ISTJs are aptly described as the “Inspectors” of the Myers and Briggs personality system and if you can remember that, everything else makes perfect sense. 

Our thought process, our behaviors, our decisions, all come from a place that looks at the world as a whole and constantly places individual pieces into their logical positions therein. In general, we inspect things in order to improve and maintain them. 

Our vision involves the greater good and we don’t mind making the little sacrifices that forward it.

All hail, the unsung heroes! 

ISTJs are the underpinning of society. The janitor. The mom. The accountant. The rancher. The lady who sits in the back room of the post office, making sure stamps were applied right-side-up. 

That might be funny, except there’s also a guy at NASA making sure every single bolt in the space shuttle is tightened to mathematical precision. Systems and rules and all of the moving pieces in harmony with the whole. Managing these things makes our ISTJ hearts sing.

ISTJs stay busy doing their thing and while we don’t need to stand onstage and receive a big shiny trophy for our dedication to making the world a better place, it’s time to acknowledge the often overlooked aspects of our ISTJ personality.

We are invisible. And we are predictable. 

But we are irreplaceable.

Here we give some undervalued ISTJ personality traits their fifteen minutes of fame, a taste of the unmistakable ISTJ secret sauce. Take your solid pat on the back and then get back to those bolts.

1. We never, never, never give up

ISTJs are committed. A big personality trait that often goes un-applauded is our single-minded adherence to the task at hand. We really believe in what we do and our determination means we don’t require an audience to accomplish it. 

Often, our day goes unobserved. Put us on the hamster wheel and walk away. We’ve got it. And we’re pretty sure you’ve got it, too.

Because previous experience has validated our belief that anything can be accomplished with enough applied energy, failure is never on our mind. We either succeed or we learn something new. Possibly, a thousand ways how not to make a light bulb. 

Our focus is tempered with curiosity and a constant appraisal of the big pictures. Systems are fluid, and we understand that, while we might prefer to work alone, we don’t succeed alone. Make the time to regularly reach out and encourage your team. It will startle them into remembering that you’re still there, doing the impossible for the ungrateful, and invites them to participate in your ISTJ levels of confidence and tenacity.

No one knows who coined the British phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On”, but it rings true for every ISTJ in the room.

2. An ISTJ walks into a bar…(yeah, we’re sarcastic) 

Now that we are discussing the ISTJ in the room, let’s consider the necessarily dry wit and deep sarcasm that they're capable of. 

You were forbidden to do what you really want to do at a party -- wash dishes or rearrange the buffet offerings -- so there you sit, drink in hand, as the other personalities in the room carry on. You are not so much following the random conversations around you as you are judging them, and inevitably, connecting dots on a global scale because overthinking is what we do for fun. 

The ISTJ comes up with some interesting comparisons and contrasts as they inspect the room, and some observations are too delicious to pass up. Blunt, direct, and confident, we don’t tell jokes in the spotlight. Instead, we mutter our commentary under our breath. If the satire is dark or the irony stings, so much the better if no one heard it. Our observations have gotten us into trouble before. But if someone laugh-snorts into their glass…well, we have just found our people.

ISTJs can spot a hypocrite at ten paces, a personality trait that everyone overlooks until it lands at their feet. Sarcasm is something we’re born with and regular use can take it to a professional level, as many comedians know. The ability to point out the obvious and show disdain for those with no common sense by saying the opposite of what’s expected is best accomplished with an eyebrow raised and a deadpan face, but a well-practiced squint will also have the desired effect.

You’re welcome, world.

3. We give support where it counts

While ISTJs typically know a lot of people through their families, workplace, and organizations, they tend to have a small circle of friends and only a couple of confidantes. Anyone who lands in their inner ring will find staunch loyalty and unwavering support that doesn’t have an expiration date or borders. ISTJ friendships transcend time and space, ten year gaps or lifestyle shifts. Relationships are unique when you have them with ISTJs. 

This personality characteristic goes largely unnoticed and underestimated until the inner ring is tested in some way. ISTJs protect their people and will go to great lengths to defend them, stepping around politics or driving through a zombie apocalypse to keep them safe. The inner circle is allowed to call their ISTJ pillar at two in the morning with questions about the stock market and the ISTJ will offer answers. And coffee.

ISTJs prefer a drama-free environment, making them the friend who diffuses conflict instead of starting it. They play fair, refuse to pick favorites, and take their share of responsibility for each relationship. They are the friend who will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it.

But we are also the friend who will bring you champagne and chocolate when you succeed --  and champagne and chocolate when you don’t.

4. We make random acts of respect

Respect is a personality trait that is hard to identify unless you look for it. ISTJs come by it naturally and the tell is in the little things. Putting the shopping cart away in a parking lot. Treating service industry employees well, even if a mistake occurred on the order. A willingness to give up a seat on the subway to an elderly person.

Most people are unaware of just how respectful ISTJs are and how this mindset adds up to a lifetime of trust and reciprocated respect from others. You will see it in the way they are respectful of people in their past who may or may not have earned it. When they hold the door open for others. When they remember to call the parents once in a while or RSVP to a wedding, even if it’s a “no”. The little thing that makes life so much easier for someone planning a wedding is also part of the bigger ISTJ personality that loves a well-ordered world.

Outside of the military and the monarchy, respect is voluntary. ISTJs bring it with them wherever they are, quietly going about their day, the irreplaceable Inspectors making sure that everything is cared for in turn. No fanfare. No applause.

But leaving the world an absolutely better place than we found it.

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