ISTPs love to explore with their hands and their eyes, touching and examining the world around them with cool rationalism and spirited curiosity. ISTPs are natural Makers, moving from project to project, building the useful and the superfluous for the fun of it, and learning from their environment as they go. Often mechanics and engineers, ISTPs find no greater joy than in getting their hands dirty pulling things apart and putting them back together, just a little bit better than they were before.
ISTPs explore ideas through creating, troubleshooting, trial and error and first-hand experience. They enjoy having other people take an interest in their projects and sometimes don’t even mind them getting into their space, so long as those people don’t interfere with ISTPs’ principles and freedom, and so long as they get to enjoy taking an interest in those people’s work themselves.
ISTPs enjoy lending a hand and sharing their experience directly, especially with the people they care about, and it’s a shame they’re so uncommon, making up only about five percent of the population. ISTP women are especially rare, and the typical gender roles that society tends to expect can be a poor fit – they’ll often be seen as tomboys from a young age.
While their mechanical tendencies may make them appear simple at a glance, ISTPs are actually quite enigmatic. Friendly and physical but very private, calm but suddenly spontaneous, extremely curious but unable to stay focused on formal studies, ISTPs can be a challenge to predict, even by their friends and loved ones. ISTPs may seem very loyal and steady, ever rational, but they can also build up a store of impulsive energy that can explode without warning, carrying their interests in bold new directions. ISTPs are like a river, calmly going with the flow – until enough seismic energy builds up to shift the valleys that guide it.
Rather than the sort of dreamy optimism that is more common to say, Diplomat (NF) types, ISTPs’ decisions stem from a sense of practical realism. ISTPs aren’t on some sort of vision quest when they make their seismic shift, they’re merely exploring the viability of a new interest. But what’s really at their heart is a strong sense of practical fairness, a very strong “do unto others” attitude, which really helps to explain many of ISTPs’ puzzling traits. Instead of showing this quality through an abundance of caution as more sensitive types would though, ISTPs are likely to be overly permissive, accepting likewise retaliation, good or bad, as fair play.
I wanted to live the life, a different life. I didn’t want to go to the same place every day and see the same people and do the same job. I wanted interesting challenges.
The biggest issue ISTPs are likely to face is that they often act preemptively, taking for granted their permissive nature and assuming that others are the same. They’ll be the first to tell an insensitive joke, get overly involved in someone else’s project, roughhouse and play around, or suddenly change their plans because something more interesting came up. ISTPs will come to learn that many other personality types have much more firmly drawn lines on rules and acceptable behavior than they do – they don’t want to hear an insensitive joke, and certainly wouldn’t tell one back, and they wouldn’t want to engage in horseplay, even with a willing party. If a situation is already emotionally charged, violating these boundaries can backfire tremendously.
ISTPs have a particular difficulty in predicting emotional responses, and this is ironically a very fair arrangement, given how difficult it is to gauge ISTPs’ emotions and motivations. However, their tendency to explore these relationships through their actions rather than through empathy can lead to some very frustrating situations. ISTPs struggle with boundaries and guidelines, preferring the freedom to move about and color outside the lines if they need to. Finding an environment where they can work with good friends who understand their style and unpredictability, combining their creativity, sense of humor and hands-on approach to build practical solutions and things, will give ISTPs many happy years of building useful boxes – and admiring them from the outside.
If you would like to learn more about the ISTP personality type and its traits, download the full ISTP profile – a 60+ page guide covering a number of diverse topics.
- Zachary Taylor, former U.S. president
- Tom Cruise, actor
- Clint Eastwood, actor
- Milla Jovovich, actress
- Frank Zappa, the composer
- Simon Cowell, television personality
- “Michael Westen” from Burn Notice
- “Jack Bauer” from 24
- “Indiana Jones” from Indiana Jones series
- “John McClane” from Die Hard series
- “Angus MacGyver” from MacGyver