ISTP Personality (“The Virtuoso”)

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.

Harrison Ford

ISTPs love to explore with their hands and their eyes, touching and examining the world around them with cool rationalism and spirited curiosity. People with this personality type 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.

ISTP personality

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. Of course, that’s on the condition that those people don’t interfere with ISTPs’ principles and freedom, and they’ll need to be open to ISTPs returning the interest in kind.

ISTPs enjoy lending a hand and sharing their experience, 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.

Dare to Differ

While their mechanical tendencies can make them appear simple at a glance, ISTPs are actually quite enigmatic. Friendly but very private, calm but suddenly spontaneous, extremely curious but unable to stay focused on formal studies, ISTP personalities can be a challenge to predict, even by their friends and loved ones. ISTPs can seem very loyal and steady for a while, but they tend to build up a store of impulsive energy that explodes without warning, taking their interests in bold new directions.

Rather than some sort of vision quest though, ISTPs are merely exploring the viability of a new interest when they make these seismic shifts.

ISTPs’ decisions stem from a sense of practical realism, and at their heart is a strong sense of direct fairness, a "do unto others" attitude, which really helps to explain many of ISTPs’ puzzling traits. Instead of being overly cautious though, avoiding stepping on toes in order to avoid having their toes stepped on, ISTPs are likely to go too far, accepting likewise retaliation, good or bad, as fair play.

The biggest issue ISTPs are likely to face is that they often act too soon, 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.

Nothing Is as Boring as Everyone Agreeing With You

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 emotions, but this is just a natural extension of their fairness, given how difficult it is to gauge ISTPs’ emotions and motivations. However, their tendency to explore their relationships through their actions rather than through empathy can lead to some very frustrating situations. People with the ISTP personality type 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.

Virtuosos You May Know

5 years ago
This is really accurate with two exceptions. I am not an optimist and I am very conscious of my personal space. I am less conscious of others space though. The bit about struggling academically due to boredom is spot on though. My mind just drifts (in all classes, but particularly in English class) and I really have to work hard to concentrate when studying or listening to a lecture.
Vance Campbell
5 years ago
I have to admit that I thought that these personality tests were a bit of hocus-pocus kind of ridiculousness. However, I was pleasantly shocked at the accuracy of the results. My approach to relationships is the only discrepancy that I found. I tend to be very loyal to my friends. I am also very cautious in choosing deep relationships but once I choose commitment, it is very difficult to shake that commitment.
5 years ago
Wow, very good description. Also nice to realize I could've been Indiana Jones, ha!
5 years ago
It is practically a perfect description of me, excluding a few things here and there. I don't agree with the part about struggling academically because, in fact, other sources say that we ISTPs are very intelligent and I would have to agree with that.
5 years ago
I disagree with you, the article says it clearly that academic diffculties come from lack of interest and not of intelligence.
5 years ago
As an apparent ISTP I totally disagree with the first part of the description of "Optimistic and Energetic". I am more often described as a pessimist although I prefer to think that I'm a realist. I also value personal space very highly. I would much rather take a long distance view of something, or no view at all, rather than merging my personal space with another's.
5 years ago
I'm clearly an ISTP and I am a very optimistic and relaxed person. I see things from the bright side and don't stress about the dark side of the things. To me, this is what I like the most about this type of personality.
5 years ago
I agree with you. I am not exactly the optimistic type, but I wouldn't say that I look at everything negatively either. I think a best way to describe myself is a realist. I see facts, while still maintaining some level of connection with my gut feeling.
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