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[ISFJ] ISFJ's Inflexibility

Zhash

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Apr 29, 2007
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145
I hear all kinds of stories about INTJs but gosh, I work with an ISFJ woman that is one of the most inflexible human beings around. You can't have any level of spirited discussion about anything because if your opinion differs from hers, she gets so rigid and judgmental. It's painful being around her because I just have to keep my mouth shut and agree. That's hard for an INTJ to do but it is the only way to keep peace. She has no level of objectivity. Anyone come across this when dealing with an ISFJ? Any help in dealing with her would be appreciated. It's painful for me to be with "SJs".
I can tolerate "SPs" far greater.
 

substitute

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May 27, 2007
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Yes I know what you mean, I've an ISFJ friend who I used to roleplay with, and everything had to be done her way, there was just no negotiation. I remember another of our friends wanted to roleplay with us, but needed a ride home - she lived right near him, but she refused to give him a ride because it would mean she'd have to go by a VERY SLIGHTLY different route than the one she prefers, and she wouldn't budge on it. She would happily leave in her car, leaving him behind to walk home at night, I don't know how she lives with herself. The guy she snubbed is ISTJ, and I find him a bit easier to deal with, a bit more reasonable.

I found that the only way to persuade my ISFJ to do anything that was slightly out of her preferred routine, was to use a bit of emotional blackmail by saying that not doing so would cause hurt or offence to someone she liked, or knew she couldn't afford to offend. Or to subtly suggest that not cooperating with me might necessitate an open admission of her dislike/disrespect for someone, risking a 'scene' in public where people would confront her. That was the only leverage I could ever use with her - the obsessive sense of propriety and fear of confrontation.
 

Ivy

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Yes I know what you mean, I've an ISFJ friend who I used to roleplay with, and everything had to be done her way, there was just no negotiation. I remember another of our friends wanted to roleplay with us, but needed a ride home - she lived right near him, but she refused to give him a ride because it would mean she'd have to go by a VERY SLIGHTLY different route than the one she prefers, and she wouldn't budge on it. She would happily leave in her car, leaving him behind to walk home at night, I don't know how she lives with herself. The guy she snubbed is ISTJ, and I find him a bit easier to deal with, a bit more reasonable.

I found that the only way to persuade my ISFJ to do anything that was slightly out of her preferred routine, was to use a bit of emotional blackmail by saying that not doing so would cause hurt or offence to someone she liked, or knew she couldn't afford to offend. Or to subtly suggest that not cooperating with me might necessitate an open admission of her dislike/disrespect for someone, risking a 'scene' in public where people would confront her. That was the only leverage I could ever use with her - the obsessive sense of propriety and fear of confrontation.

This seems odd to me for an ISFJ, unless as you imply she really doesn't like the ISTJ who needed the ride. ISFJs are more likely to over-extend themselves than refuse to help, at least for people they respect. I can see this happening with someone the ISFJ doesn't have much respect for, though. And I can certainly imagine an ISFJ being motivated by the threat of having to be "rude" and admit his or her lack of respect to someone's face.

As for getting along on a day-to-day basis, if there are many areas in which you and the ISFJ in question disagree, it may behoove you to stick to light topics. Another option is to use active listening with her instead of arguing back when she issues a judgment, and simply try to understand her positions (while benevolently refusing to betray your principles). I do this with my mom sometimes, who doesn't like hypotheticals at all and doesn't seem to understand the concept of playing "devil's advocate." I love her and want to get along even though there's A LOT we don't meet up on, so I sometimes just listen and barf back what she just said in other words, and try to sympathize. It takes some creativity but I've gotten quite good at being a mirror instead of a lamp to her. :)
 

rivercrow

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You might also look at these two threads:

Ivy's right about the active listening.

I'm married to an ISFJ. I've had experiences like those discussed and there's always a reason for the behavior, although it might not be understandable without effort to an NT.

[edit]
As I've gotten older, I've started to understand some of it. Introverted Sensing (Si) is ISFJ's dominant function and may be INTP's tertiary. Si is not in INTJ's "top four," so an INTJ experience it, but it will be very uncontrollable. In a nutshell, Si deals with personal responses to things you can sense, sort of like nostalgia. (More here.) An event, thing, person, etc is weighted with Si--all the chain of personal connections. Trying to weasel these out can be challenging, especially for NTs. :dry:
 

Geoff

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You might also look at these two threads:

Ivy's right about the active listening.

I'm married to an ISFJ. I've had experiences like those discussed and there's always a reason for the behavior, although it might not be understandable without effort to an NT.

[edit]
As I've gotten older, I've started to understand some of it. Introverted Sensing (Si) is ISFJ's dominant function and may be INTP's tertiary. Si is not in INTJ's "top four," so an INTJ experience it, but it will be very uncontrollable. In a nutshell, Si deals with personal responses to things you can sense, sort of like nostalgia. (More here.) An event, thing, person, etc is weighted with Si--all the chain of personal connections. Trying to weasel these out can be challenging, especially for NTs. :dry:

I concur.. there is a lot to be said to trying to work out the cause of unhelpfulness, particularly in SJs as often it is that you are being "punished" for some other infraction. It isn't therefore (probably) that they are inflexible, it is that they refuse to bend because of something else.

Finding out, is tricky, but an ISFJ will go out of their way to help if they like you.

-Geoff
 

wildcat

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I hear all kinds of stories about INTJs but gosh, I work with an ISFJ woman that is one of the most inflexible human beings around. You can't have any level of spirited discussion about anything because if your opinion differs from hers, she gets so rigid and judgmental. It's painful being around her because I just have to keep my mouth shut and agree. That's hard for an INTJ to do but it is the only way to keep peace. She has no level of objectivity. Anyone come across this when dealing with an ISFJ? Any help in dealing with her would be appreciated. It's painful for me to be with "SJs".
I can tolerate "SPs" far greater.
You want her to come to your ground.
A mistake.
Go to her ground.
 

Totenkindly

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You want her to come to your ground.
A mistake.
Go to her ground.

I agree. (From a practical perspective, Zhash has a much better chance of stepping into the ISFJ sphere than the ISFJ has of stepping into hers.)

I guess Zhash is partly asking how she can do that, however; my mind doesn't seem to be working coherently enough this morning to come up with some concrete ideas, but hopefully something will kick in later...
 

Lookin4theBestNU

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My closest circle of relationships are with ISTX's. My next closest friendships are with numerous ISFJs. I have only met one ISFJ who was completely rigid and judgmental. She was an absolute pain in the ass and I worked with her for a couple of years. I would disagree with the route of having to keep quiet to keep the peace. I would think for an INTJ that would cause a simmering resentment that would later backfire. I know with this lady I couldn't keep quiet anyway I am too strong-willed myself. Here are a couple of little tips that help when my friends start getting a bit "anal". I used them with her as well with varying degrees of success.

1. Focus on cooperation-the best route to go with them seriously. I've had to explain and emphasize during the course of a conversation that a.We are aiming for the same goal. b. I like their ideas and contributions c. We need to look at all the options to insure we are looking at the entire picture(word this carefully as they always want to believe they are!)d. We need to look at the long term not just the immediate solution/issue. I personally as well with any type of personality look for the win/win. ISFJs can be brought around to this with work and patience even the rigid one I mentioned above!!

2. ISFJs are the 'rules' people. I am a loop-hole and rules are subject to interpretation person :). This is where ISFJs and I have had the most conflicts. However I personally do not mind going head-to-head using their own tactics against them if necessary! This 'game' (looking at it like that helps my tolerance level) can actually be fun. Here is the catch however, be prepared for the long haul!! I have won many an argument with an ISFJ who later after getting them to concede come back with a rebuttal the following day. I was shocked the first time this happened as the lady I mentioned above came back WITH NOTES. I also advise being clear and using as few carefully chosen words as possible. ISFJs have remembered EXACT conversations we had years earlier. I know for me standing very rigid myself and stating that an agreeable solution WILL be sought and carried out for all parties involved-not just them- can be a good thing. If they are in a position above you though this is unlikely to work :).

3. If all else fails and you have no qualms about it ISFJs can be fairly easily 'manipulated'. My conscience will get in the way sometimesbut most ISFJs are not above manipulation themselves. I hold a 'if they use it first' rule. Rigid SJs are indeed quite easy-the more rigid the better. The way of course is to let them think they won on "points"!! Sprinkle in a few "you are so right on that!". You can word things to make them think 'overall' they won. Its actually quite humorous to see the smugness they get when they think they won. This also helps with tolerance when they start getting under your skin. ISFJs also tend to play the 'martyrdom' card quite often. I know and care about LOTS of ISFJs for all of those who may be reading this but frankly I have yet to meet a single one who did not use this tactic. The rigid one I mentioned above played this like a champ. I find this is the absolute best time to get at them. I don't mind expressing 'appreciation' for their 'sacrifices' often. Acknowledging their work even casually is a good way to bring them around and get them to open up.

4. If you want to be downright 'nasty' however substitute mentioned some good ways. Question their integrity on the things they value. Just keep in mind that by doing so too often you are likely to create an enemy which of course is unwise in a working relationship. Cooperation is likely to be your best bet. Remember as well that ISFJs primary focus is on conservation and protection. Point out contradictions bluntly to what they say and do. They want to believe they are always 'doing the right thing for everyones own good'.

To summarize ISFJs are great people though it's no surprise at all that you appreciate the SPs utilitarian view similar to your own. They have many great qualities and are hard working and loyal. Out of all of the types I have 'studied' this is the most frequent one I have encountered. I am an NF so I tend to focus on the positive and cooperation myself. I generally tend to value their input more then the SP but not by much. It sounds to me like you are 'stewing in your own juices' about this person. I think jumping into her shoes and looking objectively at how she views you could also help. SJs are unlikely to change. I would find points of agreement with her and pick your battles carefully.
 

prplchknz

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You might also look at these two threads:

Ivy's right about the active listening.

I'm married to an ISFJ. I've had experiences like those discussed and there's always a reason for the behavior, although it might not be understandable without effort to an NT.

[edit]
As I've gotten older, I've started to understand some of it. Introverted Sensing (Si) is ISFJ's dominant function and may be INTP's tertiary. Si is not in INTJ's "top four," so an INTJ experience it, but it will be very uncontrollable. In a nutshell, Si deals with personal responses to things you can sense, sort of like nostalgia. (More here.) An event, thing, person, etc is weighted with Si--all the chain of personal connections. Trying to weasel these out can be challenging, especially for NTs. :dry:
That's interesting my dad's an INTP (I think I haven't gotten him to take the test yet, I might do that later today I know he's IxTP) and my mom's an ISFJ I wonder if they view each other in a similar manner you and your spouse do.
 

proteanmix

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Really good advice!

I agree. I work with ISFJs and I have a number of ISFJ friends. First make them feel appreciated and acknowledged, because that usually settles them down and then they'll help you. I think ISFJs are very easy to satisfy. Once I pulled a Employee of the Hour (!) template of the internet and gave it to one of my ISFJ coworkers in appreciation for helping me with something I really didn't want to do. She still has it hanging up in her cube and was really grateful for it.

I'd first caution you to examine how you approach her as others have already said. You may not be aware of what you're doing that makes her react the way she does, so get yourself straight first. Also, this one time when I wouldn't advocate blunt communication. The ISFJs I know deny that anything is wrong which makes it damn near impossible to get any straight talk from them. Just start doing, make changes on your part first so they can see you're doing some sacrificing, since they so often feel like they sacrifice.

If this person still wants to be a jackass, proceed with L4BNU's 3 and 4.
 

heart

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You can't have any level of spirited discussion about anything because if your opinion differs from hers, she gets so rigid and judgmental. It's painful being around her because I just have to keep my mouth shut and agree.

My sympathy to you on this issue. I have a good friend who is an ISFJ (sometimes she is more P than J, but mostly J) and we just cannot talk about politics or religion because in those areas we do not agree and it is very hard for me to keep my mouth shut and agree. So I just have to avoid the topics that we disagree on.

There are things about her that get to me sometimes, a lack of empathy. Like if her husband has a headache, she calls him a wimp if he needs to lay down or if her dog has an itch and can't get to it, she laughs at the dog. I usually end up reaching over and scratching the darn dog's back (even though I can't stand that dog) because my empathy gets the better of me. She laughed about the girls she went to school with who were "too ugly to get dates" but most of the time she is very loving and giving. It confuses me, this hard nosed part of her that peeks out from time to time.
 

Zhash

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Apr 29, 2007
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As for getting along on a day-to-day basis, if there are many areas in which you and the ISFJ in question disagree, it may behoove you to stick to light topics. Another option is to use active listening with her instead of arguing back when she issues a judgment, and simply try to understand her positions (while benevolently refusing to betray your principles). I do this with my mom sometimes, who doesn't like hypotheticals at all and doesn't seem to understand the concept of playing "devil's advocate." I love her and want to get along even though there's A LOT we don't meet up on, so I sometimes just listen and barf back what she just said in other words, and try to sympathize. It takes some creativity but I've gotten quite good at being a mirror instead of a lamp to her. :)

That's exactly what I do--keep it light and never, ever argue anything. She is also a childhood friend of mine and we have renewed a friendship with since we work at the same place. I do all of the above but I don't feel that I'm being honest to myself. She waits for me to agree with her about all sorts of things that I don't agree with and isn't satisfied until I nod in agreement. I feel trapped and not authentic. Being authentic and real is so important to me.

Recently we went on a business trip together. The flight was a long one and I read the book, "Elinor Frost, A Poet's Wife". She had read the book, too. After I was finished reading the book, she asked me some questions. I think she was shocked by my response. It was clearly different than her opinion of the book. It was amazing to see--she tightened her body up, got rigid and confrontational about my opinion of the book. I thought that Elinor and Robert Frost were two complex human beings and I found their marriage very different than she did. She immediately stated that he was a ba**ard and Elinor was abused. I saw it differently. Holy Cow, talk about beating the crap out of me. So, now I keep quiet and smile and don't voice my opinions. It's like being in a cage. Unfortunately, I've been her support for the past year because her husband left her for another woman. Please forgive me God, but I'd leave her, too. He was a highly intelligent man. She slept in another bedroom for 10 years and when he knocked on her locked door to visit her, she would say, "Wait a minute, I have to get dressed"......and she can't understand why he left? I don't dare tell her the reason!
 

Ivy

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That's exactly what I do--keep it light and never, ever argue anything. She is also a childhood friend of mine and we have renewed a friendship with since we work at the same place. I do all of the above but I don't feel that I'm being honest to myself. She waits for me to agree with her about all sorts of things that I don't agree with and isn't satisfied until I nod in agreement. I feel trapped and not authentic. Being authentic and real is so important to me.

Recently we went on a business trip together. The flight was a long one and I read the book, "Elinor Frost, A Poet's Wife". She had read the book, too. After I was finished reading the book, she asked me some questions. I think she was shocked by my response. It was clearly different than her opinion of the book. It was amazing to see--she tightened her body up, got rigid and confrontational about my opinion of the book. I thought that Elinor and Robert Frost were two complex human beings and I found their marriage very different than she did. She immediately stated that he was a ba**ard and Elinor was abused. I saw it differently. Holy Cow, talk about beating the crap out of me. So, now I keep quiet and smile and don't voice my opinions. It's like being in a cage. Unfortunately, I've been her support for the past year because her husband left her for another woman. Please forgive me God, but I'd leave her, too. He was a highly intelligent man. She slept in another bedroom for 10 years and when he knocked on her locked door to visit her, she would say, "Wait a minute, I have to get dressed"......and she can't understand why he left? I don't dare tell her the reason!

I guess you have to decide how important her friendship is to you. To me, I don't think it's essential that I share 100% of my opinions with everyone, and I don't think that's inauthentic-- it's just privacy. But it IS hard when they drag it out of you like you describe. I wouldn't want to lie then, either. But if your honesty makes her coil up and strike, then maybe you're not meant to be close with her. Sad, but perhaps you're just not compatible.
 

Zhash

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I guess you have to decide how important her friendship is to you. To me, I don't think it's essential that I share 100% of my opinions with everyone, and I don't think that's inauthentic-- it's just privacy. But it IS hard when they drag it out of you like you describe. I wouldn't want to lie then, either. But if your honesty makes her coil up and strike, then maybe you're not meant to be close with her. Sad, but perhaps you're just not compatible.

Thanks, Ivy. I care about her and I feel that I'm mentoring her through this terrible time in her life. It's just hard keeping my opinions to myself because as you all know, I'm opinionated. I suppose it's a good exercise for me. I just hope I don't blow a cork one of these days. Today she called and wanted to know everything I was doing the entire weekend. It's like she's becoming possessive of me. I'm the most independent person you'll ever meet and there's no way in hell that I want someone hanging all over me and telling me what to do. I'm 57 years old. I think I just won't answer the phone. Thank God for caller ID.
 

Ivy

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Thanks, Ivy. I care about her and I feel that I'm mentoring her through this terrible time in her life. It's just hard keeping my opinions to myself because as you all know, I'm opinionated. I suppose it's a good exercise for me. I just hope I don't blow a cork one of these days. Today she called and wanted to know everything I was doing the entire weekend. It's like she's becoming possessive of me. I'm the most independent person you'll ever meet and there's no way in hell that I want someone hanging all over me and telling me what to do. I'm 57 years old. I think I just won't answer the phone. Thank God for caller ID.

I hear that. Boundaries are your friend. Good luck!
 

mooshenh

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My husband is ISFJ and neurotic as well, which seems to exasperate the SJ in him. I know from experience he is manipulative, simply won't engage in rational discussion, and is easily manipulated himself.

If he were an acquaintance and not my husband I would resort to manipulation tactics such as LFTBIY relates. However he is not a simple acquaintance, which means to go this route would require I do this 24/7, which goes against my very nature. In Jung's writings on typology he described the introverted irrationals who become too one-sided as only coming to terms with reality when forced to confront some type of life altering consequence of their actions. I find this to be very true indeed.

In my own case I wound up having to rent a separate living space giving me the escape needed from my husband's strange quirks and inflexibility. I do go back for spells.

If I were you I would quietly play along with her quirks and avoid having her intrude too much into my life. Sure there are some mature ISFJs who are more balanced but this woman you describe doesn't sound like one of them. To do her any favors sounds like it could be taxing on your part. I would think you'd have to self evaluate and decide if you are up to allowing her more space in your life or not.

Another thing that Jung wrote in there was that how we handled the one-sided unbalanced introverted irrationals has a lot to say about ourselves. I find this typical of Jung. He makes a very strong statement but leaves the interpretation open to the reader. So what do I think of this? Hmmmmm.....does allowing the SJ to carry on like this make me a doormat? ...or does standing up for myself with drastic measures make me heartless? Hard to say. I think I'm beginning to manage some semblance of balance with my particular solution. (I hope)
 

wildcat

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My sympathy to you on this issue. I have a good friend who is an ISFJ (sometimes she is more P than J, but mostly J) and we just cannot talk about politics or religion because in those areas we do not agree and it is very hard for me to keep my mouth shut and agree. So I just have to avoid the topics that we disagree on.

There are things about her that get to me sometimes, a lack of empathy. Like if her husband has a headache, she calls him a wimp if he needs to lay down or if her dog has an itch and can't get to it, she laughs at the dog. I usually end up reaching over and scratching the darn dog's back (even though I can't stand that dog) because my empathy gets the better of me. She laughed about the girls she went to school with who were "too ugly to get dates" but most of the time she is very loving and giving. It confuses me, this hard nosed part of her that peeks out from time to time.
I do not think she is an ISFJ.
She is an ISTJ with a high L (L for Lie) scale.

The L is a personality continuum for denial, accomodation and self deception.

When a female ISTJ with a high L scale does the MBTI test she is bound to end as an ISFJ.

As this is expected of her.
An accomodation.
 

mooshenh

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I do not think she is an ISFJ.
She is an ISTJ with a high L (L for Lie) scale.

The L is a personality continuum for denial, accomodation and self deception.

When a female ISTJ with a high L scale does the MBTI test she is bound to end as an ISFJ.

As this is expected of her.
An accomodation.

That's funny. (crys) When I asked my husband to take the MBTI test he was all over the place. I knew he was doing it on purpose.
 

rivercrow

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Meh.

ISFJs can be apparently irrationally stubborn.
 
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