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Sensing and Intuition -
How You Take In Information

“You do not see things as they are. You see things as you are.” -The Talmud

Sensing and intuition are two different techniques of perception – how you see things. When you take in information one of these preferences dictates what you notice, what you think about, and what’s important from the information available to you.

This preference pair, the second in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, is a kind of filtering system. What information do you trust and believe most when taking in something new? Is it your five senses (sensing) or insight and imagination (intuition)? What do you pay attention to - pattern and possibility (intuition) or facts (sensing)?

Here are some words and phrases often associated with the two types. What’s the type that you prefer more often? If you’re having trouble deciding, it’s sometimes easier to use the process of elimination method by recognizing yourself in what you don’t like. Ask yourself, “Which of these descriptions isn’t me – which one would I loathe if I did this most of the day?”

Sensing (S) Intuition (N)
Real Possibility
Actual Patterns
What can be seen, touched

What could be
Facts Invent
Practical Theory
Down to earth Connections
Familiar Future
Hands-on Hunch
Pragmatic Instinct
Sensible Original
The present Quick insight
Notice details Different
Start at the beginning Jump in anywhere
Step by step Big Picture
Sensing and Intuition Differences

When people who prefer intuition take in new information, they often look for different patterns. “How does this idea relate to other ideas?” is a common intuition question. People who prefer the sensing function are often seen as being ‘down to earth’. And people who prefer the intuition function are often seen as having their ‘heads in the clouds’. The intuition function gets excited and says, “We can do this, this, this, and this!” The sensing function provides the reality check and says, “Yes, but how are we going to do it?”

People who prefer intuition will see possibilities, patterns, ideas when given new information. They’ll ask, “What are some ways that we can use this down the road?” People who prefer sensing will say, “This is all interesting theory, but how is it going to make me a better______?” They’re more interested in a specific application of new information. “Who has done this before? How can I make this work?” are two other questions the sensing function may ask. Memory for specific detail is more of a sensing function attribute. Memory of larger concepts is an intuition function attribute.

Going For A Walk With Sensing and Intuition

When taking a walk sensing people may notice the physical features of the forest – buds, opening leaves, specific plants, sunlight on rain drops, and the path they took to get there. They’re deeply immersed in the present moment, enjoying all the wonderful things their five senses are feeding them.

A person preferring intuition may see one of those things, a leaf for example, which makes them think of fall, which reminds them of hikes on their parents’ farm with the family dog, which makes them wonder if they should get a dog, but how would the cats deal with that and there are all kinds of cats in the world, and how is a lion related to a house cat and then they wonder if they’ll ever get to Africa, which makes them think of the Blood Diamonds movie, and then they wonder what Leonardo Di Caprio would be like to hang out with, and on and on. The same walk in the woods provides two very different journeys.

Inspiration = Intuition

The leaps of imagination that bring you from an everyday object to something new and wonderful are examples of your intuition at work. Intuition was at play when Swiss engineer, George de Mestral came up with the idea of Velcro while on a summer walk with his dog in 1945 Examining the burrs of burdock that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog's fur caused a leap of intuition. Art Clokey was inspired to create Gumby after viewing his father’s stubborn cowlick in his high school picture.

You Need Each Other

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Intuition supplies the inspiration and sensing supplies the perspiration. You need both. Without intuition, there are no ideas. Without sensing, ideas cannot become reality. Without the sensing function, two major boons to the world – Velcro and Gumby – would still only be ‘good ideas’.

If a person who prefers the sensing function and one who prefers the intuition function encounter the same situation, they will notice and remember different things. That’s why it’s so important to include people with the sensing function and people with the intuitive function on a team. Together, they provide a complete picture of a scenario. With only one of those in play, the team misses out on half of the important information.

Were All Types Every Day

Would you like to know what you have in common with every other person on earth? We all use all personality types all day, every day. For example, regardless of your preference for extraversion or introversion, every day you get and give energy to external people and events (extraversion) as well as the inner world of thoughts and reflections (introversion).

You may have noticed this when you read the descriptions of the different types. Perhaps you said to yourself, “Yes, but I do what the one type description says some of the time, and some of the time I do what the other type description says.” You may even have been hard-pressed to decide which one you preferred. “But I do both!”

And that is exactly true. You do indeed do both every day. The important piece is to try to discern which type you prefer. Even though you use both of your hands throughout the day, you probably prefer to use one hand to the other. Either your left or right hand feels more comfortable and natural. And you get better results. To illustrate this, try writing your name with your non-dominant hand. This holds true for your type - you use both, but one feels more comfortable. And you’re more efficient and productive if your preferred type is in play.

Your Type, Your Gift

Jungian type theory is a tool to give you options, not to put yourself or someone else in a box. All types are good there are no bad or wrong types. Your type is your gift either to be utilized for a more successful life or to be squandered by not using it. Your type is a gift, not an excuse. Its not a free pass to be used to avoid assigned tasks or performance issues that need to be addressed.

Look at the people around you, whether co-workers, friends, or family members. Get curious about their unique gifts. Encourage these gifts to blossom and be leveraged to best do the work at hand so that everyone can have more successful lives.

Your Neighborhood

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” – Mr. Rogers

Consider the neighborhood analogy. Within each town or city there are different neighborhoods. You live in your neighborhood for a reason, and if you like where you are, you probably share many of the values of others in your neighborhood. You are most comfortable in your neighborhood. Like most of us, you probably enjoy exploring, but as the song says, “It’s nice to go traveling, but it’s nice to come home again.” You are most comfortable in your own neighborhood.

Deciding what your preferred type is accesses a common language that you can use to discuss your differences with others – a language of ‘neighborhoods’. How common is this language of types? The MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), which uses Jungian type theory as its basis, is the world’s most widely used personality inventory. When you use this language with others in discussing differences and how to leverage them, chances are pretty good that many will already have some understanding of what you’re talking about. And it focuses your search for your ‘home’ into a more efficient process. After all, now you know what neighborhood to look at.

Home, Sweet Home

You’re more than your preference. Some of the descriptor words and phrases may ring true, others won’t. Just as your home in your neighborhood is unique, so you occupy a unique position within a type description. What it does do though, is to focus your quest on a particular area, which makes your search much more efficient. If you can clearly articulate your unique home within a type of neighborhood you will be able to be at your best more of the time.

Type Examples

Below are some examples of movie characters, writings and quotes that exhibit many of the traits of the two different types. These are examples only, and they’re all guesses. We can only guess at what people’s types may be, or characters may be by their words or actions. It’s dangerous and ignorant to presume to know what someone else’s type is unless they’ve told you. Jungian type is completely self-determined.

So be careful with real people – avoid stereotyping. However it’s fun to speculate with famous people. For example, Gandhi’s two hours a day quietly using a spinning wheel alone, his numerous anecdotes in his Autobiography of his shyness, and even his solutions to his country’s problems – fasting, non-violence, walking to the ocean – all point to him probably preferring introversion.

So enjoy these guesses. Take them with a grain of salt, and feel free to agree or disagree with our guesses as you deepen your understanding of type.

Quotes

Sensing
"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
– Thomas A. Edison
"Some people see things that are and ask, 'Why?' Some people dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?' Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that." –George Carlin
"An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." – Henry David Thoreau
"A little fact is worth a whole limbo of dreams."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We must have strong minds, ready to accept facts as they are." –
Harry S Truman
"I pass with relief from the tossing sea of Cause and Theory to the firm ground of Result and Fact." – Winston Churchill
“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” – 
Hanna Rion
“Just the facts, ma’am.” – Jack Webb
“Weather means more when you have a garden.  There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.” – 
Marcelene Cox
“A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion.” – Mohandas Gandhi

Intuition
“You can see things and say ‘Why?’ but I see things that never were and say ‘Why not?’” - George Bernard Shaw
“Wow! Extra-spicy diet fudge raisin tartar sauce, must be a sale.  Great, I got the last one!” - George Carlin on being an impulse buyer
“A fact in itself is nothing. It is valuable only for the idea attached to it.”
- Claude Bernard
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” - Anonymous
“All men are children, and of one family. The same tale sends them all to bed, and wakes them in the morning.” - Henry David Thoreau
“Think off-center.” - George Carlin
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” - Anatole France
"I was born in the back seat of a Yellow Cab in a hospital loading zone and with the meter still running. I emerged needing a shave and shouted 'Time Square, and step on it!'" - Tom Waits
“Not words of routine this song of mine, But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring.” - Walt Whitman

Fictional Characters

Sensing Intuition
Pokey (from Gumby) Gumby
Bruce Wayne (Batman) The Bride (Kill Bill)
Hobbes (from Calvin and Hobbes) Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes)
Homer, Marge, and Bart Simpson Lisa Simpson
Han Solo Luke Skywalker
Sam, Merry and Pippin (from Lord of the Rings)

Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo (from Lord of the Rings)
The Dude (The Big Lebowski) Vito Corleone (Godfather)
James Bond Fox Mulder (X-Files)
Songs

Sensing Intuition
These Arms of Mine - Otis Redding I Can See Clearly Now - Jimmy Cliff
A Beautiful Morning - The Rascals Imagine - John Lennon
The Garden Song - David Mallett If I Had a Million Dollars - Barenaked Ladies
What a Wonderful World - Bob Thiele and George David Weiss Subterranean Homesick Blues - Bob Dylan
Sunshine On My Shoulders - John Denver Rapture - Blondie
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot Fly Like an Eagle - Steve Miller
Story Songs List Songs

The Arts (the works of…)

Sensing Intuition
William Carlos Williams Salman Rushdie
Annie Proulx Tom Robbins
Virginia Woolf TS Eliot
Thoreau Jack Kerouac
Ralph Waldo Emerson Tom Waits
Cormac McCarthy Bob Dylan
Mary Oliver Pablo Picasso
Wendell Berry Salvador Dali

Activities

Sensing Intuition
Gardening Card games
Walks Chess
Yoga Dreams
Sports (physical) Metaphors
Carpentry Visualization
Punctuation
Sensing Intuition
The period The comma