The ISTP personality type (also known as The Tinkerer) is energetic, pragmatic, and sometimes so direct as to seem insensitive. Along with being spontaneous and optimistic, some of their best qualities include being realistic, determined, and adaptable. You either love them or hate them – there’s no in-between. But what makes ISTPs so unique? Why do they react so calmly in stressful situations and where do they get all that energy?
Every personality type has its unique set of characteristics. And, as one of the 16 Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types, ISTPs are no exception there. In this article, we’ll dive into The Tinkerer’s preferences, cognitive functions, strengths, and weaknesses. We’ll also discuss male and female personality traits within the ISTP type.
What is ISTP
ISTPs are a Sensing Thinking (ST) type and tend to approach the different aspects of their life in an analytical manner. It doesn’t matter if they’re at work, out with friends, or at home with their partner, they like to focus on the practical applications of their relationships. When in a relationship, they like to make themselves useful to their better half by acting in a logical and pragmatic way. Although they avoid confrontation, they’re set in their beliefs. Therefore, if they ever find themselves battling someone else’s opinions, they approach the situation presenting facts while setting emotions aside.
ISTPs are also known as The Craftsman for a reason. They like crafts and hands-on projects. They also enjoy figuring out how things work, and it’s likely that they end up as engineers, firefighters, or police officers. People perceive The Tinkerers as that friendly but private person who likes to go on spontaneous trips and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
But how are the ISTPs are so spirited, and where do they get all their energy from? Where does their emotional unavailability come from and why are they so difficult to manage in relationships? How is it possible that although they’re always objective, they can’t see that overcoming their ego is sometimes more important than proving their point? Well, let’s explore the ISTP preferences and (hopefully) answer the questions regarding the mystical Tinkerer.
Every person is different and personalities are nuanced, so it can be hard to identify and define every single one of their characteristics. Nevertheless, the MBTI theory was able to narrow down 8 important aspects which, when combined, can define 16 personality types. These so-called “Preferences” are a way of categorizing a person’s natural tendencies. The 8 preferences are:
- Extroversion vs Introversion – This describes how people direct their energy – either outward or inward.
- Sensing vs Intuition – This describes how people receive and process new information – either pragmatically or imaginatively.
- Thinking vs Feeling – This describes how people make decisions – either by logic and rationality or by subjective feelings.
- Judging vs Perceiving – This describes people’s approach to the outside world – either in a structured or more flexible manner.
Different combinations of these preferences make up a person’s Personality Type and Temperament. ISTPs have Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving preferences. Let’s examine each of these and how they affect the ISTP personality type.
As introverts, ISTPs derive their energy from within. They’re focused on their inside world and they process information internally. They like to spend time alone and aren’t comfortable in crowded places. It’s likely that they have a small group of friends that like to take on their adventures and they don’t feel the need to expand their social circle. ISTPs are great listeners but they’re bothered by small talk. They prefer to have meaningful conversations with their closest compatriots. When put in a social gathering, ISTPs are likely to blend into the background and connect with few people. But it’s not like they want to fit in – they just can’t be bothered with people they don’t have enough in common with.
Here’s a list of the main Introversion traits, that apply to ISTPs:
- Energized by time alone
- Internally aware
As a Sensing type, ISTPs are straightforward and direct people. They communicate in short, straight-to-the-point sentences, and they like to work with facts. They process information with their five senses and they see things as they are. They’re literal thinkers and are concrete in their ways. That’s why they are great at jobs that include physics, mechanics, mathematics, and essentially anything that can be proven with science. For this reason, they don’t get along with people who communicate in abstract ways and they’re not the best at considering emotions. The Tinkerers prefer to live in the moment and don’t spend much time daydreaming about the future. Some other types, such as INFPs and INFJs could learn a thing or two about living in the present from the ‘here and now’ ISTPs.
Here’s a list of the main Sensing traits, that apply to ISTPs:
- Live in the present
- Notice details
As a Thinking type, ISTPs are objective and make decisions based on facts. They’re ruled by the head rather than the heart and they value truth over tact. Nevertheless, this isn’t always the best approach, especially when it comes to love. Sometimes they might seem insincere in their communication with their partner as they express themselves in a logical way, avoiding displays of emotion. Often described as robotic, ISTPs value objectivity in any area of life. They’re rational thinkers, and that’s why they react calmly in stressful situations. Some might say that they even enjoy the thrill of it.
Here’s a list of the main Thinking traits, that apply to ISTPs:
- Decide with their head
As a Perceiving type, ISTPs’ best qualities include adaptability and flexibility. This is valued especially in the workplace since they tend to choose fast-paced professions that require them to be easily adaptable to change. They thrive in unexpected situations and feed on adrenaline. They like to be physically challenged and they’re spontaneous. Having the freedom to follow their own schedule (if they even have one) is important for their overall satisfaction with life. They’re often the ones to make or cancel plans at the last minute, and they like to change tracks midway. Procrastination is something they should work towards eliminating, however, in most cases, it doesn’t affect their overall performance.
Here’s a list of the main Perceiving traits, that apply to ISTPs:
- Change tracks midway
- Dislike routine
Every personality type engages in its surroundings through four cognitive functions. The cognitive functions of a personality type are a combination of preferences and energy direction. The energy could be directed inward (introverted) or outward (extroverted). The functions also enable different ways people process information and make decisions. Thinking and Feeling are used to make decisions, while Sensing and Intuition are used to process information. Furthermore, the cognitive functions are structured depending on the impact they have on the person. The primary and secondary ones have the strongest influence on one’s behavior, while tertiary and inferior ones only apply to certain situations.
In a nutshell, the ISTP functions are as follow:
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Extroverted Sensing (Se)
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
By examining each cognitive function separately we’ll explore the ISTP type in depth.
Dominant Function: Introverted Thinking
As Ti (Introverted Thinking) is the ISTP’s strongest preference, this type makes decisions based on logical analysis. Furthermore, the Introverted Thinking function enables them to categorize and analyze the information they receive. Their in-depth, logical analysis is primarily concerned with solving problems and finding answers. This allows them to bring structure to their inner world, which grants them a strong sense of inner control. This is why ISTPs are often described as self-disciplined people, who prefer to manage their lives and personal projects independently.
The Tinkerer thrives when they have to use their intellect to tackle a given problem, situation, or system. These kinds of challenges excite them and they often do it for the mere pleasure of it. ISTPs also feel confident in working with their hands or being physically involved. That’s why they’re also referred to as ‘The Craftsman’. Fixing a car, reaching fitness goals, or craftsmanship are examples of how ISTPs view the idea of improvement and expansion. They like to make themselves useful, so even in their free time, they’re trying to satisfy their need for growth.
But growth isn’t always tangible. Since Ti is their dominant function, their intelligence is often intuitive and contextual. Figuring out how things work is a primary motivation for development in the life of an average ISTP. And sometimes that means untangling a problem in an interpersonal relationship. As natural problem solvers, ISTPs are great at settling conflicts. It doesn’t matter if they’re struggling at work or battling difficult situations at home, ISTPs have the ability to stay objective. They work with facts and, by keeping emotional expression at bay, they often find logical solutions to their problems.
Auxiliary Function: Extroverted Sensing
Having Se (Extroverted Sensing) as their auxiliary function opens up optimistic, fun-loving tendencies. For this reason, ISTPs adopt an “eat, drink, and be merry” kind of lifestyle. They process data through their five senses and are excited by new experiences. Being aware of what is seen, touched, smelled, tasted, and heard, ISTPs are energized by living in the moment.
Extroverted Sensing also means that ISTPs are bored with routine and familiar experiences. They enjoy physical thrills and new sensations, and their explorative nature makes them solid candidates for extreme sports. Although they’re good at team sports, their Ti (dominant) combined with their Se (auxiliary) makes them masters at individual challenges such as cycling, long-distance running, skiing, and bungee jumping.
Being able to process information through their five senses, coupled with their need for a physical challenge, also affects their career choice. They’re likely to end up as mechanics, chefs, construction workers, firefighters, or policemen. They like to see and touch the results of their labor, and that’s why they’re unlikely to end up doing something theoretical and abstract.
Tertiary Function: Introverted Intuition
Having Introverted Intuition means that ISTPs have the ability to process data through possibilities and meanings. This concept is somewhat paradoxical to their Introverted Thinking primary function, which states that ISTPs are likely to think and explain things logically and practically. Ni (Introverted Intuition) also suggests the ability to grasp a pattern or a plan, which is also something that the disorganized ISTP isn’t very good at. However, as a tertiary function, those qualities are expressed to a lesser degree.
Furthermore, The Tinkerers are also ambitious and determined. They like achievements, so in order to stimulate their need for development, they have to be able to see the bigger picture and to entertain the thought of new possibilities. They must be able to visualize the process, and that doesn’t necessarily mean to follow a strict schedule. It simply suggests coming up with a plan and having a goal in mind.
Inferior Function: Extroverted Feeling
ISTPs use this function the least, as it contradicts some of their most powerful functions. Fe (Extroverted Feeling) suggests that ISTPs make decisions based on feelings. This is going against the logical nature of The Tinkerers and most of them are unfamiliar with emotional expression and vulnerability. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make them heartless or completely insensitive. The Fe function allows them to tune their behavior to the needs of others and essentially understand that people react differently in some situations. The Extroverted Feeling gives them the desire to connect with others and the ability to approach them in a warm and considerate manner.
ISTP Strengths and Weaknesses
If I’ve done my job, you now have a better understanding of this introverted yet energetic and spontaneous personality type. But like every type, ISTPs have their strengths and weaknesses that shape their behavior. They might be emotionally unavailable but, if they’re in a healthy relationship, they’re also spontaneous and like to make themselves useful to their partner. They might not be the best at following schedules at work but, if they like their job, they won’t stop until the work gets done.
Being aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses is important not only for personal growth and development but also for mental health. Being able to look objectively at what you do well and where you could improve is key to emotional well-being. So let’s explore the strengths and weaknesses of this pragmatic and energetic type.
- Good Listeners
ISTPs generally make good listeners and it’s important for them to connect with the people around them. They like to understand human behavior and they seek common ground. Having meaningful relationships with people plays a big role in their life. They hate small talk and they prefer to have a small circle of friends. But the few friends they have can all agree on one thing – you can count on the ISTP to listen to what you have to say and come up with practical advice for whatever you’re going through.
As introverts, The Tinkerers derive their energy from within. If they spend too much time surrounded by people, they need to recharge by being alone. This allows them to be self-reliant and independent in any area of life. They prefer to work alone and perform best when they are given the freedom to follow their own rules. They’re not in desperate need of a relationship and they’re great at being self-sufficient.
ISTPs have the ability to stay objective and to set emotions aside. That’s why they’re the best at handling conflict even when they’re in the center of it. One of their best qualities is staying focused during stressful situations, and some might even say they get a thrill of it. This is also projected when it comes to their career – they like extreme professions that are mentally and physically challenging.
ISTPs like to live in the moment and they generally have a positive outlook on life. They don’t spend too much time wondering about what could be, which allows them to avoid regrets. This goes hand in hand with their ability to handle stressful situations – they know it’s not the end of the world if something doesn’t work out.
As natural troubleshooters, ISTPs are excellent at problem-solving. They’re analytical and they’re skilled at working with their hands and minds when it comes to taking on new challenges. They can run through different ideas to find the perfect solution and they often find pleasure in doing so.
ISTPs are known to be spontaneous and they often lack the ability to follow a set plan or schedule. This might be a problem in their professional life since most employers require a certain extent of planning. However, ISTPs don’t really need a plan. In most cases, things work out for them through sheer effort, and they tend to underperform when they have to follow someone else’s routine. The key is to allow them to be independent and to trust their abilities.
Emotional unavailability is one of the biggest ISTP weaknesses. Although in some areas of life they manage without a display of emotions, sometimes it could be a problem. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with an ISTP, then you know how difficult it can be for them to communicate their feelings. Many ENFPs in their life might wonder if they even have any at all.
Although ISTPs are good listeners and they’re fun-loving friends who’re always ready to take you on an adventure, they also need to spend a lot of time alone. And while independence can be good, ISTPs can take it to a fault. It’s hard for them to be there for their friends all the time and they feel trapped easily. They need their personal space and if they’re unable to get it they would rather end the relationship.
Difference in Male vs Female Personality Traits
ISTPs make up 6% of all MBTI personality types and are the third most common type among introverts. However, as rare as they already are, there are significantly more male than female ISTPs. 71% of ISTPs are males and, although they’re similar in their behaviors, there are some specific differences. We have gathered the most visible characteristics that distinguish both ISTP genders.
The ISTP personality is primary among the male population. The ISTP male is generally perceived as the mysterious introvert who likes to figure out how things work. If you’re an ISTP male then you probably possess the following qualities:
- Like to be alone and are perceived as a lone wolf
- Like to work with your hands, and enjoy mechanics and tinkering
- Are perceived as neutral or disengaged
ISTP females are one of the least common type-gender combinations. The rare ISTP female is a phenomenon that occurs only among less than 2% of the population of the world. If you’re an ISTP female you have probably been called a ‘tomboy,’ as you defy all the gender stereotypes.
Here are some traits of the ISTP female:
- Tend to be perceived as shy rather than a lone wolf
- Like to work with their hands but instead of mechanics pick up creative crafts and arts
- Compared to the ISTP male, are perceived as cold and insensitive rather than neutral or disengaged