All About The ISTP Personality Type

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever wondered why you do what you do and think the way you think? Self-knowledge is a powerful tool: successful relationships and careers happen when you know your strengths and weaknesses and where your natural talent lies.

The first step in your journey of discovery may be to take a free personality test and identify your personality type. In the 1940s, Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Myers, developed the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), a personality self-test relying heavily on Carl Jung's theory of different personality types. 

Myers-Briggs concluded that every person is either:

  • Extrovert (E) or an introvert (I)
  • Intuition (N) or sensing (S) to experience the world around them
  • Feeling (F) or thinking (T) to make decisions
  • Perceiving (P) or judging (J) to reach their goals

The 16 personality types

  • The different combinations of these four opposites make up 16 personality types.
  • Analysts: architect (INTJ), logician (INTP), commander (ENTJ), debater (ENTP)
  • Diplomats: advocate (INFJ), mediator (INFP), protagonist (ENFJ), campaigner (ENFP)
  • Sentinels: logistician (ISTJ), defender (ISFJ), executive (ESTJ), consul (ESFJ)
  • Explorers: virtuoso (ISTP), adventurer (ISFP), entrepreneur (ESTP), entertainer (ESFP)

ISTP personality traits: The Virtuoso

ISTP is the abbreviation for introversion, sensing, thinking, and perception. ISTP personality types comprise about 5% of the population; more men than women are ISTPs.
  • Introversion: ISTPs may be reserved and quiet people. They tend to have a few close friends instead of a wide social circle. They need some alone time after social gatherings to replenish their energy levels.
  • Sensing: ISTP personality types may be more concrete than abstract. Rather than looking at the big picture and future possibilities, they focus on details and the realities of the here and now.
  • Thinking: ISTPs don't tend to take personal preferences and social considerations into account when they make decisions; they rely on objective facts and logic. 
  • Perception: ISTPs can be slow decision-makers. The ISTP personality type prefers to keep their options open and tends to delay important decisions.

Are you an ISTP—the problem solver personality type?

ISTP personality types are handy to have around in an emergency. They tend to be cool and calm and act quickly to resolve the situation in times of crisis. Routine procedures and protocols bore ISTP personality types: they prefer to develop their own solutions and explore new possibilities.

When ISTPs are engrossed in a task, they ignore those around them. They're not intentionally rude; ISTPs just hate wasting time with small talk when they have something more interesting to do. ISTP personality types are insightful even though they may appear aloof and disinterested in the world around them. ISTPs are adventurous and lean towards risky hobbies like skydiving and downhill skiing. ISTPs believe in "live and let live" and take one day at a time.

ISTPs make things

There's nothing an ISTP personality type likes more than to build things. They don't care much if what they create is useful—they just like making things. Even more than building something, ISTP personality types enjoy taking things apart to see how they work and then putting them back together again. They're curious about the world around them. They explore and observe their environment and put their knowledge to good use by making things.

ISTPs fix things

ISTP personality types have excellent analytical skills. They can analyze a problem, get to the heart of it, and fix it while others still try to understand that a problem even exists. Don't expect the ISTP to follow a protocol or standard operating procedure when something goes wrong; they're independent thinkers who prefer finding their own solutions to following someone else's.

ISTPs are unpredictable

People with an ISTP personality type are often caught off-guard. They'll appear friendly one minute and discourteous the next. They'll give the impression that they're stable employees today only to take off on a new adventure tomorrow. ISTPs aren't intentionally rude or flighty; it's just that they hate wasting time. For example, ISTP personality types may participate in a group activity that interests them, but when the event is over, the ISTP doesn't stick around to make small talk. Likewise, an ISTP personality type considers it a waste of time to remain in a job when something more exciting is on offer.

ISTPs and career options

ISTP personality types make excellent engineers; they build and fix things and want to know how things work. ISTPs also do well in any profession where they can use their analytical and reasoning skills. They make good detectives, systems analysts, and forensic pathologists, to name a few. ISTPs do best when they work for themselves or in a flexible environment. ISTP personality types do not usually do well in careers that require them to perform repetitive tasks. If ISTPs find themselves in this situation, they will likely move on to something more interesting.

ISTPs and relationships

While ISTPs have no shortage of choices when it comes to settling down with a partner, staying in a long-term relationship is another matter. ISTP personality types may move on quickly if they feel bored, oppressed, or controlled by their partners. The ISTP personality types may also leave a relationship if they're not given enough space. ISTPs tend not to express their feelings or opinions, preferring to listen to others; this is how they gather information about their partners. In their desire to get as much information as possible, this personality type may answer a question with a question, which can be frustrating for their partners.

The unpredictability of ISTPs can confuse and devastate their partners; they may show intense love one day and be indifferent to them the next. They may even end the relationship the day after they've expressed undying love. Other personality types may see the ISTP as fickle, but that wouldn't be true. ISTPs live day to day, and when they express intense love for their partners, they genuinely feel that love. Unfortunately, their indifference the next day is often just as genuine.

ISTP personality types are often relaxed parents. ISTPs don't like being controlled and don't want to control others. Their children will have space and freedom to follow their own path. ISTP parents will discipline their children if they absolutely must and will do so effectively, though reluctantly. ISTP personality types tend to be uninvolved in their children's lives, leaving it up to their partners to provide structure and values.

ISTP's strengths

Due to the nature of their personalities, ISTPs may possess the following strengths:

  • ISTPs are good listeners.
  • ISTPs are optimistic, fun to be with, and self-confident. They're energetic and always busy with a project to build or fix something. They're invariably cheerful and good-natured.
  • ISTPs are practical, realistic, and useful in crises. 
  • The ISTP personality types easily come up with new ideas and love using their hands to bring them to fruition.
  • ISTPs are both rational and spontaneous, making them flexible people who can effortlessly switch from one mindset to another.
  • ISTPs don't avoid conflict and handle criticism without feeling threatened or hurt.
  • ISTPs don't dwell on relationship failures; they move on when it's over.
  • ISTPs are laid-back people who live and let live.

ISTP's weaknesses

As with any type of personality, ISTPs may have some of the following "weaknesses" or areas where they could improve:

  • ISTPs may have difficulty maintaining long-term commitments and relationships. The ISTP personality trait to live only for today makes them unpredictable. They're easily bored and move on quickly and without an apology.
  • ISTPs often don't express their emotions, feelings, and opinions, making it difficult for others to relate to them. Even their loved ones may feel excluded from a significant part of their lives.
  • ISTPs are often insensitive. The ISTP personality type is prone to making insensitive jokes and comments without ever realizing the hurt they cause. ISTP personality types tend not to be in tune with the people around them, relying entirely on logic to make sense of their relationships and environment.
  • ISTPs can be stubborn. They tend to be blunt when someone presents a view that is different from theirs. ISTP personality types may dig in their heels when a close friend or relative suggests there may be a better way to do something. 
  • ISTPs need a lot of space and freedom and are intolerant of those who may inadvertently step on their toes.
  • ISTPs are continually searching for excitement and action. If none is available, they may create some out of nothing and disrupt the status quo for the people around them for no apparent reason.

Are you an ISTP—the problem solver personality type?

Learn more about being an ISTP from a professional

If you need some help learning how to manage the strengths and weaknesses that come with being an ISTP, therapy may be beneficial. Therapy is an effective way of learning more about yourself and finding strategies for improvement. If sticking to in-person therapy is too much of a commitment, online therapy can be an alternative worth considering. With online therapy, you can attend sessions from a place you're most comfortable at a time that works best for your spontaneous nature. 

In addition, research shows that virtual mental healthcare is convenient and effective and has better attendance than in-person treatment – all things that are important for an ISTP considering therapy. 

Takeaway

ISTPs are the builders and fixers of the universe. The ISTP personality type can be counted on to keep a cool head in an emergency. Their observation and analytical skills make them excellent problem solvers. However, ISTPs can be insensitive and unpredictable. If you'd like to learn more about being an ISTP, consider online therapy.
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