The ISTP will be full-on, or full off - they don’t do shades of grey. The ISTP personality type moves seamlessly from quiet bystander to active participant and leader in one fell swoop, then back again to invisible, apparently disinterested introvert. They are at their best in times of crisis and challenge, but will have little appetite for follow-through, as they will be waiting for the next challenge. Independent and self-contained the ISTP, although not unfriendly, will be difficult to get to know as they tend to reveal only what they choose to and that is over time when they are ready.
The ISTP is one of the most complex character types either in the thick of the action, leading and solving problems, or with nothing to say. The issue is they only say what needs to be said, they are economic in the extreme. This is because ISTPs are driven purely by challenge and this will determine how involved they want to be, how big is the challenge? They are at their best in times of crisis as they need very little preparation and able to cut to the chase with no preamble or discussion with others, spontaneously jumping in to solve problems or deal with crises often surprising those who had seen them as on the periphery of things. However, once the task is finished or problem solved, they will be looking for the next big thing to throw themselves into.
The ISTP is self-sufficient and very independent, only really happy when undertaking some risky or interesting activity. Direct to the point of abruptness and tending at times to tread on toes, the ISTP tends to speak literally showing little concern for the impact, and they display coolness under pressure which helps get things fixed but which may not endear them to those around them, (even those for whom they’ve fixed something). They are not unfriendly individuals but ultimately the ISTP wants to be left alone to live their lives and do their jobs the way they see fit, rarely trying to control others and expecting others not to try to control them. But in a crisis, or when the situation needs in-depth understanding, the ISTP will thrive, at least until the crisis is over. Once they are clear on what needs to be done, they will be difficult to budge and will potentially move too quickly without thinking through all the implications as they just love the thrill of action. The switch may appear as from someone who is almost exclusively listening to someone who just doesn't listen. The ISTP dislikes theories and complexities, preferring facts and data which will help get the job done in the quickest possible time and with the minimum amount of effort.
The ISTP is the ultimate trouble-shooter, able to unpick and understand how things fit together and then fix them. The ISTP doesn’t follow social rules, nor do they need to engage fully with others and this can give them a distant, aloof persona to others who often don’t quite know where they stand. Practical, resourceful, adaptable pragmatists, ISTPs have excellent powers of observation, a capacity for understanding how anything works, displaying logical, detached analysis. The ISTP has a great ability to analyse facts and store data. This is all internalised, stored in the grey filing cabinets in the brain until called for. Then, when someone argues with the ISTP, the facts, data, empirical evidence, knowledge are brought quickly to bear to quash the argument, quickly and finally. The independent streak in the ISTP means that they will usually display confidence in their own abilities but means they may not bring others into the decision-making process. They are quick and economic and so their desire to get a result in the minimum amount of time and fuss means they may overlook the personal touch and make them fail to see the 'bigger picture,' and so, by quickly solving a problem, they may create another.
The ISTP is very difficult to read. Their areas of interest tend to be mechanical and physical but unlike most SPs they don’t need constant action, they actually lie low, storing all the data saving their energy until a project or an adventure they consider worth their time and effort arises, and then they launch themselves in completely. They work in short bursts of incredible energy, loving fixing and sorting, especially factual mechanical issues but, when it's over it's over, no reflection, no discussion, no hanging in there, they've gone.
Linking ‘type’ and ‘careers’ would be easy if it was just about listing specific jobs that perfectly fit specific personalities. However in truth it is more difficult than that as ignores other, more important issues, such as the organisation, the values and the culture, which are far better determinants of suitability than a job title. Also individual jobs vary widely from industry to industry, organisation to organisation and person to person. Therefore our focus on ‘type’ and ‘careers’ will be far more on you: your personality, your aptitudes, interests, likes, strengths and weaknesses and then matching these to the sorts of environments, cultures and norms within organisations that will allow you, given your character, to thrive grow and flourish. We spend a lot of our time at work and so it is important to get these issues right or we could spend a lot of working time unhappy, unproductive and unfulfilled.
For the ISTP, theory is most appealing when it has a practical application and lots of action. They are usually drawn to risky, exciting or thrilling short-term activities. The ISTP is not interested in conventional or repetitive routines. They use their action-orientated approach to deal with problems and crisis situations immediately in a calm, effective way. The ISTP places a high value on efficiency and will expend the least amount of energy to get the job done. They also value freedom and flexibility and will often complete tasks in spite of any rules or regulations. This persistence often influences their ability to navigate superbly through restrictions in order to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. The ISTP prefers hands-on work and would rather be doing a task than discussing it and they will produce work of genuine quality and precision, they are capable of drilling deeply and extensively. However, their tendency towards risk and spontaneity may result in not following through with some responsibilities or commitments, as they will like the bits they like. Their ability to remain focused in a crisis is incredible, indeed there is part of the ISTP that comes alive in a crisis and they need that feed of action to succeed. When approaching a problem their focus is intense and detailed until it’s over, then it really is over, box ticked, until the next problem arises.
The ISTP focus can result in them not noticing the personal needs of others. The ISTP is generally not comfortable with emotions and tends to neglect this aspect of themselves and others. Being so incredibly focused and detailed they often do not pick up on how people are feeling and may get surprised with other people being upset as they tend not to fully understand their impact and feelings don’t really ‘compute.’ They tend to work primarily by themselves and in short bursts of energy applying all their knowledge and experience to solving the problem right here, right now. This means they often negate any planning and to other may appear disorganised, and taking shortcuts, even though they are incredibly focused. They can become bored with the more routine and mundane tasks and may have to apply themselves to tie up loose ends, as they will be looking for the next big, action-oriented project. The ISTP preference for short term fixes and high impact immediate solutions may mean the neglect the wider ramifications or context for their actions, as they like to get stuck in and do, then withdraw. The ISTP has little granularity and so they may be quietly saying nothing and withdrawn or stuck into the heart of the action, leading the charge, nothing in between.
The ISTP is superb at memorising and storing knowledge, which they can apply to solve complex, practical problems that require immediate application. Then they can immerse themselves, working happily alone and coming up with radical and very quick solutions. Then the ISTP will get bored as the normal, ‘run of the mill’ work just does not appeal to them. So, they need variety and the opportunity to dip in and out of activities. ISTPs are at their best in a crisis, where their natural disregard for rules, authority and structures allows them to focus on and tackle the emergency at hand in the most effective way. However, this does mean they often need a challenge, in fact a crisis, to get their energies moving as stasis and steady state are not for them. The ISTP needs a more practical environment, where they can master skills and do things and see tangible results. The ISTP, whilst not at all anti-people, is just not people-centric, they just don’t need people and don’t really ‘get’ emotion. They are far better at fixing problems than they are dealing with ‘people issues,’ which do not really play to their strengths which are primarily robustness.
Methodical, regimented environments where adherence to rules and regulations is paramount and rewarded and where there is no room for risk taking will not bring out the best in the ISTP. Slow pace and endless detail will switch off the ISTP who needs to be fully immersed solving difficult problems or standing back adding to their store of knowledge; nothing in the middle. They will thrive in practical environments where they have the freedom and flexibility to get on and do it their way, and do not get mired in tradition or rules. Their strong independent streak means they won’t want to be micro managed and will need to feel they have the freedom to jump in and jump out as required. Lack of challenge and no facility to respond quickly would not be good for the ISTP as they thrive on difficulties and pressure and they will lose energy if they are asked to follow the line and move methodically towards conclusion. They will not want to spend time in meetings or dealing with the emotional aspect of people, as they are intensely factual and practical and don’t really understand the subtle issues.
The ISTP will thrive in careers that can offer them challenge, change, variety, flexibility and action. ISTPS become stifled if put in a box and the organisation will not get the best out of them. Asking them to plan and work in a prescribed way with protocols and tradition will not bring out the best in them. Such roles as Consultant, Trouble-shooter, Crisis Management, Plant Manager, offshore energy roles where there are elements of danger and the need is for short term, intense focus on practical problems are where the ISTP will excel, they are great in a crisis as they love the whole buzz and action of problems and difficulties.
In a team situation the ISTP personality type will use their factual knowledge and experience to bring a clear explanation of how and why things happen, using empirical data and evidence, hypotheses and rational thinking. The ISTP may not be the most vocal, but when the discussions enter the arena which holds their interest, they will become quite outspoken and very clear thinking. The ISTP can be a conundrum in a team situation. Their interest levels will determine their engagement and that will be binary: either taking a back seat or taking the lead - very rarely will their involvement or contribution be moderate. The engineering-type brain of the ISTP stores all the data ready for immediate use when required and so they are capable of moving quickly from passive to taking the lead and all that detail, knowledge and experience to bear to help the team out of inertia or difficult situation. Their low boredom threshold means that they will then happily relinquish the need as the ISTP does not need the glory, nor are they happy with chit-chat or anything that does not interest them or challenge them.
Because ISTPs are so good in a crisis, they are less good when the going is not tough and not so good at the more sensitive side of leading people. ISTPs are extremely independent and will need the freedom to work in short bursts of energy on difficult action oriented practical problems that hold their interest. Routine and steady detail will bore them, and they need their space. If it becomes boring, then they will go back to their inhabiting their own space. ISTPs are essentially practical, preferring facts and data to anything they perceive as woolly or impractical, but when they focus on a problem they are forensic.
ISTPs are such practical, factual individuals so the subtleties of emotion are often lost on them. People do not conform to formal laws of physics and emotions are irrational and so really won’t compute. ISTPs are friendly, confident introverts, happy in their own skin and don’t really ‘get’ emotion as everything gets analysed and stored factually. They do want to help and solve problems, but they do so with a dispassionate analysis which may leave those close to them feeling processed, rather than understood. They are very focused and ‘of the moment,’ and so the ‘niceties’ of relationships may pass them by. An ISTP will also need their own personal space, which can make other people, even those close, feel a little shut out at times.
ISTPs are extremely private individuals so getting close to an ISTP would take time, if ever. Other people may have to go through the ISTP assault course to get genuinely close, few will. This is not because they are shy, just that any personal revelations will come slowly in stages as ISTPs prefer to do things at their pace in their way and don’t feel the need to ‘play the game.’ ISTPs are factual and economic with words, language to them is functional, about getting things done and clarity so they can project a little abrupt or monosyllabic in their communications. This is not being rude, (though it may project as such), just a desire to get everything resolved quickly so they get straight to the point. And if there’s nothing to say, the ISTP will say nothing.
ISTPs can appear passive until something grabs their interest, or a practical problem needs fixing and then they’ll come alive, take over, fix it, and withdraw again loving the buzz, but then go back into their box. ISTPs are thrill seekers and will love to be where the action is. However, once they have jumped in and experienced they will tend to go back to being passive and quiet, so in that sense they are either full on or full off.
ISTPs are OK with conflict, provided it has a purpose. If it’s drama, or conflict for its own sake, or emotional outbursts, an ISTP will walk away. They love problems and difficult situations they are intensely practical, wanting to get the problem solved or the issue addressed, practically and as quickly as possible. An ISTP will not look for conflict but they are impervious to their environment, so it goes with the territory, it will help get things done as quickly as possible. To an ISTP personal feelings matter only in practical terms, how they relate to what needs to be done.
Choose another personality type to compare side by side the different approaches work, attitudes to conflict and the way they engage with others.