeer. Enough said.) We greatly appreciate comedy and anything that makes us laugh, which is probably the main reason we are so attracted to the ESFP type. They make us laugh.
And that is why I think it is perfectly fine for me to put this in this post. 
ISFJs: What Makes them Sad 

But seriously, we're pretty sensitive, and other people being sad makes us really sad. It's why we get so emotionally invested in that tertiary character that no one else noticed in the third episode of the fifth season of some random tv show. And then he dies. And we are just sad snowflakes.

People barging into our castles. Now, this is more of something that makes us angry. Just don't. We are likely to not bother you, because we are so unsure of whether you want us around or not. Since we are being so thoughtful, the least you can do is do the same for us. Just-- be friendly, but don't invade our special space bubble. Our homes are special, and we hate them being invaded. It's our safe spot. If you come to our home uninvited, you will have a flustered, uncomfortable, and inwardly fuming ISFJ.

Not being able to express ourselves. Always give your ISFJ lots of room to talk. We don't like barging into a conversation, so you might have to drag us in. But if you take the time to reach out to an ISFJ and give him space to express his opinions, he will probably really appreciate it. That doesn't mean making him talk when he doesn't want to. If we are interested in joining the conversation, it should only take a little prompting from you to make us comfortable with joining in.

One of the things that makes me angriest is when I'm already angry about something, and try to talk about it. When I'm angry, my voice shakes and trembles, and it sounds like I'm about to cry. I'm not. I'm just so furious that I can't control my vocal chords. And I hate appearing so weak, so I just don't say anything. It may seem like an admirable trait to be able to just walk away from what makes me angry, but I hate not being able to retort and explain myself. I have a fierce desire for people to understand me (*cough* hence this ridiculously long post *cough*), and not being able to express myself makes me really upset.

When you don't have the same values as us. That may sound like we have a superiority complex, and often this can be an ISFJ's shortcoming. But we try very hard to please the people we care about. And when they don't do the same for the people they care about, it annoys us greatly. The same is true when it comes to respect. When we respect someone, we expect some respect back, and when we don't get it, we can become bitter and-- well, we'll talk about the ISFJ's bitterness problem in a minute.
Okay, so I know this post is ridiculously long. Take a break if you need to. I am getting carried away. I like psycho-analyzing myself, okay.

If you're still not completely exhausted from reading this reeeeeaaaaally long post, then let's move on to the fun part: talking about our strengths!

ISFJ: Strengths
Great sense of humor. 
Seriously though. A lot of people think we're really calm, quiet, and serious. But we can be extremely goofy. You have been warned.

Empathetic to a fault. For me, this is also a weakness, which I'll talk about below.
We listen. If you ever need someone to hear you out, we will. Even when we don't want to. In fact, usually the only time I refuse to listen to someone is when I am really angry at him, and listening to him makes me angrier. For my own good and his I will sometimes walk away.
We will not control you. Even when you are the person we are focusing our protective instincts on, we will not make you do what we want you to do. Pressure you, maybe, if we are really convinced it's what you should do, but in general, we like everyone to have some independence, because we ourselves value it highly.

no we won't do this to you i promise :3 <3
Side Note: I have been told that I can be really manipulative and I like sending people on long, painful guilt trips. So we can be forceful in some ways-- but usually only to people we are really comfortable with.

You can guilt trip us into doing pretty much anything. Okay, maybe that's a weakness?
We really want to get along with you. Because we hate conflict. And if you try to get to know an ISFJ, I bet you'll become a good friend of his, because it may take some prompting due to the I trait and maybe some shyness, but ISFJs really want to please, and when they see you invest in the friendship, they will most likely follow suite. In fact, I'm easily hurt by other people not thinking our relationship is as important as I do.

ISFJ: Weaknesses
We can be extremely sensitive. Not even to other people; we're overly sensitive about ourselves. In fact, we can be really insensitive to other people when we feel like they've hurt us. Which is easy to do.
We expect you to figure out what's wrong when we're upset. I think this is a common trait among Introverted Feelers. It makes us annoyed when you don't even realize we're upset, much less what we're upset about. 
We say "I'm sorry" too much. 
Our anger is horrible. For us. For you. For everyone. Because it's not shown the way most people show anger. We usually don't have outbursts-- when we do, we call them outbursts of annoyance. There is a huge difference in my brain between the two. When we are really teeth-grinding, foot-stomping angry, we don't actually teeth-grind or foot-stomp. It's more of a retreat-into-shell-and-wait-for-anger-to-become-poisonous-bitterness thing. It's like we slip into a cave to concoct an evil potion and then come back and smile at you while we force it down your throat. Years later. Because it takes years for our poison to be perfected. In other words, we get bitter, and stay bitter. And sometimes we don't even remember we are bitter, until you do something that makes us mad. Again.

We want you to be like us. We value loyalty very highly, thus we are loyal. You aren't? We don't like that. We also value independence. You have a control problem? We don't like that, either. And we will likely judge you from afar.

We get annoyed with people easily, but hide it too well. And we hint at how maybe you should leave now, or you're talking to much, but we are simply too subtle, and no one gets our hints until we get so frustrated that we're too open, and then we hurt everyone's feelings and get embarrassed and never want to see anyone ever again. #Awkward.
We are too empathetic. We sometimes can imagine what another person is feeling too vividly and get upset for him. Really we should just stay out of his business. Besides, the majority of the time, the other person is NOT an ISFJ, and doesn't feel how we think he feels anyhow.

ISFJ: Other random facts
ISFJs are said to be most attracted to ESFPs and ESTPs. I can vouch for that. If you make us laugh, we really like you, and I know an ESFP and an ESTP, both of which do just that. We also tend to like people who share our S trait, and from my experience, have a little bit of trouble getting along with ENs.
We make up roughly 14% of the population, if you trust the charts (I don't), and 100% of the characters Martin Freeman acts (that is just a very likely guesstimate). There are supposedly more ISFJ women than men (which is why Rory is a rare angel).
An angel, I say!
We tend to be artsy, though not always in the typical draw-paint-sculpt way. A lot of us are into music, like myself, or gardening, or nature. Watching movies is also on our list of common hobbies, which makes a lot of sense since we are empathetic and sensitive and get very invested in peoples' stories.
We. Are. Not. Always. Nice. In fact, we can be very boss, and very tough when needed. It's why we're known as the Defenders, or Protectors.
Also, we don't always cower before authoritative figures, although this is a weakness many of us do have. We can stand up and hold our own, especially when it's a matter of principal. Be careful, if you're writing an ISFJ, to not make him the typical kind, weak, easily manipulated person unless you're writing a very unhealthy character. We are not pathetic.

ISFJ: Fictional Characters
There are a lot of them, and that's a wonderful thing. I looooove fictional ISFJ characters. They usually turn out to be my favourites (not Samwise or C-3PO, but that's a topic for another day). 
  • Bilbo Baggins - The Hobbit (obviously) 
  • Samwise Gamgee - The Lord of the Rings
  • John Watson - Sherlock Holmes stories 
  • Arthur Dent - A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 
  • In fact, every character that Martin Freeman acts
  • Rory Williams - Doctor Who
  • C-3PO - Star Wars saga
  • Steve Rogers - Marvel Cinematic Universe 
These are debatable, and I'd love you here your opinions on them. 

Some other fun ISFJ resources
ISFJ Problems According to Twitter

And here are some more similar posts
Gemma's ENFP Post
Hannah's INFJ Post (She is the one who originally started this tag. Thanks, Hannah!) 

I can't believe I wrote a 3,000 word post. -_- 

Anyway, comment if you will. Do you know any ISFJs? Have you written/do you plan to write an ISFJ character? What do you like and dislike about ISFJs? Do we look really self-obsessed now? Can you think of any ISFJ villains? (I can't, and would be interested if anyone knew of one that I could meet. }:]) Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed! 

Posted on by Lily @ Personality Geek | 2 comments


  1. I love this post. The use of gifs is especially perfect. =) Apparently I really like ISFJ's. I identified with a lot of your points and I love almost every fictional character you listed. =D Hilarious, helpful post! You've given me several fun character quirks to give to this one character who is a bit too flat. =) Thanks!

    1. Thanks! I love gifs. :3 I'm glad I've helped you with your character. It's really fun to add new dimensions to characters like that.
      Thanks for visiting and commenting! And also for creating this tag. :D