The ISFJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, is estimated to make up about 13 percent of the population. Nicknamed “the Defender,” ISFJs are protectors and confidants, the friend or coworker who is conscientious and dependable. Ideal for careers such as teaching, nursing, or even interior design, ISFJs are driven by a strong sense of practicality, personal responsibility, and harmony. Without ISFJs working quietly and steadily, we would be lost.
I’m fortunate to know a few of them, and having lived with and observed them, I’m in awe of the way they care for and help others. Not all ISFJs are the same, and four letters can’t define all that we are. Nevertheless, here are six reasons I admire them — and how they bless this world.
What I Admire About ISFJs
1. They have an awe-inspiring capability for loyalty.
ISFJs highly value their relationships. They’re deeply committed to the people in their life, and they make every effort to support, encourage, and offer practical help to those they are closest to. An ISFJ probably won’t “throw off” friends. They make sure their relationships last by initiating activities, offering a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, and keep communication going no matter how great the distance.
If you’re friends with an ISFJ, you can be sure they will stick with you through the good and the bad, and make their care known through practical manifestations. They’ll be there for you 24/7 — whether it’s through consistent text messages or in-person meet-ups.
Don’t take advantage of the ISFJ. They want to make your life easier and better, and will put in the work if they care about you. They are exceptional friends to have, with an awe-inspiring capability for loyalty.
2. They’re selfless.
ISFJs tend to put others first. Whether it’s taking a smaller portion at dinner so there’s more for the rest of the family or driving their kids to extracurriculars to give their spouse time off, ISFJs think of others first. They frequently make sacrifices (most of the time behind the scenes) and usually do so without complaint; they don’t want the attention, they just want to serve others and make them happy and comfortable.
An ISFJ’s selflessness is unparallelled. I’m constantly in awe of the ISFJs in my life who give so much of their time, energy, and resources to the people around them. Sometimes I worry that what they want doesn’t even occur to them because they’re so people-focused. Indeed, ISFJs can grow by learning to sometimes say no, set healthy boundaries, and recognize that their needs are just as valid as those of anyone else.
3. They have an incredible memory for personal details.
How is it that an ISFJ can remember such intimate details about other people’s lives? It’s utterly astounding! ISFJs are the kind of individuals who actually remember the name of someone they’ve just been introduced to, and who will absorb every story and detail shared with them.
ISFJs have incredible memories, but more specifically, they have an acute recall of what others have told them. They remember that you went to the doctor, why you went, and practically your entire medical history that you mentioned in passing. And when you talk about that doctor’s visit, they’ll listen carefully and ask all the right questions.
How do ISFJs do it? It has to do with their preference for Introverted Sensing, the main cognitive attitude of these introverted-sensing-feeling-judgers. It’s truly a superpower.
4. They wield compassion effortlessly.
ISFJs are compassionate. They are doting parents, supportive friends, and nurturing coworkers. They care deeply about other people’s pain and struggles. They will listen to you vent, offer you a hug and a shoulder to cry on, and then cry with you. They pour their heart into their relationships, and offer incredible emotional support. Every word you say affects them. They are by your side as often as you’ll let them.
Compassion is a quality the ISFJ wields effortlessly. More importantly, they are willing to offer support and practical help, not just empathize. They want to make the problem go away, and they will put in the work to make that happen. While you might have dismissed it from your own mind, the ISFJ is busy troubleshooting and thinking of ways to help. They care that much.
For example, there’s an ISFJ in my life (we’ll call her Beth) who recently helped someone (we’ll call her Nancy) she didn’t know well. Nancy mentioned that her partner was battling a severe mental illness, and instead of simply listening to her, Beth went out of her way to investigate something that could help. She asked Nancy a lot of questions to find out more, and then she proactively talked to friends, asking them if they knew anyone who could help. She gave Nancy the contact information for a highly recommended therapist. It took a lot of time out of Beth’s day, but she did it all because she genuinely wanted to help.
5. They work hard.
ISFJs tend to be extremely efficient and hard working. They devote themselves to the task at hand and give it their all. They’re committed to their careers and responsibilities, and they follow through with a level head. They’re also practical. An ISFJ focuses on the real-world application of ideas, not abstract, theoretical concepts. Again, this makes sense considering their preference for Introverted Sensing.
For example, an ISFJ in my life (we’ll call her Robin) hates confrontation. She’s easily stressed out by it, yet for the sake of her family, she’ll take up little tasks like calling the telephone company to settle a billing error. These are tasks that have to be done, and to save her husband the trouble, Robin makes the phone call and gets things sorted out. This often requires many phone calls, many frustrating and complicated back-and-forth interactions, but Robin does it. She doesn’t give up. She puts in the effort and the time because right there, right then, it’s her job. And she will get it done.
I’m in awe of her persistence.
6. They’re natural peacemakers.
It’s not unusual for ISFJs to hide or downplay their opinions and preferences to keep the peace. They may not even realize they’re doing it. ISFJs are known to work subtly yet powerfully to ensure that everyone gets along, and they won’t hesitate to jump in if awkwardness or disagreements occur. They hate conflict — it can be extremely stressful for them, but most of all, they don’t like seeing other people get hurt.
There’s a good reason this personality type is called “the Defender.” Sometimes they will take on battles that aren’t their own. Anyone would love an ISFJ in their corner!
However, ISFJs need to realize the dangers of this tendency. It’s important that they learn to value — and put into effect — their own voice. ISFJs are generally wise, mature individuals, and their voice would be useful in times of disagreement. ISFJs should practice balance: defend others by all means, but offer wisdom and advice to help dissolve conflicts instead of brushing them under the rug. Encouragement is soothing, but at times, we also need to hear an ISFJ’s perspective. That in itself could solve a disagreement by offering a thoughtful and objective viewpoint.