Are You A ‘Sensing’ Or An ‘Intuitive’ Personality Type?

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One of the 4 dichotomies of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory is that between sensing and intuition. If the models are correct, then the majority of people will lean heavily towards one or the other of these personality characteristics.

They provide either an S (for sensing) or N (for intuition) in the 4-character abbreviations for each Myers-Briggs personality type. In other words, you are either an XSXX or an XNXX where each X is also one of two letters (which we won’t go into here).

But what’s the difference between these two traits? What makes you a sensor versus an intuitive? Let’s explore, in detail, the ways in which each type interacts with the world around them.

S Is For Sensing

Those with personalities dominated by the sensing approach are known as sensors.

They live their lives among the real, the concrete and the certain, using their 5 primary senses to ascertain what their situation is and how best to respond to it. They are acutely aware of their surroundings thanks, in part, to their mental orientation in the present moment. They literally absorb everything around them so as to provide the best platform from which to take their next step.

They place a great deal of value on information and seek to obtain as much of it as possible before making choices. They use these facts and details to calculate the most practical course of action.

Sensors also emphasize the importance of experience and knowledge. To them, the past is a database full of lessons learned and wisdom from which they can draw.

All of these things are factored into their decision-making process which tends to be very linear in its design. They prefer step-by-step transitions from one place to another in a very unbroken form of movement. They are the equivalent of a join-the-dots puzzle, working from one point to the next, in order, to tackle a problem.

Sensors excel in remembering large quantities of facts and figures which often helps them to excel in the sciences at school. Their need for organization is something which tends to get noticed when they enter the world of work and it makes them very valuable members of a team.

Employers will also appreciate their willingness to take action quickly and decisively.

N Is For Intuition

Those who sit firmly at the intuition end of the spectrum are known as intuitives.

Their minds prefer the world of the abstract, the holistic, and the uncertain. While they, too, get information from their senses, they tend not to take them at face value. Instead, they reflect on these inputs to assess their underlying meaning and importance and to “feel” what their surroundings are trying to convey.

To them, what matters most is the bigger picture and they won’t let little details get in the way of their grand vision of the future. For the future is where their minds spend most of their time – they dream, they create, and they imagine the many possibilities ahead.

When they need to make a decision, they will try to withdraw to a position where they can see as much as possible (mentally speaking). From here they will try to get a sense of the interconnectedness of all the moving pieces and use their talent for spotting patterns to help guide their gut feeling. They’re not so much join-the-dots, but more straight from A to Z.

Intuitives are good at finding connections between two seemingly separate ideas or concepts and bringing them together to form new ways of thinking. This makes them highly creative, often artistic individuals with a passion for the novel and visionary.

This somewhat original way of thinking gives them excellent problem solving abilities and they are often credited with this skill during their school years and when in employment. Their ability to spot trends early on also makes them highly valuable in certain industries where keeping up with the cutting edge is essential.

Intuitives sometimes need time to ponder before they take action, but their penchant for reflection gives them an unrestrained imagination which comes in handy when innovation is required.

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When Ss and Ns Collide

Now that we’ve looked at the ways sensors and intuitives differ, let’s turn our attention to what happens when they interact with one another.

There can be very apparent clashes of personality when the two come face-to-face. For instance, where sensors deem intuitives to be living in cloud-cuckoo land, intuitives see sensors as lacking in imagination.

When a sensor looks at an intuitive, he sees unrealistic ambitions, an overly complicated style of working, and theoretical fluff that can’t be put into practice.

Conversely, the intuitive views a sensor as resistant to change, too quick to act, and obsessed with facts rather than feelings.

Intuitives may feel a sense of superiority over their sensor counterparts because they are able to break ground in the way that things are done. They see their out-of-the-box thinking as their supreme talent and one that is far more valuable than anything a sensor can offer.

Sensors would argue that while it’s great to have all these ideas, intuitives lack the grounding to put most of them into action. They will say that when things need doing, the intuitives are nowhere to be seen, and that if it weren’t for them, the world would grind to a halt.

How To Deal With Your Opposite

While various numbers have been given for the split between sensors and intuitives, it is undeniable that the world contains large numbers of both. This begs the question, then, of how you go about interacting with an individual of the opposite kind.

Well, it can be tricky to do, but the answer is a fairly obvious one: if you want to get the best (or rather what you need) out of your opposite, you have to present things in a way that they will understand.

In other words, as unhelpful as it might seem to you, try to imagine how your sensor or intuitive counterpart would best respond to a particular request. Frame the points you are trying to make in a way that they will more easily understand and be able to process. It will feel fairly foreign at first, but if you want them to see things as you do, you have to translate your language into their language.

For example, intuitives could try to relate their thoughts into more concrete perspectives complete with a sprinkling of facts and continuity.

Sensors, on the other hand, might attempt to discuss what they are doing in terms of its implications for the wider picture rather than getting bogged down in the details.

Basically, you have to work to your strengths when alone (or with others of the same type), and try to work with their strengths when with your opposite.

Which Is Better?

The short answer is neither. In reality, the world functions as a cohesive unit, a collection of styles and approaches that merge into the progressive, but functional society we live in.

There is no race between sensors and intuitives, but rather a team game where the winners are those who can work together, despite their differences, to achieve great things.

And while it is a dichotomy in theory, we all have aspects of both sensing and intuition inside of us, and we rely on them to different extents depending on what we are doing, who we are with, and even what phase of our lives we are in.

So you should embrace each as if they are two precious gifts that you have been given.

Do you identify most closely as a sensor or an intuitive? Leave your comments below and share your experiences with others of all kinds.

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.