So I’m a sensor. Not just any sensor, an extraverted sensor, or ESTP to be precise. I know, there aren’t many of us in the personality community (most of us think we’re ENTJs). I love to play sports, video games, and do anything else that challenges my reflexes. If you read most descriptions of my type you’ll come away thinking I’m a party animal who does nothing but get drunk, do parkour, and avoid thinking about the future as much as possible. In future posts I’ll do what I can to dismantle SOME of those stereotypes (not all…I mean, who doesn’t love parkour). But basically, as an extrovert and a sensor I’m portrayed in the type community as being extremely shallow and unable to hold down a deep conversation to save my life.
But what does being a sensor mean to me? Well, I’m VERY aware of my surroundings and the details that make them up. I notice everything around me in high definition. I like facts and concrete data. I like being engaged in real-world activity. Somehow or other, people in the personality community think this means that I get uber excited about small talk.
But contrary to popular belief, while I understand the place of small talk, I’m not particularly fond of it.
WAIT…What?! A sensor that just said he doesn’t like small talk?
I have the benefit of being the husband of Susan Storm, with whom I have been able to have lengthy conversations about personality type and preferences, specifically the differences between the two of us: ESTP and INFJ. One of the things that has definitely come up repeatedly in our relationship is our individual tolerance for deep, intellectual or philosophical conversations.
My wife loves to poke fun at the fact that when we are talking at night, particularly right before we are going to sleep, I will fall asleep in the middle of our conversation about the future of humanity and the radical steps we have to take to safeguard our children from the apocalypse. Now keep in mind, I care a lot about my children’s future. But at 10:30 at night, in bed, with the lights off, when we’ve finally gotten all 5 of our kids settled in their beds, I tend to be in a state of….well, near exhaustion. Now I know my wife is just as tired, (if not more tired) than I am. However, for her, in the dark, with no other distractions, her intuition comes alive with all the things that she doesn’t get to focus on during the day.
“Just a second, isn’t he contradicting himself? See, sensors just don’t understand personality type!”
Let me explain.
I really don’t like talking about the weather, who is doing what, what road construction we’ve driven through or what color somebody is going to paint their house. I understand for some people that it may take talking about some of those things before they can settle into a conversational rhythm about something better. However, after about five minutes of niceties I definitely want to talk about something more interesting or personal than those surface topics. However, I can only take in so many theories before I want to start putting them to the test. As an ESTP, I use a mental process called extraverted sensing, followed by introverted thinking. With introverted thinking being my primary judging function (how I make my decisions) I have a need to take in any information I have received and test it against the framework of my acquired knowledge. If, as I’m testing the information, I find any knowledge gaps, I try to go get them filled in by reading about the topic or running a series of tests on the information to give me a result that holds true in all situations. While this all may sound incredibly complex, it often happens without me even realizing it. But it does mean it takes me quite a bit of time to process a lot of theoretical information. This, in turn, means I have a lower tolerance for long philosophical conversations where the information isn’t easily tested and by its very nature is open ended and open for interpretation. My brain and body are longing for a way to ACT on the information and when I can’t, it makes it hard to stay tuned-in to the conversation because it would take me far too long to organize the concepts in a logical framework.
Meanwhile, my intuitive wife is coming alive with the cloud of information swirling around in no particular order in her brain. It’s all connected for her. The endless possibilities and existential nature of the conversation gets her more and more excited. Trying to find the meaning behind it all and unraveling the puzzle of people and this existence we call life is enough to make her forget about meals and sleep (two things I have done my best to never be without after 11 years in the military). The point is, these topics are literally revitalizing to her.
So now that we have an idea of the functional differences between ESTPs and INFJs let’s turn to the idea of small talk. First, let’s look at the definition of small talk. According to dictionary.com small talk is: polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions. So by it’s very nature it is a surface conversation. While from the intuitive perspective, sensors seem much more driven by “unimportant or uncontroversial matters”, sensors would view conversations about things that cannot be proven and only exist by ideas or thoughts as tiring because there is nothing that can be done about them in the immediate future.
We enjoy philosophical conversations to a point, and we enjoy deep, meaningful conversations in big ways (some sensors more than others). I think that all people of all personality types long to be understood and to connect to other people in a way that is much deeper than conversation on a social level. What it is that makes that connection or helps them be understood might be different, but not any less important, for each type.
Well I’ve been sedentary for long enough now. I need to go bungee jumping or mountain biking now. I’ll see you all next time!
Oh, and if you want some more sensor-related articles, be sure to check out these:
Daniel Storm is the husband of Psychology Junkie founder, Susan Storm. He loves playing sports, tinkering with technology, gaming, and enjoying life with his wife and five kids! He is an ESTP personality type and is on a quest to rid the world of negative sensor stereotypes!