The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator identifies two main modes of perceiving information. The first mode involves focusing on the tangible, concrete stimulus in a given situation: This is called sensing, and people who prefer this mode are known as sensors (represented by the letter S). The second way of perceiving the world involves focusing on the intangibles – identifying what is not apparent in the physical environment and connecting abstract ideas. This is known as intuition, and those who use it are referred to as intuitives (represented by the letter N).
Sensors make up the majority of the population – and they ought to. Sensors are the reason our world is not falling apart at the seams. But because of the population imbalance, it is entirely common for a young intuitive to find themselves growing up in a family of sensors. And no matter how lovely, devoted or keenly intelligent all parties are, sensors and intuitives speak two different languages. Here are a few struggles that arise when an intuitive (particularly someone who uses intuition as their dominant function – namely ENTPs, ENFPs, INTJs and INFJs) grows up in a family of sensors.
1. Whenever you asked “Why” as a kid, you got a completely different answer than what you were expecting.
When you asked “Why is the boy on TV sad” you already knew it was because someone kicked him. What you really wanted to know is why bad things happen to good people and whether or not there’s a karmic balance to the Universe. Unfortunately it’s difficult to phrase those questions when you are four.
2. So. Much. Family. Gossip.
It’s not that you don’t want to know about what’s going on with your family. It’s just that you want to know different parts of what’s going on with your family. “Your cousin Sally started working at the nursery!” Is not of great interest to you. What are Sally’s aspirations? Where does she see herself in ten years? What is it about human nature that compels us to nurture our young with a sense of unending compassion? These seem to be more relevant questions. But we’re already onto your cousin Kelly, who is dating someone new.
3. What you are doing will always be of infinitely greater interest to your family than what you are thinking.
When your parents call, they want to know three things: Are you keeping warm, are you making enough money to remain alive and have you eaten any vegetables this week? What’s on your mind is not important. It can be frustrating at times but you have to admit… you do occasionally forget to eat your veggies.
4. In order to be taken seriously, you have to show rather than tell.
Sensors place more weight on what you do than what you talk about. So if you want your family to appreciate your interest in science, you’re going to have to first achieve distinction from an accredited University and publish several wildly successful scientific papers. Then – and only then – will your family give weight to what you have to say about the scientific theory you’ve had the same opinion on for years.
5. Your definition of ‘family bonding’ is wildly different than your family’s definition.
Your definition of ‘bonding time’ involves sharing ideas, discussing theories and coming to deeply understand each other’s core motivations and beliefs. Your family’s definition of ‘bonding time’ is going ice-skating together. Tomato, tomato.
6. Trying to discuss your feelings is a stressful experience for everyone.
For sensors, feelings are a matter of cause-and-effect. If you can’t relate a particular feeling you’re having to a specific, tangible experience that necessitated it, your family has a tough time understanding why you’re feeling the way you are. The good news is, feelings are often related to specific, tangible events. And it may just take a conversation with a sensor to make you realize that your problem isn’t quite as complex as you thought it was.
7. If you’re not doing something physical, it’s assumed you’re doing nothing.
Reading up on a topic that you’re interested in is considered ‘doing nothing’ with your day. Going to soccer practice is considered doing something. Go figure.
8. You genuinely question your own sanity at times.
Because they’re highly in tune with their environments (at least compared to intuitives), sensors usually come off as significantly more levelheaded than intuitives. Intuitives spend their time wrapped up in the world of thoughts and possibilities – and can subsequently work themselves into mind funks that sensors just cannot… well, make sense of. When an intuitive spends enough time around non-intuitives, it becomes incredibly easy to start questioning their own sanity. After all, nobody else seems to be troubled by the sort of theoretical problems that keep you awake at night. Is something deeply wrong with you?
9. You relate so hard to “Calvin” in Calvin & Hobbes it hurts.
Our favorite little ENTP comic-book character offers the perfect depiction of what it’s like to be an N-dominant child growing up in a family of sensors. No wonder he had to imagine himself an intuitive tiger friend. We all could have used a little Hobbes growing up.
10. At the end of the day, you have to admit that you couldn’t have done it without them.
If there’s anything we can all agree on, it’s that the world needs a mix of both sensors and intuitives. And in your case, sensors are the reason you’re the person you are today – they made sure you were fed, clothed, well-rested and cared for in a way that does not come naturally to you. And it’s hard to complain about that.