So you’ve taken a Myers-Briggs® type indicator, and you see an “S” in your type code. What now? What does that “S” even mean? Perhaps you log onto forums or message boards and read a variety of random opinions on that little “S.” Now you’re wondering, “Is this type right for me? Do I really relate to this? What if I’m an N instead?!”
Well, today we’re gonna cut past a lot of the stereotypes surrounding sensors and really dive into what it means to be a sensor.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of contents
What is a Sensor?
In Myers-Briggs typology, there are two ways of perceiving the world: through Sensation (S) or Intuition (N).
Sensors focus on what they take in through their five senses: what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
Intuitives (Ns) focus on abstract patterns, possibilities, and connections. Their interest is more in the conceptual than the literal.
Unfortunately, many type enthusiasts online leave it at that, and Sensors are left thinking, “Wait….doesn’t everyone take in information through their senses? This seems rather shallow.”
But Sensing isn’t just about having a working relationship with your five senses. It’s about noticing and taking in the details that those senses provide you with. It’s about seeing the world around you in higher-definition than the intuitive does. And because you’re so attuned to what’s real and what’s verifiable through the senses, you’re likely to be realistic, practical, experiential, and observant.
Sensors appear in a wide variety of roles. Some excel as stuntmen where their attention to detail and attunement to the present moment helps them to take the perfect calculated risks. Others are gifted surgeons, whose hyper-focus on the physical realities and details needed to perform an effective operation saves lives. Others are interior decorators, performers, accountants, detectives. The list goes on and on.
Having a fine grasp of the details and a strong presence in the present can provide the Sensor with many strengths and abilities.
Still not sure what Sensing means? Imagine this scenario…
You’re at a museum and you’re looking at this painting by Johannes Vermeer. Do you….
- Notice symbolism and overarching meanings behind the pictures? Perhaps you think of the painter as symbolic of a deity and the subject as someone who is unknowingly being observed. Perhaps the color blue means serenity to you. Perhaps you’re thinking this is a scene you’re not “supposed” to be looking at, as if you’re peeking behind a private curtain. You wonder what book the subject is holding and what the picture tells you about life itself. You see the mask and wonder what it represents. Or do you…..
- Notice the specifics and details very clearly? Perhaps you observe the way the colors complement each other, notice the crown of laurel on the subject’s head, or spot the trumpet in her hand. You notice the map and try to see more clearly what location it’s showing. You notice the geometrical forms on the floor and the soft light coming in from the window. You might think a picture like this would go perfectly with the décor in your living room. You might wonder about the history of the painting.
If you chose option 1, then you’re experiencing an Intuitive reaction to the painting. If you chose option 2, then you’re experiencing a Sensing reaction to the painting.
Granted, you might do both things when you look at the painting – but which did you do first?
As a Sensor, you notice the details. You notice each shade of color, each object in the painting, the distance between things, and whether or not you like the way the details and colors mesh together. You may reference the history of the painting as well.
As an Intuitive, you’re far less interested or observant of the details. You’re more interested in the symbolism, the abstract meaning, and/or the conceptual significance of what’s inside the painting. You may not have even noticed that the subject is holding a trumpet or that there was a picture of a map hanging on the wall. What interested you was what the painting “meant” not what it was literally showing.
“But sometimes I relate to both sensing and intuition!”
That’s excellent! That means that you’re a well-balanced human being.
We all use Intuition and Sensation.
After all, it would be really sad to be a Sensor if it meant you couldn’t imagine, conceptualize, or theorize about meanings or the future.
And it would certainly be sad to be an Intuitive if it meant you couldn’t differentiate between various shades of blue, feel an autumn breeze, or taste pancakes doused in golden maple syrup.
We all need Sensing. We all need Intuition.
The question is, which comes most naturally to you? Where do your thoughts naturally gravitate to the most?
Is Sensing or Intuition Your Most Natural State?
Do you naturally pay attention to the specifics and details around you (S)? Or are you more focused on concepts and theories (N)?
Do you consider yourself a realist (S)? Or are you more of a dreamer/visionary (N)?
When you speak, do you focus on being literal and sequential (S)? Or are you more roundabout and abstract, leaning on metaphors (N)?
Are you more interested in verifiable facts (S)? Or do you trust your hunches and insights most (N)?
Are you more likely to miss the forests for the trees (S)? Or miss the trees for the forest (N)?
While each of us can flip-flop between Sensing and Intuition, one naturally seems more comfortable to you. One is your more immediate way of seeing the world.
In the typology world, we like to compare these differences between the differences of your preferred or non-preferred hand.
If you’re right-handed, do you never use your left hand? Of course not! I’m right-handed, and as I type out this article, my left hand is working very adeptly at hammering out the specific keys I want.
If you’re a Sensor, there will be times you use Intuition quite well. Perhaps at a business meeting you can convey a specific big-picture strategy. Perhaps in a relationship you can read between the lines of what your partner is saying and what they really mean.
If you’re an Intuitive, there will be times when you use Sensation quite well. Perhaps you love cooking, and you know just the specific ingredients to use to amplify a dish. Perhaps you decorated your bedroom with the perfect complementary colors.
But when you write your name with your left hand when you’re right-handed, it will still look sloppy (unless you’ve practiced a lot). If you try to play mini-golf left-handed, you’ll need more turns to get the ball in the hole.
If you’re an intuitive, and you’re trying to achieve a Sensing mindset, it may work for short spurts – but long term it would be exhausting.
If you’re a sensor, and you’re trying to achieve an Intuitive mindset, it might work for short spurts – but long-term it would feel draining.
Which way of seeing the world is most comfortable to you?
We need both intuitive and sensing perspectives. Every individual needs to have a working relationship with both sides. There is no personality type that is better/smarter/kinder than another!
Signs That You Are a Sensor:
- You pay attention to details and specifics
- You trust (and look for) concrete, tangible information
- You apply your real-world experience to the present to achieve your goals
- You learn through trial-and-error or repetition
- You enjoy discussing experiences over discussing concepts
- You easily notice the details of your surroundings
- You use common sense and hands-on experience to accomplish what’s in front of you
- You pride yourself on being grounded and down-to-earth
- You would rather deal with the details of daily life than focus on theories that may or may not happen
- You trust the tried-and-true way of doing things
- You explain things in a sequential, linear fashion
- You recall specifics easily
There’s More Than One Style of Sensing!
Sensing-Perceiving types use a brand of sensation called Extraverted Sensation. Sensing-Judging types use a brand of sensation called Introverted Sensation. Find out which style you use most in this article: What Type of Sensor Are You? The Difference Between Se and Si
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer, and The INTJ – Understanding the Strategist. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!