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According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, we all fall into one of 16 personalities. And when it comes to the ISTP personality type, these curious and independent folks are always keen to get their hands on something they can dissect and improve. Whether you or someone you know is an ISTP, here’s what to know about this personality type, according to experts.
The ISTP personality type.
ISTP stands for introverted, sensing, thinking, and perceiving. According to Dario Nardi, Ph.D., a personality expert and author of Neuroscience of Personality, ISTPs make up 5.4% of the population, with twice as many men compared to women.
These people are known for being technical problem-solvers, who like to make and share their own discoveries, Nardi says. And as John Hackston, head of thought leadership at the Myers-Briggs Company, tells mbg, “Tolerant, flexible, logical, helpful, quick-thinkers, private, fun, and action-oriented are a few terms to describe ISTPs.” He adds that they’re also factual, realistic, and “always analyzing data and taking in information.”
Although they are perceiving types, Nardi explains they can adapt with a “chart-the-course” style to institutions, particularly as adults. They also often have good physical skills and are very perceptive of their environment.
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ISTP personality types aren’t ones to typically go with the grain—in fact, they’d rather not. As Nardi explains, they need to be independent and tend to follow their own paths. “They like to test, challenge, and push their own limits to find success. They act on their hunches or intuitions,” he tells mbg.
Along with being independent, ISTPs are hands-on problem solvers. Nardi notes they like to closely observe how things work, and will “carefully take apart or poke at something to understand it.” These folks are also talented with using tools to approach problems, he says.
If you’re looking for someone to come up with a clear, logical answer (as opposed to an abstract one), find an ISTP. As Hackston explains, “It’s expected from someone that prefers ISTP that they base their discussions and decisions on rational logic and real-life application rather than theoretical possibilities.”
ISTPs have strong powers of observation, and according to Hackston, can be creative and efficient troubleshooters in the face of a problem. “This constant flow of ideas is often directed toward how to work things out with the least effort,” he explains.
Because ISTPs tend to emphasize objectivity and accomplishing results, Hackston tells mbg they can sometimes be too critical, causing them to unintentionally hurt people’s feelings. “Communicating ideas clearly without making others feel dismissed or less valued” is another trouble area for the ISTP type, he adds.
- Strong mechanical or technical skills
- Practical problem solving
- Lack of awareness or concern around others’ emotions
- Out of touch with their own emotions
The ISTP type in relationships.
In relationships, the ISTP’s independence doesn’t just go away. As Nardi tells mbg, they need a lot of time alone, and a constant focus on “the relationship” will turn them off. They also don’t particularly enjoy talking about emotions, gossiping, or pointless social chit-chat.
They are, however, great practical problem solvers when it comes to problems within the relationship. “They really love to tackle those, and are willing to stick to a strategy, though of course they want room to maneuver and make adjustments along the way,” Nardi explains.
Hackston notes those with ISTP preferences aren’t always the easiest people to get to know, but once they are in a relationship, they’re committed and loyal. “ISTPs are likely to enjoy a quiet romantic relationship with someone that shares the same hobbies and interests,” he adds.
Because they tend to be averse to chatter, they can tune it out, so Nardi notes you’ll want to make sure there’s a purpose or focus to the conversation, and you’re not just “word-vomiting.” He and Hackston both note that they’ll be much more receptive to calm, objective, and gentle conversations.
And in terms of compatibility with other MBTI types, according to Hackston and Nardi, ISTPs will likely be most compatible with the following types:
The ISTP type in the workplace.
At work, the ISTP type to bring their problem-solving skills to the table, and as Hackston explains, they have “no issues adjusting their plans if they notice there’s a better and more efficient way to solve a problem.” For them, having that freedom to explore is important, and “they may find dealing with strict schedules and detailed planning challenging,” he adds.
On top of that, their excellent technical and mechanical skills make them apt for business or finance, and they also love the outdoors and hands-on physical activities. Combined with their scientific mindset, Nardi says they can make great biologists, chemists, anthropologists, etc., along with other hands-on paths like mechanics, rangers, lab techs, and athletes.
These are also not the folks to call on for brainstorming, conceptualizing, or big-picture planning, due to their preference for immediate solutions. “They may deem these as a waste of their time. ISTPs find abstract theories with no practical application uninteresting and are keen on working on concrete and clear action points,” Hackston explains.
Common ISTP careers:
- Web design/development
- Data analysis
- Technical support
- Emergency services (i.e. firefighter or EMT)
- Park ranger
- Scientific roles like biologists or chemists
- Lab techs
How to thrive as an ISTP.
Nardi notes that for ISTPs it’s important for them—especially when younger—to be able to learn at their own pace, in their own way. Personal space and time away from other people will also help them thrive, as will a regular way to stay in touch with nature, their body, etc., he adds, as they get “really unhappy without grounding.”
2. Find a way to help people.
ISTPs want to solve problems, and they can thrive by extending those abilities to other people in a practical way. “Having actual challenging practical problems to solve, not fake abstract stuff … could be very satisfying,” Nardi explains. Think: helping developing communities build working water wells, rather than talking about what helps people in the abstract.
3. Lean to feel your feelings.
Because ISTPs can have some difficulty identifying and processing their own emotions, this is something they can work on, Nardi tells mbg. This will also translate into not feeing at the mercy of others’ emotions, social demands, and even societal demands.
Lastly, Hackston says for ISTPs to improve their decision-making process, they need to take their time to internally process information and try to avoid responding to situations on the spot. “Be aware of how you relay your thoughts to others. Your matter-of-fact nature can create conflict situations without you even noticing them. Start exercising how you can consider people’s needs and feelings while making a decision,” Hackston explains. “Not everything is about logic.”
The bottom line is, each MBTI type comes with its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and when it comes to ISTPs, these people love to solve problems in real time. While they may not be the most warm and fuzzy friends in the bunch, they’re always happy to help figure out how to fix a problem or improve an issue.
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