The Intuitive's Guide to Getting Along With Sensors

Of the four personality preferences, the gap is widest between Sensors and Intuitives. While the population is split roughly 50/50 on the other dimensions, a full 70% of people prefer Sensing over Intuition. This can lead to quantum differences in personality, and Intuitives may spend a lifetime feeling like the odd man out.

Because Intuitives are the minority, the onus is on them to adjust to the Sensor way of thinking. Here are some points to help you overcome the communication barrier so you can start enjoying a Sensor's company.

The Perceiving Function, Distilled

In a nutshell, the difference between Sensors and Intuitives is this: Sensors prefer tangible information, whereas Intuitives prefer speculation and depth of insight. So, while a Sensor will perceive data points individually (one by one) and literally (as they are in that moment), an Intuitive will perceive them concurrently (all at once) and abstractly (as they could be in the future).

Let's look at an example. Here's how a Sensor might experience a flight:

  • This takeoff is bumpy.
  • My ears hurt.
  • It's chilly in this airplane.
  • There's a man sitting beside me.
  • He's reading the book that I read last month.

You can see that the information a Sensor gets is highly factual. They make very specific observations about the things that are going on around them, and they do not attribute any meaning to those observations.

An Intuitive might experience the same flight like this:

  • This take off will be bumpy.
  • Why can't scientists do something about that ear popping thing?
  • I usually feel chilly on flights. It might be anemia. I'd better get some blood work done. 
  • I read that book. It was pretty provocative. 
  • That man must have hidden depths, reading such a seamy book. I bet he does a spooky job, like a mortician or an arachnologist.

Intuitives read between the lines to size up a situation and take intellectual leaps of faith about the meaning of things. As such, their ideas are often difficult to communicate.

What should be clear from the flight example is that the stimulus does not change, but merely the window through which the Intuitive or the Sensor sees it. You might live in the same house as a Sensor but it can feel like you're moving through very different surroundings! So how can you get along with Sensors who seem to come from a wholly different world? 

Observe tradition

Sensors place a lot of value on family, history and tradition. These things are concrete and knowable, and therefore can be trusted. In practical terms, this means that Sensors are far more likely than Intuitives to uphold rituals such as holidays and anniversaries. They connect through these physical experiences and use them as a conduit for transmitting cultural values.

This can lead to problems if, for example, an Intuitive wife forgets her wedding anniversary. She does this because she places greater value on future possibilities than old traditions. Exactness (the date) is not as important to her as the symbol (marriage). To her Sensor husband, however, failing to recognize such an important ritual is disrespectful as it undermines his entire value system.

Rituals are especially important when raising Sensor children. Young Sensors have a need for tangible stability in their lives. They place great emphasis on having their own room, which is organized so they know where their stuff is. They may have strong opinions about the contents of their lunch bag so they can fit in with the lunchtime traditions of their friends (an Intuitive child won't even notice what the other kids are eating for lunch). They want to know timelines - the exact time when they should wake up, do homework and go to bed. These traditions are a practical application of the information that a young Sensor has accumulated. They need them to feel safe and connected with the world.

Appreciate the need for detail and be prepared to explain how something will work

As an Intuitive, you come in at a high level on the ladder of abstraction. You do not consciously define the steps that are needed to get from point A to point B because you instinctively leap across all the steps and make snap decisions based on an overall feeling.

Frustrations occur because a Sensor needs those mechanical details. They want to see a practical application of the information you are giving them, and they want to follow a logical sequence from start to finish. Rather than providing a global concept, you're going to have to break down your vision and present it step-by step. Here are some things you might explain:

  • The starting point of your argument
  • The conclusion you have reached (this should be definite and concrete)
  • The process you went through to reach your decision
  • The information you relied on
  • How the conclusion is relevant to the here and now (Sensors can't rely on what hasn't happened yet, so future possibilities are less interesting)
  • What, precisely, the Sensor should do to act upon the information (the bottom line)
  • The times or deadlines that apply.

These details may not be on an Intuitive's radar, but if you want to meet a Sensor's needs, you're going to have to be as specific and concrete as possible. For even clearer communication, give examples.

Don't put words into the Sensor's mouth

Sensors live in the detailed, vivid world of the present. They value practicality and physical experience as ends in themselves. Much of the frustration a Sensor has with an Intuitive comes when the conversation bounces off in all sorts of directions that may be interesting for the Intuitive but has zero relevance for the Sensor.

Suppose, for example, that you're shopping for a new car. Your Sensor partner strikes up a conversation about fuel consumption, heated seats and tow packages. Because you focus on theory and metaphor, you attempt to extract a deeper meaning from the Sensor's literal words where none was intended. You are convinced, wrongly, that the Sensor is referencing the environmental impact of CO2 emissions and you can't understand why the Sensor keeps dragging you back into the mundane world of backup cameras.

What you have actually done is put words into the Sensor's mouth. They were having a benign conversation about cars, while you were setting the world to rights. The further you move from reality, the more annoyed a Sensor will get.

One way out of this jam is to lead with a different experience, one of action rather than exploration. Buy the new car first and then plunge into the theory pool of environmental degradation. Sometimes you just need to get the job done.

Key takeaways

Being Intuitive is a bit like being left-handed - the world is not designed for you, and right-handed people (Sensors) may not even realize that you exist. But just because you are an Intuitive does not mean that you are not able to engage in the sensory world. Everyone has both components in their personality. Fundamentally there is value in each mental process, which is why they exist.

With practice, it is possible to become ambidextrous and engage in both worlds. This may not be instinctive or even pleasurable to you, but you do have that ability. These tips will help you get started. The rest is up to you.

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. Since 2006, she has specialized in helping individuals and organizations utilize personality assessments to develop their potential.

In 2012, Molly founded Truity with a mission to make robust, scientifically validated personality assessments accessible to everyone who may benefit from them.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and racing toy cars with her son.

Comments

rhoadess says...

You might suggest mindfulness practice.

eleanor allocca (not verified) says...

Some lightbulbs went off and I immensely enjoyed reading all this interesting information. I am looking forward to your next revelations about myself... with curiosity and trepidation.

eleanor allocca (not verified) says...

How do you think this will help me? I have been doing this for two years.

Guest1 (not verified) says...

Why did you only list examples for how intuitives can speak sensor? I've been learning how to "speak" sensor my entire life. Some examples of how sensors can communicate to intuitives better would be nice as well.

Molly Owens says...

Well, this article was for the Intuitives, but we will definitely work on getting one out for Sensors as well!

Guest (not verified) says...

Would still like to see a piece on how Sensors can learn to "speak" Intuitive, and how it benefits them to do so.

Guest (not verified) says...

Perhaps the article is written by a sensor Fi.

Guest (not verified) says...

This just described the interaction between myself and my youngest daughter, and myself and my now ex-husband. wow. It frustrates me that I cant seem to communicate with her, but now I can see why we are both frustrated and wonder if the other is crazy because we can walk away from a conversation and both wonder if the other was really even there! She is a sensor big time and I am an intuitive big time. She reminds me of her dad in so many ways that we interact...its a huge ah ha for me today....major food for thought.

Molly Owens says...

Awesome, I'm so glad it resonated with you!

JudyGuest (not verified) says...

My now intuitive ex couldn't decide on a lot of things and situations and would leave it to me (my Sensor & Judgement). Then would accuse me of being controlling. A real catch-twenty-two.
The family would make plans and my ex would agree and then come up with "an idea" that would muddy the original plan and he would sometimes be bent out of shape if we didn't go along with his new ideas.....not all the time however. Hard to plan events and adventures with him....like travel and family outings.

Xavier (not verified) says...

That's really interesting. As an intuitive this is my dilemma. When I'm trying to plan something with someone, they'll say something like, well that won't work. My first instinct is to ask, "Why won't that work?" And that tends to frustrate a lot of people (not sure if these people are Sensors or Intuitives). When they tell me the reason why it won't work, I'll throw out some ideas of how things can change slightly to make it work. They don't like that! And it confuses me to no end how come it can't work, when obviously if you just move this to here and this to here, it can work. Sometimes making decisions and plans is like playing Tetris. And you just have to move the blocks around. So I try to explain my rationale, and they keep shaking their head, and I'm like, "But it will work!" What I'm looking for is them to tell me the exact reason why it won't work that also can't be changed, so my head can be like, ohhh, I see...

LLTT (not verified) says...

Thank you for this, I think I found out a solution that will fix most dangerous United States issues altogether in one swoop, and while I have been working on the concept for several years and have worked out the inconsistencies in my head, when I try to ask a sensor for their perspective, they just say it won't work, give up hope and let the US of A continue to be subpar. 

Guest (not verified) says...

SJs are always controlling because they are Guardians, so, no matter how much of decisions you were taking in his name you were probably controlling his life big time without being aware of it.

WhatTranspires (not verified) says...

As an intutitive, I have learned to speak sensor as well. Sensors need to understand, however, that for us to step back and spell out every detail when we can see the end state so clearly, can be exhausting and frustrating but is also rewarding if we are recognized for our ideas. If you are writing a flip-side article, please remind Sensors that they need us, especially in the workplace. We provide vision and energy and innovation, and they help us make it real. We really do need one another, but we need to understand one another, be open and be aware.

Guest (not verified) says...

I found this article insightful.

Guest (not verified) says...

I've never flown, but I would wonder(probably out-loud) why someone hasn't solved that ear-popping thing.

Guest (not verified) says...

S and N. You forgot to mention that we do both. The take-off example only made that clear to me. I do both. We all do both-- but not with equal comfort. I am and N, but I do place importance on tradition. For example, one of my projects is working on my family tree. But, at the same time I don't place much importance on dates of birthdays and anniversaries. And yes, I do feel like a left-hander in a right-handed world.

Mathilda (not verified) says...

This is so helpful!! I've tried mindfulness practice, and other techniques to try to understand or communicate with sensors but I end up just feeling exhausted.
I had a great mentor who once told me I don't think you realize how you come across" and he is right, I don't. As an ENTP, I have always struggled with relationships - not sure how I managed to stay married for 20 plus years.
Always feel lonely and misunderstood, and always see things as you describe here.
Thank you!!!

RebeccaG1989 (not verified) says...

Wow this is seriously blowing me away right now! The pennny has finally dropped and everything is started to make sense. Been feeling like Neo from the Matrix since doing my Myers briggs Test:D

Thank You

Guest (not verified) says...

A lot of the language challenges can be tied to the Ladder of Abstraction idea. A cow is a cow no matter what, and that's the realm of the Sensor's communication style. No need to go beyond the universally accepted definition.

Most Intuitives realize they have to adjust the first time they have find themselves giving a lesson to the teacher in a typical K-12 setting.

MAni (not verified) says...

Thank you for all these informations, and insights it brings to me, my behavior, and my partner's.
Iam Intuitive, and she is a sensor. At the time as we speak, she hasnt taken the test yet, but i know she is a sensor.. lol.
Here I go again with my fast thinking and Assumptions.

But Intuition means we understand how things work and their possible results. while sensors are more passive...
Anyway, thank you again for the articles and comments. Its never enough to hear experiences and insights.

My story is that I have had trust issues with my partner.. and trying to understand why would she lie.. because of my reactions.. made me go through the differences between us into solving our issue.

We have been arguing for a week, and i have made so many readings and reaserches for the whole time, that i came in fast with diagnostics, solutions, transformations (for me) and search for better ways of communicating.

This resulting with me on all these Internet pages about compatibility options between N and S.
Thanks for more examples!

Iam man. ENFP , she is ESFP.

sara sami (not verified) says...

Awesome Article thank you for sharing.
I feel like if most sensors saw this article, they might be able to understand us a bit, since the article is very organized.

I found this post on google yesterday about how N's are smarter than S' and the hate it was receiving, but your article clearly communicates our issues much better than hating on sensors, however your article was about how we should communicate with them and not about our struggles. I would love to see an article where it has funny points summarizing the struggles we face because of living in a world full on sensor.
I also would love to see an article about how sensors can communicate with us and the misunderstandings/they feel when talking with us because when I talk with sensors I'm always cautious as not to bore/annoy them with my World topics/view and I hate having to carry that burden/feeling. I do feel as if i'm bothering/annoying them I don't know if that's just me feeling that way or other intuitives feeling that away as well.
Its not only them but I feel as if sometimes other intuitives who have low self confidence and are not comfortable with themselves/haven't understood themselves yet look down upon us/pretend they don't know what we are talking about just to fit in with the crowd and not be hated like us which bother me so much and makes me feel very alone.

We should definitely have organization/groups for intuititves to meet and discuss the topics we care about and love
If any of you reads this, please try to do something about it.

plus i would love to see a neat article like this one talks about the different types of intuitives that exist. Like the different between Feeling intuitives and thinking ones, how their intuition differs, how they see the world, would they get along better with each other or feeling intuitive and sensor is better than a thinking intuitive with a feeling intuitive.
also the difference between an introverted feeler and an extraverted feel and the same for the thinkers and how it differs when they communicate with each other. plus if the Myers Briggs is so awesome, why isn't everyone world wide using it everywhere to solves the misunderstanding issues.

lastly, I know I've ranted a lot lol but Is the hunger games secretly separated into the myers Briggs personalities, I got a hunch i'm very sure about and I would love to pursue it further because the different job occupations they had reflected different preferences, if it is , how would the world play if each preference/ personality group had their own region, wouldn't it be interesting to discuss such outcomes.

BTW fellow enfp here, heyyy :) :) :)
Love yall
lots of love xo xo :P :D
lmao

luhboosie (not verified) says...

I wouldn't say that world "isn't built for intuitives." It's much easier to "play" systems like school, for instance, if you are able to see more general patterns and "read in between the lines." For example, taking a test is not solely about knowing "the material"; it can also be about knowing your professor/teacher and what they see as important about the subject. If you're able to do that, as well as know some facts, you can both predict *what* to study, as well as answer questions in a way that mght express deeper understanding, at least to that specific professor. 

species (not verified) says...

Apparently, I'm an intuitive in a family of sensors. I annoy them by barely caring about practical matters, chosing instead to obsess over the philisophical. They annoy me by seeming to only really care about things like the latest trends or the state of the furniture. It gets hard to relate to people who don't really have much interest in exploring the deeper meaning behind things...but at the end of the day I'm sitting around swamped and hypnotized by my thoughts, while they''re busy accomplishing practical things. So yeah, sensors are kind of better off...it seems...maybe... :?

Another ENTP (not verified) says...

Hi Molly. I know this article is quite old now, but I found it whilst trying to work out why female sensors always seem to have a problem with me. I always make the effort to get along with them, but I seem to get nothing but shade in return from most (apart from ESTPs). I can generally get along with most male sensors (my father is an ESTJ, so that may have something to do with it), but females specifically seem to hate me. I normally try to find something to like about everyone & treat everyone equally, but lately it's  gotten to the stage where I don't even feel like making the effort anymore.

I got told by one ESFP that I use too many big words & that she 'hadn't swallowed a thesaurus'. I forget the exact word, but do recall it was only three syllables long & not something uncommonly used. And also that I was addressing my INTJ husband at the time & she chose to butt into our conversation.

Either way, I try not to judge people's worth on their intellect alone, but I do feel like a lot of female sensors want me to dumb myself down & talk about nothing more stimulating than the last episode of Love Island. How can I get along with them without feeling like I have to conceal my intelligence?

Molly Owens says...

I hate to say it, but I think female ENTPs have a bit of a difficult lot in life. Jesse Carson just wrote a great post about this same issue which I would highly recommend reading. She talks about a lot of issues we have with other people, but I think the crux of it is that we just communicate in a way that people don't expect from women, and not everyone is able to handle it.

I appreciate wanting to get along with everyone, but something that's been very freeing to me is to realize that not everyone is going to like me. That doesn't mean I'm going to be impolite or willfully belligerent, but it does mean I can let myself off the hook if someone doesn't seem to take to me. I take solace in the fact that when I do click with someone, we both really value that connection!

ElDJe (not verified) says...

Hi Molly,

Thanks for this article. I found it very enlightening.

Can you recommend any book, program or resources to practice communicating with Sensors. I want to build on the tips you provided in this article and would like to find a structured way to practice. Maybe you have written a book yourself or know of something else.

I will appreciate any recommendations. I would love to be able to communicate and connect with millions of more people without learning a foreign language, per se.

Thanks,

Molly Owens says...

Hello! I'm not aware of a book about communicating with Sensors specifically, but The Art of Speed-Reading People is a pretty good overview of dealing with personality differences in general. The publisher of the MBTI® assessment also has a booklet called Introduction to Type and Communication which could be helpful!

Rusty (not verified) says...

I was following until you got to here: 

"Much of the frustration a Sensor has with an Intuitive comes when the conversation bounces off in all sorts of directions that may be interesting for the Intuitive but has zero relevance for the Sensor.

Suppose, for example, that you're shopping for a new car. Your Sensor partner strikes up a conversation about fuel consumption, heated seats and tow packages. Because you focus on theory and metaphor, you attempt to extract a deeper meaning from the Sensor's literal words where none was intended. You are convinced, wrongly, that the Sensor is referencing the environmental impact of CO2 emissions and you can't understand why the Sensor keeps dragging you back into the mundane world of backup cameras.

What you have actually done is put words into the Sensor's mouth. They were having a benign conversation about cars, while you were setting the world to rights. The further you move from reality, the more annoyed a Sensor will get." 

If it didn't have relevance, I wouldn't bring it up. I'm bringing it up because I think it's relevant, and something I think the sensor should see. If the sensor doesn't want to hear an intuitives abstract opinions, then why are they even telling them about it? 

Further more, seeing many different possibilities at once doesnt mean I see any of them as correct or incorrect. Speculation and assumtion are not the same thing.   

My first assumptions, if any, are that I have wrongly misunderstood the conversation. And I ask for clarification. This is usually what annoys most sensors in my experience. I don't put words into anyone's mouth, I go through a list of possibilities using induction and deduction to narrow them down to the most logical, and statistically plausible results based on as much responce I can get out of direct questioning as the sensor has tolerance for. Most sensors do not seem to have understanding that intuitives perceive things differently then they do. And they misinterpret our speculations as critisism, and jumping to conclusions about how we perceive things. Then they become defensive over something that they assume we assume, when this is not the case.  

I think that more often times the intuitive is having a conversation about reality, when the sensor just gets annoyed. 

Mathilda (not verified) says...

I love your response Rusty, it's spot on and makes me giggle because so many of my conversations veer off into this sort of spiral. Thanks!

Vp (not verified) says...

Rusty, I have never had a better time reading a response and seeing myself reflected. Thanks! I feel a childish sense of glee that someone else finds sensors  -well, how do I put this- annoyingly defensive. It always blindsides me and kills the enjoyment of the conversation. For me, it’s never about the particular situation but about the big abstract picture and trying to understand the system that governs it. But the sensor is a robot and it keeps rejecting my input because the program it runs has only a drop down menu and no essay field. 

Very funny to read and relate another’s experience that I thought was my private hell. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse. I guess I’m morally defunct but it makes my loneliness less  unique to me, which is some kind of ironic connection! ;) 

TIMOTHY CROWE (not verified) says...

I will never conform in any way to the sensors expectation. The expectation that I should conform is where real sensor iNtuitive bigotry originates, not from intuitives. Sensors hate all that does not conform and expect iNtuitives to conform. No not untill I am understood! Understanding is representation in the system. I am not represented. Dont have the occipital capacity to understand me? Then there will be no conforming.

Simone Runyan (not verified) says...

I can't decide if I like this article or not.  It (almost) makes Intuitives look like caricatures who are always thinking about "weird stuff" and generally "being weird."  Believe me,  I have met Intuitives like that,  but I personally anyway don't have too much of a problem misunderstanding Sensors (for example) because I am "reading things in" to what they say.  I do find myself asking Sensors quite a bit why they are telling me a certain thing, but it's usually because they seem to get caught up in a lot of factual details and leave me to try to figure out their point.  Either that or they aren't saying what they actually mean.  

Neither do I find that Sensors necesarily need to hear all the "steps" in between A and Z.  Most Sensors I know are pretty sharp and can make "intuitive leaps" right with me. 

The thing that drives me  absolutely insane about my interactions with Sensors is when they say to me,  "Remember I told you [such-and-such]?," and then I have to go into a lengthy response explaining that yes,  I do remember whatever it was that was said (albeit vaguely,  usually), but that the point I was trying to make was actually [whatever]....It's exhausting,  and I feel stupid trying to explain myself,  and all the while a little part of my brain is thinking maybe I really don't understand what is going on and they truly do have the better understanding of the situation because they remember exactly what was said and I do not.  

Oh,  and yes I most certainly did notice what other kids had in their lunch boxes.  

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