People with introverted personalities need time alone to recharge. People with Sensing preferences trust in things that they can see, hear, and touch. Thinking personality types make decisions based on logic and Judging personality types feel comfortable in structured situations. Put them all together and you get the ISTJ personality type that was originally developed by theorist Isabel Briggs Myers.
The ISTJ personality type is also known as the “inspector.” We like to know the rules and play by them. We’re conventional and conservative (though not necessarily politically so). We like to be useful and we take our responsibilities very seriously.
In other words, we’re the life of the party. Assuming the party takes place in the reference section of a library and involves extensive research.
It’s not easy being an ISTJ personality, especially in a world that seems to value novelty and spontaneity over tradition and careful planning. But we do have a number of traits that you really can’t get anywhere else.
1. Intense self-discipline
Blessed (or cursed) with an innate sense of purpose, the ISTJ commits wholeheartedly to explicit definitions of success. Once we’ve selected a goal, we go after it with the assumption that we won’t stop until we get there.
One of my personal idols as a teenager was Thea Kronborg, the driven main character in Willa Cather’s 1915 novel, The Song of the Lark. Thea grows up playing piano but discovers that her true talent is in singing. The transition requires Thea to abandon her old conceptions of her future self – never an easy process for an ISTJ.
“I’ve drifted,” she complains to her friend Fred, who has convinced her to take an actual vacation. Fred replies with the perfect descriptor of an ISTJ:
“You drift like a rifle ball, my dear.”
If you’re an ISTJ personality, I wish you someone who admires your rifle ball tendencies this much.
2. Creating order from chaos
ISTJs are naturally driven to make things make sense. We crave order and structure, preferably the kind that’s well-established and time-tested.
At work, ISTJ’s approach things systematically, often creating structure where there was none. At home, we live by the old adage of “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” Live with an ISTJ and you’ll never wonder where something is – unless you’re the one who forgot to put it back.
3. Seriously perfectionistic
The ISTJ personality knows how things should be and is determined to “make it so” (in the words of Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard). We’re not trying to be critical, but they can come across that way.
Think about what goes into this tendency. The “Sensing” part of the ISTJ personality traits focuses on facts – this is how you mow the lawn correctly; this is how you fold a shirt. The “Thinking” element reasons that if this is the right way, why would anyone not want to do it that way? And the Judging element… well, ok, it kind of judges when something’s done poorly.
If it helps, we’re not judging you… just the way you folded that shirt. (And we’re judging ourselves just as harshly for our own folding mishaps.)
4. Guardians of tradition
Few ISTJ personality traits are more misunderstood than the dedication to tradition. The ISTJ values traditional ways of doing things because when something has been done a certain way for many years, it’s probably because it works.
Think about it – if you got a new laundry detergent and your clothes were still dirty, would you keep using that soap? Probably not.
So yes, we like tradition – but those traditions vary from person to person. One ISTJ might get married, have kids, and take those kids to an Episcopal church every Sunday because that’s what her family has done for generations.
And then there are people like my friend Jonah (name changed to protect the “innocent”), whose family made up their own solstice holiday and who is now celebrating that holiday with his own two kids.
Your tradition is whatever you say it is – even if you’re an ISTJ.
5. Extreme perseverance
ISTJs are your never-say-die friends. They remain focused on a problem after everyone else has given up. We get things done because of this perseverance. It’s what makes them effective workers and leaders.
It can also annoy the heck out of their coworkers and loved ones. If you fall into one of these two categories, it’s okay – we know that you appreciate us, even when we’re being single-minded.
6. Always well-prepared
ISTJ personalities are used to doing things the right way, so we know what it takes to get things done. That means we know what we need to have on hand and what we need to do to prepare for any given task. We’ll do our research before we give a big presentation, and we’ll bring enough tissues to share with everyone when we go to see a sad movie.
7. Dedicated to a role
As ISTJs, we see ourselves as cogs in a wheel. If we believe that filling a particular role comes with certain duties, we will perform those duties as long as doing so is within our power. It’s a great quality in an employee and a family member – we always remember to take out the garbage.
8. Promoters of Peace
Peacemaking is one of the ISTJ’s lesser-known abilities. We’re commonly thought of as solitary at best and reclusive at worst, inclined to work alone and by the book.
What most people don’t see, though, is that our love for order and organization translates into the social realm as well. We love to feel safe and secure, and so we work to make our social environments a stress-free as possible.
That’s not to say that we’re always good at it, but we try.
9. Great how-to teachers
Ask an ISTJ personality how they do something, and you’re likely to get a detailed walk-through. You’ll always learn the “right” way of doing things when you learn from us, and we’ll certainly tell you if you’re doing it wrong. We consider that a kindness.
10. Extreme honesty
ISTJs aren’t known for being the most diplomatic or tactful of people, but you can trust that we mean what we say. Our thinking and judging preferences make us favor logic over emotions as a general rule, so we tend to avoid sugar-coating. After all, logic dictates that honesty is kinder than a lie.
The ISTJ in your life is someone you can always depend on. If that’s you, congratulations – you are a much-needed “rock” to many in your world (even if they don’t always admit it.) And if you live or work with an ISTJ, congratulations to you, too – you have someone who will never leave you out in the cold.
Remember to thank the ISTJ in your life for their stability, dedication, and ability to hold things together.