It’s obvious looking at the letters I-N-F-J and I-S-T-P that these two Myers-Briggs personality types are very different. The only trait they have in common is their introversion. Both types enjoy privacy. They find meaning not from superficial experiences but from their contemplation of them.

 Sensing vs. Intuition

Because ISTPs rely on their sensing preference more than their intuition, they are driven to understand how things work. They usually have good eye-hand coordination, which makes them skilled at fixing things. They use their minds for practical matters and think problems through while working on them. Theories don’t interest them unless they can be put to practical use.

In contrast, INFJs aren’t mechanically minded. They get impatient with details and prefer to head straight to outcomes. The ISTP can be a big help to the INFJ who doesn’t want to bother with, say, taking apart a toaster to see why it’s not working. If the problem is a blown fuse, that may occur to the INFJ intuitively while the ISTP works his or her way to the solution through logic. ISTPs are likely to examine the parts of the toaster before checking the fusebox. The two types have complementary strengths.

When an ISTP and INFJ collect information to make a big decision, such as what car to buy, their sensing and intuitive functions may collide. The ISTP may not be satisfied until all aspects of a model are checked out and the vehicle is examined by a mechanic. The INFJ is more likely to base his or her decision on how the engine runs and if the car feels good to drive. The ISTP’s private opinion is that the INFJ rushes to conclusions without taking enough precautions. The INFJ thinks the ISTP is too fussy about details.

Thinking vs. Feeling

When an ISTP-INFJ relationship runs aground, it’s usually because of thinking-feeling conflicts. ISTPs make decisions based on facts rather than feelings and values. This impersonal approach gives them a tendency to ignore the effects of their actions on others. They may not even be clear about their own feelings. INFJs’ emotions are more likely to influence their decisions, although they do examine the facts. Because of this difference, the ISTP can hurt the INFJ’s feelings without meaning to. The INFJ can get on the ISTP’s nerves with his or her emotional reactions.

Perceiving vs. Judging

Because of their perceiving preference, ISTPs don’t worry much about deadlines and usually finish jobs just under the wire. They postpone starting projects and then rush to finish them on time. They’re often late for appointments. In contrast, INFJs work on a schedule, make lists, and make sure to meet their deadlines with time to spare. They plan projects. They don’t just jump in. In this arena, too, the INFJ and ISTP can get on each other’s nerves.

Making the Relationship Work

It takes effort and patience to make an ISTP-INFJ relationship work. The two must respect each other’s methods of processing information. The ISTP should try to understand the INFJ’s need for emotional support. Often this requires that the INFJ explain his or her needs to the ISTP and make suggestions for meeting them. INFJs shouldn’t expect ISTPs to be their sole source of emotional support. They need to cultivate a few friends who can empathize with their feelings and give them support.

As close friends, INFJs and ISTPs enjoy sharing experiences quietly, away from crowds. They’re most at ease when they’re camping, listening to music, or watching a documentary. Words aren’t necessary. The shared experience is enough.

The INFJ appreciates the ISTP’s ability to enjoy the details of life without over-thinking. ISTPs have a matter-of-fact, uncomplicated way of viewing the world. This can be a relief to the complex INFJ for whom very little is easy. Often the ISTP has practical solutions to the small problems of life: how to replace a bicycle chain, determining what’s causing the funny noise in the car engine, or figuring out what’s killing the roses in the yard.

8 replies
  1. Elena says:

    Hi there! I really appreciated this post a lot! I am an INFJ married to an ISTP and everything you said 100% explains our marriage! Although we are completely different individuals with different perspectives, I’ve learned that our relationship is a complicated puzzle and he fits all the pieces to me that I’m lacking in (he is REALLY good at fixing things, and I’m terrible) and vice versa. He makes me feel more whole because he gives me another perspective in life that I’m not used to! So I think our differences make us stronger. 🙂

    • Bethany Gordon says:

      I’m pre engaged to an ISTP and am having such a hard time because he is scared to get married even though he’s totally committed to me. Help! I don’t know any other ISTP INFJ couples. I know where his heart is at but as a personality who is so future oriented (and a girl who just wants to be married :p) it’s so hard to know how to help him feel comfortable and not boxed in by still be hopeful about getting married.

      • beaconadmin says:

        I was in exactly the same situation many years ago, attached to a quiet, nonverbal ISTP who dragged his feet regarding a full commitment. I solved it all by getting pregnant. He, too, was totally bonded to me in his heart. My pregnancy solved the issue, and we spent many happy years together during which his commitment never wavered.


        • MJ says:

          Hate to admit it, but that’s what happened with me and my ISTP, as well. It wasn’t being married that he didn’t want, it was going through the motions of a wedding and dealing with all the work (and people) that involved. When I got pregnant and we ended up at the JP, he was perfectly happy. We’re still in love after 18 years!

      • beaconadmin says:

        I’d suggest that you just hang in there with him, and then when you’re sure he’s yours, tell him you need a marriage commitment or you’ll just have to move on so your heart doesn’t break.


  2. Kerry says:

    Gotta say that so many of these compatibility articles focus solely on the main four traits or letters (I/E,N/S,T/F,P/J) Looking at the function stacks shouldn’t be ignored for you gain a lot of insight from them. Both these types have the same functions in their stacks but in different orders. So if they can find common ground and establish a solid base of communication, there can be a lot of great development of character with these two.

    • Strangely Rational says:

      Thank you for mentioning this! I’m an INFJ in a relationship with an ISTP, and we’ve had our ups and downs with the biggest issues in communication. I was mistyped as an INTP and then ENFP, but when I finally realized I was INFJ and took a look at our cognitive functions side by side, everything suddenly became clear.

      I’m Ni Fe Ti Se, and he’s Ti Se Ni Fe. Explains so much! The fact that we use all the same functions – except that my strengths are his weaknesses and vice versa – is why we’ve always had this fascination and chemistry with each other, relate so well when we’re relaxed, trigger each other so badly when we’re stressed, work so well as a team, and learn so much from each other when we’re willing to listen.

      It took me awhile for me to get past seeing his poker face and lack of verbal affection as uncaring and for him to understand that just because I express emotion doesn’t mean I use it as the basis for my opinions and actions. In fact, we broke up over these issues, but we were too attracted to each other to make that stick.

      I think being in midlife and being open to developing our weaker functions is the primary reason we’ve been able to turn things around and finally stabilize our relationship. Actually, we’re each the perfect person to help each other grow. But an INFJ and ISTP in an earlier stage of development would not stand nearly as much chance of having a happy long-term relationship. The ISTP would see the INFJ as too needy and irrational, and the INFJ would see the ISTP as too distant and shallow. Although both partners need to contribute, it’s going to be more on the INFJ to drive conflict resolution and establish effective communication, as the ISTP is not nearly as motivated or likely to understand the underlying dynamics. So if the INFJ needs to be reasonably emotionally stable, secure, and ideally have well-developed Ti.

      On another note, I would like to point out that the idea that all J types stick to deadlines and stay organized is a misconception and a huge reason I went mistyped for years. I’m a future-thinking planner and appreciate structure and organization, but like most INFJs, I overextend myself to take care of other people’s needs first, neglect my own, and am highly sensitive, which all adds up to being too exhausted and overwhelmed to keep my personal life from devolving into chaos. My dominant function is the daydreamy Ni and my boyfriend’s is the logical Ti, so he’s generally more organized than I am. And with my dominant function being my perceiving function, I’m also typically more open-minded, which is another area in which J vs. P stereotypes get it wrong for introverts (you’re considered J or P based on your first extroverted function, which for an introvert is the auxiliary function rather than the dominant, so it’s effectively the reverse and a good reason that focusing on the letters instead of functions leads to inaccuracy and mistyping).


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