Duty, Tradition, Honor: Understanding the SJ Personality Type


I was asked to do a series of editorials at work on personality types, so I’m going to post them to my blog as well. (I’ve done a lot of personality type contrasting on my tumblr — I probably won’t recreate that content here.)

SJ personality types (ESFJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ISTJ) are easily identified through their desire to preserve tradition and “sameness.” SJ’s are the cornerstones of society, those who keep it on track, who like to gather lots of information before making decisions, look to and trust their own experiences, and can be reluctant to let go of the old for the new. They like predictability and routine, are reliable, and have a strong long-term memory for details. They value the past (their own and history itself) and desire to learn from it. Their own past experiences and learned information influence their decisions in the present. Family traditions are important to them.


These traits are the result of their introverted sensing cognitive function (Si). It is a subjective function, so it takes in and process information through individual biases and opinions. It looks at situations through the person’s opinions, belief system, and experiences, and then attaches personal meaning to it based on those factors. It constantly compares present situations to its past experiences, as it builds a big “data bank” of information. (How is this person different from the last time I saw them? What happened the last time I did this?)

Because the past is so significant to them, an SJ has a hard time letting go of the past, overcoming trauma, and forgetting bad experiences. Each time they encounter something that reminds them of that bad experience, it triggers the same emotions they felt then. It’s impossible for them to “forget” or “move on” quickly; they must work through the event, and process it mentally, before they can heal from it.

SFJs are different from STJs in how they relate to other people and deal with information. This has to do with their next most-used function.


SFJs use extroverted feeling (Fe), an objective function that gathers all its emotional data from the outside world. It “senses” how others feel in a situation and tunes in to their emotions, sometimes even reflecting them. It gathers its moral code from socially agreed upon behavior and is distressed or disapproving when others deviate from those values. When used properly, Fe can help the SFJ remain impartial in an argument and understand both sides of an emotional argument. SFJ’s often put aside their own feelings to accommodate and take care of others’ needs before their own. Fe needs external affirmation and approval for its actions. SFJs are happiest when they know they’re needed, wanted, and loved, and feel like they are doing something important for society (working for humanitarian organizations or as a stay at home parent).

The perfect example of a healthy SFJ is Steve Rogers from the Captain America comics / films. He values and learns from the past (Si) while striving to protect humanity on the whole (Fe). He stands firm on his beliefs but is willing to listen to and learn from others, while preserving tradition.


STJs use extroverted thinking (Te), an objective function that gathers all its factual data from the outside world. It evaluates a situation based on the facts involved. It bases its logic on outside sources and provable information (research and textbooks, indisputable facts, scientific studies). Te when used properly can put aside emotion to make objective logical decisions aimed at accomplishing a goal. STJs enjoy maintaining existing systems and making them more efficient. They can easily make charts, diagrams, and design blueprints. STJs are good at time management and like to accomplish things. They’re happiest in a job where they know what is required from them.

The perfect example of a healthy STJ is Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. She uses her experiences and information she has read about (Si) to make logical decisions, turn in her assignments on time, and remind her friends of the school rules (Te).


Due to their good people skills, SFJs are happiest and most useful when allowed to interact with and help other people (receptionists, teachers, Bible study leaders, group organizers). Thanks to their incredible ability to retain data, STJs are happiest and most useful when permitted to interact with information and systems that put their factual memory to good use (the law, filing systems, financial).

SJ children are happiest when:

  • They’re on a schedule and in a routine
  • Life is predictable and traditions are kept
  • They know about family or school plans in advance
  • They can revisit favorite books, movies, and places
  • They are allowed to be themselves
  • They have an angst-free environment (SFJ)
  • They receive validation for their behavior (SFJ)
  • They are encouraged to read factual books (Te)

ESFJ children are outgoing, eager to please and energized by being around other kids. They are very sensitive to conflict or criticism, and need lots of encouragement. ISFJ kids prefer alone time and greatly desire one or two close friends. They are easily hurt by teasing or personal criticism, and hate the idea of letting their parents down. ESTJ children talk a lot and are known for being blunt and frank in their observations. They aren’t always aware of their own feelings, and may be confused if pointing out facts hurts other people’s feelings. They like being around people. ISTJ children are much more solitary and quiet. They aren’t easily offended but are very frank in their opinions.

Self-Improvement for SJs: don’t assume that the way you were taught is the only way it ought to be done. It’s okay if others don’t keep traditions. Change can be good. Don’t expect others to want to revisit their childhood. It’s okay to change churches or political parties if you want to.

Once you understand how much they value the past and feel comfortable with it, it’s much easier to accommodate and understand an SJ.

17 thoughts on “Duty, Tradition, Honor: Understanding the SJ Personality Type

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  1. That explains why tension puts a knot in my stomach. It actually makes me dislike being around people sometimes because of the tension. I love my family, but past problems with neighbors has taken a lot of the pure enjoyment out of being at home. Caitlin, poor thing, doesn’t understand that type of stress so I don’t talk about it anymore with her, but it’s always there, below the surface.

    1. Yep, I’m the same way. I had to go back to my childhood home for a funeral and before we ever left to go down there, I was all torn into knots, and I had bad dreams the whole time I was there.

        1. Thanks. Things like that just make me more grateful I’m up in New England now, and that I can build a good relationship with my girls.

    2. It happens that way with all Si-users, but SJ’s naturally are impacted by it more than NPs. (Yesterday, I watched Lorna Doone and had a flood of memories and former experiences tied to the film came rushing back — conversations I’d had with past friends about it, flashes of emotions, memories of different people I shared it with.) Si’s are very much impacted in the present by former emotions tied to a situation.

      I’m sorry your home has those negative emotions tied to it.

      1. It’s not always bad, but the warm months stress me because the neighbors are outside more. That’s the time when I take more vitamins for mood improvement so it lessens the worry. But I keep reminding myself that I won’t always have these people as neighbors and that helps. 🙂

  2. I’ve been meaning to take the personality test again (the only reason I haven’t is because it takes so long because I obsess about getting all of them right) because I can never remember what my personality type is, but I think you answered the question. I must be an ISFJ. So much of what you wrote here sounds like me.

    1. I would say that’s an accurate assessment, given some of the conversations we’ve had and how you tend to look at things. You remind me in a lot of ways of Carissa, who is very, very ISFJ. 🙂

  3. I’m an ISFJ, and I’m starting to think my six-year-old is an ESFJ. He enjoys interacting with people more than I do — gets very energized by going to art class, Sunday school, playing with his friends. But he’s definitely sensitive to any discouraging words, needing lots of praise and rewards to get motivated. He and I both love to reread books, watch the same movies again and again, play out the same stories over and over. And does that boy ever love his factual books!

    1. I spent a couple of days with Carissa recently who said that it used to annoy her so much when working at the library, she’d overhear parents saying to their child, “You’ve already seen that movie… you don’t need to watch it again.” Um, if they are a Si user, they absolutely need to see it again! I use Si, so I enjoy watching movies over and over — I think I saw Aladdin five or six times the first week I owned it as a kid, including twice in one day! It’s nice that you can share that with your son, and you’re permissible to him revisiting his favorite things. I’m sure it makes him feel safe. 🙂

      1. I think my dad is a Si user too, because he absolutely loves watching the same movie over and over. When “The Fugitive” came to VHS, he rented it every single weekend for several months. Same goes for a few other movies. “Sabrina.” “Apollo 13.” My mom would say, “But we just saw this! WHY would you want to watch it again? Can’t we watch something different for once?” So my dad started renting two movies for the weekend 🙂 One we were watching over and over, and one we hadn’t seen before.

        My husband (INTJ) has maybe 12 movies he’s willing to watch more than once.

        1. That’s darling! Maybe he should have just bought the VHS! It would have cost about the same as re-renting it over and over!

          My dad is an SFP. He doesn’t like watching the same movies over and over again, either. Once every decade is enough for him, even when it comes to the stuff he really likes, like The Lord of the Rings. It baffles him that I’ll go see a movie in theaters more than once! He also likes different things about the movies than I do — he’s very driven to new and exciting visual experiences. He liked Avatar because it was so gorgeous and such a spectacle — he also bought Jurassic Park when I was a kid just to see the new technology that created it.

          1. Well, this is back in the ’90s when a movie came out to the video stores for rental 3-6 months after it was in theaters, and it was another 3-6 months before you could buy it. So once it came out for sale, he’d buy the movie, but until then, all you could do was rent.

  4. I lived with an ISTJ and her ENFP husband for a year or so in graduate school and became very good friends with her. She was exactly like this, never happier than when she was working in the business department at school, responsible, routinized, and quite lovely. Living with me expanded her horizons a bit as I introduced all kinds of new foods and TV shows and things in our daily living. We had a grand old time.

    1. It’s lovely that you got to have such an experience — not only to expand her horizons but also come to see and appreciate what life with an SJ is like! I enjoy the SJ’s in my life very much!

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