How to tell the Difference: INTP vs ISTP

Anon asked: Can you do an ISTP/INTP contrast?

Dominant Ti

Ti dominants like to analyze things. Most of the questions that they ask will be why questions, or questions of how things work. As a result, they will often be good at figuring out how to fix machinery and equipment.

Ti doms usually like to think through their thoughts in silence, and don’t usually think out loud (though there are always exceptions to any rule).

Their sense of logic will typically be internally based and not necessarily reliant on any form of external evidence or outward logic –further reason for why they will want to work through it in the silence of their own minds. When I say silence, I don’t necessarily mean that they will need their physical environment to be silent, but rather, that they will not often feel the need to vocalize their thoughts.

I’ve known IxTPs to fall into communication barriers as a result of this, simply because they will have carried out conversations in their head, but not necessarily realize that they haven’t vocalized those conversations.

Often times, IxTPs will value minimalism and efficiency, albeit they will not always achieve it.

They will be likely to use precise language, in that they will choose their words carefully to try to express exactly what they mean. Listening to my IxTP Dad give an impromptu speech, I can literally sense him sifting through words, trying to pick precisely, every single one.

Both types will have no problem asking uncomfortable questions and picking apart people’s logic when they deem it necessary. IxTPs are realists who look at life objectively, through an analytical lens –feellings later.

Auxiliary Se vs Ne

INTPs love ideas. Coupled with their dominant Ti, their Ne ability to generate ideas often makes them great innovators and inventors. At the same time, many INTPs are likely to spend so much time generating and analyzing their ideas that they may not actually carry any of them out.

Don’t take that as gospel however. There are plenty of INTPs who are well rounded enough that they manage to carry out all their ideas (the ones they judge important that is). Those INTPs are always brilliant. Those are the ones that will be constantly testing out all their ideas.

Where INTPs will live primarily in a world of theoretical possibility and won’t necessarily care whether they get something done so much as whether they’re able to figure something out.

The funniest thing to observe is when you have a pair of IxTP friends. The INTP will spout out all sorts of ideas that he has no intention of carrying out, and the ISTP will instantly latch on to those ideas and carry them out before the INTP has a chance to stop them.

That, of course, is a perfect Segway into the fact that ISTPs will far be more focused on action than INTPs. ISTPs are particularly good at using their environment to their advantage, using their Ti to analyze a situation from multiple angles and then acting in the moment to accomplish something. This can often make them reckless and impulsive.

But it can more often make them brilliant at making split-second decisions. The well developed ISTP is the guy who while everyone else is panicking and realizing what just happened and all the implications it might have –acts and saves everyone from certain doom.

ISTP film stars are usually the type to carry out their own stunts, and are usually the ones willing to do crazy things for a role –like losing all their weight to play an anorexic character or shaving their head to play someone with cancer.

Realize however, that just because somebody likes to drive fast doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an Se user. Plenty of my INTP friends totally think they’re Batman when they’re riving. To tell the S functions apart, pay closer attention to whether the person is focused in the present or the past. Likewise, watch how well they adapt to change (Se adapts to surprises far better than Si).

Listen to them tell stories

INTPs will try to tell stories creatively. They will probably tell the story in past tense (Si influence) and will interpret it for you as they’re telling it. “She did __ because ___.”

There will be a moral of the story that relates to something their Ne is interpreting and prepping to store as Si memory to reference in the future.

INTPs will be much more likely than ISTPs to focus on connections between people in their stories. INTPs will often relate recent/current experiences to the past when story telling (Si).

ISTPs will give you all the details in the present tense, telling it as though it’s happening right now, rather than as if the story has already happened.

The details they focus on will likely be more action based than the INTPs, and won’t necessarily try to throw any form of meaning or interpretation into the picture. TiSe mostly just cares what happened –meaning will come later.

Tertiary Ni vs Si

I mentioned earlier that IxTPs are likely to value minimalism, and the tertiary function tends to be what determines whether they achieve it or not. Typically, ISTPs are going to be better at it, simply because TiNi is more directly focused than TiNe.

INTPs will be more sentimental than the ISTP (who will more than likely not be sentimental at all). INTPs will cherish their past memories and hold on to family traditions. Furthermore, they will think of time chronologically, viewing occurrences as a linear progression of events.

ISTPs will not necessarily care about order of events or traditions. ISTPs want to live in the present (Se), with a back eye toward the future (Ni). ISTPs will not be so upset when it comes to change because they are naturally adaptable.

ISTPs will be hyper aware of their environment physically (Se), while INTPs will pay more attention to what their environment reminds them of from the past (Si).

Inferior Fe

IxTPs will likely understand the emotions of other people much better than their own. They won’t necessarily always recognize what they’re feeling or why they’re feeling it.

When tragedy strikes, IxTPs first thought will usually be for others before themselves. More than once, I have witnessed an IxTP lose a close loved one, and their first thought will be to make sure that everyone else is alright.

They will naturally want to grieve, but they will be concerned about whether or not others will feel abandoned when they retreat to solitude. This isn’t always the case –more so with IxTPs who’s Fe is well developed.

Rather than needing to devise their entire moral system internally, IxTPs will usually have a select person whom they go to for advice and whom they confide in.

That’s all I got for right now folks.

10 thoughts on “How to tell the Difference: INTP vs ISTP

  1. The ISTP I know has that so-called reckless daredevil attitude to him — once four of us (ENFP, ISTP, ISFJ and INTJ) was playing soccer at school, but the ISTP accidentally kicked the ball on the roof. He said he was going to get it back, but I immediately started protesting, and telling him he shouldn’t do that, instead do this or that. I began explaining him why he should just stay put, and what other options we have, but just as I was in the middle of telling him my contingency plans, he was already ten meters away from me.

    We followed him back into the school, only to meet a teacher from whom the ISTP already asked for permission to climb to the roof of the school (which he got), so I ran back to the field, and literally at the moment I turned at the corner, the ball bounced on the ground. Then the ISTP gave me a call that the ball is there, so we should continue playing while he climbs back down.

    Needless to say, he was covered in scratches and a little blood when he returned to us.


    • I’m an INTJ, but as a kid upon first glance I probably seemed more like an ISTP. I wanted to go where no one had gone before, do the most dangerous things, and explore my environment without caring too much about the consequences. Now as an adult I see these dangerous or irresponsible things and care more about the consequences. Ex. If I climb that tree and break my leg, now I will have to pay hospital bills, take time off of work, coordinate transportation, etc. and the consequence far outweighs the 5 minutes of fun. The physical risk doesn’t scare me, rather the headache that follows.


    • We’re not reckless daredevils; it’s a calculated risk. If we think the payoff isn’t good enough, or doable without killing ourselves, we wouldn’t bother. The game must go on. :P


        • The main ISTP I was thinking of is the type of person who will take an inexperienced rock climber up the most dangerous free climb path without a rope and then forget about them half way up until they start crying because they’re afraid of heights…


        • That’s basically the type, though some of us are better at not forgetting our (inexperienced rock climber) friends. It’s a learned skill, though, because being primarily soloists, we don’t think “Oh, wait. That person might need me to figure things out for them.” We tend to expect people to figure things out for themselves.

          Really the problem in this case is communication. Friend and ISTP didn’t communicate about what Friend and ISTP were and weren’t comfortable with, experience, etc. You have to stick up for yourself, because we tend to figure if nobody says anything, nothing’s wrong. This approach can cause trouble because we’ll miss the warning signs (earlier indications?) because we’re focused on the objective.

          Just a matter of different communication styles and approaches to things, really.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Actually, the inexperienced rock climber in this case was not me, but my ENFP sister, who got so frightened that she couldn’t move. I was the one who communicated and told said ISTP that we were turning around and that we’d be leaving him behind if he didn’t want to come.

          But yes, I’d definitely agree that much of this has to do with variations (and in this case, errors) in communication. Ti tends to communicate much less than Te does in order to convey the same information, but it often doesn’t translate the same way for both sides.



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