Take a look at the above picture. What do you see here? Your answer will likely reveal your 2nd letter within the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which is the S (sensing) vs N (intuition) function.
Sensors (S) process data as it exists in front of their eyes. Their data is tangible and provable and is rooted in reason and fact. The Sensor (S) type likes graphs, charts, and spreadsheets to understand and take action on data. They are typically grounded individuals that must see to believe. Those with a strong (S) preference would be classified as a “Rational.”
Intuitives (N) see between the lines and process life in an abstract way. They often search for the meaning behind the façade, rather than the details in front of them. Non-linear and sometimes unnecessarily complex, those with the (N) preference can often be extremely insightful and creative in their explanations and solutions.
For a deeper dive into the N vs S function, visit this great video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Lrn3oXzUSw
A Painting or A P&L Report
A strong (S) type sees the painting above and would likely have these descriptions:
• “The painting is muddled”
• “Her dress is long and is getting dirty”
• “This looks like a really old painting”
• “That’s a pretty red couch”
A strong (N) type sees this painting and has a remarkably different take:
• “She is not into him.”
• “He’s trying to seduce her.”
• “They are in a lovers’ quarrel.”
• “The red couch represents love or passion.”
Both types are seeing the same image, yet each has a different interpretation.
When you translate this into the corporate setting, you see the same discrepancies.
The above is a standard Profit and Loss statement. This tells us the overall health of the company at a high level. You can begin to imagine how the Sensor (S) and the Intuitive (N) might interpret this chart.
Sensors will point out:
• “Net profit is 24% of gross sales.”
• “We can save money by cutting advertising and laying off two people.”
• “We can renegotiate our lease to save money on rent.”
These are statically driven data decisions. The logic behind the decisions are sound and fact-based.
Intuitives will say:
• “Why did we do so well this year?”
• “What does this mean for the next 5 years?”
• “It’s not all black and white, there’s a lot of gray areas.”
The difference in interpretation can be a major problem depending on who is making decisions after viewing the data. Statistically and anecdotally speaking, the most common type for managers are ESTJ’s, being dubbed “Life’s Administrators.”
As mentioned in Part I, the J type will make a final decision based on the data (S), and that will be nearly set in stone. If the ESTJ boss is taking suggestions from their team that is composed of some N and P types, there are going to be glaring disagreements:
- The decision made by the S and J boss will seem too rigid and solely focused on the data
- The N and P types will be frustrated at the lack of brainstorming
- The S and J boss will be frustrated with the N and P’s abstract proposals
In this scenario, the Sensor (S) has the burden of helping the N/P to frame their abstraction in a concrete way, if at all possible. This will be a process that can take years to perfect and is not something that can be implemented overnight, but it will lead to more productive collaboration and team unity. However, if the communication is not fixable, the ESTJ manager will notice that the N/P subordinate will no longer participate in the discussion—a simmering volcano likely to erupt.
The solution I am proposing to fix the Intuitive (N) and Sensing (S) dilemma in the workplace is to first realize that people are making an honest effort to help. Most colleagues aren’t purposely sabotaging an open discussion. Secondly, the collaborative brainstorming needs to be visual. The (S) manager should strive to draw out what the Intuitive (N) is meaning and articulate it into something concrete; writing the suggestions on a whiteboard for the whole group to visualize. Then the group can find common ground as they move away from the theoretical and towards the tangible.
As I dig deeper into the Myers-Briggs Types, I will discuss critical workplace challenges that arise from type-limitations.