Appreciating Differences - Jack Falt - Ottawa area, Ontario, Canada

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Appreciating Differences

Do You See what I see? The Perceiving Functions

#3 - Sensing and Intuiting

This column, written by Jack Falt, is the third article on personality types and a regular feature of Energy Medicine. It was first published Feb/Mar 1999, Volume 1, Issue 3. See the subsequent articles on this site that describe the meaning of the four dimensions of behaviour that personality type measures.

So far in this Appreciating Differences column we have looked at seeing the personalities of ourselves and others through the lens of personality types. We saw that people can be identified by one of 16 different types. Each type is designated by four letters:, e.g. ENFJ, ISTP, etc. In the last issue we looked at the first letter or the differences between the Extravert and the Introvert. Extraverts get their energy from the outer world while Introverts get theirs from their inner world.

This time we will look at the second letter. This identifies the Perceiving function of the mind or how we take in information and how we adapt to it. Do we prefer to use our Sensing function or our Intuiting function? Those who prefer Sensing (S), take in information through their five senses. Those who prefer iNtuiting (N - we have already used the letter I to identify Introversion), of course use their five senses to take in information, but they make the added jump and use a sixth sense to see all the possibilities or meaning of the information.

A Sensor (S) in a garden is overwhelmed by the sight, smell, and feel of the flowers. He is aware of the birds singing in the trees. The Intuitor (N) experiences the garden and jumps to thoughts such as: "I wonder how many of these flowers have medicinal properties? Are they identified with their Latin botanical names?" The saying "Stop and smell the roses" was written to admonish the Intuitors.

Is there someone in your household whom everyone asks where everything is? Likely that person is a Sensor. Sensors mentally see the object in its location and then can remember where it is. Intuitors have seen the object, of course, but it just has not registered on their consciousness. Intuitors often fit the image of the absent minded professor.

Of course Sensors can come up with possibilities and Intuitors can experience what comes to their senses. Again, it is a matter of preference. It is what one does naturally. When you have a group of people being asked to brainstorm, everyone can come up with some new ideas; however, the Sensors do not find this an easy task, while the Intuitors have trouble turning off their "possibility generators."

The Intuitors are interested in the "big picture," while the Sensors want the details. Suppose a couple is planning a vacation. The Intuitor is talking about a vacation that will renew the spirit and be an enriching experience. The Sensor is demanding, "But where are you planning for us to go?" The Sensors want the details. The Intuitors are looking for a vision and will fill in the details "maybe" some time later.

Best estimates are that there are about 75% Sensors and 25% Intuitors in the general population. This ratio holds equally for men and women. The Sensors tend to be more practical and down to earth, while the Intuitors tend to be more visionary. Imagine if the percentages were reversed! We would be bombarded by new ideas and few people to look after the details.

Intuitors tend to be more abstract and Sensors tend to be more concrete in their thought. It is not that Intuitors are smarter than Sensors; but often Intuitors will do better on IQ tests since they were designed by Intuitors. Also, the tests measure more abstract reasoning. Sensors are just as smart. They are just smart in different ways. Besides Sensors can and do use their Intuiting skills as Intuitors can and do use their Sensing skills.

In the business world an Intuitive junior executive may be asked to research and do a presentation on a possible project. Now suppose most of the other executives are Sensors. The Intuitor uses lots of graphs and diagrams showing how the company can benefit from this new idea. Meanwhile, the Sensors are fidgeting waiting for the practical details. They want the nitty gritty. They want lots of figures and a step by step outline of how the project would be carried out. They mentally cross off this junior executive as wet behind the ears and who needs a lot more experience. If the Intuitive junior executive had known about Type, she would have tailored the presentation to suit her audience. She would have presented her ideas in a stop by step manner with facts and figures and then shown them how these all fit together into a long range plan.

On the personal level, I am an Intuitor and my wife is a Sensor. Here is a problem that has occurred because of the difference in our types. My wife will make a suggestion as to where we can go for dinner. My Intuiting preference immediately kicks in, offering all kinds of other possibilities. Now we have a whole bunch of possibilities to choose from. However, my wife interprets my barrage of alternate suggestions as a putdown of her suggestion. Now I have learned to just say "yes" or "no." Or I might say, "That's a good idea. And maybe another possibility would be . . ." That way I acknowledge her suggestion as being valid, and I get a chance to come up with some other possibilities. Sometimes, she even likes my alternatives.

Star Trek fans can see the Sensing and Intuitive differences watching Captain Kirk and Scotty, the ship's engineer. Scotty has to deal with the reality of what his engines are capable of. Kirk only deals in the not-yet-tried possibilities. Kirk's call over the intercom of, "Mr. Scott! Give me more warp drive -- NOW!" is the Intuitive's expectation of overcoming all obstacles. Scotty's Sensing response is, "I canna give you more'n she's got, Cap'n!" Fortunately, for a happy ending Scotty manages to squeeze out just enough speed to save the day.

We need a balance within ourselves of both Sensing and Intuiting, one to keep ourselves grounded in reality, and the other to look to future possibilities. We each have either a Sensing or Intuiting mental function that we prefer over the other. Being aware of our own preference can keep us from making serious errors. Being aware of others' preference can help us appreciate what they bring to us.

Previous article: #1 - Introduction

Previous article: #2 - Extraversion - Introversion

See the next article: #4 - Thinking and Feeling

See the next article: #5 - Judging and Perceiving

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