Five Insider Tips To Help ISTJs Deal With Conflict

All things being equal, ISTJ personalities would rather avoid conflict. We prefer jobs where we fly solo. We use calendars and communication for clarity. We follow the rules and eschew anything that could generate a surprise of any kind.                  

We don’t do variables; we do decisions. We actively plan to not have conflicts. So it’s disconcerting when a conflict lands in our path anyway, despite our best efforts to avoid it. 

At the same time, ISTJs handle conflict resolution deliberately all the time. We make wonderful customer care employees. We make points for our college debate, soothe squabbling children and make tough calls on the battlefield. If called upon, we go in prepared to achieve peace. After all, ISTJs value stability highly and are willing to work for it.

That can leave us in a tricky spot regarding conflict – we don’t like it, but we’re pretty good at dealing with it in our unique ISTJ way. Let’s look at five different conflict situations and examine how an ISTJ might deal with them. Which of the following is the fastest way to peace?

1. The “it’s not my problem” conflict

So many conflicts arrive the minute an ISTJ decides to react instead of reflect. In our haste for resolution, we forget the problem is not automatically ours. In our effort to gather "just the facts," we might miss the signs that this was an info dump, not a request for help. ISTJs want to "fix it fast and fix it right." And that makes it really hard for us to figure out when the best way to resolve conflict is by walking away.

Strategy: AVOID - if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

Is there actually a problem? If so, are you the correct person to resolve it? If you are, is the other person interested in a resolution?

Excellent Inspector that you are, if you don’t see something to get worked up about, back away and give the other person space to sort their feelings. ISTJs won’t tolerate idle gossip, whining or victim mentality. People who choose this over figuring out a concrete solution are not worth your time, so avoid, avoid, avoid.  

2. The “you can have it” conflict

Once you’ve identified that a conflict affects you, you can move toward resolution. For a low-stakes conflict where there isn’t much to lose, standing down and putting the other person first is a sound resolution strategy. Long-term relationships of any kind are precious to the ISTJ, and we’re prepared to do what it takes to strengthen the relationship beyond the current issue.

You can also use this strategy when the stakes are high and you care too much. For instance, when you’re ready to pay the price to keep the peace, or when you must—gulp—admit to being wrong.  

Strategy: ACCOMMODATE - give the win.

What’s at stake? How much do you care? If the relationship is important to you, give the other person the win—and ideally, do it in a way that makes you sound warm and attentive as opposed to uncaring or critical.

Sometimes in conflict situations, the person simply wants to think out loud. It’s not uncommon to watch people solve their own problems right in front of you. You can use reflective listening phrases like, “I hear you,” “I can see your point of view” or “What you’re telling me is…” to protect the relationship. Using “I’m sorry to hear that” is not an apology but a show of empathy.

ISTJs can be accommodating. Until our values are touched.

3. The “danger zone” conflict

It takes a lot to offend an ISTJ. Our conflicts are usually not personal and, when we’ve arrived at resolution, we don’t carry any hard feelings forward. We may remember the conflict, but carrying a grudge is exhausting and not worth our energy.

So when an ISTJ decides to escalate a conflict, you can bet it’s because a line was crossed. ISTJs are the keepers of lines. Did you lie on your resume? We value honesty. Did you manipulate your boyfriend? We value authenticity and integrity. Have you spent our rent money on video games for the third time in a row? We can only accommodate so many times before we confront the problem head on. Because this time, we are right and you are wrong. 

Strategy: COMPETE - fight to the finish.

Whether we march into the manager’s office, fire an employee or argue with a close friend, ISTJs are in a danger zone when our values have been threatened. We are willing to override everyone else’s point of view in these situations, because this is not a trivial argument. A crisis must be diverted. Rights must be defended. A long-term conflict must be forced to resolution.

This approach demands direct confrontation with the other person’s actions or beliefs. We’ve decided their perspective doesn’t matter because it endangers others or something we deeply believe in. The conflict must resolve wholly in our own favor, and we are willing to work hard to get it—no compromises. 

4. The “let’s all play fair” conflict

ISTJs like to play fair, sacrifice for the greater good and are loyal to their tribe. It feels natural to bring everyone to the table and vote on a conflict resolution in certain situations, like when the family has to decide where to go on vacation, or a country has to choose a new president, or a union goes on strike. 

Strategy: COMPROMISE - What do we all think? Can we meet in the middle?

Compromising in a conflict situation means that no one gets everything they want. What they do get is a voice and a fair share of power over the outcome—as long as they are all willing to meet somewhere in the middle. ISTJs have a strong sense of responsibility in this process. As long as everyone gets a fair shake, we will have peace with the outcome. 

5. The “no man left behind” conflict

What is the long-term impact of this conflict? When you must have a win-win solution, collaboration is the way to go. Mergers and marriages, stockholders and clients, whether personal or professional, if the conflict requires a high-level result, be prepared to invest some creative time in finding a cooperative, interactive resolution. This strategy isn’t interested in finding middle ground, but in all parties rising together with everyone’s needs met. 

Strategy: COLLABORATING - Achieving satisfaction for all.

Using a collaboration strategy is logical for ISTJs, who are practical and love a good puzzle. We are big on contributing, organizing, and arranging supportive systems that help people thrive, and can easily see conflict as an opportunity for growth in the right circumstances. When all parties are interested in mutual success, the conflict shifts onto neutral ground. That’s where ISTJs work best—opening space for honest, calm, rational communication.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

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