ISTP in a Nutshell
ISTPs are observant artisans with an understanding of mechanics and an interest in troubleshooting. They approach their environments with a flexible logic, looking for practical solutions to the problems at hand. They are independent and adaptable, and typically interact with the world around them in a self-directed, spontaneous manner.
ISTPs are attentive to details and responsive to the demands of the world around them. Because of their astute sense of their environment, they are good at moving quickly and responding to emergencies. ISTPs are reserved, but not withdrawn: the ISTP enjoys taking action, and approaches the world with a keen appreciation for the physical and sensory experiences it has to offer.
What Makes the ISTP Tick
ISTPs are curious about the mechanics of the world around them and typically have a unique ability to manipulate the tools in their environments. They tend to study how things work and often achieve mastery in the use and operation of machines, instruments, and equipment. They seek understanding, but in a practical sense: they like to be able to put their technical knowledge to immediate use and are quickly bored by theory.
ISTPs tend to be detached and prefer the logic of mechanical things to the complexity of human emotions. Independent and reserved, ISTPs treasure their personal space, and want to be free to be spontaneous and follow their own lead. ISTPs are selective about their relationships, and appreciate others who allow them plenty of freedom to do their own thing.
Recognizing an ISTP
ISTPs are typically reserved and even aloof. Tolerant and nonjudgmental, the ISTP calmly takes in the details and facts of their surroundings, noticing sensory data and observing how things work. They often tune into what needs to be done, taking care of the immediate needs of the moment in a modest, inconspicuous way. They tend to prefer action to conversation, and are often private about their personal lives. ISTPs are unlikely to “open up” to new people in a conventional way, but may connect with others by sharing an activity or working together to solve a practical problem.
ISTPs are good with their hands and often mechanical. They are typically attracted to hands-on hobbies like woodworking or crafts, and may be found tinkering with bicycles, computers, cars, or household appliances. They often have an intuitive understanding of machines and a remarkable ability to fix things. ISTPs have an appreciation for risk and action, and often enjoy thrilling leisure activities like extreme sports, motorcycling, or weaponry.
ISTP in the Population
The ISTP personality type is much more common among men than women. Among men, it is the third most common type in the population. Among women, it is the fourth rarest. ISTPs make up:
- 5% of the general population
- 9% of men
- 2% of women
Popular hobbies for an ISTP include magic and comedy, archery, weaponry, hunting, scuba diving, rappelling, aviation, skydiving, motorcycles, and other extreme sports. They are often drawn to risky or thrilling activities and those that allow them to work with something mechanical.
Famous ISTPs include Lance Armstrong, Bruce Lee, Miles Davis, Tiger Woods, Chuck Yaeger, Katherine Hepburn, Clint Eastwood, and Amelia Earhart.
Research on ISTP
Interesting facts about the ISTP:
- On personality trait measures, score as Critical, Detached, Guarded, Independent, and Resourceful
- Commonly found in populations of male college scholarship athletes
- More likely than other types to suffer cardiac problems
- Lowest ranked of all types in using social coping resources
- One of four types least satisfied with their marriage or intimate relationship
- Among types least likely to complete college
- Personal values include Autonomy; at work, value Stability, Security, Independence, and Achievement
- Commonly found in skilled trades, technical fields, agriculture, law enforcement, and military occupations
What the Experts Say
"ISTPs have a vested interest in practical and applied science, especially in the field of mechanics."
- Isabel Briggs Myers, Gifts Differing
"If a given tool is operated with a precision that defies belief, that operator is likely an ISTP."
- David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II
"Though very effective at most undertakings, [the ISTP's] unorthodox way of accomplishing something, coupled with low visibility, can often lead to co-workers' wondering, to quote the people the Lone Ranger saved, 'Who was that masked man?'"
- Otto Kroeger, Type Talk at Work
ISTP at Work
At work, the ISTP is motivated by a desire to achieve and utilize technical expertise. ISTPs enjoy mastering and manipulating the tools of their trade, whatever they may be: the traditional hammers and saws, or the more modern tools of business or technology.
ISTPs prefer tasks with a tangible result, and typically feel most satisfied when they have built something concrete. They enjoy troubleshooting and often look for occupations that allow them to apply their skills to solve practical problems.
Many ISTPs enjoy occupations that involve physical activity, often with an aspect of risk or danger, and dislike being stuck at a desk. They are most often energized by action, and want to jump in to get things done rather than spend much time planning or theorizing.
ISTPs value efficiency and logic, and want flexibility in their work. They prefer a job where they can be practical and action-oriented without being overly burdened by rules, procedure, or bureaucracy.
Popular Careers for the ISTP
Top careers for the ISTP include:
Least Popular Careers for ISTPs
It is important to note that any personality type can be successful in any occupation. However, some occupations are well suited to the natural talents and preferred work style of the ISTP, while other occupations demand modes of thinking and behavior that do not come as naturally to the ISTP. Occupations that require the ISTP to operate outside their natural preferences may prove stressful or draining, and often sound unappealing to ISTPs who are choosing a career.
The following occupations have been found to be unpopular among ISTPs, based on data gathered from surveys of the general population.
ISTPs as Leaders
In leadership positions, ISTPs tend to be flexible and hands-off, and expect their reports to be independent as well. They are practical and concrete in their approach, and will prefer to lead teams on projects where tangible results are seen quickly. Good in a crisis, ISTPs are energized by situations that must be acted on immediately, and will jump right in to get the job done.
ISTPs have a strong action orientation, and their understanding of tasks is often more kinetic than verbal. They often find it much easier to simply do something themselves than to explain it to someone else, which can create a challenge for ISTP leaders attempting to delegate. ISTPs often find it more natural to lead by example rather than explanation, and typically do best heading up teams of experienced, self-sufficient workers.
ISTPs on a Team
ISTPs are practical, task-oriented team members who are usually more focused on the problem at hand than the people involved. They tend to look for ways to contribute with immediate action, and are talented, straightforward troubleshooters. ISTPs rarely demand attention from the team, preferring instead to observe and jump in where they see an opportunity to get something done.
ISTPs bring an efficient energy to a team and usually take it upon themselves to take practical action where they see the need. Their rational analysis often cuts straight to the heart of a matter and helps others see how to move forward. However, they don’t tend to have much patience for abstract discussion, and may neglect the niceties of working with others. In fact, many ISTPs prefer to just do what needs to be done, rather than having to spend time informing or including others.
ISTP Communication Style
ISTPs are often reserved communicators, preferring action to conversation. They like to do what needs to be done and may grow impatient with discussion that does not turn quickly to action. They are often observant, picking up on details of the current situation, and evaluate information in a detached and logical way. Typically flexible and tolerant, the ISTP is ready to adapt to the situation at hand, but can be bluntly critical if they see inefficiency or incompetence.
ISTPs as Partners
In relationships, the ISTP is independent and calm. They are often handy around the house, and enjoy being useful to their partners as quick and able problem-solvers.
ISTPs are fun-loving and adventurous, and will often encourage their partners to learn new and exciting physical skills. They are good at responding to their partners’ immediate physical needs, but may be less adept at dealing with emotions. ISTPs are natural troubleshooters, but look for logical, practical solutions to problems; more complex personal issues may leave them stumped.
Often private, the ISTP tends to keep their feelings and reactions to themselves. For the ISTP, this is not about withholding: they simply prefer to move on to the next activity rather than dwell on their emotional experience. ISTPs understand the temporary nature of their emotions, and rarely find them an interesting topic of conversation.
ISTPs are unlikely to offer flowery speeches or romantic overtures, and are more likely to show affection by being of practical service to their partners. They want their partners to appreciate their skills in getting things done, and to allow them plenty of freedom to do their own thing.
ISTPs as Parents
As parents, ISTPs often connect with their children through their mechanical and physical skills, first by teaching their children, and then by enjoying an activity together. ISTPs are rarely demonstrative or particularly verbal, and may show their love to their families by crafting or building something for them rather than being outwardly affectionate. ISTPs are generous and helpful but sometimes unreliable, and may become distracted from family responsibilities when adventure is at hand.