Challenging Myths About Sensing Types and Inviting A More Balanced Dialogue In The Myers-Briggs® Community

One of the most disturbing trends I’ve noticed in the community of Myers-Briggs® enthusiasts is a bias against Sensing types. You’ll see it in comments from Intuitives about how they don’t want any Sensing friends because they couldn’t possibly understand us. It’s someone saying a fictional character is too dumb and shallow to be an INFJ so they have to be ISFJ (or insisting another character has to be INFJ because they’re relatable and imaginative). It’s assuming all SP types are dumb jocks who’d run off a cliff just for a thrill and all SJ types are conservative traditionalists who’d rather die than see the status quo change.

There was a similar issue when introverts finally started realizing they weren’t broken extroverts. In some cases, the introvert hype turned into an idea that introverts are better than extroverts, which is simply not true. It resulted in stereotypes being used to tear-down extroverts and build-up introverts. We’re still undoing that damage, but I think we’ve finally started to balance out and realize that introverts and extroverts are equally valuable.

Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a similar shift toward balance in how Intuitives view Sensing types, at least no everywhere. There are some wonderful groups out there (like Personality Hacker’s “Intuitive Awakening”) that insist on no Sensor-bashing while exploring what it means to be an Intuitive. But outside those groups it still happens. And even if we’re not staying Intuitives are better than Sensors, I wonder if the fact that there’s so much more material out there for Intuitives than for Sensors is still sending the message “you don’t matter as much as us.”

Sensing/Intuition Numbers

70% of the population are Sensing types, but when you Google individual personality types only 19% of the search results relate to Sensors (that’s if my math’s right — numbers aren’t one of my strengths). I searched each type and compared the number of results that came back. Here’s the full list:

  • INFJ – 16,100,000
  • INFP – 15,300,000
  • INTJ – 13,700,000
  • INTP – 8,090,000
  • ENFP – 5,680,000
  • ENTP – 3,510,000
  • ISTP – 3,100,000
  • ENFJ – 2,270,000
  • ISFJ – 2,230,000
  • ISTJ – 2,080,000
  • ESTP – 2,040,000
  • ENTJ – 2,020,000
  • ISFP – 1,900,000
  • ESTJ – 1,890,000
  • ESFP –  1,280,000
  • ESFJ – 1,210,000

No wonder so many people mistype themselves as an INxx — we’re the types flooding the internet with articles about what we’re like and inviting people to identify with us. That’s great for people with those types, but it’s actually one of the things contributing to the anti-sensor bias.

One of the reasons that so many people online identify as INFJs is because there is just so much more, and so much better, and more in-depth content on INFJs. If every second article you read is about INFJs, it’s only natural to come to identify more with INFJs, simply because we relate more to things that we understand more.” — Erik Thor, “Have You Ever Thought That You’re Actually Just A Smart Sensor?

If you Google “INFJ” you get back about 16,100,000 results. Search “ISTJ” and you get about 2,080,000 results. That’s almost 8 times as many results for the world’s rarest type as for the one that’s most common. We can argue that it’s because INFJs need more support online since they don’t get as much validation in-person from meeting people like them. But don’t Sensing types deserve the resources to learn about how their minds work as well? and the connection of seeing their types positively portrayed and defended by people writing about personality types? Read more

In Defense of Sensing-Intuitive Friendships

I talk with quite a few people who have Intuitive type personalities and grew up feeling misunderstood. They knew they were different from other people but didn’t know why and that led to feelings of loneliness and isolation. In some cases this feeling came from a lack of people they could truly connect with. But others encountered outright rejection or bullying.

As we grew up and started learning about our personality types, the feeling of being different started to make sense. Intuitive types do see the world differently from most other people — we only make up 30% of the world’s population. The other 70% of people are Sensing types. And becasue the Intuitive/Sensing side of our personalities describes how we perceive things and learn new information, it plays a huge role in how we frame our conceptions of the world. It’s no wonder that Intuitives feel different from the majority of the people they meet.

In Defense of Sensing-Intuitive Friendships | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Rawpixel.com via Stocksnap

The Amazing Intuitive Connection

There’s something incredible about learning you’re not alone. That there really are other people out there who process the world in much the same way you do. People whose eyes won’t glaze over when you dive deep into theoretical discussions, who won’t panic when you suggest a new perspective on traditional ideas, and who think talking about the future framed in all of human history is a great way to spend their afternoons.

I think Intuitives need other Intuitives around. I grew up with Intuitive siblings, eventually made several Intuitive friends, and now have the Intuitive Awakening group on Facebook. For close relationships, matching on your Intuition/Sensing preference is going to make it much easier to identify with and understand the other person. And I’m pretty sure any Intuitive with Intuitive friends or family is nodding their heads while reading this. We crave the opportunity to connect with other people who will understand us and validate our way of processing the world. It’s part of being human.

Inaccurate Sensing Stereotypes

But we can take our need for Intuitive connection to an unfortunate extreme and decide that other Intuitives are the only people worth talking with. People with this mindset say that Sensing types are too superficial, too selfish, too close-minded, and too judgemental for them to really connect with (a claim that is, when you think about it, an example of the mindset they’re accusing Sensors of having). Read more

My Abiding Love For Fluffy Blankets, And Other Quirky Ways The Less-Developed Sides Of Our Personalities Show Up

There are very few things I enjoy more than bringing home a new blanket and burrowing deep into its soft, fluffy folds. The Big One throws from Kohls are my particular weakness — oversized, incredibly soft, and occasionally on sale for $10. I can’t get enough of them. They’re scattered around the house. I rarely sit down even in the summer without draping one over my legs. I sleep with one inside my sheets so I can feel the soft plushness against my skin.

If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs personality types and what I just shared about fluffy blankets was all you had to go from in typing me, you’d probably say I was a Sensing type. After all, S-types are the ones that pay attention to and enjoy sensory details. Intuitive are too head-in-the-clouds to care about things like this (if you want to be hard on them) or they have “better things to think about” (if you’re more of an intuition snob).

But I’m an INFJ, which means Extroverted Sensing is the mental function I’m least comfortable with. So why am I obsessed with texture? Because it’s not just fluffy blankets. If you walk through a store with me you’ll see I touch clothing, purses, blankets, etc. as I walk by. I once bought a purse just because the leather felt soft as butter (that description doesn’t make much sense, but it’s what popped into my head at the time).

My Abiding Love For Fluffy Blankets, And Other Quirky Ways The Less-Developed Sides Of Our Personalities Show Up | marissabaker.wordpress.com
real photo of my fluffy blanket collection

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

The thing is, our inferior functions aren’t just hiding somewhere waiting to show up and wreck your life when you get stressed. That’s why I like Personality Hacker’s car model,* which describes your fourth-favorite mental process as a 3-year-old. When things are going wrong the screaming 3-year-old is going to consume all your time. This is more scientifically called being “in the grip” of your inferior process. But when you’re pretty well balanced it’ll be napping or happily cooing in the backseat (perhaps while stroking a plush throw).

You’ll probably never be really comfortable or effective at using your inferior function for day-to-day living. But you can befriend that side of your psyche instead of trying to ignore it or seeing it as an enemy. You can also focus on developing your inferior function, as I suggested in my post “Getting In Touch With Your Sensing Side” for INFJs and INTJ. And you can also enjoy and accept the quirky little ways it’s already showing up in your life.

Maybe you’re a dominant intuitive who loves sensory details like fabric texture or subtle spices in food.

Maybe you’re a dominant sensor and you enjoy escaping into theoretical worlds through fantasy and sci-fi.

Maybe you’re a dominant feeler who’s fascinated by computer programing or logic puzzles.

Maybe you’re a dominant thinker and spend your down-time reading touching stories about people’s lives.

My Abiding Love For Fluffy Blankets, And Other Quirky Ways The Less-Developed Sides Of Our Personalities Show Up | marissabaker.wordpress.com
fluffy blankets + pillows = heaven

As helpful as it is to learn about the better developed sides of our personalities, it’s not all that useful to identify with them completely. If an INFJ thinks of themselves only as an introverted intuitive who makes decisions based on their feelings, they’ll be ignoring key aspects of their personalities. And when we do that, we not only cheat ourselves of growth potential but also start drawing more rigid “us versus them” lines in our minds. I mean that in the sense of ideas like, “I’m an intuitive, so I can’t communicated with sensors.” But if we can recognize that our personalities are deeply nuanced, we’ll also realize we have more in common with “other people” than we might have thought at first.

Personality types aren’t meant to make you think of yourself as better than everyone else. They’re meant to help you recognize your unique gifts and also appreciate the gifts of other people (hence the title of Isabel Myers’ book, Gifts Differing). And once they help you discover the ways you’re different the typology framework can also help you discover ways you’re similar to other people. Even a type that you share no letters with and seems your complete opposite (INFJ and ESTP, for example) shares the same mental processes as you, just in a different order.

Do any of you see your inferior function showing up in your habits, quirks, and preferences? What sort of things do you do and enjoy that aren’t “typical” for your personality type?

*indicates affiliate links

Save

Here’s What Your Myers-Briggs® Type Can and Can’t Tell You

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Myers-Briggs®. I’ll defend it against people who say it’s useless, write and re-write posts trying to come up with the simplest introduction to function stacks ever, and spend my time musing about how type influences both real people and fictional characters. But as much as I like the Myers-Briggs® system of personality types, I also know there are things it’s not meant to do.

In fact, applying Myers-Briggs® wrongly is one of the biggest reasons it has come under so much criticism. For example, you can find quite a few articles online that argue Myers-Briggs® is basically useless in a work environment. They’ll tell you it’s not a good indicator of job performance nor is it all that useful for screening potential employees. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering those aren’t the test’s purpose. And it’s unfair to dismiss a test for not doing something it wasn’t meant to do in the first place.

Here's What Your Myers-Briggs Type Can and Can't Tell You | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Brodie Vissers via StockSnap

So what is the Myers-Briggs® test supposed to tell you? And just how much can we apply what we learn from finding our type to real life?

This Is Your Brain On Decision Making

The Myers-Briggs® test is designed to measure how people’s minds work. It describes their preferred mental processes or “cognitive functions” (to use the technical term). Contrary to what so many critics of the test think, it doesn’t force people into dichotomies. Rather, each type has a “stack” of preferred functions. So an ENFJ type isn’t someone who’s 100% extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. They’re a type that prefers making decisions with Extroverted Feeling, learning new things with Introverted Intuition, and then also uses Extroverted Sensing and Introverted Thinking to a lesser extent (click here to learn how we get from the four letter type to the functions).

These characteristics of Myers-Briggs® theory means that taking the test can help you: Read more

Getting in Touch With Your Sensing Side (for INxJs)

We’ve all gotten lost in thought and stubbed our toes or run into something because we weren’t paying attention (or is that just me and my friends?). But for some of us, keeping track of what’s going on in the outer world is actually quite a challenge. People who are Sensing types in the Myers-Briggs system are naturally “wired” to interact with the real world of sensory information, but Intuitives are more concerned with abstract thought and possibility. It can be quite a strength, but it has its downsides as well (perhaps there’s a reason only 30% of the population is Intuitive).

Getting in Touch With Your Sensing Side (for INxJs) | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credits: Les Chatfield (Conversation With a Cat, CC BY), Eve Tisler (untitled, CC BY-SA), and my brother’s photo of me doing yoga

When Sensing isn’t your preferred function (or, in the case of INxJs and ENxPs, isn’t even your second or third function), it can be easy to loose touch with the outer world. Dominant Intuitives may forget to eat or exercise when they’re distracted by non-sensory concerns. We might zone-out and miss important things going on in the outer world. Sometimes we even get hurt and can’t remember how (if I had a dollar for the bruises, cuts, and bumps I notice and wonder “How’d that get there?” …). Yet as challenging as it is, getting in touch with our inferior function, and even befriending it in some way, offers rich opportunities for growth and stability. Read more

Myers-Briggs: Fad or Science?

Friends who know I blog about Myers Briggs types sometimes send me links to people critiquing the MBTI and ask what I think. The arguments in videos like “Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless” and articles such as “Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die” tend to follow a similar pattern and hit the same points:

  • Kathryn Brigs and Isabel Briggs Myers had no formal training.
  • The test doesn’t allow for complex personalities or that someone can be a little bit of an extrovert and a little bit of an introvert at the same time.
  • Similarly, the judging-perceiving, thinking-feeling, and sensing-intuition “scales” don’t allow for people who use both.
  • About 50% of people who take the test twice within 5 weeks get different results.
  • Test fails to predict success in various jobs and doesn’t provide meaningful data.
  • The test remains popular because it only gives positive results. These results are vague and hard to argue with, much like astrology and pseudoscience.

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

Setting aside the first arguments for now, I think these points are a good criticism of some of the free tests going around which make people pick just between the four letter groups. None of this, however, takes into account the science behind Myers-Briggs. In fact, if the critics would bother reading Isabel Myers’ book Gifts Differing,* they would find most of their points have nothing to do with actual Myers-Briggs theory.Myers-Briggs: Fad or Science? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

The Truth About Extroverts and Introverts

The video I linked above correctly states that Jung’s theory allowed for people who didn’t fit neatly into a single category. But then they say Kathryn Briggs and Isabel Myers “took Jung’s types but slightly altered the terminology and changed it so every single person was assigned only one possibility or another. You couldn’t be a little bit of an extrovert or a little bit of an introvert.”

In fact, this a complete misrepresentation of Myers-Briggs theory. Read more