Sensing and Intuition Preferences in Relationships
Melissa, MBTI Marketing Manager
The Intuitive Preference Guide to the Sensing World
According to renowned MBTI Type expert Judi Grutter, about 75% of the world’s population has a preference for Sensing. While there are havens for the Intuitive preference (such as liberal arts colleges), it’s guaranteed that most people with a preference for Intuition will need to interact with people who have preferences for Sensing often, and they may even find themselves in serious relationships with them or even married to them. People with a preference for Intuition can offer valuable fresh perspectives in relationships with people with Sensing preferences just as those with a preference for Sensing can offer those with Intuitive preferences valuable input, but the challenges to sharing their viewpoints can strain your bond.
Those in mixed Sensing/Intuition relationships have an opportunity to tune in their type awareness skills and enrich each other’s worlds; but it isn’t easy. It can be very hard, particularly in social contexts where the perspective offered by one preference is dominant. However, the dangers of not learning how to flex effectively are often worse than the effort to accommodate or compromise.
The Dangers of Inflexibility
Many of the problems each of us face in communication and building relationships doesn’t come from genuine disagreement on topics or ideas, but from misunderstanding different perspectives and expectations. After all - we know ourselves and our perspectives best, and it takes concerted effort to set aside your assumptions and try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, taking into account their background, expectations and their personalities. The all-too-common danger that most couples fall into is that problems are created where they don’t really exist. Instead of thinking (or feeling) “this is a different way of approaching the problem,” one of the people in the relationship loses patience and resorts to a “this-is-wrong” attitude (or worse, a “you-are-wrong” attitude). By introducing wrong or blame into a situation, not only does the other person often become defensive, but it excludes valuable new ideas and perspectives. In a world that (often) defaults to the Sensing perspective, this can be particularly jarring for people with a preference for Intuition, leaving them feeling frustrated and misunderstood. In addition, for people with a preference for Sensing who are accustomed to dealing with others with the same preference, trying to understand someone with Intuition can be equally frustrating.
For Sensing types in Sensing dominated environments, it can be a leap of faith to trust their Intuitive-preference partner’s differing view of a situation; but the rewards are rich. Trust and validation in the face of a different dominant view is a unique gift type-aware Sensing types can offer their Intuitive partners. And who doesn’t want to be able to remind their partner they’re valued and appreciated?
Who Should Flex?
Inevitably, the responsibility for flexing around type-based differences in perspectives falls on the person who understands the situation best: the person who understands MBTI type. While those with preferences for Intuition in Sensing-dominant environments often learn to flex out of necessity, people who prefer Sensing can also take up the reins of flexing toward Intuition to pull their intuition-preferring partners and coworkers into the Sensing fray. If you’re a Sensing type in a relationship with someone who prefers Intuition, you can be their translator, and help open the Sensing world to them. Remember our first date example? Next time you have a conversation and this question comes up - listen carefully to the response (especially if you don’t know the other person’s personality type).
How to Flex Intuition Preference Toward Sensing
When you have the minority psychological perspective in a situation, it can be particularly difficult to get your ideas across, even to a partner. However, it’s possible to convey your unique ideas through the language of Sensing and find that they’re much more well-received than if you’d expressed them in the way they make the most sense to you.
For example, if you have a grand idea for a vacation or a home remodeling project with your significant other, before launching into the 30,000 foot view that excites you, present as many relevant supporting details, facts, and background data to your partner as possible. The ideas generated in your Intuitive world are of interest to Sensing types, but they might go unheard if not couched in the concrete language and approach of someone who prefers Sensing.
How to Flex Toward Intuition If You Prefer Sensing
If you’re someone who prefers Sensing (and especially spends time in a Sensing-dominated environment - think engineering or computer science), it can be easy to let the personal congruency between your preferences and environment make abstract (and Intuitive) ideas seem all the more foreign. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at your partner’s abstract ideas keep in mind that there may be more to their ideas than meets the eye (especially if they have a preference for Introversion where they have worked through the idea before even sharing it with you). Allow them to present the big-picture abstractions that they’re excited about, even if they don’t appeal to you, before asking them about the facts, figures, and details that can help make their schemes real and resonant with you.
Whether you have a preference for Intuition or for Sensing, living in a Sensing-dominated environment comes with unique challenges for flexing and bringing the richness of the Intuitive perspective into the dialogue. Remember that as someone who’s taken the time to learn about MBTI type, you may be the only one who can bridge the gap.