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Welcome to this issue of our free E-zine, People Skills for Skilled People!
We’re in a series, looking at psychological patterns clarified through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™. In our last issue, we dealt with extraversion and introversion and concluded that they have an enormous impact on how we communicate. Now we’ll look at the next pair on the MBTI: Sensing and Intuition, and will ask the question…
“Who’s in the Details: God or the Devil?”
Vol. 3, No.4
The second pair of letters on the Myers-Briggs, S for Sensing and N for Intuition (N so as not to mix it up with I for Introversion), describes what kind of information we feel most comfortable and adept at handling and what kind seems most real to us. In short, Sensors value concrete practical information and are usually quite skillful in managing it. Intuitors see information as valuable mostly only when it can be interpreted in patterns, theories, and symbolism. Again, as we’ll see, your score on this continuum will tell us a lot about how you communicate. And again, your preference will tell us much about your style in several areas.
Here’s where we answer the question of Who’s in the details. Sensors think it’s God. If there’s meaning to be had, it will be in facts and figures. When we offered to help the engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory improve their presentation skills, they would bemoan previous experiences in presenting to decision-makers. They told us about the managers’ displeasure with what the managers called “information dumps” from their technical personnel. “Why,” the engineers would ask, “do our managers give us such grief about our presentations? The facts speak for themselves.” Jan and I would then retort, “No. You speak for the facts!” This led us to a discussion with them of…
We explained to them the differences between their own cognitive style and that of their managers on the Sensing-Intuition continuum. Their managers, like virtually all upper-level managers, are Intuitors. They see the “big picture.” The devil is in the details. The engineers, on the other hand, were nearly all Sensors. They felt that God was in the details. We used another analogy to clarify the two dimensions, based on the hackneyed expression “That person couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” They (the engineers) were Sensors, the “trees people,” for whom the concrete facts were the most real and reliable information. Their managers were mostly Intuitors, the “forest people,” who wanted to know what the data “meant.” What patterns did the data form? What theories did they suggest? What trends did they indicate? They needed their technical people to interpret the data, resulting in alternative courses of action they might pursue. This meant presenting data within a decision-making context. Once they grasped this, the engineers started making much improved presentations. They included several new things in their presentations, which could become a “manifesto” for Sensors who present to Intuitors:
But what if your boss sees God in the details? He or she is going to want quite a bit of backup material (numbers and data) behind any recommendations you make. If you’re an Intuitor, this can be a stretch. You may see the implications of the data, but you’ll need to “manage” your boss in this situation. Sensor bosses can easily give their Intuitor reports the feeling of being “micromanaged” since they require so many “nitty-gritty details” (as Intuitors often put it).
Sensors think vertically. When asked to implement a project, they will immediately contemplate what steps to take first, second, third, etc. Intuitors think horizontally. They will inquire, when implementing a project, what this project has in common with other efforts in the organization and what can be learned from them. This difference is most clearly reflected when these two types are asked to do strategic planning. Sensors go right to problem-solving and solution implementation and can become impatient with their Intuitor colleagues, who want to visualize long-term plans and strategies. So when you’re presenting in a strategic context, you need to encourage Sensors to look into the future, and rein in Intuitors from going too many decades (or centuries) into the future.
This is a little-known aspect of the Sensing-Intuition continuum. Sensors live in the present. They truly “smell the roses.” Intuitors, you know that you’re always living in the future. If you’re in a meeting, chances are your mind is already rushing ahead to what you’ll be doing 10 minutes after the meeting, and 1 hour, 10 hours, 5 years, and 10 years! Sensors will be completely absorbed by what’s happening now. As a result, when you find yourself presenting to Sensors, you need to make clear the present-tense impact of your material. To Intuitors, you need to keep emphasizing the longer-term results of what you’re presenting.
An understanding of the differences between and strengths of Sensing and Intuition can lead to incredible productivity. Colleagues then know what they do best, whether implementing or strategizing, and give the team their best.
In the following issue, we’ll look at the next Myers-Briggs pair, Thinking and Feeling, and how they describe our powers of decision-making. Till then,
Yours in great communication,
Jan and Neal Palmer
Interested in learning more about how we use Myers-Briggs to help train executives in interpersonal communication, public speaking, and team-building? Please give us a call at (800) 410-4CEI (4234) or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be glad to talk with you.
And that's our People Skills for Skilled People for today!
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