One of the ways that we often talk about the difference between Sensing and Intuitive types in the Myers-Briggs®system is by saying that Intuitives are big-picture thinkers who recognize patterns and think abstractly, while Sensors are detail-oriented thinkers who rely on sensory information and think concretely. Those descriptions are, broadly speaking, true. But it’s also important to note that this does not mean Intuitives always ignore details or that Sensors are incapable of seeing the big picture.
Your Myers-Briggs® personality type describes your preferred mental processes. If you’re an Intuitive type, that means you prefer to take in new information and perceive the world using an Intuitive mental function. Sensing types prefer to use a Sensing function when they’re learning and conceptualizing the world. Intuitives also have access to Sensing and Sensors can also use Intuition, just not as comfortably. (If you’re not familiar with Myers-Briggs® functions or want a quick refresher, click here.)
As with most of my myth-busting posts, this article is basically about not judging people based on stereotypes. Preferring a certain function doesn’t mean you use it exclusively. Having skills in one area doesn’t make you incompetent in others. Personality types describe how our minds work — they don’t limit what we’re capable of.
Intuitives and Detail
Broadly speaking, intuitive types are more imaginative than observant. They like to focus on the big-picture and future possibilities. Living in the present doesn’t come naturally to them and they tend to dislike tasks that require focus in on the sensory world. The intuitive functions let them leap from idea to idea quickly because they trust their finely-honed pattern recognition skills.
Common sense will tell you, though, that it’s impossible to live life without having some focus on the details of the here and now. Intuitive types still need to turn in school or work assignments on time, pay their bills, and eat food. We have to navigate a world of sensory information every day and most of us are pretty good at it (though we may still trip over our feet on occasion).
Every intuitive who has managed to put their ideas to work in the outer world has had to narrow-in on details of bringing their vision to reality. Even on a more mundane level, we all need to be able to handle details if we want to complete any task well. Intuitives learn to do that by balancing all the parts of their personality and using the strengths that come from their Thinking, Feeling, and Sensing processes.
Sensors and the Big Picture
Broadly speaking, Sensing types are observant and grounded in reality. They like to take in information using their five senses and put their trust in reliable, verifiable information. Sensors tend to spend more time thinking about the present and past than the future. They don’t much care for tasks that require them to think abstractly or where they can’t rely on sensory input.
Common sense tells us, though, that no one can live life with much success by only focusing on details of the present reality. Sensors still need to plan for the future. They also need to be able to put sensory information together and make sense of its larger implications, which is something intuition helps us do.
Every Sensor who has brought a project from concept to finish, who has set goals and worked toward achieving them, or who has cared about an ideal they cannot directly see and touch has been able to work with the big picture. We all need to be able to wrap our minds around big picture ideas if we want to move forward, achieve goals, and be part of something larger than ourselves. Sensors learn to do that by balancing all the parts of their personality and using the strengths that come from their Thinking, Feeling, and Intuitive processes.
A Different Starting Place
Both Intuitive and Sensing types are able to work with the big picture and with details. To quote an article published on Truity.com, “The only difference is where you start.”
“Intuitives tend to work from the top down – they figure out how the machine works before they understand the purpose of the individual components. Sensors work from the bottom-up – they like to know how each of the components work before they can understand the machine. The end result is the same.” — Jayne Thompson, “7 Myths About Intuitives – Debunked“
Intuitives tend to start from the big picture and work toward the details, while Sensors usually start with details and work out toward the big picture. Both are perfectly valid ways of taking in new information and perceiving the world and both end up taking into account both the details and the big picture. When they’re using these functions in a healthy way, Intuitives won’t “miss the trees for the wood” and Sensors won’t “miss the forest for the trees” (at least not most of the time).
Featured image credit: Picography via Pixabay