How To Tell The Difference Between ESTJ and ISTJ (Using Celebrity Examples)

Orphaned Anne (with an e) Shirley has arrived in Green Gables, much to the surprise of ISTJ Marilla Cuthbert. But when Marilla’s neighbor, ESTJ Rachel Lynde, comes to investigate the situation, her acidic honesty makes for a painful conversation.

“Couldn’t ya send her back?” asks Rachel, when Anne steps forward.

“Well, we’re still considering on it,” mumbles Marilla.

“Considering on it? What is there to consider? I mean, a boy would have been bad enough but…”

“This is a friend and neighbor of mine, Mrs. Rachel Lynde. Anne Shirley.” Marilla interjects, embarrassed by Rachel’s comments but following her own inner rules about manners and decorum.

“How do you do, Mrs. Lynde?” Anne replies meekly.

“Well her looks are certainly nothing to consider,” continues Rachel. “I mean, she’s terribly skinny and homely, Marilla.”

As Rachel’s opinions continue unabated, everyone in the audience cringes for the feelings of poor Anne, because the two strong personalities standing in the room do not once deviate from who they truly are. The Supervisor, ESTJ Rachel, is instantly full of advice and the Inspector, ISTJ Marilla, is going to wait and see what comes of it all.

As the story unfolds, we watch as each woman ends up supporting Anne in her own way and eventually receive Anne’s love, in spite of, but also because of, their personality types.

ESTJ or ISTJ?

Both ESTJ and ISTJ personalities shine in positions of authority, responsibility, and trust. They share a common vision that takes the greater good into account, applying rules and systems, hard work and self-discipline to reach goals that would make other personalities think twice before attempting. Both personalities have little use for idle chit chat, eschew emotions, and take great satisfaction in a job well done.

But what sets them apart?

Telling the difference between the ESTJ and ISTJ personalities appears simple up front. You could assume that they are fundamentally the same personality, the only differentiating factor being whether they recharge their batteries privately (ISTJ) or publicly (ESTJ).

Yet, differentiating between an ESTJ and ISTJ is not that simple. We need to take a look at what each type prioritizes, and where they tend to focus along the way. Rachel and Marilla set the stage for our investigation, but modern celebrities will help unpack the clues behind their differences.

Who’s on first, what’s on second

ESTJ Michelle Obama is quoted as saying, “We learned about honesty and integrity - that the truth matters... that you don't take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules... and success doesn't count unless you earn it fair and square." 

This famous first lady stood for strong family values, common sense, and good judgment. She said, “My view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."

Fundamentally, an ESTJ loves to organize people. When pulling together large corporations or organizations into cooperative entities, they prefer to work with the people in the projects. The people considerations come first.  

By contrast, an ISTJ prefers working on the projects that support the people. An ISTJ loves to develop action plans and efficient methods that make their – and everyone else’s – job a little bit better.

Condoleezza Rice, an ISTJ, relies on facts and data to make informed decisions. Not surprisingly, this former US Secretary of State is very organized and reliable, with strong leadership skills and confidence. She is also known to be honest and follow the rules. Rice, who chose not to marry or have children, flourished in reforming and restructuring her department, pioneering national policies.

One difference between the two personalities lies in specifically where they prefer to apply their strong systems skills. When presented with a new situation, the ESTJ first asks, “Who?” The ISTJ asks, “What?”

Ready, aim, fire

ESTJ Judith Sheindlin, or Judge Judy to television viewers, is not afraid to mince words with the people in her courtroom. She is quoted as saying to a young mother, "You have to find something else to do with your time, constructively, rather than make children who are going to grow up with no moral compass like their mother."

ESTJs handle conflict boldly, in the sense that they aren’t afraid to lose relationships when they engage in conflict. Their confidence in the rules takes precedence over the people they are putting in place. To an ESTJ, it’s for someone’s own good that they do it. 

ESTJs are extremely vocal when driving to close a business deal, for example, and their brutal honesty is a reminder that they are essentially impervious to their environment. Conflict is just another part of getting things accomplished.

ISTJs prefer a more formal way to engage in conflict. They will choose to use email, for example, instead of marching into the boss’ office to engage in verbal jousting. Remaining calm and factual through writing gets their message across without body language, facial expressions, or a tone of voice betraying the ISTJ’s emotional involvement in the conflict.

Late actor Kirk Douglas was known for his strong line between right and wrong, both on screen and in his daily life. He made his convictions known, not through personal debate, but through cinema. He excelled in movies that championed the underdog and made statements about taking a stand for what is authentic, like Spartacus. Douglas, even at the risk of his own career, used his influence to help end the Hollywood blacklist, a strong behind-the-scenes ISTJ move for the greater good of his industry.

“When I first came to Hollywood,” he said, “the blacklist was just starting, and they were having hearings in Washington. What most people don't know is the judge of these hearings himself was later convicted of misappropriation. Spartacus helped break the blacklist, because Spartacus was a real character.”

Feelings sit in the cheap seats

Television psychologist and talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw said, "Life is managed; it is not cured," which is a classic belief for an ESTJ who does not trust emotions per se. The audience will either love or hate Dr. Phil’s approach as he pushes for people to be consistent in their lives and to make decisions that provide the vehicle for overcoming their adversity. The guest might leave the show feeling “processed.” 

Says Pamela Paul, "Dr. Phil issues counsel as marching orders."

ESTJs acknowledge feelings exist but shoo them away like flies. This is also how they perceive the feelings of others towards them. Conflict does not bother ESTJs, so they don’t harbor ill feelings after a challenging situation has ended. An ESTJ will invite you to the pub after the emotional mangling is over and be genuinely surprised if you turn them down.

On the other hand, ISTJ Jamie Hyneman said, "I had no ambition to be on stage. As a person, I pretty much am who I seem to be on television; I'm a little bit deadpan." This host of the hit television show Mythbusters is known for being logical and fact-based but, as quoted in Blast Magazine, "Jamie has a calm, no-nonsense attitude, and a tendency to grumble at anything he considers silly or unnecessary."

ISTJs acknowledge feelings exist but keep them to themselves. They turn inward for the regulation of emotion and don’t feel the need to foist their methods onto others. Hyneman says, "Take ... responsibility for yourself. ... Self-responsibility is a big, big thing as far as being able to maintain ethical behavior goes." 

ISTJs keep their feelings private until they’ve taken the measure of others and feel that sharing will further a project. They don’t waste the energy that sharing feelings demands unless there’s a clear advantage to doing so.

The straight and narrow

Actress Emma Watson, an ESTJ, is quoted as saying, "I actually wouldn't ever need [a good behavior clause in my contract]. It's just not necessary. I'm not tempted by parties or drugs." 

True to her personality, Watson is reliable, honest and self-confident, and the “E” in her type is productivity-oriented. She isn’t concerned that her incredible focus and work ethic might alienate others who engage in activities that don’t align with those goals. She says, "I feel like young girls are told they have to be this kind of princess and be all this sweet stuff. It's all bullshit. I identify more with being a warrior princess [and] kicking ass."

ESTJs are concerned with staying on the right track; it’s an internal focus. They like to remain clear about where they and others stand. This involves a straight line. 

ISTJs, by contrast, are much more concerned with all the things that could go wrong – things that could impact that straight line. This is an external focus, and therefore, ISTJs are process-rather than productivity-oriented. They seek stability first and will be more loyal to people to achieve this.

Robert De Niro is known as a method actor – emphasis on method – with strong values and work ethics. "You don't just play a part. You've got to earn the right to play it,” he said. This dedication has made him an award-winning actor and producer, well respected in his industry. His obsession with details and the processes involved with perfecting his craft made him a star.

The way you walk the talk

Another clue to use when trying to decipher whether someone is an ESTJ or an ISTJ is to look at whether they are literally inspecting or supervising. 

An ESTJ like talk radio host Laura Schlessinger may appear at first glance to be inspecting the personal lives of her callers but her self-stated objective is, "I am getting people to stop doing wrong and start doing right." She is actually working on her own goal: organizing people. This is the Supervisor’s job (ESTJ).

The Supervisor is regularly driving forward, always with a momentum that creates the energy she craves from the people around her. ESTJs appear generally more ambitious when you observe them. 

ISTJs generally appear more reserved, and it’s likely they are observing you in the process. The Inspector is regularly pausing, assimilating data, and pulling energy from those moments of reflection.

ISTJ actress Natalie Portman is known to be a down-to-earth, structured professional who is logical and intellectual. She said once, “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Her IQ of 140 comes with a healthy portion of assimilated facts and memories that she puts to good use during thoughtful interviews.

 "I don't mean to criticize anyone in any way that I wouldn't criticize myself,” she said, “I think people should have fun, and have a good time, and enjoy the luck that we have to be lazy and dwell in consumerism. But I think that it's a balance. And our job as actors is empathy...I just think it's an important thing to engage in the world."

The particular personality

The Supervisor and the Inspector share many personality traits, but once you understand their differences, you will recognize the spark they bring to their stories.

Rachel, our ESTJ, sighs, “The way Marilla dresses [Anne] is positively ridiculous, that’s what, and I’ve ached to tell her so plainly a dozen times. I’ve held my tongue though, for I can see Marilla doesn’t want advice.”

As we drop the curtain on Green Gables, ISTJ Marilla has a reflective thought about her life-long friend, Rachel: “I sometimes think she’d have more of an influence for good…if she didn’t keep nagging people to do right. There should have been a special commandment against nagging.”

The ESTJ and ISTJ ring true. We applaud their authenticity.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is a 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 - aided by innumerable pots of Yorkshire Gold tea - her first novel is in progress. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

Comments

Nike2003 (not verified) says...

Very informative article. I am ISTJ and the scenarios you presented make it very easy to understand the more subtle differences.  Thank you!

Jolie Tunnell says...

Thank you! We Inspectors tend to understand things better when they are put up for observation, right? Looking for the patterns is so helpful, and celebrities make it fun.  ;~)

Share your thoughts

THE FINE PRINT: Myers-Briggs® and MBTI® are registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc., which has no affiliation with this site. Truity offers a free personality test based on Myers and Briggs' types, but does not offer the official MBTI® assessment. For more information on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® assessment, please go here.

Truity up to date