Greatest Pitfalls for Sensors and Intuitives

In the first post of our new series on Sensor (S) vs. Intuitive (N) Jungian personality preferences, we laid the groundwork for understanding sensors and intuitives, while also highlighting the core of what makes them tick. At the heart of every sensor is a yearning to understand the concrete facts and details of reality as we know it. They want to live in the moment, searching for the unvarnished truth and analyzing or experiencing it through tangible methods, rather than conjecture or theory. In short, the cry of every sensor heart is to “Tell me what is!”

Intuitives, on the other hand, come at the world from a totally different perspective. They long to know the possibilities of the future, explore the lofty ideals and grand visions that push the limits, and ultimately crave to understand the hidden meaning and patterns of things. Their greatest cry is “Tell me what could be!”

Here in our second post on the subject, we’ll explore greatest pitfall for each type. We’ll give particular attention to the various ways intuitives and sensors approach details, planning, and change, as well as how they view the past, present, and future.

A Sensor and an Intuitive Walk Into a Meeting…

Even if you’ve only been out in the working world for a year, you’ve probably walked into a meeting where two people with vastly different modes of operating find themselves locked in an argument that goes something like this:

Sensor: “You think we should do what?”

Intuitive: “I don’t have the exact proof for why we have to do this, but I’ve just got a gut feeling it’s the right way to go.”

Sensor (incredulous): “You were given five incredible senses and a mound of data to be able to analyze real information before making a decision like this, and you want to bet the farm on a gut feeling or a sixth sense that’s telling you it’s ‘just the right thing?’”

And…they’ll continue on in this manner for the rest of the meeting, each one appealing to either the exciting big picture with its revolutionary potential, or the need for hard facts, test trials, and proof.

That’s because Intuitives usually prefer to trust their sixth sense, even more so than the other five. As a result, you’ll often find that they’ve made big decisions about who they marry, where they live, or what they do, sometimes on nothing more than that intuitive gut feeling. Sensors, on the other hand, don’t count anything as justifiable unless the data supports it and that said data has gone through the right collection process and represents a comprehensive view of the situation to be decided.

That’s not to say that intuitives don’t see or care about details, or that sensors are blind to the bigger picture possibilities. But it does mean that, when push comes to shove, sensors will typically miss the forest for the trees, while intuitives will often forget that the trees exist altogether in the face of being mesmerized by the beauty of the forest.

The Intuitive’s Greatest Pitfall: Why They Miss the Details

Intuitives generally want to be inspired by an idea before they take the planning process further. They want to be captivated by the possibilities of what could be, in order to determine whether the project or venture is worth the effort of pursuing. If the vision seems compelling enough, then they’ll find themselves ready to work their way backwards to meet the sensors in the forest of details and figure out the strategic way forward. Consequently, a great many intuitives miss important details in the present because they’re always, always looking towards the future.

This can be anything as small as constantly overlooking the details of situational awareness because their heads are stuck in the clouds thinking of the next big idea or personal growth strategy, or it could result in an intuitive leader failing to pay attention to the day-to-day needs of his or her business due to a constant over-focus on the future they envision for the company. Vision, big picture strategy, and long-term planning are not bad. Those activities are actually very crucial business elements that should be consistently attended, which is what makes so many intuitives such great ideators. But when leaders become so caught up in the shiny veneer of the next new idea or a far-off future, they’ll trip over the needs of their employees, organizations, or families in the present.

Keeping criticism on the light side, there’s a joke about intuitives that goes, “most intuitives, when they were young, wrote a brilliant exam answer to the question they thought they were being asked because they read the first seven words and assumed they knew what the rest of the objective was.” Joking aside, the intuitive’s driving passion to always figure out the pattern or strategy behind the bigger objective often leads them to jump to conclusions. Not only can this prove to be an avoidable waste of time, it can prove costly when dealing with poorly thought-out corporate strategies and resource allocation.

The Sensor’s Greatest Pitfall: Why They Miss the Bigger Picture

Sensors, meanwhile, love to stick with the detail. They will read every manual, search every product review, and make a pro/con list so long that it outpaces the amount of actual data collected on whatever potential new product or project they are researching. Only once they have exhausted their search for all relevant data available will they be satisfied with coming to a decision, no matter how insignificant or important that decision may be.

As a result of this focus on details and the primacy of what is knowable, sensors often prefer to live and deal with issues in the present moment. That means they tend to be wary of the future and treat theory or conjecture with scorn. Sensors often wonder why anyone would resort to such undependable methods when they have five good senses and the benefit of past experience, data, or research with which to analyze the world.

Think about it. There’s nothing more sensory than right now. I can touch. I can taste. I can see. I can hear. I can smell. Consequently, Sensors tend to have a high degree of situational awareness – whether about the details of the present moment, noticing color, texture, environment, or things that change around them, or in regard to the pressures, needs, threats, and capacities of the business in which they operate. Sensors are constantly collecting data about the environments and situations around them, which is why they tend to catch the details Intuitives miss.

Unfortunately for the sensor, this focus on the knowable and the here-and-now makes the uncertain, future-oriented nature of change a very scary proposition. We cannot touch, taste, see, hear, or smell three months from now. We don’t know what outcomes the risk of changing how we view the world or operate the company might produce. To sensors, the past is a safe-haven, whereas the future is a threat. Given the lack of details guaranteed by the future, Sensors often have a hard time trusting the bigger picture of personal development or organizational change enough to step out and commit to it.

It’s Not All Bad News

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong to this preference set, or any of the other three. The key is self-awareness, and learning what your greatest potential pitfall might be as a Sensor or an Intuitive could save you a lot of time, frustration, and pain in the future. In our next installment of the “S vs. N” series, we’ll continue to unpack the real world applications of what it means to have a preference for one or another, and how it informs many of your strengths, weaknesses, and other tendencies.