At some point in your life, you may have found yourself unable to get a point across to another person. This frustrating experience may have been a result of basic differences in the way individual humans perceive and process information.
Two Types of Perception
Carl Jung, one of psychology’s most influential pioneers, was the first to write about the different ways humans assimilate information. He split people into two categories: sensors and intuitives. According to Jung, everyone uses both ways to process information but most people rely more heavily on one or the other.
The basic difference between sensors and intuitives is that sensors perceive information and create meaning from the information they sense around them and intuitives do the same thing from conclusions drawn after raw information is pondered.
Sensors pay attention to the things they can directly perceive around them. They like facts and concrete data. They tend to be very practical and are apt to live life on life’s terms. Sensors are very fond of logic and like order and schedules. They experience life as a sequence of immediate events and view things very specifically, without attaching symbolism or deeper meaning to events and sensations.
Sensors have been characterized as relying only on their conscious perception. Although their approach to life and living makes sense in light of their nature, they often frustrate their intuitive friends, relatives and coworkers, who think them superficial and shortsighted.
A sensor may not be able to offer any insight into the personality of a neighbor but can tell you that he says he is a butcher, drives a luxury car and wears designer suits when he leaves for work every afternoon.
Intuitives, on the other hand, barely notice details because their minds are busy looking for patterns, considering possibilities and interpreting what the information they are sensing means. Intuitives often focus on the long term, and like using strategy to pursue goals. For them, information has little meaning until it can be placed into a larger framework.
Intuitives have been characterized as relying on their unconscious perceptions. Again, their approach to life and living is entirely reasonable, considering their natural abilities, but the sensors who know and love them may consider them impractical, fanciful and lacking in resolve.
An intuitive may be able to tell you that the man next door is not trustworthy, but be unable to tell you exactly how they know this.
People often make the mistake of assuming that everyone thinks the way they do. It is natural to attempt to communicate with someone by expressing arguments that seem valid to you in ways that make sense to you. If you are a sensor talking to an intuitive, however, or an intuitive trying to talk to a sensor, you may feel as though you are speaking gibberish to an alien. Remembering a few basic concepts can make communicating across types much easier.
Communicating with Sensors
It is important to remember that sensors need and appreciate clarity. In order to get through to them, it helps to provide clear evidence, especially in the form of concrete presentations. Have plenty of details to share, and keep your plans down-to-earth and realistic, but do have a specific, step-by-step plan. Abstract concepts and long-term strategies are just words to sensors, so minimize them. They respond much better to being shown what you have in mind.
When making a presentation to a sensor, use pictures, details, schedules, specific examples and set practical, realistic goals. Pictures that evoke different senses are helpful. PowerPoint presentations, prototypes and sales data make good props.
Communicating with Intuitives
If you are attempting to communicate with an intuitive, begin with the big picture and then add details, getting gradually more specific until you notice their attention beginning to wane. Be prepared to answer questions about fine details, but do not offer them until you are asked. Intuitives do not have to have everything spelled out for them. Instead, intuitives will form a mental picture to match your ideas if you provide them with metaphors and analogies. Intuitives will want to participate in the dialogue, so be prepared for broad ideas and vague suggestions from them and realize that they do not have any details worked out at this point.
When making a presentation to an intuitive, express big ideas, long-term strategies and lofty goals. Use charts, testimonials and mission statements to illustrate your points and incorporate strategy sessions and question and answer opportunities into your presentation.
Perceiving the World from Another Perspective
It may be more comfortable to work with others who perceive in ways similar to your own. It is easy for sensors to dismiss intuitives and for intuitives to look down on sensors, but both types are effective at processing information and understanding situations. In the case of the dishonest neighbor, the sensor knows enough details about his life to know the man is not what he claims to be. The intuitive, on the other hand, has put together seemingly unnoticed details into a pattern and come to the same conclusion.
Fortunately, most people use a combination of both types of perception, and although individuals tend to rely more heavily on one than the other, most people have at least limited familiarity with both ways of experiencing the world. Recognizing the way others communicate can help you to harness the unique strengths of both types of perceivers to accomplish your communication goals.