Friday, May 14, 2010

Getting Into Character: The ISFP (Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiver)

Today we continue our specific look at the sixteen types in the MBTI line-up. This is going to be so fun, because even if this is not your particular label, more than likely you will recognize someone you know and love revealed on the page. I need to let you know that this is NOT a professional opinion or blog—I’m just teaching you what I've learned over more than ten years of studying personality.

I’m not going to repeat my description of the dominant preferences and such, but if you haven’t been following along, go back and read the beginning of the first week’s post, which you will find under the April archives (The ESTP). I’ve highlighted the part you need to read in green, so you can easily catch up.

Last week we looked at the ISTP's, inward-energized analytical, logical, fact-based approach to life. This week we will just tweak one letter, changing the T to an F. ISFPs are gentle, compassionate, behind-the-scenes lovers of the underdog. Let’s see how changing the Thinker label to Feeler changes the personality of the individual.

Living Life with an ISFP: ISFPs are known for their compassion. They have a clear understanding of themselves and possess strong values and convictions. They are in tune with senses and rely on sensory data to reach conclusions. They recognize internal sensations and they also use facts gained from their senses to make decisions. ISFPs delight in nature and often seek to help others appreciate it as well. Often their gifts will reflect both their love of nature and their joy in beauty that awakens their senses through touch, taste, smell, texture, or sound. They are the classic peacemaker, the long-suffering harmony-creator. ISFPs are uncomfortable with conflict and with suffering and will work to alleviate both. ISFPs enjoy working behind the scenes to offer specific and practical helps, especially to people, plants, and animals they deem to be in need. This makes them wonderful friends and they usually enjoy deep relationships that they spend a lot of time nurturing. They enjoy and appreciate life to the fullest and inspire others to do the same.

Career/Service Area Choices for an ISFP: Because of their tendency to help the underdog, ISFPs are drawn to work and ministry opportunities that allow them to help meet the needs of people. They enjoy working in atmospheres of cooperation, flexibility, and adaptability. You may never see an ISFP angry, but if you do, it most likely revolves around someone less fortunate being hurt, taken advantage of, or mistreated. ISFPs happily work in the background, responding to the needs they see. Some popular occupations for ISFPs are bookkeeper, carpenter, personal service worker, clerical/secretary, dental/ medical staff, food service worker, nurse, mechanic, physical therapist, X-ray tech, librarian, teacher, homemaker, clergy/counselor, and trainer. Jobs and service areas that allow them to explore their artistic side will appeal to their senses.

Free Time for an ISFP: ISFPs enjoy leisure activities that allow them to enjoy right now. They are “stop-and-smell-the-roses” people. ISFPs also enjoy doing fun things for the people in their life they care about deeply. This is another reason why they never have a lack of friends! Their free time may or may not include others. They are content to spend time with people, yet their Introversion means they will also need and want time alone. ISFPs may also use some of their free time to volunteer with organizations that allow them to help people in need. ISFPs often take great joy in their pursuits. They may choose activities that allow them to tap into the artistic (sensing) side. While they tend to be quiet, ISFPs are also spontaneous and adaptable to new situations. They infuse joy into all they do.

Warnings for the ISFP: Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing, so here are some things ISTPs need to beware of: Their desire to help others may result in the ISFP neglecting their own needs or putting themselves at the bottom of the list. They need to learn to recognize their own needs and allow themselves to accept help from their many friends. Because of their strong desire for peace, ISFPs may not handle conflict correctly. Instead of meeting it head-on and dealing with a problem, they may attempt to sweep it under the rug and restore harmony at any cost. ISFPs are drawn to a sob story and can be taken advantage of or used by people. ISFPs tend to internalize much of their feelings. They will do well to find trusted people they can share with and get things out in the open. Left inside, their thoughts have a propensity to turn negative. Their behind-the-scenes nature means often they will neglect to take credit due them. ISFPs need to learn to stand up for their own needs and make their desires known.

Spiritual Helps for the ISFP: ISFPs may find themselves the most connected to God when in nature or in spending time in quiet reflection. Often they see God in nature. They may also work out their faith in practically meeting needs of those around them. To grow in their faith, ISFPs may seek out spiritual mentors and role models. Due to their highly sensory nature, ISFPs may enjoy charismatic worship services and styles. ISFPs will also likely benefit from participation in small groups or Bible studies. If ISFPs are in a crowd, they usually prefer not to be singled out, so they may also enjoy corporate worship providing they don’t have to stand out in any way. They will also enjoy learning about the spiritual side of practical matters such as parenting and marriage, especially if it allows them to later use that knowledge to help someone else.

What Others Say about the ISFP: Known as peacemakers and proponents of harmony, ISFPs are loyal and loving friends. They are in their element when they are meeting practical needs of their friends, family, and even strangers. ISFPs are caring, kind, gentle, and modest. ISFPs are understanding and sympathetic. On the flip side, they themselves tend to be tender and sensitive to the words and attitudes of others, which makes them vulnerable to hurt. They quietly go about life, unassuming, and enjoying it as it comes.

Okay, who do you know that is an ISFP? Let me hear from you if you are!

Next week, I’m up for suggestions. Tell me your label (or someone else’s) and I’ll be happy to head in that direction.


  1. Nikki,

    Interesting stuff! I deal with personality assessments every day, including the MBTI, but mostly for pre-employment and leadership development purposes. While I find the MBTI interesting (I'm an ISTJ), I don't find it overly useful for my purposes. However, your application here is just what it's intended for. Keep up the great writing!

    Cousin Nathan

  2. Thanks, Nate! I'm also an ISTJ. I find this stuff so interesting. I use it in a ministry I run at church and it is really valuable for helping people understand the people around them ( and cut them some slack).

  3. Nikki,

    I'm an ISFP. Your description is very accurate.

    I've been studying personalities ever since my husband died in 2000, and I realized I was a bewildered lost soul. As I started learning why I act and react the way I do, life became full and rich... I gave myself the RIGHT to delve into the things I love - all of outdoors, people, animals, greenery, cooking, brewing, the list is endless - any kind of creativity.

    I learned how to take care of myself first so that I'm actually more qualified to care for my loved ones.

    This post
    and several others from my blog show the mind and thoughts of an ISFP.


  4. Debi,

    I thought I returned your comment, but it must still be uploaded to my brain. It is wonderful that you've given yourself to be permission to live the life God called you to live by giving you your particular personality. When we know both our strengths and our weaknesses, we are much more qualified to live a fulfilling life, embracing the good and striving to work on the not-so-good.

    I love studying the different types and seeing them play out in life.

    Thanks for sharing.