With hallmark dependability and logical follow-through, ISTJs represent the third-most preferred MBTI type worldwide. This isn’t surprising considering following societal norms and living “by the book” are often desirable traits and behaviors for these seemingly tortoises in shells.
If you’re not an ISTJ, you’ve probably wondered why George arrives at the office early each day and hasn’t taken a personal day in over 10 years. What’s wrong with him? Does he even have a life?
With such robotic type descriptions floating around workplaces, cyberspace, and even MBTI guides and manuals, it may come as a shock when ISTJs surprise, and surpass, the other 15 types with their quick wit, compassion, spirituality, and playful demeanor.
Here are four shocking truths about ISTJs that will help you prepare for their eventual overtaking:
Sense of Humor
The Myers & Briggs Type Foundation describes ISTJs as, “Practical, matter-of-fact, realistic, and responsible.” Sounds far from hilarious, right? Think again.
ISTJs’ dominant Si has an innate ability to quickly and quietly notice what’s out of the ordinary. Meanwhile, their auxiliary Te serves as the Si’s lackey and will come into voice, and even over-exaggerate, what may not be obvious to other types. If we’re not keen to pick up on their quick-wit, we’ll be left thanking – or wanting to harm – them for pointing out our own stupidity. Take this for example:
An ISTJ and XXFX walk into a bar. There’s a sign that reads, “Gift Cards Sold Here!”
XXFX says, “How nice, we can order those as gifts for our friends and we can all come here next week.”
ISTJ points at the sign and yells, “Bartender, I’d like to purchase a gift card to Amazon.”
In his wildly popular Psychological Types, Carl Jung described those who prefer Si as “conspicuous for calmness and passivity, or for rational self-control.” Yet when pairing this level-headedness with Te, the amount of jokes about the environment, political climate, workplace, etc. can very likely go on forever.
While it may be hard to believe, odds are your co-worker with the best one-liners about your boss is the early-arriving ISTJ, George.
They Are Not as Cold as You Might Think
A large minority of ISTJs behave out of type preference when making decisions. According to the MBTI Step II User’s Guide, 37% of ISTJs prefer the harmony-seeking Accommodating facet of decision making, which is typically preferred by Feelers. Since most ISTJs will make decisions on the Thinking facet of Questioning, which is the polar opposite of agreeableness and approval, these findings are surprising.
The Step II User’s Guide also shows 23% of ISTJs make decisions on the Feeling facet of Accepting rather than the Thinking facet, Critical. This proves ISTJs are capable of giving praise, showing tortoises may accommodate others before taking the lead.
While ISTJs typically value logic over harmony, their tertiary Fi may be at play in these samples. Fi is known for guarding humanity and seeking harmonious solutions to care for one’s inner values. Even though ISTJs prefer Thinking over Feeling, there really is a soft-spot underneath their shell.
Closer to God?
According to the Society for Biblical Literature, ISTJs represent the most frequent type among biblical scholars, giving new meaning to preferring life “by the book.” Also, in studies done by Pastoral Psychology and Mental Health, Religion & Culture, ISTJs are reported as the most commonly preferred type among Roman Catholic Priests in the United States, male lay church leaders in Australia, and practicing Greek Orthodox churchgoers in London.
Yet there is a twist to this seemingly ISTJ godliness! They also happen to be the most commonly represented type among American Atheists, also according to Mental Health, Religion & Culture. While it’s typical for ISTJs to respect tradition and hierarchical structures, they may also value “proven,” or scientific, logic over faith, beliefs, and traditions.
While we’ve found their contradictory streak, balancing Si and Te is no easy feat. Si upholds beliefs and traditions whereas Te wants efficiency and logical action. This double-edged sword may explain the MBTI Manual’s findings that ISTJs are the most represented type to experience extreme stress and suffer from coronary diseases and chronic pain.
Work Hard, Play Hard
According to the Tiegers’ classic Nurture by Nature, the only thing ISTJs hate more than inaccuracy is redundancy! Now that’s throwing “by the book” for a loop. Yet it’s true. ISTJs can become bored quickly and are happiest when having something to do.
Although ISTJs prefer introversion, this does not equate to a preference for inaction. While it is predictable to see ISTJs spending time reading, playing video games, or gardening alone, it is not uncommon to see them dancing at a party, debating with others, and even introducing themselves to new people and experiences.
Yet what about partiality to traditions and rules?
ISTJs are not likely to break these. However, they will inform their decisions using experiences from the past. Si recalls past events and Te uses them to make logical, efficient decisions leading to actionable results. While ISTJs like to follow rules, this does not mean they prefer the same approach each day. After all, new experiences create past experiences, and ISTJs need a full bank of memories for their Si to function and thrive.
Don’t let it fester too long. ISTJs will always be our reliable, rule-following friends who make sure we land on our feet. Their approach is needed in a world filled with chaos and unpredictability. With humor, warmth, godliness, and playful attitudes, ISTJs make dependability seem exciting. Perhaps that’s why tortoises tend to be the champions we honor and adore.