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The science of personality types is based on psychologically classifying people into different groups based on their preferences and behaviors. The 16 basic personality types, initially designed by Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Meyers, help people better understand themselves and others.
The INTP is a rare personality type, and their quiet, thoughtful nature can make them feel alone and misunderstood. If you are an INTP or have a friend or loved one who fits this description, having a better understanding of the personality type can improve communication and deepen relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at INTP strengths and weaknesses.
What is the INTP Personality Type?
The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a theory of personality that uses self-assessment to sort people into one of 16 personality types. Initially developed in the 1960s, the MBTI is based on the work of Carl Jung. Still extremely popular in organizations and career planning, the MBTI has also inspired several other theories of personality that use the same basic framework.
Today, many psychologists criticize the oppositional nature of the MBTI, as it sorts people into fundamentally different types/classifications (introvert vs. extrovert, for example). Many modern psychologists perceive these behaviors on a spectrum, with everyone falling along the same continuum rather than being fundamentally different.
However, the MBTI is still a widely used indicator and can be extremely helpful in understanding yourself and others.
Here is a breakdown of the essential characteristics of the INTP:
The I in INTP stands for introversion, which represents where you put your attention and get your energy. Introverts like to analyze their feelings, experiences, and ideas in their inner world.
They take time to reflect and form their thoughts before they speak or act. They prefer to spend time alone, or with one or two people they are close to and comfortable with, and can find large groups of people and high levels of activity tiring.
The N in INTP stands for iNtuition, which indicates how you prefer to take in new information. An intuitive type is attuned to ideas, patterns, and abstract ideas and is adept at thinking through theories and exploring the implications.
They think in symbols and impressions and are focused on the future and new possibilities. They are attuned to the big picture and sometimes remember impressions and metaphors more than facts and details.
The T in INTP stands for thinking and describes how you prefer to make decisions. A thinking person prefers to make decisions based on core principles and values rather than specific situations or perspectives.
They analyze the pros and cons and try to be logical and consistent, making impersonal decisions that can always apply to everyone. They try to not be influenced by their emotions or by the opinions and preferences of others. They want to be fair and truthful, making them seem cold and indifferent.
The P in INTP stands for perceiving and describes the behaviors you show to the outside world. A perceiving personality type prefers to remain flexible, understanding, and adapting to the world rather than trying to organize or control it. As a result, they are open, spontaneous, and casual and can often seem disorganized or indecisive.
The INTP is known as “The Thinker.” They are quiet, analytical, and enjoy working independently, thinking up ideas and solutions. Although they may know many people, they tend to develop very few close relationships and may seem aloof or detached.
4 Strengths of the INTP Personality
The biggest strengths of the INTP are:
1. Logical Thinker
The INTP shines when it comes to logical thinking. They analyze everything they experience, looking for patterns, principles, and underlying truths. They look beneath the surface and seek out unbiased information.
Their desire for deeper understanding leads them to get lost in their thoughts or pursue new ideas and information in unexpected ways.
2. Independent and Original
As introverts, the INTP does not have a strong need to “bounce ideas” off of others or receive support and encouragement from others and are often happy to read, think, and analyze on their own.
The combination of independence and long periods of deep analysis often helps them to discover new patterns, principles, and concepts. In addition, they aren’t afraid to advocate for new ideas and ways of doing things, even when it disrupts the habits and processes of others.
3. Abstract and Objective
The logic and independence of an INTP lead them to be highly objective, thinking about abstractions that apply universally rather than simply expressing situational preferences. They express ideas without bias and influence and make decisions impersonally.
They can be relied upon to be extremely fair and honest and behave in the same way they think other people should.
An INTP's consistency and high principles make them extremely loyal to close friends and loved ones. They deeply value their few close relationships and will not tolerate others disparaging people they care about.
4 Weaknesses of the INTP Personality
The critical weaknesses of the INTP are:
1. Critical Perfectionist
The INTP tendency to deeply analyze and consider everything leads to perfectionism since they can always imagine how something could be better. They can be dissatisfied with things that don’t measure up to their ideals, including themselves.
They can be highly critical of themselves and others and can seem impossible to please.
Because INTPs are so logical and independent, they tend to not pay attention to the feelings of others.
They don’t value emotions, traditions, conventions, or social etiquette, so they can often communicate bluntly and insensitively.
3. Can Be Abrasive
This lack of sensitivity can make an INTP difficult to get along with. If they dislike a rule, custom, or expectation, finding it unreasonable or illogical, they can vehemently argue against it and not use politeness or diplomacy.
Because they don’t feel the need to promote harmony and unity, they can sometimes be abrasive and confrontational.
The INTP tendency to get lost in their thoughts and go their own way can lead to a sense of disconnection and isolation. It can be challenging for others to get to know an INTP, and it can be hard for them to make connections with others.
The truth is, an INTP wants to connect and doesn’t intend to be rude or abrasive; they simply tend to lack interpersonal skills and don’t always understand that those skills are critical and worth learning.
An INTP needs to find a way to build a few deep, important human connections, which can mean learning how to show affection, value the feelings of themselves and others, and communicate more effectively.
Tips for People with INTP Personality
INTPs famously struggle to find and keep loving relationships, which enhances their feelings of isolation and disconnection. Here are some solutions to help INTPs build better relationships:
Be Open to New Experiences
New experiences challenge our expectations and traditional ways of thinking, forcing us to grow and change. While INTPs are open to new information, they often withdraw from new experiences, exacerbating their sense of disconnection.
INTPs should force themselves to engage in new experiences, particularly ones that involve other people and engage the senses, and remain open and receptive to learning and communicating in new ways. This helps an INTP develop interpersonal skills and become a more fun person.
Connect With Other Introverts
Developing friendships and relationships with other introverts is an excellent way for an INTP to get the connection they crave. However, it is notoriously difficult for introverts to meet and connect with each other. Thank goodness there’s an app for that.
Practice Active Listening
INTPs struggle to hear and be receptive to the feelings of others and struggle to accept and express their own feelings. Active, mindful listening can help build both skills and is essential for healthy relationships.
Final Thoughts on the INTP Personality
The INTP is a rare personality type. Another reason these Thinkers can feel so isolated: other people don’t have a lot of practice interacting with these unusual types. Just 3-5% of Americans, and 1-3% of women, are INTPs.
As you might expect, the INTP personality is heavily represented among famous scientists and mathematicians, including Albert Einstein and Rene Descartes. Other good professions for an INTP include:
Whatever field they pursue, an INTP needs a profession where they are not micromanaged but are free to pursue their own thoughts and ideas, find and test their own solutions, and work in their own way. In addition, communicating with large groups is their weakest work skill, so they typically will not be happy in professions requiring a lot of teamwork and collaboration, persuasive or public speaking.
While it is essential to pursue a career that reinforces our strengths and allows us to thrive, the INTP will be happier as a person if they seek to balance their tendency toward introverted thinking.
If you are new to the MBTI and personality type theory, check out our guide to the 16 personality types. And if you are an INTP, or have an INTP in your life, engage in activities that celebrate their strengths, and learn some skills that compensate for their weaknesses.
The INTP is an incredibly powerful personality and can be a deeply rewarding friend and lover once you understand an INTP’s strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly.
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.