March 04, 2017

Communication tip #5 : Understanding iNtuitive and Sensate Personality Differences

 

 

 

Another common communication snag results from personality-style clashes which Myers – Briggs classifies as iNtuitives (N) and Sensors (S).     Briefly, Intuitives are folks who think in abstractions and generalities and anticipate and plan for the future.  They see patterns and  like to connect the dots.  On the other hand, Sensing individuals are keenly perceptive and detail oriented.  They are focused on immediate and present experience. As we have written before, neither style is better than the other.  We needs both qualities in our society but  Ns do suffer more from anxiety and Ss from depression.   

It is important to understand how these two perspectives interface because, when these different styles are not appreciated or recognized, their clashing can lead to misunderstandings and interpersonal conflict .  Fortunately, there are some helpful tips that can prevent unnecessary frustration. Here are a few examples of common N/S misunderstandings:

1.      Ns love to look ahead and plan.  They anticipate and get excited at the thought of experiencing the future – like an upcoming vacation. They pack well in advance and think about the smallest detail of a trip.

 On the other hand, Ss are in the moment and take in the details of experience.  They go with the flow and let experience come to them. These variances can result in relational misunderstandings. For example, a hubby who is an N and has been planning a trip for weeks may become discouraged because wifey, who is an S, does not seem to show the same level of enthusiasm or excitement as he does toward their getaway.   

The problem is not that she doesn’t care but that her perceptional set doesn’t allow her to experience the anticipated event in advance.  Solution : Be aware that we do not all experience life in the same way and don’t assume that one’s level of immediate enthusiasm is an accurate reading of how much your partner will enjoy your trip. Adjust your expectations accordingly to fit your partner’s personality style.

2.      In caring about particulars , Ss  are interested in concrete facts and details while Ns are concerned more about the overall conclusion. This difference about what is important can lead to frustration and conflict. 

Many years ago,  after a 20 minute phone conversation with an old friend, my  wife, who exhibits S tendencies,  asked me , “How was Craig?”  - To which I answered,  “Fine.”  My wife took offense and felt that I was putting her off and was unwilling to talk to her about what was said during our phone call. 

From my point of view,  my response reflected what I thought.  There was no illness or difficulties shared. Everything was fine.  Nonetheless my wife wanted details and wanted them now.  To avoid future misunderstandings, I learned to remember that particulars were important to her and did not make the same mistake a second time.     

Not assuming that you and your partner or workmate or boss think the same way and taking time to understand how they perceive life events can go a long way towards avoiding misunderstanding and conflicts in everyday life.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C.    3/4/2017                              

To Archives