ISTP: Virtuoso (Description + Functions + Examples)

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Practical Psychology

In 2020, a lot of us picked up new hobbies. Maybe you took a few virtual piano lessons, or you bought a sourdough starter and tried to pick up baking. Some of us are better at sticking to habits than others. That person who committed to online yoga every day or turned their quarantine boredom into beautiful crafts with ease? They might just be an ISTP. 

Not sure if you're an ISTP? Learn more about the Myers Briggs Test to find out!

What Does ISTP Stand For? 

ISTP stands for introvert, sensing, thinking, and perception. It is one of the 16 personality types outlined by personality researchers Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs. Inspired by the work of Carl Jung, this mother-daughter duo defined four sets of traits that form various personality types. 

Printable Myers Briggs Matrix

Although the study of these personality types has evolved since the 20th century, the core ideas of this theory still holds strong. 


We’ll start by breaking down the four traits that make an ISTP an ISTP: I, S, T, and P. I is for introvert (as opposed to extrovert.) An introvert is more likely to be focused on their internal thoughts and feelings, rather than outside stimulation. Introverts are not necessarily shy, but they do gain more energy from reflecting on what’s going on inside than by surrounding themselves with other people and external stimulants. 


S is for sensing (as opposed to intuition.) This trait is also called “observant.” Rather than relying on intuition, ISTPs use tangible observations to understand what is happening around them. They look for obvious solutions and use straightforward, logical methods of thinking to help them get there, rather than relying on the sum of their experiences and feelings. 


T is for thinking (as opposed to feeling.) People who lean toward thinking over feeling draw conclusions from the head rather than the heart. They are more likely to use facts and figures to make a decision, rather than listen to what their emotions have to say. 


Finally, P is for perception or “prospecting” (as opposed to judgment.) “Judgers” tend to enjoy structure, and people with perception in their personality type are likely to keep their options open. They logically see all of the possibilities in front of them, and know that there is always more to learn about a situation. This is one of the reasons why an ISTP has a growth mindset and can pick up new hobbies without much prior knowledge of them. They know that there is much to learn and many people that they can learn from. 

All of this together builds a person who likes to work with what is in front of them, literally and figuratively. They might pick up hobbies where they work with their hands, and enjoy the process of learning something new. Virtuosos enjoy exploring the world, even if that means humbling themselves or learning something new from an expert. They’re the perfect personality type to adapt to the pandemic or any new situation that life throws at them! 


In addition to four sets of traits, each personality type performs four different functions. These functions are four out of eight functions inspired, once again, by the work of Carl Jung. These four functions describe further how ISTPs weigh their options and decide how to move in the world around them. Not all of these functions are always performed by an ISTP. 

Introverted Thinking

The dominant function of ISTP types is Introverted Thinking (Ti.) With Ti as their dominant function, ISTPs spend most of their time processing information in their own minds. This is used to accomplish goals/priorities through logical and rational thinking based on their personal experience & knowledge. This can lead them to be very quiet and hard to connect with on a personal level. 

Extroverted Sensing

The auxiliary function of ISTP types is Extroverted Sensing (Se.) This function causes ISTPs to live in the moment in order to focus on what is real and available to them in the present moment. Instead, they would focus on what is happening in the “here and now” rather than try to consider or understand future or theoretical concepts.

Introverted Intuition

Next is the tertiary function of ISTP types: Introverted Intuition (Ni.) While ISTPs don’t approach things theoretically, this function causes them to follow a “gut feeling” when presented with one. Sometimes they use their intuition to lead them to practical conclusions, which may be hard to explain to others.

Extroverted Feeling

Finally, the inferior function of ISTP types is Extroverted Feeling (Fe.) This is the weakest function of ISTPs, but it will operate in times of stress or largely problematic situations. In these situations, it can cause ISTPs to have humanitarian goals while also leading them to put their feelings aside, which might lead to outbursts if they are bottling up their emotions to an extreme extent. 

Real-Life Examples of Famous ISTP

If you know someone who is always diving into new projects and enjoys working with their hands, you might already know an ISTP. If not, don’t worry - you have definitely watched ISTPs on TV. Here are some of the most famous ISTPs: 

  • Clint Eastwood
  • Christian Bale
  • Tom Cruise
  • Scarlett Johansson
  • James Dean
  • Bruce Lee
  • David Blaine
  • Simon Cowell
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Snoop Dogg

That is quite a list! But not all ISTPs are actors or martial arts masters. Most work with their hands. (In addition to “The Virtuoso,” some experts call ISTPs “The Craftsmen.”) ISTPs make great carpenters, mechanics, or architects. They may also do well as a chef, photographer, or a commercial designer. Any opportunity to physically work out a problem is an opportunity where ISTPs will excel. 

Strengths and Weaknesses of ISTPs

We have already covered some of the strengths of an ISTP. They want to take on problems and work with them until they find a solution or learn something new. Along the way, they are happy to be on the journey and explore new ideas and perspectives. You might describe the ISTPs in your life as: 

  • Optimistic & Energetic
  • Creative & Practical
  • Great In A Crisis
  • Relaxed
  • Problem Solving
  • Spontaneous & Rational
  • Good At Prioritizing
  • Flexible
  • World Savvy

But there is more to ISTPs than just working with their hands. ISTPs excel when they have access to many different problems. One craft or one project may bore them after a while. On the other hand, they may find themselves frustrated with a project if it’s not going anywhere. Here are some other ways you might describe the ISTPs in your life: 

  • Stubborn
  • Insensitive
  • Private & Reserved
  • Bored Easily
  • Dislike Commitment
  • Risky Behavior
  • Impatient

Working and Living with ISTPs

Even if you are not an ISTP, knowledge of ISTPs is crucial to building strong relationships and engaging in productive communication. Have an ISTP in your life? Make sure you give them the space that they need to flourish. 

Working with an ISTP

Have an ISTP on your team at work? They’re not the best people to have in the strategy planning meetings. But if you need someone to resolve a conflict, they’re a great person to call. ISTPs don’t always enjoy thinking ahead. They are very tuned into the present moment. Go to them with problems that need to be solved now or projects that don’t have a due date in many months or years.

If they have a question for you, be sure to get back to them sooner rather than later. ISTPs can be impatient. Quick communication that gives ISTPs freedom to experiment will fuel their interests and encourage them to do what they do best: go boldly forward with their work. 

When you can work and adapt to an ISTP’s strengths, you’ll find that you can get results fast and have a passionate person on your side. Their energy and problem-solving skills will serve as a great inspiration to those on your team who may keep their head down for longer periods of time. 

Friendships with ISTPs

ISTPs are very resistant to commitments, even in their personal relationships. They approach life day by day and would rather have relationships that work for them in the present moment than long-term. If they happen to get bored or uninterested in one of their relationships, they can quickly move on. 

This can be tough for some people who need friends that display strong loyalty. ISTPs are great friends, however, for people who are spontaneous and don’t mind sending out that last-minute invite to trips, outings, and other events. When the ISTP shows up, they’ll bring the party and the excitement! 

Compatibility and Romantic Relationships with ISTPs

In romantic relationships, ISTPs need personal space and the ability to live spontaneously without long-term commitments. Their romantic relationships can change depending on the day, making things very complex, with plenty of ups and downs. For an ISTP to commit to a romantic relationship, their partner should give them the space & flexibility they need.

That doesn’t mean they are a bad partner! Being in a relationship with an ISTP can be inspiring, exciting, and fun. When there is a conflict, ISTPs will not brood over it or shove it to the side. They’ll tell you what is wrong, and they’ll be happy to work with you to solve it. Respect their space and they will be a great partner. 

Who is their perfect match? The Commander. Where an ISTP might get impatient or move onto the next project, an ENTJ can balance them out. They prefer to see out a long-term vision and can keep the ISTP focused on the larger prizes and longer journeys. ESTJs and ISTPs are also compatible. As long as these personality types are comfortable being independent, they will make a great match.  

What Do People Say About ISTPs?

When a Reddit user asked people to describe ISTPs in one word, users responded with: 

  • Freedom
  • Competent 

Basic Stats about ISTP

You might have noticed on our list of ISTPs that Scarlett Johannson is the only woman present. That’s because ISTPs are overwhelmingly men. They’re not a big part of the population: only 5% of people are ISTPs, but ISTPs make up 9% of men and only 2% of women. 

Assertive vs. Turbulent

As I said earlier, the 16 personalities have evolved since Briggs and Myers Briggs first defined them in the 20th century. In fact, experts have come up with another set of traits to add onto the I, S, T, and P that make up the Virtuoso. Let’s explore ISTP-A and ISTP-T. 

Assertive Virtuosos (ISTP-A) – ISTPs like to focus on the present moment, but assertive types are more likely to ignore the possibility of a worst-case scenario. ISTP-As also have more confidence in their skills & abilities and less likely to compare themselves to others. They also have more control over their negative emotions, allowing them to move on faster.

Turbulent Virtuosos (ISTP-T) – Turbulent ISTPs tend to be more doubtful of themselves after making a mistake and find it highly stressful when things go wrong. ISTP-Ts are very ambitious and like to look for new opportunities & activities to explore.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2021, April). ISTP: Virtuoso (Description + Functions + Examples). Retrieved from

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