Survival Guide for Non-ISTPs

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How to handle your ISTP:Edit

You don't. ISTPs can always sense when they're being "handled". ISTPs are keenly observant, working quietly to piece you together, and quick to figure you out. ISTPs are not "in the box" thinkers, and may function in a way that is inherently foreign to you. Just go with it.


ISTPs in generalEdit

ISTPs value sincerity above everything else. If you want to make an impression, be sincere and genuine; they can see through every half-truth and attempts to be polite and consider this as being inauthentic. Showing enthusiasm when you're not sure about the issue? It's all over your face. ISTPs don't want to be bothered with questions such as 'how are you' or 'what's going on,' unless you really want to know. They're really not into smalltalk. It's okay if you don't have anything to say, it's okay if you feel a bit down. You don't need to protect the ISTP's feelings; they're not thinking with them.

Conversing with an ISTPEdit

When actually talking with an ISTP, make sure you are paying attention. If you don't have time or energy for that, it's better to not engage. A person coming forth to ask "how are you" just to turn away to talk with someone else will be considered extremely rude, because what the ISTP then hears is: "I want to look polite in front of all these people, so I ask you how you are, but please don't answer as I don't give a rat's behind - what, you're still there? Go away, you're bothering me." However, not forcing a discussion is not rude.


When an ISTP tries to make up his or her mind about something, (s)he gathers facts. (S)he wants to know as many details as possible and then tries to find a hypothesis that fits them all. When the ISTP communicates this attempt, (s)he also, naturally, wants to give you the details that have been gathered. The ISTP doesn't need help with confirming or organizing these facts, unless (s)he explicitly states so. (S)he doesn't need to be encouraged or entertained, either. If you want to be of help, do not fall back to general abstractions about how it usually or commonly is or how you think it is instead. Explaining that actually the problem or the issue lies somewhere else is even worse. If you do that, you will override the ISTP's precious collection of facts with a guesswork of your own, basically telling that the ISTP doesn't know what (s)he is talking about and thus insulting his or her capability to do what (s)he does best: analyzing the sensory input. The ISTP will probably take a defensive stance and explain to you why you are wrong in this particular case. If this also gets disregarded, the ISTP will probably decide that you aren't really interested in the actual scenario (s)he presented, that you like theorizing about irrelevant abstractions instead, or just like hearing your own voice. This is pretty much the worst thing you can do and it will make the ISTP pull back from the conversation.

In general, it is very confusing for Sensors (at least Se-using ISTPs and ESTPs) to understand what the Ne-users base their ideas and assumptions on. If you absolutely want to bring in something that's in direct conflict with the facts presented to you, state it as it is - your own previous experience, something you read in the paper, a story a friend told and so on. This way you leave it to the ISTP to make use of your thought if (s)he finds it usable.

ISTP's needsEdit

ISTPs are, in a way, quite low maintenance. Give them food, sensory experiences, and a problem to analyze and solve in order to keep them content. If you are also genuinely interested in them and sincerely want to understand them, they're happy. Just remember to leave them alone for a while every now and then to do their own thing, otherwise they get stressed and drained and moody.

ISTPs, initiatives and decisionsEdit

Making initiatives and decisions seems to be a major problem other people have with ISTPs. The ISTP's wish to not interfere unnecessarily with other people's lives can be understood as not being interested, especially making decisions in mundane matters, such as where to go for lunch, can create irritation with other perceptors.

ISTPs as Workers/Employees Edit

1) Keep business conversation short, simple and direct. The format should be 'Here's your assignment, due by *deadline*'

1.1) You can be friendly with us, but make sure it's sincere and not related to 'softening the blow' before giving a task.
2) Don't micromanage us. Short feedback when absolutely needed.
2.1) We are competent, treat us as such.
3) Break down long term plans into 'now-sized' bites. The format should be 'Company is doing XYZ. This is how it directly affects you.'
3.1) Only one bite at a time.
4) Private reward (paid time off) works better than public praise.
4.1) If public praise is the only option, please acquire consent.

ISTPs and alignmentsEdit

As Feelers base their decisions on values, the idea of morals, good and bad, right and wrong is, of course, more important to them than it is for Thinkers. For ISTPs good and bad are not absolute, but rather flexible and relevant. To know whether something is good or bad one first needs to figure out what it is and how it affects people and things. The moral has no or little value per se; to be taken into consideration a value or a value system has to somehow prove its usefulness. A moral system usually attempts to prevent actions that are deemed harmful to the society as whole. Anyway, they're usually a bit old-fashioned in the sense that the modern society no longer has a real need of all of them. To preserve the peace in the society it is still desirable that people don't kill nor steal. However, when it comes to situations that don't directly harm anyone, like gay marriages, smoking on the streets or such - who cares?

Instead of rigid set of rules about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors an ISTP works with an amount of things that need to be calculated in: promises should be kept, freedom of choice & pursuit of happiness and innocents should not suffer are the ones that are most important to them personally. There is no cookie-cutter solution to everything, it all depends on a huge bunch of variables. And, of course, the facts need to be checked before they can be used in the calculation. (A good example is "but think of the best for the children!" that is nowadays used for everything from censoring Internet censorship to whatnot else.)

An indifferent ISTP?Edit

An ISTP can easily appear indifferent or disinterested. If you present him or her a suggestion, the chances of him or her jumping up and down out of joy are very slim. Similarly, an ISTP in a dinner party is probably quiet, but if (s)he has actually bothered to participate, (s)he is probably finding it worthwhile and just listening attentively. The reactions of an ISTP can be very subtle and a bit delayed.


If you decide to surprise an ISTP with tickets to whatever occasion you think (s)he would like, you will probably get a thoughtful look instead of a joyful cry and hug - that you might be expecting. The ISTP is currently running a process in his or her head comparing your suggestion with calendar dates, traffic information, public transportation timetables, weather prognosis, dress codes and the like. Don't get disheartened - it doesn't mean that the suggestion was a bad one, it just takes time to make up one's mind. The feelings don't come easily to ISTPs; everything needs to be rationalized with cold logic. If you are unhappy with the reaction, bring up the issue a while later (say, from a couple of hours onwards) and ask what (s)he thinks of it then.

In a social settingEdit

The ISTP will never be the life or the death of the party. Most of the discussions going on are probably about issues of which the ISTP finds no reason to have or present an opinion. Angie's baby, June's wallpapers, Tom and Jane's kiss in the previous party, Charlie's retirement and Shirley's vacation plans are good examples of these. This sort of talk is mainly done for bonding, relieving tension - or for social engineering reasons. Knowledge about such matters doesn't give any advantage for any matter an ISTP understands, as succeeding in social engineering would require at least generic interest in people in general. Also, an ISTP will seldom feel the need to bond with a bunch of random people, and a leisurely chat with them doesn't really relax an ISTP, either. It still doesn't mean that an ISTP would be automatically bored out of their wits, though. They can phase off during a boring phase in a discussion and get back to the normal listening mode when the topic changes to something more general. If you want to engage the ISTP in a discussion, try talking about something that's not directly connected with someone you know. Even if you'd know what's going on with those people, the ISTP has probably missed the whole thing and has no interest in their business, either. In general, anything that wouldn't have a Wikipedia page is a bad choice. Angie has got a baby? Uninteresting. Toy shops have created a de-facto segregation policy by color coding the shelves pink or blue? Possibly interesting. Shirley wants to drive a car to the other coast? Uninteresting. How could a van be transformed to a recreational vehicle? Now we're talking!

An upset ISTP?Edit

When an ISTP gets upset, it usually implicates problems in either understanding something or being understood. For this reason patting a steaming ISTP on the head and explaining how you understand exactly how (s)he feels is quite a bad idea.

First you need to figure out what the ISTP is upset about. You may think you already know the reason, but let me tell you: it's not that. It might be related to the issue you're thinking about, but your angle is wrong, anyway. Can you read an ISTP when (s)he is in his/her normal mood? No! So why do you think you could read one when (s)he's upset?

Quite probably the problem is that either the ISTP doesn't understand something (s)he wants to understand or (s)he feels that you (or someone else) doesn't understand his/her point of view. By implicating that you already know what is wrong and how it should be fixed, you'll be proving him/her right in the second point. Your solution will not work. What you can do, however, is to show that you are interested. Ask what is wrong. If the question is dodged with "Nothing", the issue is quite a serious one. If you get a half-arsed answer, like "I'm just not feeling that good", you're in luck: the ISTP wants to talk.

An ISTP giving short nonsensical answers?Edit

If you ask an ISTP how (s)he is, and you get an answer "I was having some trouble, but it's all right now" - that is, short pieces of random information, conveying no clearly understandable message - it's an interest check. ISTPs don't like talking to walls, which is why the wall (you) is presented with a choice: do you want to hear the story, or are you just small talking? A person that is not really interested will take this answer as a generic "Fine." and move onto another topic. If you're interested, though, you are supposed to ask what (s)he means.

The conversation might feel quite a lot like pulling a tooth for an inexperienced person. You have to understand, though, that ISTPs value privacy, and thus would not want to force their personal issues to anyone that hasn't explicitly agreed to that.

If you are a close friend to the ISTP in question, and you're still presented with an interest check, it means that the issue at hand is somehow difficult for the ISTP, but that (s)he would really want to talk about it. You're actually asked to show interest in the issue! The only thing you need to do is to prove him or her that you're genuinely interested in what (s)he has to say. You're being asked to encourage the ISTP to tell the story as (s)he wants to tell it. To do that, use the following questions every time the ISTP halts the story:

  • Oh, what's the matter?
  • I don't want to pry, but if you'd like to talk, I'm listening.
  • Please, continue.
  • Can you elaborate?
  • What do you mean by that?
  • How do you mean?

Do not make the mistake of asking specific questions, like "How did your boss react to that?" while the ISTP is telling about his or her work performance. If you bring up something that the ISTP deems unimportant, you're forcing him or her to abandon the current train of thought to accommodate your irrational need. If you do that often enough, the chances are that the ISTP finds you a difficult person to talk with, uninterested in what (s)he has to say - or simply selfish. The whole point of the interest check is to see whether you are interested in the ISTP, interested enough to be let into the story. Every time you mess up the ISTP's line of thought, you're changing the focus from him or her to yourself, and that's an impolite thing to do.

An ISTP that "nothing" is wrong with?Edit

If you ask what is the matter with the ISTP and the answer is "Nothing", followed by a silence that clearly says something is wrong, believe your gut.


You could try the following - in the given order:

Communicating. It is possible that the ISTP still wants to tell what is wrong, but needs some extra encouragement. You can help this by telling him or her that you would like to hear what's wrong, but that the decision whether to talk is the ISTP's alone. If you get short, nonsensical answers, then you know what to do. If you get short, grumpy growls, fall back. The ISTP is about to bite.

Leaving the ISTP alone. Do not leave him or her for a long period of time if you want to appear caring, but it can be a good idea to reset the situation by removing yourself from the scene for a couple of minutes. The basic moods can change quite fast, but if left alone for too long, the ISTP might fall into a Ti-Ni -loop.

Changing the atmosphere. This works specially after letting the situation reset. Find a reason to leave the premises you currently are and present the idea to the ISTP with enthusiasm. It doesn't need to be anything complicated, a simple: "Let's go and have a drink / ice cream / coffee!" can work wonders. Don't let the ISTP's lethargy pull the energy out of you - (s)he will probably try that. Drag the ISTP out of the house and keep him or her in the present time: notice the smell of the flowers, the color of the sky, the funny looking type on the sidewalk, etc. Keep him or her busy a while with the world around you, and (s)he will calm down. Have fun.

Rinse and repeat. Afterwards, at least hours, but maybe even a day or two later you can try communicating again. Asking what was it that got the ISTP so moody is a sign of concern, just remember to always leave the ISTP the choice whether to answer the questions or not. Don't press for an answer, but be there if (s)he wants to talk.

A stubborn, hurt ISTP, consumed by "stupid pride"?Edit

There are two ways to deal with an ISTP when (s)he is hurt, or consumed by "stupid pride": refusing to stand back - let him or her cool down for a short while (maybe a distraction is needed first) and then analyze with him or her what the heck happened - or wait for x hours / until the next day and behave as nothing ever happened. The first option is more difficult but gives better results.

- Seralya

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