When we think about taking in information, we tend to think in terms of gathering information, disseminating information and the process of sifting through information. An important factor for the flow of information is how we take in and what we consider as it relates to information. For instance, do you see information more literally and through your five senses – see, touch, smell, taste, hear – or do you look for patterns and connections and use more of a “gut feel” and theoretical approach as you consider information. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – one of the most widely used personality assessments in the world – there are two ways in which we take in information – as a Sensor or an Intuitive.
According to the MBTI, individuals who take in information and look for what is real and tangible, are observant about specifics and are interested in practical realities of the situation are Sensors. Intuitives, on the other hand, take in information and look for the big picture, consider the relationships and connections between the facts and are especially interested in seeing possibilities.
Sensors and Intuitives can gather and synthesize information similarly – the difference is what they perceive in the information. For Sensors, key words are facts, specifics and details. When working with information, they value experience, the practical application of the information and prefer what is “tried and true”. For instance, a Sensor child will want to know the specifics about requests, will be matter-of-fact in how they work with others and want you to provide instructions and directions in a step-by-step manner. So if they are helping you put together a table, they will want to read the directions, align all the materials and begin the process with step one and follow it through systematically until they reach the last step. For Intuitives, key words are possibilities, inspiration and generalities. If they are putting together a table, they will want to look at the picture, dump out the contents and dive into putting it together in whatever manner makes sense. The instructions will be utilized if they run into issues. An Intuitive child will remember specifics when it relates to a pattern, will follow hunches over facts, look for possibilities and are motivated by inspiration over experience.
Sensors generally prefer the following:
- Practical information
- Information related to five senses
- Concrete facts
- Sequential steps
- Trust experience
- Write and speak literally
- Realistic and practical approaches
- What is real and actual
Intuitives generally prefer the following:
- Look at future possibilities
- Focus on patterns and trends
- Follow their hunches
- Trust inspiration
- Jump from step to step
- Place a high value on imagination
- Verbally creative
- Easily sees the big picture
- Write and speak generally
When we understand how others take in information, we can better understand what they need and look for as they gather and process information. This understanding makes communication smoother and problem solving easier. Oftentimes, conflict occurs when we focus on or need different information as we work together to solve a problem or seek out information. For instance, Sensors need details, specifics and facts when seeking out information to solve problems and make decisions. Intuitives, on the other hand, feel overwhelmed when too many details and specifics are presented, they need to have a big picture perspective and general information to work effectively. It is easy to see where communication can go amiss when you have a Sensor and Intuitive communicating and providing data to each other from their respective perspectives. The Sensor will feel frustrated when details, facts and specifics are not provided while the Intuitive will feel overwhelmed and stuck when too many details, facts and specifics are provided. The key is to figure out the right amount of both, so each preference gets what is needed to solve problems without being overwhelmed and frustrated.
As you can see, neither approach is better, but instead both are needed to come to effective solutions. An effective solution is pragmatically focused, looking at facts and details alongside intuitive hunches and collectively looking at the patterns and trends in the facts presented. Effective communication and problem solving require utilizing both a Sensor and Intuitive evaluation where individuals work together to ensure all perspectives are covered and addressed so the best possible solution can be created. As parents, friends, co-workers, spouses and family members we are constantly taking in and processing information, this means we must work together with both preferences to come up with the best possible solution.
Tips for working effectively with Sensors and Intuitives:
- Speak in practical terms
- When providing information, offer and focus on details
- When steps are involved, be prepared to work through them in a sequential and systematic manner
- Want pragmatic leadership from those in charge
- Will want to solve problems with established methods
- Share experience to gain credibility
- Don’t overload with abstract theories, focus on practical and applied approaches
- Speak in general, high level terms
- Want visionary leadership from those in charge
- Will want to create new methods for solving problems
- Provide inspiration
- Don’t overload with facts and specific details, communicate at a high level
- Will want to focus on the future and possibilities
- When steps are involved, be prepared to jump from step to step as you work through the process
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