ISTP Vs INTJ: How To Tell The Difference?

Can’t tell the difference between ISTP and INTJ personality types?

On the surface, these two MBTI types can appear quite similar. 

But there are some key differences between them.

As an INTJ, I can give you an in-depth explanation of how ISTPs are different from us.

So without further ado, I present to you the ISTP vs INTJ rundown.

What is ISTP

thoughtful man

Statistically speaking, ISTPs make up about 5.4% of the US population. And what’s interesting is that about 77% of them are male.

So what are they like?

If I was limited to just a few words, I’d accentuate a couple of their characteristics:

  • Quiet and reflective
  • Pragmatic and logical
  • Curious and spontaneous

Quite an interesting combination, no?

To give you a better idea of what ISTPs are like, let’s look at their cognitive functions. They’re mentioned in the order of their development in an ISTP personality:

  • Introverted thinking – ISTP processes information internally and holistically. Because they’re logical, ISTP can assert the situation objectively by taking emotions out of the equation.
  • Extraverted sensing – ISTP is focused on the moment rather than thinking long-term. ISTP is spontaneous and likes taking things one at a time.
  • Introverted intuition – this function helps ISTP find patterns in the information and trust their gut. 
  • Extraverted feeling – this inferior function can become apparent during a stressful time. ISTP can have a hard time maintaining an emotional relationship with others.

What is INTJ

serious man

To describe an INTJ in the same manner, I’d say this personality type is:

And this combination of characteristics depends on the INTJ’s cognitive functions. Ordered from dominant to inferior, they are:

  • Introverted intuition – INTJ uses patterns to process information. This makes it easy for this personality type to see the big picture and predict what might happen in the future.
  • Extroverted thinking – to perceive the external world, an INTJ will rely on logic and reason. INTJ is objective, so they put emotions aside when making decisions.
  • Introverted feeling – this function grants INTJ awareness of their own personal values and emotions. When developed, it makes INTJs interested not just in facts and principles but also in the lives and feelings of other people.
  • Extroverted sensing – this function helps INTJ be present and process information through the senses.

ISTP vs INTJ Differences

To an untrained eye, it might seem like these two personality types are quite alike. But truth be told, that’s definitely not the case. In this section, we’ll go over everything that makes them different.

How they perceive the world

These two personality types have quite different dominant cognitive functions. 

For an ISTP, that’s introverted sensing. And this function allows them to focus on the information they receive with their five senses:

  • Eyesight
  • Hearing
  • Taste
  • Touch
  • Smell

Since they rely on their sense, ISTPs are quick to pick up on cues received from their surroundings. So naturally, they’re more focused on the information they receive in the present.

INTJs, on the other hand, aren’t so grounded and “living in the moment.” People with this personality type like examining data as a whole, searching for patterns and underlying meanings. 

As a result, they’re more oriented toward the future rather than the present. 

So while ISTPs prefer dealing with details, INTJs have a more holistic focus and abstract ideas.

Why do they appear cold

Both INTJ and ISTP can appear cold and insensitive to other people. Which, of course, isn’t actually the case. But people with these personality types simply don’t tend to take feelings into account in conversation.

However, they feel about it in a different way.

In a way, INTJs are oblivious, even slightly apathetic to the feelings of people around them. They have strong opinions, so when expressing them, they won’t take into consideration how you feel about something. 

Things are slightly different with ISTPs. 

You see, their inferior extraverted feeling function can cause ISTPs to be too concerned about other people’s feelings. 

However, they’re not so good at reading those emotions. And as a result, they might come off as blunt and insensitive – even though that’s the opposite of the truth.

Their lust for knowledge

These two personality types love expanding their knowledge, although for different reasons and with different approaches.

INTJs, being such future-oriented folks, always learn with a goal in mind

There’s no such thing as doing something just for the sake of it. In an INTJs mind, everything has an agenda.

An INTJ might read a book on electric cars if they consider getting one. The book will give them a good idea of how they can benefit from switching from gas to electric vehicles. 

In fact, INTJs will probably go beyond that to gather all the info they need for making a calculated decision. As you can see, they’re very efficient with their time.

ISTPs, on the other hand, might pick up a book about electric cars simply because they wonder how they work. 

Learning about things just for the sake of expanding knowledge is enough for them. There’s no need for an agenda – it’s completely normal to learn something just because it’s interesting. Even though they might never use that knowledge in practice.

The need for structure

This is where these two personality types have opposite tendencies.

While INTJs strive for structure, ISTPs are rather chaotic.

INTJs are most comfortable when they have structure and routine. There’s a clear plan, and they only need to stick to it.

Let’s take school for example.

An INTJ will probably have their entire educational plan figured out from middle school. If engineering is what they’re after, an INTJ will:

  • Take AP classes in subjects related to their future major
  • Have a list of college preferences for that major
  • Already planned their internship after college

And the list goes on. In general, people with this personality type are more comfortable with sticking to a plan.

ISTPs, on the contrary, hate plans. They have a more relaxed approach – something INTJs would probably call chaotic. 

But ISTPs prefer having their options open. Sure, having an idea of what to study after high school is great. But why choose before the time comes for that? So many things could happen by then.

ISTPs are very practical and prefer improvising. INTJs like plans and routine, so improvisation is something they run away from as far as possible.

ISTP vs INTJ Similarities

chess pieces two knights face to face

Now, that’s not to say that these two personality types are polar opposites. 

In fact, there are some key similarities between them that make them more alike than you’d think.


Clearly, both of these personality types are introverts. This means they do just fine staying out of the chit-chat in gatherings.

Of course, that’s not to say they stay silent all the time.

If the debate touches up on topics they’re interested in, they’ll gladly indulge. 

Both of these personality types enjoy expanding their knowledge, so they have a lot to say on those subjects. 

Resolving conflict

Both INTJ and ISPT are thinkers, so that’s also how they try to resolve conflicts in a logical and direct way.

Both of these personality types try to address issues in an objective and rational way without involving emotions. 

Being managed

Both of these personality types prefer working solo and having broad autonomy in the process.

While INTJ prefers routine and ISTP spontaneity, they both like doing things their own way.

That’s not to say they’re procrastinators and unorganized. They simply have their way of doing things, which is very goal-oriented and focused. They don’t need micromanaging in order to achieve that. 


Still have unresolved questions about either of these personality types? Don’t worry – here’s a short FAQ that should solve the issue.

Are ISTP and INTJ compatible?

While they have a lot of differences, these two personality types can make good friends or partners. Their straightforwardness and logical thinking allow them to get their message across, which prevents misunderstanding in communication.

What MBTI is closest to INTJ?

Even though the lettering might be so different, ENTP is the MBTI type that’s closest to INTJ. Their cognitive functions have the same order of dominance. The only difference is they’re internalized and externalized in opposites.

What MBTI is opposite of INTJ?

ESFP is the MBTI type on the opposite spectrum from INTJ. They use their functions in the opposite order, which also makes their personalities very different.

To Sum Things Up

ISTP and INTJ have quite different personality traits.

While ISTPs are focused on the present, INTJs are future-oriented, with the big picture always in mind.

This means ISTPs are great improvisers that live in the moment. INTJs, on the other hand, prefer sticking to routines and following pre-made plans.

However, they’re also similar in certain ways. 

Both personality types are goal-oriented and focused. They also love learning and discussing things they have great knowledge about.

Can’t tell INTJ and INTP apart? Here’s our article with all the differences between these two MBTI types.