10 Qualities of ISTP Relationships

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(ISTP = Ti Se Ni Fe)

ISTPs are “Artisans,” specifically the “Craftsmen” of that temperament. As such, they are focused on reality and the present moment – the “what is.” Theoretical frameworks and future possibilities – the “what if” – hold little relevance for them. In social interaction, they prefer others to initiate conversation while they themselves are concise and direct – few words, but they say what they mean. They find progress in their own freedom to act but in contrast may control the same freedom in others.


Obviously, better relationships can be had through a deeper awareness of personality traits and preferences. Relationships with ISTPs are no different. The need for mutual understanding is vital to healthy interaction with these intelligent and talented individuals. The following 10 qualities can aid in that understanding:

1. Happiness

ISTPs have that enviable “happy-go-lucky” attitude. In fact, they may be some of the happiest people around. ISTPs fully engage with their physical world – always seeking new and exciting experiences that they can share with others. They thrive on freedom, spontaneity, and sensation. Whether at work or play ISTPs are attracted to risk-taking, thrill, and doing what others can’t or won’t. It may be high-rise construction or operating heavy machinery. It may be sky-diving or free-running. Regardless, living on the edge is the source of their joy.

2. Melancholy

On the other hand, ISTPs are susceptible to boredom and depression more than most. Just as their happiness erupts from action and self-determination, so also their melancholy is born of impotence and dependence. When people or situations work to control, limit, or “protect” them, even with the best of intentions, the ISTP will flounder and struggle. Even noble pursuits such as marriage, family, or career can become too constraining and threatening. The remedy is not medication or therapy, but freedom to act.

3. Intelligence

ISTPs are intelligent people. They are adept at logic, pattern recognition, and fixate on what is true and real. While they have a sincere interest in developing people ISTPs can have difficulty engaging socially. This results in part from their genuine belief in, and expression of, their own intellectual superiority. Their approach to helping others is to instruct them in the harsh truths of reality, as they see them, exposing hypocrisies and weakness in thought. Those who value that instruction are respected, while those who don’t are dismissed as “stupid” and unworthy of further help.

4. Skill

ISTPs are masters of the physical environment – truly a “Jack” or “Jill” of all trades – it comes naturally to them. They build from the ground up, creating as they go, with an instinctive knowledge of how to use tools and equipment necessary for the job. They also understand that others don’t have this same ability, which presents them with the welcome opportunity to mentor and teach, and to share their skills and abilities with those who wish to learn. Asking for their advice affirms them. Employing their advice demonstrates your commitment to them.

5. Aspiration

ISTPs desire to improve people but can unknowingly alienate them in the process. They believe in the adage that if you want something done right you do it yourself. As a result, they can be too quick to takeover and finish a task. Thinking that they are doing a good deed while denying others the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Mature ISTPs realize, however, that patiently allowing others their failures allows the ISTP to become the valued mentor they yearn to be.

6. Independence

ISTPs require freedom to thrive. They are honest in their desires and not ones to abuse their liberties. Interestingly, however, they can harbor an inner conflict: a need for independence versus a desire to control. When ISTPs feel their own freedom is threatened they may seek to limit the freedom of their partners, children, friends – anyone. They deny others’ freedom in order to ensure their own. In the extreme, they can become the harshest of task masters, but through maturity and experience, they have the ability to help others find their own independence and success.

7. Susceptibility

ISTPs can be susceptible to individuals who would take advantage of them. They incorrectly assume that the intentions of others are as pure and innocent as their own, which leaves them exposed to charlatans and shams. They confidently, but mistakenly, rely on their own intellect as protection against these threats. Their best defense is a circle of trusted friends and family who have their best interest at heart and can more clearly assess the motives of others.

8. Vulnerability

ISTPs can be insecure with how others feel about them. They are concerned that their instruction will go unheeded and their work will not be valued, thus exposing them to manipulation through guilt. Where these concerns exist and persist the ISTP is incapable of real commitment. They need consistent public recognition of their works and contributions. Having this, relationships improve and problems disappear.

9. Curiosity

ISTPs are compelled to know what other people are up to: what they’re doing, where they’re going, etc. They do this so that they can decide what they want to do themselves. They don’t want to miss out on any experience that could be exciting and shared. On the other hand, when done in the context of their insecurities, the motivation can be more sinister. Their watchful eye then seeks the means to control in order to protect.

10. Affection

ISTPs are often viewed as callous and uncaring when, in fact, they can be very considerate and understanding. In physical intimacy they are sensual and passionate, preferring to direct the choreography throughout. Casual intimacy works but only if their partner is not seeking more. Their love language is expressed not in words but in actions: remodeling the bathroom, preparing a meal, or landscaping the yard. But saying “I love you”? Those are just words… words that can threaten.

Ultimately, ISTPs are inventors and mentors who seek to enjoy life and make people better human beings. All they ask in return is freedom, affirmation, and loyalty. Anyone who can meet these needs, and do so consistently, will enjoy a committed and fulfilling relationship with them.

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For a more in-depth look at the ISTP personality type, check out the Who are the ISTPs Post, or all of the ISTP posts.

Are you an ISTP and want some guidance on how to overcome your struggles? Or, do you know an ISTP and want some more tips to deal with them?

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Throughout my nearly 30-year career in corporate finance and sales leadership, my goal – no, my purpose – has been to help people develop and find their best path forward. Our individual strengths are constrained by our weaknesses, and the advancement of society suffers as a result. Cultural enlightenment, therefore, relies on individual development. It’s a life-long journey and represents a commitment to others. My commitment is to you.

Stronger people. Joyful relationships. Contented lives.

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