Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sensing v. Intuiting

While I fundamentally believe that any two people can *make* a relationship *work*, the words "make" and "work" suggest effort, and there are definitely certain combinations that are going to require less of that than others. 
Understanding personality types is one of the most useful tools in my arsenal for working with couples, particularly when they struggle with communication. My personal theory is that the biggest predictable difficulty in a relationship stems from one person in the partnership being an S ("Sensing") type and the other being an N ("iNtuitive" type). Sensing and Intuition refer to the methods by which we prefer to gather information, which then informs how we communicate and how we understand the world (and other people). 
Sensors are abundant, estimated to make up about 70% of the population. They tend to "know" based on things that can tangibly be known, i.e., things they can use the senses to observe. They are concrete, literal, sequential communicators. They prefer to discuss that which can be measured. What it is = what it is. What happened = what happened. What you said = what you said. What things mean are what they mean. They tend to not rely on symbolism or metaphor, often finding such things irksome. If something cannot be observed with the senses, they tend to not trust it, which means that things an S has not personally experienced will not resonate as "real". It's not that S types don't have imagination, it's more that their imaginations have borders. (e.g., These are the folks likely to say "WE DON'T HAVE ALL THE FACTS AND WE WEREN'T THERE SO HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPENED".)
Intuitives tend to "know" based on things that cannot necessarily be observed in any traditional way. They focus more on ideas, possibilities, what *could* be. They are less concerned with what literally happened than they are in what it may have meant or could mean in the future. They are abstract communicators, use a lot of metaphor and analogy, and often leave out details or pieces of information, because they assume other people can/will rely on their intuition to know what they mean. Unfortunately, the information they leave out is usually paramount for an S type to *be able to* understand what they are really saying. S types are likely to find N types unclear or unnecessarily complicated in the way they communicate, or may believe that N makes logical leaps (e.g., Intuitive people may say "WE DON'T NEED ALL THE FACTS BECAUSE WE CAN EXTRAPOLATE WHAT HAPPENED BASED ON WHAT WE DO KNOW.")
Imagine it like this: let's say Sensors speak English as a first language, but are fluent in Spanish. Intuitives speak Spanish as a first language, but are fluent in English. So they technically understand what the other is saying, but depending on which "language" is being used, one of them will be at a disadvantage and may miss a lot of nuance that comes from nativity. 
In cross-type conversations, S types may do a lot of "what are you taking about?" or "but what you SAID was" and N types do a lot of "how do you not understand what I'm saying? or "well, yes, but that's not the point." N types may use metaphor in a way that frustrates an annoys S types because it isn't direct or clear enough what is ACTUALLY being said/meant. Depending on the strength of their preference for S or N use, there can be a great deal of frustration involved in trying to make relatively simple concepts clear to each other. Or, there is difficulty for the S to understand or the N to be clear. 
I am not suggesting that N is smarter or more sophisticated in their use of language than S. In many cases, S types are much more clear, concise, accurate, succinct, because they tend to avoid flourishes and excess. But N types may suffer from feeling misunderstood, despite their using many different words to explain themselves, which can be devastating in a romantic partnership. This is especially troublesome if you don't have a framework to explain what the disconnect is.

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