ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T: Analyzing Assertive and Turbulent Virtuosos

If you’re an ISTP, you probably found your personality type description eerily relatable. And yet, your analytical mind probably caught at least a thing or two you just couldn’t identify with. Chances are, the differences between ISTP-A and ISTP-T personalities can explain this discrepancy.

In this article, we’ll analyze the two subtypes of the Virtuoso personality type—assertive and turbulent ISTP personalities—and learn what makes them different from one another.

Key Takeaways

  • ISTP-A and ISTP-T are the subtypes of the ISTP personality type that differ in terms of self-confidence and self-control.
  • Although ISTP-As are more persevering, self-composed, and self-assured, ISTP-Ts are more curious, have better social skills, and are more invested in personal growth.
  • The most suitable careers for ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts alike are those that enable them to primarily work on their terms, such as carpentry, photography, and engineering.

The Distinction Between ISTP-A and ISTP-T


The main distinction between ISTP-A and ISTP-T personalities is that ISTP-As have a more stable sense of self than ISTP-Ts.

Every personality type can be classified into two distinct identities—assertive (A) and turbulent (T)—that shape their self-perception and approach to life. ISTPs are no different.

While ISTP-As and ISTP-T—the two subtypes of the ISTP (Virtuoso) personality type—share many similarities, they also differ drastically in some aspects. Specifically, ISTP-As are far more confident in their abilities, skills, and knowledge than their turbulent counterparts due to their assertive natures.

Being of a turbulent nature makes it harder for ISTP-Ts to trust themselves, as their emotions often get the best of them. This is because the assertiveness/turbulence dimension is closely tied to neuroticism, with turbulent ISTPs being more vulnerable to negative emotions than assertive ones.

ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T Strengths and Weaknesses

Since ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts have identical cognitive function stacks, they share many of the same strengths and weaknesses—pragmatism, stubbornness, etc.

However, assertiveness and turbulence may highlight or downplay specific ISTP strengths and weaknesses. Not only that, but the two subtypes often have unique gifts and face different challenges in life due to their distinct natures.

ISTP-A Strengths & Weaknesses

ISTP-As are endowed with:

  • Confidence. While most Virtuosos exude self-confidence, assertive ones don’t simply radiate it—they embody it with all of their being. Optimistic and self-assured, they remain confident in themselves at all times, even in the face of adversity.
  • Emotional control. Emotional self-control comes naturally to assertive ISTPs. Like everyone else, they may experience negative emotions from time to time, but they don’t let them control them or dictate their actions.
  • Endurance. Independent, resourceful, and self-confident, ISTP-As aren’t easily fazed by stress. They usually tackle it right away, which allows them to overcome challenges promptly and effectively.

ISTP-As also have their flaws, including:

  • Emotional detachment. Managing emotions isn’t nearly the same as controlling them. ISTP-As are quick to suppress them or brush them off, and they may avoid dealing with any kind of emotional matter. Because of this, they may come across as cold and detached.
  • Lack of foresight. Assertive ISTPs are inclined to make the most of every moment and strongly believe in their ability to handle anything life throws at them. As inspiring as this is, being overly confident and present-minded can cause these people to make hasty decisions.
  • Lack of empathy. Since assertive ISTPs are out of touch with their feelings, it’s no wonder they struggle to relate to other people’s emotions. It also doesn’t help that extraverted feeling (Fe) is the inferior—or weakest— ISTP cognitive function. They may not even be aware that their words and actions can sometimes hurt others.
ISTP Strengths and Weaknesses

ISTP-T Strengths & Weaknesses

ISTP-Ts are innately gifted with the following strengths:

  • Passion for self-improvement. Turbulent ISTPs are often aware of their weaknesses and use this to fuel their personal growth. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and their skills in order to raise their self-confidence.
  • Social skills. While it’s no secret that ISTPs love solitude, turbulent Virtuosos, in particular, are inclined to fit in with others. Since they crave social acceptance and seek opportunities to improve themselves, they usually develop better people and communication skills than assertive ISTPs.
  • Curiosity. ISTP-Ts are innately inquisitive, and their curiosity has no bounds. Although they are more cautious than their assertive counterparts, they enjoy delving into new experiences and regularly adopt new hobbies to spice up their lives.

Meanwhile, their weak points include:

  • Unstable self-esteem. Unlike assertive ISTPs, turbulent Virtuosos have a fairly unstable sense of self. Failure, mistakes, etc., may cause their self-confidence to plummet, and it’s not uncommon for them to struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
  • Susceptibility to social pressures. Whether they want to admit this or not, ISTP-Ts care more about fitting in society than assertive ones. They are prone to giving in to peer pressure and conforming to social norms and expectations, which goes against the independent and individualistic ISTP nature.
  • Emotional volatility. Despite belonging to thinking personality types, turbulent ISTPs are no strangers to emotional rollercoasters. They often experience intense emotional highs and lows, which makes it challenging for them to control their emotions.

ISTP-A and ISTP-T Compatibility With Other Personality Types

The assertiveness/turbulence dimension plays a very small role in ISTP compatibility, meaning ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts typically get along with similar personality types.

Logical and practical, Virtuosos are drawn to quick-witted and down-to-earth people who have a pragmatic approach to life. While they often gravitate toward spontaneous types that are no less adventurous than them, those who prefer to lead a structured, predictable life can also complement ISTPs’ personalities.

Some of the best matches for ISTPs are:

Both ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts can connect with these types equally well, but turbulent ISTPs may find common ground with feeling personalities more easily. After all, they are more familiar with the complexities of emotions than assertive ISTPs.

6 Key Differences Between ISTP-A and ISTP-T Personalities

Although ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts share the same personality type, they differ in terms of self-image and emotional expression. They may also act differently in romantic relationships and friendships, at work, and under stress.

Let’s take a closer look at these six key differences between ISTP-A and ISTP-T personalities:

ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T Self-Image

ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts perceive themselves fairly differently. While assertive Virtuosos maintain a positive self-image at all times, turbulent ISTPs are much less self-assured.

Bold yet composed, ISTP-As trust themselves wholeheartedly and rarely, if ever, hesitate to take risks or tackle problems, even if they’re completely on their own. They’re sure of who they are and feel secure in themselves.

Meanwhile, ISTP-Ts have trouble remaining consistently confident in their knowledge and abilities, especially if they suffer a setback or make a mistake. Due to their turbulent natures, they may battle self-doubt, compare themselves to others, and seek external validation.

ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T Emotional Expression

Even though ISTPs approach life from a logical standpoint, those who score high on turbulent traits on a personality test often experience intense emotions.

ISTP-Ts are fairly sensitive to positive emotions like joy and vulnerable to negative emotions, especially anger and frustration. Since emotional matters aren’t their strong point, they sometimes feel like their emotions are bigger and stronger than them, which makes them feel overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, ISTP-As rarely experience emotions to this degree. They often pride themselves on their ability to control their emotions but have trouble expressing them. Their emotions are fleeting; they have them, of course, but they resolve soon after they arise.

ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T Under Stress

ISTP-As are significantly more resistant to stress than ISTP-Ts.

Though they aren’t immune to stress, assertive ISTPs can successfully sustain their motivation and retain their focus when the going gets tough. Self-assured and persistent, they maintain a sense of control over their lives,even when it seems that everything around them is falling apart.

Turbulent ISTPs, on the other hand, often feel overwhelmed by life’s pressures. They have high expectations for themselves and feel compelled to conform to others, which also makes them more susceptible to stress.

ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T in Romantic Relationships

ISTP Compatibility

As much as ISTP-As love being in control of their lives, they usually let the other party take the lead in emotional matters. Expressing emotions is no easy feat for them, so they usually wait until others share their feelings and affection. Nonetheless, they prefer bonding over shared interests and activities with their partners to forming a deep, emotional connection.

By contrast, ISTP-Ts are more in touch with their feelings, even though they may feel like their emotions are beyond their control. Still, this makes them more passionate and sincere, and some learn to genuinely appreciate having an emotional bond with their partners.

ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T in Friendships

In friendships, both ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts are tolerant and spontaneous, which makes them popular despite their introverted nature. They both prefer to keep their friendships fun and build them around shared experiences and mutual interests.

That said, ISTP-Ts often have larger social circles because of their restless nature. Although they cherish their alone time, they also enjoy meeting different people. However, they can get bored easily if they spend too much time with the same company. Since they often find new hobbies and interests, though, they have no difficulty making new friends.

ISTP-A vs. ISTP-T in the Workplace

ISTP-As feel much more confident in the workplace than their turbulent counterparts. They enjoy mastering new skills and finding practical solutions to problems. Since they are rather bold, they often volunteer to take the lead in teams that lack direction. Even though they’d rather work independently, they make effective leaders.

Meanwhile, ISTP-Ts often perceive themselves as less competent than they truly are. They may find it particularly difficult to deal with mistakes, though their fear of failure is precisely what drives them to continuously pursue personal and professional development.

10 Best & Worst ISTP-A Careers

ISTP-As thrive in hands-on jobs that provide them with a high degree of autonomy, utilize their robust problem-solving skills, and require little to no social interaction.

Some great career choices for ISTP personalities leaning toward assertiveness include:

  1. Carpenter
  2. Mechanic
  3. Engineer
  4. Photographer
  5. Chef

Meanwhile, they should avoid jobs that require them to follow rigid rules, constantly collaborate with others or relate to them emotionally, and perform repetitive activities, such as:

  1. Salesperson
  2. Social Worker
  3. Psychologist
  4. Elementary School Teacher
  5. Administrative Assistant

10 Best & Worst ISTP-T Careers

ISTP-Ts shine in jobs that rely on adaptability and allow them to challenge themselves, either mentally, physically, or both.

While they can excel at the same jobs as ISTP-As, they can also build fulfilling careers as:

  1. Animal Trainers
  2. Risk Analysts
  3. Software Developers
  4. Paramedics
  5. Police Officers

Nothing frustrates ISTP-Ts more than monotony. They may also find it difficult to handle jobs that are overly structured, involve strict rules and procedures, etc. As such, the following jobs may not be suitable for them:

  1. Data Entry Clerk
  2. Bank Teller
  3. Customer Support Representative
  4. Compliance Officer
  5. Bookkeeper

Need some career inspiration? Check out our list of 101+ ISTP-A and ISTP-T celebrities!

Final Thoughts

After reading this article, it may seem like assertive ISTPs are the luckier ones since they generally have higher self-esteem. But make no mistake—both ISTP-As and ISTP-Ts possessunique gifts, so they excel in different areas.

No matter which subtype you belong to, one thing is for certain—acknowledging and working on your weak points will help you unlock your potential and become the best version of yourself!

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