More confusion probably exists regarding Sensors (S) and Intuitives (N) than any other type. Extraverts (E) and Introverts (I) are easy to tell apart. So are Thinkers (T) and Feelers (F). The labels themselves are giveaways. Perceiving (P) and Judging (J) require a bit of observation to figure out. Is the person usually late for deadlines and appointments? Does he or she avoid making final decisions on things as long as possible? That’s typical of a Perceiver. Judging types rarely miss deadlines and are seldom late for appointments. They verge on compulsive. They make decisions easily because they prefer closure to open-ended situations. You don’t have to know the Judger or Perceiver for long to figure out which type they are. The Sensing and Intuitive types are more elusive.
• Sensors prefer being involved in the here and now rather than thinking about what’s next. They would rather do things than think about them.
• They like tasks with tangible outcomes rather than vague promises. They’d rather pressure-wash the driveway themselves than look around for a budget-friendly handyman to do the job.
• They believe that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If the toaster isn’t working the way it used to, it’s better to improvise to get the desired outcome than take it apart or to an appliance repair person.
• Sensors prefer dealing with facts and figures, not abstract ideas and theories. They like to hear about things in a logical order, not randomly.
• They read magazines from front to back rather than diving into them anywhere.
• They dislike it when people give them vague instructions rather than stepwise details. “Here’s the overall plan. We’ll discuss the details later,” is the type of communication that frustrates them.
• Sensors are literal in their use of words. If they say, “Be careful. The coffee is boiling hot,” it probably is. The Intuitive might mean that the coffee is just uncomfortably warm.
• At work, Sensors focus on their own jobs and responsibilities rather than their importance to the overall organization.
• Intuitives can think about several things at the same time. They’re often accused of being absent-minded.
• They’re usually more concerned about where they’re headed than where they are. Future possibilities interest them more that present realities.
• Intuitives like to figure out how things work as much for the fun of it as anything else. Toaster broken? The Intuitive is right there to take it apart and fix it.
• They’re prone to making puns and playing word games. They enjoy language for its own sake.
• They’re good at seeing the interconnectedness between things. They don’t just want to know the facts. They want to know the meaning behind the facts. Reading the newspaper is an entirely different experience for the Intuitive and the Sensor.
• Intuitives tend to give general answers to questions rather than specific details. If the intuitive is asked how far it is to Jacksonville, he or she might answer, “about a 2-hour drive” when what the Sensor wants to hear is, “86 miles.”
• They’d rather fantasize about how they’re going to spend their next paycheck than sit down and balance their checkbook.
A Little of Both
If you’re like most people you’re neither 100 percent Sensing nor 100 percent Intuitive. One trait will tend to be dominant, however. Myers and Briggs specified that the traits are “preferences” suggesting that it’s possible to modify them some of the time. This is particularly obvious in the Thinking and Feeling preferences. While the Thinker may be logical and dispassionate about decisions most of the time, he or she may turn almost entirely to the Feeling preference if the family dog is injured. The Thinker will engage Feeling preferences for the occasion, putting everything aside, including finances, for the welfare of the pet.
It’s normal for the preferences to be modified according to different situations. In most social circumstances you might be an Extravert, but it’s natural that you should need some private time as an Introvert now and then. The balance between the two traits on each of the four pairs depends on a number of factors, but the overall tendencies are usually stable.