This thread is very interesting. I especially appreciate all the insightful comments from the ISTPs.
My SO is an ISTP, so I've definitely given this matter some serious mulling. Emotional validation is tough for my ISTP. And he felt this was a salient deficit in his personality. When my ISTP and I started dating, he said he felt like there was something different about him... perhaps even wrong with him... in that he didn't understand how to relate to people on an emotional level.
I got the definite impression that on some level, he'd resigned himself to his fate, viz., that he was an emotional robot (his term). Thus, he reasoned that it was unlikely that he had what IT took to be a good dating partner. I interpreted IT as meaning the emotional sensitivity to provide the kind of validation that Foolish Heart talked about in the original post.
That was two years ago. Since then, he's become sooooo much more comfortable in his emotional purview. I think it's not that he's discovered his touchy-feely side. Instead, I think he's come to understand that his robot tendencies are both a strength and a weakness. Recognizing this means he can consciously choose to leverage them or minimize them at times of his choosing. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with him. He's come to accept that he just identifies and understands his feelings in a way that is out of the common parlance of our culture.
Furthermore, he's come to understand that his robotic tendencies can be exactly what the other person needs. Thank God he's not the emotional flake that I am. I love his quiet, calm, focused demeanor. He is my rock. He is the eye in my chaotic, ENFP storm.
So I just reread my post and realized I didn’t even get to my advice. Let me correct this presently:
What ISTP's Can Do About Their Inherent Lack of Emotional Validation Skills?
by Esoteric Wench
#1 - Accept and be happy with who you are. You are not a naturally touchy-feely, emotionally-validating kind of person. Look at your hierarchy of functions. Oy vay! No F until the fourth, or inferior, function.
Hierarchy of Cognitive Functions for ISTPs – Ti > Se > Ni > Fe > Te > Si > Ne > Fi
So even if you learn to provide emotional validation by, for example, taking Perfectgirl’s advice and formally studying the art of friendship (great advice btw, Perfectgirl) it’s going to feel robot-like and rote in the beginning. But with practice it will feel more natural. With lots of practice you’ll even begin to appreciate the finer points.
#2 - Be discriminating about who you let in your inner circle. ISTPs do fall outside of the mainstream re: emotional interactions. But you can choose to fill your life with people who get and appreciate your ISTP ways. Recognize that some people just aren’t going to get you… for whatever reason. You may not see a logical reason to hold such people at arms length, but don’t underestimate the importance of having emotionally validating people in your life. All people need emotional validation including ISTPs… even if you aren’t consciously aware of it. It’s OK, nay even healthy, for you to use this as a criterion for being friends with or dating someone.
#3 - Teach people how to interpret your actions. You can learn to teach different types of people how to accurately read your behavior. First, learn to type the people you interact with regularly. Next, figure out the predictable areas of miscommunication between ISTPs and their personality type. I’ve found Socionics theory on intertype relations very helpful. There’s even an online wizard on one Socionics Website where you can input any two personality types and it will predict how they will interact.
Finally, develop a repertoire of ways to overcome the inherent communication obstacles you face with different personality types. Since most of these miscommunications are predictable, then so can be your responses to them. I’ve literally made such lists for myself. Think of it as an MBTI “objection handling” list.
#4 - Teach yourself how to balance your type. There’s a great article here: Hints to Balance your Type on how to balance out your natural tendency to choose one cognitive function over another. I think balance in terms of MBTI means being able to use the cognitive function that best applies to a given situation, not just the one with which you are more comfortable.
Hmmm.... I just re-read this list and it probably could be applied to any type.