Dominant Introverted Sensing with Auxiliary Extraverted Thinking

Tertiary Feeling and Inferior Extraverted Intuition

Dependable • Practical • Logical • Thorough

According to the MBTI® Manual, ISTJs make up 11.6% of the population, making this type the 3rd most common, of 16, in the US population.

ISTJs are known for appearing calm and being rather reserved and serious, with a great ability to focus on the task at hand.  They prize logic and practicality and couple these with their gift for thoroughness to steadily work towards a solid end product.  ISTJs have a great appreciation for responsibility and hard work and will go to great lengths to make sure work is done carefully and correctly.  This is most easily accomplished in areas where expectations are clearly drawn out and performed using set, tried and true procedures.

Often, hidden under the ISTJs exterior is a wonderful and unexpected sense of humor.  As family members and friends, ISTJs are typically extremely devoted, and they may show affection by performing practical, helpful acts for those that they care about (ex. taking out the trash and making sure cars are in safe working order).

In Stress

Normally, ISTJs will be thrown off in environments that are in disarray, due to their love of structure and organization.  ISTJs become stressed by looming deadlines, being forced or asked to do things in ways that do not make sense to them, and being asked to do something off the top of their heads without plan or direction. They may often find it difficult to be in situations of change, especially when they do not see the practicality of the change, or they lack the past experience with the new way of doing things to trust it.

When faced with stress overload, which may come from dealing with unfamiliar territory and uncertain futures, dealing with others who seem to work outside of the current reality, or having to overuse their type by being expected to constantly act as “the responsible one”, ISTJs may find themselves “in the grip” of their inferior function, Extraverted Intuition.  During this experience, the individual is likely to do things that are typically completely out of character.  This may include being at odds with normally relied on facts and details, to the point where these details may feel like they lead to the end of the world.  Most things in the world are seen as awful, in this state, and the ISTJ may do things he or she would normally deem reckless and foolish.

Fortunately, going through and coming out of a grip experience can lead to growth and balance of the personality and the person.

To learn about ISTJs under the particular stress that only comes from being chased by the dead, check out ISTJs in the Zombie Apocalypse!

As Learners

In general, ISTJs take learning, for school and work, seriously.  They learn best when practical explanations, real life examples, details, facts, and expectations are presented up front, rather than first being presented with abstract theories or encountering expectations along the way. Material sinks in more easily when the real life applications, especially in the present, are apparent and/or highlighted by the instructor. They often excel at memorization, and they love being able to master learning tasks and file them away in their brains for future use and assistance.

ISTJs like to learn within the structure provided by the instructor, and they typically prefer to work individually within that structure to reach goals that have been decided on at the outset of the learning experience.  Learning in groups may make learning more difficult for ISTJs, because it can be draining and distracting.  ISTJs also tend to struggle when they feel rushed by a teacher going through material too quickly or by an impending deadline.

Individuals of this type may find it helpful to ask teachers for real life examples when they are not present.  They should try to remember to look at details together, to see the big picture, in addition to their natural method of examining details as details.  Frustration may occur for ISTJs in a classroom that lacks structure, and the individual may want to ask the instructor for clarifications that will allow the ISTJ to build a structure to work in.

Time Management

Typically, ISTJs like to plan out and break down work, projects, and tasks before getting started, and they want to make sure they have all of the necessary components lined up in advance to ensure that  they can work steadily towards the end goal in a fashion that is thorough, consistent, and deadline focused.  They will often appreciate the use of calendars, routines, and daily to-do lists, formal or informal, to stay on task and keep priorities straight, and they often like to work in places and during hours when other people are absent.  Motivation for ISTJs comes from their deep desire to keep their word and their sense of responsibility in meeting expectations.

ISTJs are often very thrown off in time management by being kicked out of “the zone” by distractions, insisting on completing a task to a higher standard than is necessary, or having to do a lot of prep or organizational work before starting work.  Procrastination may occur when the ISTJ becomes overwhelmed by details that will need to be taken into account to perform a thorough job, and they may put things off when they lack the experience desired to move forward with confidence.

Tips for staying or getting back on task:

  • Plan for the unplanned by allotting extra time for possible interruptions.
  • Find places and times where you know you can work alone when necessary.
  • When you lack the details or experience needed to move forward in comfort, ask for clarification and seek advice from individuals who have successfully completed similar tasks.

Decision Making

When approaching decisions, ISTJs want to find solutions that are practical, functional, realistic, and leave as little room for failure as possible.  They will often begin by using their Dominant Introverted Sensing to consider how they can combine knowledge and processes that currently work well with past experience and commonsense to explore the facts and details of the situation.  They will then run these details through the filter of logical analysis to determine the best way to achieve the desired outcome.  This will likely involve running either internal or written lists of pros and cons to determine the most rational and foolproof solution.

While ISTJs may certainly want to talk out decisions with others, they may wish to do internal work on the matter first.  They want to think through the decision deeply, carefully, and thoroughly, while at the same time almost wishing the decision was already made and wanting the matter to be settled and off their plates.  Individuals of this type are often good at analyzing the decision making process after the fact, to find ways to improve the process for next time, and they will want to refine the process over time to ensure better, easier, and more consistent decision making in the future.

ISTJs may fail to consider possibilities and knowledge outside their own experience when making decisions, and they may also neglect the people side of decision making, including emotional impacts on themselves and others.  To find more balance in the process, all types may consider discussing decisions with friends of different types to gain new insights and/or utilizing the Zig-Zag Method, which encompasses exploring decisions from the perspective of all four functions.  ISTJs will likely find this process more natural when exploring Sensing first, followed by Thinking, Feeling, and Intuition.

In Careers

Personality type is one important part of the process of choosing a career that is a good fit, but it is far from the only part.  It is important to first look at your personal goals and values when making a career decision.  These may involve retiring early, helping others, having time for hobbies/avocations, having time to spend with kids and family, making lots of money, making use of a specific talent (singing, art, athletic ability, etc.), following in family footsteps, or following a childhood dream.

It is also important to look at skills and preferences.  If you hate math, maybe engineering is not the way to go, and you may want to skip being a doctor or nurse if the sight of blood makes you queasy.  Interests, from loving the great outdoors to being fascinated by the depths of the human mind, play a huge role in the career choice process as well.  Below are some type specific commonalities in the career world.

ISTJs often…

  • Seek careers that provide structure and consistency, while prizing logic, thoroughness, timeliness, and following rules, and they typically want a career that shows promise of providing long-term financial security.
  • Prefer environments which allow ample time for processing, working, and focusing alone, and they enjoy environments that provide clear expectations and first hand experience.
  • Enjoy tasks that serve a logical and practical purpose and can be mastered with practice.
  • Might struggle with vague expectations, overly emotional environments, and environments where change occurs frequently, especially when the reasons for change seem inadequate or impractical.  They may also focus on qualifications they do no meet in the job search process, and fail to sell their excellent qualities, as a result.
  • Are often attracted to careers such as:
      • Military
      • Banking/Finance/Accounting
      • Coaching sports teams
      • Construction/Contracting
      • Trades (electrician, mechanic)
      • Technology (IT, data analysis)
      • Teaching practical skills (trades, math, engineering)
      • Management (project, office, production, building, small business)
      • Administration (healthcare, education)
      • Engineering (mechanical, nuclear, civil)
  • May be less interested in careers involving a focus on creativity or intense work that focuses on relationships, feelings, and people.

If the career you are interested in does not appear on this list, or if you simply don’t find any appealing careers listed here, do not worry!  Personality type is not meant to sentence you to a life of misery in a career you hate, and this list is far from exhaustive.  You may want to check out descriptions of thousands of possible careers at O*Net, and then contemplate how your type may play into some of the careers that do interest you.  Also, if your university has a career counseling center (and most do), visit them to gain assistance in finding a career that suits your needs and wants.

As Team Members

While ISTJ team members have many strengths, they may find it difficult to accept change, especially if they cannot see the need for the change.  They may also have a tendency to keep thoughts to themselves until late in the process and can sometimes forget to take into account a situation’s impact on people.  ISTJs sometimes also lose the big picture in the details.  Awareness of these areas, as well as seeking out the perspectives of team members with different preferences, can help ISTJs gain balance and appreciate team and type diversity.

As Leaders

ISTJs make consistent and realistic leaders who begin with the end in mind and work hard and steadily towards goals.  They tend to be clear with expectations and value loyalty in those that they lead.  ISTJs are known for being good at finding practical and efficient ways to complete tasks, and they are often helpful in getting team members focused on the path to success.

ISTJs may find it challenging to focus on new ideas, preferring to work from past information and already proven systems.  Their often quiet nature may lead others to see them as uninterested, and it may prevent their ideas from being heard.  It may also be difficult for ISTJs to remember to place focus on the impact actions will have on people and to keep the big picture in mind while sifting through details.

In Relationships

ISTJs crave security in all areas of relationships.  They take commitment very seriously, and they want to know their partners share and honor that commitment.  This extends to fidelity, support, and listening.  They also prize sharing values with a partner and being able to enjoy spending time together, especially one-on-one.

As partners, ISTJs tend to be very traditional, hardworking, and dependable.  If they make a promise, they will do everything possible to keep it.  ISTJs may show love by performing practical tasks for their partners, like keeping the house running on a day to day basis (taking out trash, etc.), changing the oil in a loved one’s car, or taking steps to ensure the safety of their loved ones.  They may struggle with expressing and sharing emotions, as well as exploring and understanding alternate viewpoints.





1 Comment

  1. Self Built

    Wow. This is really speaks to me. It’s amazing that Meyers Briggs types can know more about me than I do.

    I’m struggling with a situation at work and this really opened my eyes.


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