A knowledge of personality type can help you navigate the sometimes murky waters of conversation. Each type has a different way they like to communicate, and each type is convinced or intrigued by different things. Here are some quick tips for recognizing intuitives and sensors in conversation, and how you can appeal to both preferences.
How Sensors and Intuitives Communicate Differently
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!”…that line was probably written by a sensor. Sensors start at the beginning. They travel through conversation in a linear, sequential order. First A happened, then B, then C, all the way down to Z. They are usually straightforward and use facts and details to back up what they are saying. They are literal, specific, and precise. If you ask a sensor for directions, they will give you very clear and detailed instructions: “Make a left out of the parking lot and go about 400 yards to the end of Main street. Take a left. That’s Union Street. Continue on that for 7 blocks until you get to Walnut Street. Then make a right. Continue on Walnut street for eight blocks and you will see Mary’s house on the right. You’ll know it’s her house because it has a bright red door.” you get the idea. Everything will be clearly laid out for you.
Now ask an intuitive for directions and it’s more likely to be something like, “Hmm…well…go ahead and go up Union Street..Or is it Walnut Street? No, Union Street. Keep going on that until you get to Walnut Street and then turn there. If you drive a few minutes longer you’ll see Mary’s house on your right. It should have a red door.”
Now there may be some intuitives out there who are good at giving directions and some sensors who aren’t, but this example displays a clear point about both types.
Sensors notice the details. They pay attention to them. When they’re asked for instructions they will give step-by-step linear instructions.
Intuitives notice the overall goal but can be blind to the details. They prefer dwelling on ideas and impressions and possibilities. They also are more likely to skip over steps in the instruction process. If you noticed, the intuitive didn’t mention which direction to go after pulling out of the parking lot, or what direction to turn on Main Street. They also stated that Mary’s door “should” be red, but they didn’t have absolute assurance on that.
Sensors tend to share their thoughts in complete sentences. There’s a subject, a predicate, and a period. They can ramble just like anyone can, but they are more likely to ramble in complete sentences. Intutives, on the other hand, have a more circular way of speaking. They tend to have long, often unfinished sentences. They jump around, skipping from point A to point D, and they focus on getting the main idea across rather than the sequential steps. They also have a habit of inadvertently finishing people’s sentences. Because they tend to anticipate what will happen next they can cut people off and tell them what they were going to say without allowing them to finish their sentence. This can be very frustrating for sensors, especially if the intuitive was incorrect in their assumption.
An Example From My Own Life:
One personal example of a sensing/intuitive communication gap comes from my own experience. My husband (ESTP) and I (INFJ) both love board games. I like the strategy aspect of it, as does he. However, when it comes to explaining how to play a game, we like different types of directions. My ESTP husband will explain how to play a game in a sequential, detailed, linear order. “Step one, do this. Step two, do this. Step three, remember this.” I HATE that. I want to start by knowing the object of the game. What’s the point? What is the end goal? Then I’ll briefly glance at the steps and fill in as needed. If I try to learn how to do something in a sequential, step-by-step way I get frustrated because I’m trying to hold onto too many details, and details are a weakness for intuitive types (some more than others). That said, I’m really good at strategy games because it’s all about predicting a future outcome and constantly moving the pieces around to get to that future goal.
My sensor husband, in contrast, needs to know the first step and the linear order of the game one step at a time. He’d get frustrated by vague instructions or starting at the end and moving towards the beginning.
Now, back to the main point…
NP types like to “jump around” in speech. They will usually find many relationships and related ideas to explore as they are talking. Other intuitives can find it fascinating to follow along on those trails, but some sensors get frustrated with this process and want them to “get back to the point”. INFPs and INTPs tend to seem a little less rambling in their speech because they are generally more reserved. However, when they are in a group of like-minded people they enjoy exploring numerous theories and possibilities. The focus of intuition is almost always geared towards future ideas and potentialities. These types want to explore what could happen someday more than what is happening today.
NJ types tend to have more of a singular focus when they speak, but they do tend to skip over details and facts and jump right to the main point. They are usually slow to reply because they need to figure out how all the information they’re given fits into the rest of the information they have. They like to ask deep, penetrating questions and have a very low tolerance for small talk. Concrete data in their speech will be limited. This is less true for ENTJs and ENFJs, because these types lead with a dominant judging function (thinking or feeling). ENTJs and ENFJs are usually quicker to reply, and more connected with the outer world and their audience. Like NP types, NJs prefer to focus on the future more than the present and more on the abstract and the concrete.
Intuitive Types of Conversations Topics:
- Life goals and plans
- Controversial ideas
- Politics and religion and how it’s shaping society or the future
- Patterns and trends in society
- Future possibilities
SP types have an easy-going, down-to-earth persona. They are usually good storytellers and are grounded in the reality of the world around them. They tend to use a lot of concrete, sensory, descriptive, present-tense language: “I see, I touch, I smell”. They appear very in tune with their surroundings and have intense alertness to all that’s going on around them. They also have a habit of “mirroring” the people they are talking to, picking up on their body language and tone of voice. They don’t like excessive details in speech. They are more action-oriented. They like information to be given in a literal, precise, sequential way, but they will get bored if the person talking can’t get to the point quickly enough. ESPs especially use a lot of gestures and movements when they describe things.
SJ types present information in a step-by-step format, focusing on facts and stressing the practical application of what they are saying. They tend to use simple, uncomplicated language, not because they have a poor vocabulary, but because they see overly-embellished language as superfluous or arrogant. They like their conversations to be straightforward, to have a point, and to relate to their experiences. When talking about current events or ideas, they tend to refer to past experiences to relate or back up what they are hearing or talking about. “That reminds me of”, or “remember when” is something you might hear them say a lot. They are very concerned with their responsibilities, their plans, and the timeliness of things.
Sensor Types of Conversation Topics:
- Real-life experiences
- Funny stories
- “How-to” instructions and tips
- Exciting opportunities in the present
- The details and events of the day
- Practical information and advice
- Past experiences
Now keep in mind, there will be times when Intuitive enjoy Sensor-style conversation, but their stamina for it will be lower (and vice versa with Sensors and intuitive conversation topics). But Intuitive are more likely to talk about intangible concepts whereas Sensors are more likely to talk about tangible reality.
How to Communicate with Sensors and Intuitives Effectively:
If you want a lot of detail about how to communicate with each type, you can check out an article I wrote about this here. But if you want some simple, straightforward pointers, I’ll give you the bullet points here:
When Speaking to Sensors:
– Use facts and evidence to back up your claims.
– Be straightforward.
– Speak in a linear, sequential order.
– Respect their experiences and be patient as they work their way to the point.
– Don’t skip over important details or steps.
– Offer examples that relate to real life.
– Stimulate their curiosity by talking about tangible experiences or practical applications. What you can DO, how things can be USED.
– Try to use concrete language if possible.
– Don’t go off onto a related rabbit trail until you’ve finished one subject completely.
– Have a practical application for what you are saying.
When Speaking to Intuitives:
– Start with the main idea, then fill in with details as necessary.
– Spark their curiosity with ideas and theories.
– Engage their imagination.
– Focus on future possibilities and ideas rather than the present moment.
– A lot of concrete data or detail will bore them or overwhelm them. Try to focus on the big picture.
– Don’t try to convince them of anything because it’s “the way it’s always been done” or it’s “traditional”.
– Expect a lot of analogies and metaphors as descriptors rather than real-life examples.
– Be prepared for them to play devil’s advocate.
– Stimulate their curiosity by talking about future predictions, theoretical possibilities, and hypothetical situations. Make them think about the future, what could happen, what will happen, what the meaning is behind things and what is new and novel.
I hope this article has been helpful!
Let me know if you have any thoughts in the comments!
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, The INTJ – Understanding the Strategist, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, and The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
Other Articles You Might Enjoy: