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We’ve been discussing the MBTI. We talked about the history and overview of the instrument and then the important considerations of the Extrovert-Introvert scale. Now we are going to discuss the Sensing-Intuitive scale, which describes how we perceive the world.

Sensing types (S’s) live in the moment. They use their five senses to soak in the world around them. S’s like concrete facts and routines and are very matter-of-fact. They like the safety and security of doing things the same way. Intuitive types (N’s) live in the possible. They notice patterns and like to plan and brainstorm. N’s like dealing with abstract ideas and concepts. They are very imaginative and thrive on innovation.

S’s are really good at noticing details. When I give a workshop, I hide my feet and then ask the group what my shoes look like. The ones that can tell me are mostly S’s. They can also describe what’s on the wall behind them without looking. I have a friend who is an S. We were both standing at a function listening to violin music and waiting for the next event — cake. We were standing by the cake table. There was a large sheet cake with some writing on it, some plates, forks, and napkins. She leaned over to me and said, “That table is really bothering me.”

Now I hadn’t seen it say anything rude, so I was puzzled. As far as I could tell, there was nothing wrong with the table. A few violin notes later, she said, “I can’t stand it anymore,” and she charged for the table. I expected a major confrontation between woman and table. She strode over, picked up the plates, and separated them into four piles, one at each corner of the table. Then she took the pile of forks and laid them out neatly. Finally, she strategically fanned the napkins on the table. With a self-satisfied grin, she returned. I am an N, and I honestly had not noticed anything wrong with the table, but my S friend notices details, and they bug her.

S’s like concrete ideas and facts. Practicality is the watchword that they live by. They use their five senses to take in the world around them, and they ground themselves in the present. S’s like ideas and plans to be presented in an orderly fashion.

S’s can get bogged down in details. It’s important for them to make a mental note that change is OK and can even be good!

N’s bring a “big picture” perspective to most situations. Their input can be valuable and help an organization plan for the future. They are good at seeing patterns and realizing the future implications of a decision.

N’s live in the realm of the possible. They love to talk about theories and concepts. Everyday details are mundane and boring. There’s always a better way to do something, and N’s have so much fun figuring out what that way is! “We’ve always done it that way” is an invitation to an N to find a better way. Their minds are in the future more than the present.

The two types can complement each other and drive each other crazy, but it’s important to note that both types are valuable and add value to a decision. N’s have a tendency to ignore issues of practicality. S’s can keep them grounded in what’s really possible. N’s keep S’s from stagnating in routines that are no longer serving a purpose.

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