Once you find out about your own Myers-Briggs® personality type, it’s usually just a matter of time before you start to wonder what other people’s types are. You can ask them, of course. It’s actually not all that hard to work the question into a conversation.
“What are your hobbies?”
“Oh, I like x, y, z, and Myers-Briggs types. Have you ever taken one of those personality tests?”
Pretty simple. They might not remember their result, though, or might not have taken the test yet, in which case you can pull out your phone and direct them to Personality Hacker for what I think is the best free test on the internet. At that point it could start getting weird, though, so you might need to drop the subject if they’re not interested.
There are also ways to guess someone’s type from having a conversation with them. It’s not always possible (I’m still not 100% sure what my own mother’s type is), but in many cases you can get a pretty good idea of at least a few aspects of their personality from a conversation or two. In today’s post, we’re going to look at how to tell if you’re talking with an intuitive or a sensing type.
Before we begin …
Quick word of advice: if your primary goal in a conversation is to guess someone’s type there’s a good chance you won’t actually get to know the person. Myers-Briggs® types simply describe how our minds work and there is a huge amount of room for individual variation within a type. If you want to get to know someone, you need to listen to them and ask them about themselves. Figuring out what their type is should be a secondary goal after getting to know who they are.
Also, remember the guides I’m giving in this post are general rules. No one fits a single type 100%. We also each have traits that could be associated with more than one type. We’re individuals, not stereotypes. Don’t rule out that someone could be Intuitive because they have a couple traits you associate with Sensors, and don’t rule out that someone might be a Sensor just because they have a few traits that seem more Intuitive.
We also don’t reveal our whole personalities in one conversation and may change how we present ourselves to fit a setting. You might have a very different guess at someone’s type based on their work persona versus their weekend persona. In addition, how a type shows up can change based on how healthy and/or stressed someone is.
Start a conversation and pay attention
If you want to type someone, getting them to talk about themselves and what they like is a good first step. Try not to be pushy or force them into things — let them guide the conversation as much as possible so they’re talking about things like how they see the world, the things they like to do with their time, and what ideas interest them. As they talk, you can start to notice clues that point to how they perceive reality. That’s what you want to focus on if you’re trying to figure out their S/N preference since Sensing and Intuition are both perceiving functions. They’re the mental processes we use to learn new information and conceptualize reality.
Our perceiving side plays a huge role in how we take in information and think about the world. We all use both Sensing and Intuition, but there’s one that we’ll favor more than the other. That preference tends to show up in how we live our lives, what we chose to talk about, and the things we prioritize.
Sensing types place an emphasis on things that they can perceive through the senses. You’ll probably notice these types focus on what they can experience directly and the things they did or are doing in the world. They tend to be more literal, observant of material reality, and pragmatic. They typically prefer to invest in life as it is now. The future isn’t something they get all that enthusiastic about.
ISTJs, ISFJs, ESTJs, and ESFJs, (who use Introverted Sensing) tend to filter their experiences of the world through the lens of what they’ve found to be reliable in the past. Their conversations often involve referencing past experiences and talking about things that really happened. You may be impressed with their ability to recall information, especially about details related to real-world sensory things. They tend to be responsible, loyal, tradition-supportive, practical people with a down-to-earth outlook.
ESTPs, ESFPs, ISTPs, and ISFPs (who use Extroverted Sensing) tend to be live-in-the-moment types. They have a strong awareness of the physical world as it’s happening right now and easily process sensory information. There’s a good chance you’ll pick up on the fact that they’re adventurous, adaptable, practical, and very engaged with the present. You may find they’re more interested in doing than talking, and they’ll probably invite you to get hands-on with the real world more often than they’ll invite you to sit still and have a long conversation.
Intuitive types emphasize things that are abstract and inferred. They’re concerned with what’s behind the curtain. You’ll probably notice these types focus on things they can theorize about. They like to talk about underlying patterns that go beyond direct, physical experiences. They tend to be highly imaginative, less interested in material things, and enthused by novel ideas. They typically prefer to invest in future possibilities.
INTJs, INFJs, ENTJs, and ENFJs (who use Introverted Intuition) are future-focused and very observant of patterns. They tend to take a big-picture view of things and are likely to talk about how one thing relates to something else. They’re often intense and focused, usually on ideas and theories more than something physical and concrete. Theories, ideas, and possibilities fill their conversations once you get them on a topic they want to talk about. You might find they seem a bit removed from their own perspective and can see multiple sides to different issues.
ENTPs, ENFPs, INTPs, and INFPs (who use Extroverted Intuition) are the sort of people who like to push buttons just to see what happens. They’re exploration-minded and have a keen interest in “what if?” types of questions. They’re highly creative, adaptable, and imaginative, and they’re energized by coming up with new theories. You’ll probably notice they quickly adapt to changes in conversation topic and readily offer new ideas about whatever you’re discussing. It may seem like they know what you’re going to say before you do or that they’re bringing stuff up just to see how you react.
Typing someone is not a simple or straightforward proposition, especially if you don’t have training for it. However, there are some things you can look out for that can help you make a more educated guess about whether someone you’re talking with is an Intuitive or a Sensing type. I hope this post gave you some useful tips that will help you understand people better and improve your relationships.
If you like this post, you may also like Susan Storm’s article, “A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Someone’s Myers-Briggs® Personality Type.” Her blog Psychology Junkie is an excellent resource.
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