Each of the 16 Personality types consists of four letters. Each letter corresponds to a fundamental personality trait for that personality type, which is found by answering a set of tailored questions. Your answers to those questions determine your combination of four sets of opposing traits—introverted versus extroverted, sensing versus intuitive, thinking versus feeling, and perceiving versus judging.
One of the 16 personality types is ISTP, which is rare, sitting at around 5% of the world (9% of all men and 2% of all women).
What is the meaning of ISTP?
If you aren’t familiar with Myers Briggs personality types, ISTP is one of many acronyms that tells you which core characteristics you have. In this case, ISTP is an acronym for Introverted (I), Sensing (S), Thinking (T), and Perceiving (P). If you have this personality type, you are likely to:
- Not be afraid to spend time alone and even be energized by it (Introverted),
- Focus more on facts, figures, and logistics rather than broad ideas and themes (Sensing),
- Use your logic and reasoning skills to make decisions (Thinking), and
- Prefer to do things spontaneously rather than make in-depth plans (Perceiving).
ISTP is also known as “the Virtuoso.” Virtuosos love to explore, using all of their senses to examine and find order in their surroundings. They are known as natural makers and love to learn as they go and by understanding the intricacies of objects from the inside out.
What are ISTPs like?
ISTPs (Virtuosos) are logical, inquisitive, and flexible people who enjoy exploring the world through their senses. Despite being calm and quiet, Virtuosos prefer hands-on learning to reading theory or observing others. They like to get their hands dirty—it’s not unusual for ISTPs to disassemble various gadgets to find out how they work and how they could be improved.
Since ISTPs are attuned to their environment, they’re both detail-oriented and adaptable. They quickly respond to new sensory information and take action. Although their spontaneous nature can make them not only fun to be around but also prone to boredom, they have the resourcefulness and determination needed to master any skill they put their mind to.
Self-reliant and individualistic, ISTPs dislike being limited in any way and prefer to work alone or with like-minded people. However, while they usually tackle challenges head-on, are resilient to stress, and enjoy solving problems, they often struggle with emotional expression. It’s not that they’re unfeeling—they simply find emotions baffling and aren’t sure how to handle them.
One of the top strengths of someone with the ISTP personality is how they can take objects apart and fix them. They are able to understand how internal mechanisms work very easily and make them better – especially machines of any kind. It’s very common for them to use their tools and knowledge to improve and fix things in the household or as part of their jobs. If you’re an ISTP, then chances are you are a very practical person.
ISTPs are known to be very good problem solvers. This is because they have an excellent ability to remember moments even down to the senses that were active, categorize this information, and then, when required, recall the information. Because of this ability, they are generally very confident in their abilities to solve problems – even under pressure. If there is an emergency of any kind, you can count on an ISTP to jump in and try to help make the situation better.
ISTPs are very flexible and adaptable when it comes to responding to situations. They have very good instincts and trust that they have the resources to handle any situation that they find themselves in. This makes them particularly good when confronted with physical threats or in a physical contact sport, as they can take the measure of their opposition and respond accordingly.
ISTPs have a lot of street smarts and are very good at being able to understand the motivations of others. They can essentially see through people’s lies and bad intentions and respond accordingly. They are very rarely the victim of scams or rarely get duped in any way, and if they are, they will take it very personally.
ISTPs are prone to be spontaneous, which can sometimes mean they make rash decisions when bored. This can then lead other people to view them as reckless and lacking the ability to make well-informed decisions. For example, many ISTPs love to engage in extreme sports, which other people view as being overly risky, but for the Virtuoso, engaging in activities like this is seen as “seizing the day.”
ISTPs like to communicate with others in a direct manner. In many instances, this is a good thing, but sometimes other people can take this as a sign they are insensitive. They can be especially blunt when they believe the other person that they are communicating with isn’t accepting of their logic or knowledge of a topic and will become irritated and even feel slighted. This can cause problems for the ISTP in their work and private lives.
ISTPs don’t like to be bored or feel like they are waiting around for a decision to be made. They are very likely to make quick decisions and engage in activities spontaneously without always fully thinking through the consequences of their decisions and choices. This can cause problems for them, as they might not always fully think through their decisions before jumping into something. In a workplace situation, for example, this can be a problem and will need to be addressed.
Private and aloof
ISTPs don’t mind spending time alone and value their personal space. When other people try to enter their space, they can become very defensive and overly protective of their privacy. This is sometimes seen by other people in their lives as them being too private and aloof. For the most part, this isn’t a problem for people with the Virtuoso personality, but in relationships, it can become a problem without good communication. When they do get to know somebody more, they will slowly open up and share more of themselves.
What are the special interests of ISTPs?
While not everyone with the ISTP personality is the same or loves all of the same things, there are usually some common hobbies and interests that people with the Virtuoso personality are more likely to embrace.
ISTPs love risky activities that get their adrenaline flowing. They especially love to engage in hobbies where they can work with mechanical objects so they can learn something new.
Some of the most popular pastimes of ISTPs include:
- Aviation or pilot training
- Magic and comedy
- Motorcycle riding
- Scuba diving
- Weapon training
- Basically, any adrenaline causing stunt
Interacting with ISTPs
Interacting with Virtuosos can be very complex due to their unique set of personality traits. On the one hand, they can be aloof and detached and enjoy their own company, but on the other hand, they can be very spontaneous and enjoy living in the moment with the people close to them. If you can navigate these complexities, you’ll find a good friend, partner, and coworker in an ISTP.
In a relationship
When in the dating stage of a relationship, people with the Virtuoso personality type are known to be hard to get to know and can be perceived as being aloof. They are likely to just move on if they perceive a potential partner doesn’t meet their expectations instead of putting some effort into getting to know them better or working through the issues.
They especially don’t like it if they perceive their potential partner is trying to intrude too much into their personal space too soon or trying to change their habits or views. However, they don’t have any problem with trying to change their partner’s habits or views, which suggests a reluctance to compromise.
ISTPs are very fun-loving and laid-back; they don’t hold traditional views when it comes to dating and often try to become physically intimate with new partners early on in the relationship. They tend to view sex as a great way to express themselves emotionally, which can be an issue if dating someone with polar opposite personality traits. They also struggle at times to express their emotions and feelings, as they can be very guarded and scared to express their innermost feelings. However, with good communication, these issues can easily be overcome.
Virtuosos live in the present and don’t tend to plan a lot about the future – including in relationships. If you’re dating someone with the ISTP personality type, you’re best to live in the moment and take each day as it comes. If you survive the initial stages of the relationship, you should find yourself with a fun-loving partner who embraces and seizes the opportunities of the day. It certainly won’t be boring!
Living with an ISTP
ISTPs are protective of their privacy and like their own space. This could cause issues when living with an ISTP if you don’t respect their privacy and space. However, these issues can be overcome with good communication and giving each other room to do your own thing.
ISTPs don’t generally plan far ahead, and they like to “live for the day.” This could be an issue if you like to plan everything out, like what to have for dinner every night and who is going to do household chores. However, they do love to show affection for their partners by doing practical things – it just might be in their own time and not on a schedule.
ISTPs are also very good at problem-solving. This is a good trait to have when living with an ISTP, as they are likely to be very good at fixing things around the house or working out ways to solve other problems that affect their lives.
Virtuosos are very passionate people and enjoy connecting with their partners physically early on in the relationship. They are also very adventurous and spontaneous people, so you can expect them to carry these traits over into the bedroom. ISTPs can be hard to get to know in the early days of a relationship on a deeper level, as they are introverted. However, once the relationship progresses, you can expect them to become much more open.
ISTPs tend to keep their feelings and thoughts to themselves – especially in the early stages of a relationship. This can cause some conflict, as they might carry around some resentment over their partner’s actions. However, once you get to know an ISTP, you can expect them to open up more.
They can also be very private people and guard their own space. This can cause conflict in a relationship, especially if their partner is the opposite. Again, this doesn’t have to be a relationship deal-breaker if you communicate with each other well and are comfortable giving each other some “alone time.”
ISTPs don’t like planning, which can be a problem when it comes to planning holidays, weekly household chores, for the future, etc. If you are the opposite to your ISTP partner in this respect, some conflict might develop in the relationship.
ISTPs are most likely to have the same worldview, hobbies, and values with people with their own personality type as well as people with the ISTJ, ISFP, ESTP personality types.
ISTPs will have a lot in common with ISFJs, INTPs, ESTJs, and ESFPs while having a few remaining differences. This should ensure healthy compatibility with only a few challenges to navigate.
ISTPs might not find they have an instant connection with INTJs, ESFJs, ENTPs, or ENTJs, but once they become more familiar, similarities should pop up. As long as they are aware of their differences and try to work to overcome them, they should be able to form lasting relationships with people with these personality types.
ISTPs will struggle to form relationships with INFPs, INFJs, ENFPs, and ENFJs, but if they put enough work in and embrace their differences, successful relationships can still form.
As a parent
ISTPs love to give their children the freedom to discover the world around them. This is because they like to experience the world this way themselves. As long as they have some sensible safety limits in place, this approach to parenting generally works out well for both child and parent.
Parents with the Virtuoso personality type love to teach their children things by showing them how things work. For example, they love to build things and take them apart with their children to show them how things are made and how each of the different components come together to make something work. As long as their children like this approach to learning, this style of parenting works well for the ISTP.
Since Virtuosos are spontaneous and love adventure, they often pass this trait on to their children. They love nothing more than to go on random adventures and introduce their children to exciting new activities. As much as they love sharing new experiences and hobbies with their children, they don’t generally try to force any of them onto their children; they instead like their children to make their own decisions about what activities they like to do.
The main struggle ISTPs have with parenting is in creating an emotional bond. This is because they are very reserved people and enjoy their own space. When they have children, the ISTP has to learn how to open up more and share their emotions.
They also sometimes struggle to communicate with their children verbally, as they prefer actions over talking. This can sometimes result in losing their patience with their children, which can cause conflict.
ISTPs are also very direct people. This can cause conflict in the family unit, as they lack tactfulness, and their children can sometimes have their feelings hurt easily. This can be overcome by learning to communicate better and by learning to have some patience when it comes to parenting.
As a friend
Because Virtuosos love trying out new activities, they often don’t struggle to meet new people. However, when it comes to forming more close connections and friendships, they often struggle. This is due to their introversion and their preference for guarding their privacy. If you can overcome their initial aloofness, you will find that you end up with a loyal and interesting friend.
ISTPs love to act spontaneously and go with the flow. If you are friends with an ISTP, expect them to randomly invite you to partake in an interesting activity – especially something that will get the adrenaline flowing. However, they will struggle to make plans with friends and keep to them, which can cause conflict within their friendships at times.
ISTPs are not the best communicators, which can sometimes cause trouble within friendships. They much prefer showing their affection for others through actions rather than words, so sometimes friends of ISTPs will not know just how much they care for them and appreciate their friendship.
Even with all their personality weakness, Virtuosos are very popular individuals, as they are very open-minded and relaxed and have interesting hobbies that they love to share and discuss. Once you get over the initial obstacles of getting to know them, you will find a great friend in an ISTP.
ISTP personality growth tips
To help their strengths shine and beat their weaknesses, ISTPs should:
- Think before acting. As action-oriented individuals, ISTPs can be impulsive, so they should take a step back to evaluate the situation before acting.
- Find a hobby. Contrary to popular belief, not all Virtuosos like tinkering with their cars or other mechanical hobbies. Some of them have creative passions, such as music. In any case, cultivating a hobby can help ISTPs improve their mental well-being.
- Socialize. ISTPs are famous for canceling plans, but they might benefit from pushing themselves to socialize more—after all, that’s the best way for them to learn how to navigate social situations.
- Acquire good manners. ISTPs aren’t concerned with social etiquette, pleasantries, and such, but disregarding them can make them come off as disrespectful. Cultivating politeness can help them avoid unnecessary conflict and improve relationships.
ISTPs are very technically minded people who love to become masters of their craft. They are motivated by learning everything they can about their jobs and love occupations that involve working physically with machinery and other equipment.
They are especially drawn to jobs that allow them to see tangible results at the end of their workday. This makes them especially well-suited to occupations that involve engineering. They are very good at using creativity to create solutions that solve hard problems that many other people overlook.
ISTPs enjoy jobs that give them flexibility and time to explore their passions, and they hate being stuck behind a desk all day. They especially dislike jobs with too many rules and have been slowed down by bureaucracy and too many layers of management.
ISTPs generally work well within teams, but since they are introverted, they do struggle at times to communicate well. ISTPs have a very low tolerance for people who they don’t deem competent in their jobs and prefer to be working around people like themselves. When in a team, they don’t like to sit around in endless meetings discussing things; they much prefer to get on with the job.
Best ISTP career matches
ISTPs can’t go wrong by pursuing the following careers:
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Forensic Science Technician
- Police Officer
- Private Investigator
- Software Developer
- Software Tester
- Sound Designer
Worst ISTP career matches
Sitting in the office all day while doing repetitive work isn’t most ISTPs’ idea of fun, so they should avoid jobs such as:
- Administrative Assistant
- Customer Support Representative
- Data Entry Clerk
Celebrities with the ISTP personality type
Many ISTPs are perfectionists who love to become masters of their crafts. This gives them the perfect personality type to get to the top of their chosen field and, as a result, become famous.
They also have a great sense of adventure and enjoy sports that get their adrenaline flowing – which is why there are some very famous sports stars with the ISTP personality.
Here are some of the most famous ISTP celebrities:
- Lance Armstrong
- Tiger Woods
- Shaquille O’Neal
- Venus Williams
- Larry Bird
- Chuck Yaeger
- Amelia Earhart
Actors and musicians
- Bruce Lee
- Miles Davis
- Clint Eastwood
- Katherine Hepburn
- Scarlett Johansson
- Tom Cruise
- Daniel Craig
- Woody Allen
- Christian Bale
- Keith Richards
The bottom line
ISTPs, or Virtuosos as they’re commonly known, are very spontaneous, practical, and great at solving problems. They love to show affection for their friends, partners, and coworkers through their actions rather than words.
While they can often be misunderstood and not easy to get to know, once you do get to know someone with an ISTP personality, you will find you have an extremely loyal and good friend, partner, or coworker. It just takes some time and effort on your part.