Sensing vs Intuitive

The specifics and clarity vs the big picture and overall impression

Sensing vs Intuitive

I used to work with Wendy, my EA, back in the day. She was great, I hired her for her precision, as she was an uber Sensing type, not even a tiny trace of ‘N’ as I needed everything grounded, and boy she did that, nothing was left vague or opaque or open to question. So, on Friday she went home, Monday comes, and I said, “Hey Wendy, how was your weekend?” Well, her inability to summarise or give an overview really opened my eyes. She drew a big, big very deep breath and began, “Well, I got home from work on Friday at 5.30PM, then I went into the kitchen to cook the kids’ dinner. AT 6.15 I sat down to…” And I thought, “my goodness we’re only at 6.15 on a Friday evening, I have two more days to go, like a Microsoft calendar!” And that kind of summed it all up for me, (in my ‘N’ like way) that there really can be a chasm between ‘S’s and ‘N’s if don’t adopt some accommodating behaviours.

Now, before you think I am just S-prejudiced, let me recount, (in an N-like impressionistic way), another anecdote to illustrate my point. I asked my CTO, Lee, to build a new website for one of our products, I gave him ‘specific,’ (ahem) instructions as to how I wanted it to look and feel. He worked his socks off and came the day of the big reveal. So, I thought I would give him ‘helpful’ feedback, as he is also an uber S, so I said, “It feels like a single swinging lightbulb in a dark, dank cellar with no windows.” He looked at me, I thought with gratitude for the feedback, but it was if I had spoken Martian and do you know what, I probably had. He did not understand what I meant at all, and I thought my feedback would set him on the right pathway.

So, like in the last five minutes of the sitcom when they do the wrap-up, ‘what did we all learn from this?’ Well, that it really is a language issue. The Sensing vs Intuitive scale is about how we take in information, as all the books and articles say, but that then plays into how we speak to each other, how our friends and colleagues take in what we say, fact, detail, precision, vs broad brush, impressionistic and big picture. And it truly is like two people speaking different languages.

I’ve always said, when I need directions, I will always ask a Sensing type, as it’s like asking Google maps, it’s so precise and linear, almost with the little ‘turn here’ signs, whereas us ‘N’s are a little more lax and impressionistic. So, how do I get to the Novotel? A Sensing type will start at the start, end at the end and make sure the middle section is filled in too! “You make a right here, follow the road in a straight line for about half a mile, you’ll see the big garden centre on your left, turn left down there, past the Police station on your right, turn left into Princes Avenue and the Novotel is 200 yards down there on your right.” Wow, how precise, it’s just not possible to get that wrong is it? Note the signposts along the way, it’s so complete.

So, let’s ask our ‘trying to be really helpful’ Intuitive type: “OK, let’s get this right. It’s, OK it’s, somewhere over that way, you can’t miss it, it’s…you know where Harry’s Bar used to be, well it’s in the next road. I think.” OK, I might have used a little lax poetic licence, but you get my drift and can see why ‘S’s find ‘N’s a little bit infuriating at times. I once asked an ‘N’ for directions to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, UK, and she said, “Why would you want to go there, King’s College is far better! But if it were me, I’d probably go that way, as it takes in Midsummer Common along the way, which is really beautiful at this time of the year.” How wonderfully impressionistic is that, oh and how totally useless as directions. 

So, we see this in companies every day, the same issue, two people talking over each other, even saying the same things but with such totally different approaches that it appears they are disagreeing. Planning is often a really big problem as ‘S’ types, I may be generalising but not much, prefer to build the plan bottom up, starting from the ‘here and now, from where we are and build towards where we want to get to. ‘N’ types prefer to build top down, so they will begin with the end ion mind, seeing all the possibilities and what could be, then come back and plan as they go. It is almost opposite approaches, which can cause frustration, lost time and unnecessary wrangling. It’s always the same, we all have to see the other person’s perspective. As we have said before, we prefer people who are like us, but we need people who are not like us and that will either lead to butting heads or perfect leverage of each other’s strengths.

So, how do we do that? Well, there’s some useful starter information here about how ‘S’s and ‘N’s can learn to understand, accommodate and leverage. It even includes some of the wise words from Jung himself:

Sensing Vs iNtuitive