Intuition vs. Sensing: Decoding the Difference

In psychology, intuition vs. sensing refers to the dichotomy that describes how you gather and process information. While sensing personalities take in information through their senses and think concretely, intuitive individuals are abstract thinkers who make sense of the world around them by exploring possibilities, patterns, and hidden meanings.

In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at this dimension, share real-life examples of intuition vs. sensing, and reveal how you can master and leverage both approaches.

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Intuition vs. sensing is a personality dimension that reveals whether you process information by zooming in on the details (sensing) or zooming out to see the big picture (intuition).
  • Intuitive types tend to be imaginative and future-oriented, whereas sensing types are detail-oriented and focused on the present.
  • At work, intuitive types prefer to generate ideas, whereas sensing types are more confident in their ability to implement them.
  • Both intuition and sensing are equally useful and can be used in tandem to make balanced decisions, realize ideas, and find solutions to problems.

Intuition vs. Sensing: Meaning

In the 16 personalities framework, the intuition vs. sensing personality dimension indicates your preferred information-processing method.

While everyone has access to both approaches—or, in other words, can process information both sensorily and intuitively—every person naturally leans more toward one or the other. The second letter of your 16 personality type reveals whether you favor sensing (S) or intuition (N) as your primary method of taking in and processing information.

Let’s take a closer look at intuition vs. sensing to help you better understand the difference between them.

What Is Intuition?

Intuition describes the preference for processing data conceptually. Those who favor intuition over sensing read between the lines; they seek to discover how each piece of data fits into the grand scheme of things and uncover underlying meanings, patterns, and connections between seemingly random facts.

Generally speaking, intuitive personalities:

  • Think outside the box
  • Look at the big picture
  • Have a vivid imagination
  • Have a low tolerance for details
  • Favor abstract, conceptual thinking
  • Advocate for innovative methods and solutions
  • Are more concerned with the future than the present
  • Focus on the “why” and “what if” rather than the “what”
  • Speak abstractly, using metaphors and other figures of speech
  • Eagerly explore future possibilities, even if they have no practical use
What Is Intuition?

In the 16 personalities framework, intuitive personalities use either introverted intuition (Ni) or extraverted intuition (Ne) as their dominant or auxiliary function. Though both cognitive functions are concerned with pattern recognition, they manifest in different ways.

Since Ni is inward-focused, Ni users—or intuitive-judging types—seek deep insights and are guided by asingular long-term vision. Meanwhile, Ne users—or intuitive perceivers—are passionate about exploring different possibilities, as Ne is an outward-focused function.

Specifically, the eight intuitive personalities are:

What Is Sensing?

Sensing refers to the tendency to place a higher value on tangible information gathered through the senses.People who prefer sensing focus on immediate impressions instead of interpreting the data or looking for hidden information within it. As such, they are grounded in the here and now and would rather deal with the palpable than the abstract.

Other characteristics and behaviors associated with the sensing personality include:

  • Being detail-oriented
  • Prioritizing reality over theoretical possibilities
  • Speaking literally and highlighting the specifics
  • Focusing on the past and present more than the future
  • Relying on tried-and-tested methods to solve problems
  • Being observant and paying close attention to the environment
  • Finding it easier to pick up skills through hands-on experience rather than theory
  • Preferring to engage in casual conversations about everyday topics and current realities rather than grappling with abstract, theoretical discussions
What Is Sensing?

Here are the personality types that favor sensing over intuition:

These personality types can be further divided into two groups:

  • Sensing-judging types. SJ personality types use introverted sensing (Si) as their dominant or auxiliary function. Because of this, they primarily understand and interpret the present by comparing it to the past.
  • Sensing-perceiving types. SP personalities have well-developed extraverted sensing (Se), meaning they heavily rely on their five senses to navigate the world. They are attentive to detail, action-oriented, and present-minded.

5 Tips for Interacting With Intuitive Types

To make the most of your interactions with intuitive types, follow these tips:

  • Let it flow. Intuitive types—and especially the perceiving ones—often think, and therefore communicate, in a non-linear fashion, jumping from one idea to another. Rather than cutting them off mid-tangent, let their thoughts flow naturally; you might be surprised by their insight and ability to connect the dots.
  • Spare the details. As big-picture thinkers, intuitive types can find details overwhelming. To communicate effectively, avoid overloading them with too many specifics and don’t forget to discuss broader significance and implications.
  • Minimize small talk. Some small talk is unavoidable, but even the most extroverted intuitives would rather skip it. Since they enjoy meaningful, thought-provoking conversations, they appreciate those who speak with substance and keep superficial interactions to a minimum.
  • Keep an open mind. Open-minded and inventive, people with intuitive personalities meet new ideas and different perspectives with curiosity. As such, they may refrain from closely interacting with those who are quick to judge and come across as narrow-minded.
  • Explore complex ideas. Don’t hesitate to start philosophical conversations, delve into intellectual debates, or explore unconventional topics when interacting with intuitives—they’ll love it! For bonus points, use metaphors, analogies, and other figures of speech to get your point across.

5 Tips for Interacting With Sensing Types

Here’s how you can foster effective communication with sensing types and take your interactions with them to the next level:

  • Be specific. Sensing personalities are pragmatic and detail-oriented, which is why you want to be specific when communicating with them.
  • Get to the point. As a general rule, sensing types like to get down to the nitty-gritty and have little interest in non-essential information. As such, they tend to appreciate those who communicate with clear intent.
  • Show, don’t tell. Since sensing types value the information coming through their five senses the most, it’s only natural that they respond best to tangible and concrete arguments. Because of this, they’ll appreciate it if you illustrate your points with real-life examples. Thinking-sensing types, in particular, value hard data, such as statistics.
  • Focus on the present. Sensing types have little interest in and patience for ideas based on speculation rather than facts. Naturally, they’d rather discuss what's happening today than whatever may or may not happen tomorrow.
  • Avoid abstract concepts and theories. While sensing personalities can understand theoretical concepts and ideas, they simply aren’t passionate about them. In fact, it’s not unusual for them to lose interest in a conversation soon after it turns too theoretical.

Now, let’s compare intuition vs. sensing at work.

Intuitive Types at Work

At work, intuitive types excel at tasks that require conceptual thinking. They typically gravitate toward careers that embrace innovation and allow their creativity to flow freely.

Intuitive perceivers—or XNXP personalities—particularly thrive in dynamic and flexible work environments. Since they are imaginative and naturally look at things from multiple perspectives, they have a knack for coming up with original ideas and flourish in brainstorming sessions.

Intuitive judgers, meanwhile, prefer more structured work environments, provided these do not limit their independence. They usually possess phenomenal strategic planning and innovative thinking skills. This, coupled with their foresight and focus on the big picture, explains why they particularly shine at defining long-term goals, creating business visions, and so forth.

However, regardless of their preference for judging vs. perceiving, intuitive types tend to struggle in jobs that limit their creativity or require strong attention to detail. And while they are great at generating ideas, practical implementation isn’t their strong suit.

Making the right career choice is crucial for intuitive personalities. Ideally, they should opt for a career thatdoesn’t involve monotonous tasks or too many rules and regulations. These can kill their creativity and motivation, affecting their job satisfaction and, ultimately, performance.

Sensing Types at Work

At work, sensing types usually prefer tasks that have concrete, tangible outcomes. In other words, they are motivated by seeing the fruits of their labor as opposed to doing more conceptual, idea-oriented work. This is one of the key differences when it comes to intuition vs. sensing in professional settings.

Intuition vs. Sensing

Though all sensing personalities are usually more comfortable with executing ideas than generating them, sensing perceivers and sensing judgers have rather different job preferences.

XSXJ types appreciate the stability of 9-to-5 jobs and don’t mind repetitive tasks. On the contrary, they value predictability. Pragmatic and organized, they usually have a detail-oriented work style, rarely take risks, and prefer time-tested methods over experimentation. They tend to have a strong work ethic and enjoy following clear procedures.

Meanwhile, XSXP types would rather do anything else than sit in front of a computer screen for eight hours a day. Due to their action-oriented natures, they are drawn to hands-on jobs. Since they are adaptable and think on their feet, they often shine in high-intensity jobs and unpredictable work environments.

That said, sensing personalities should ideally avoid jobs that require abstract thinking, strategic planning, and the like, as they aren’t likely to find them rewarding.

3 Tips for Intuitive Personality Types

Intuitive personality types can develop sensing by:

  • Keeping a diary. Keeping a daily journal can help intuitive types shift their focus to the here and now. While their instinct might be to record their insights and emotional experiences, they should ideally focus on writing down daily activities, sensory experiences, and observations in rich detail to develop present-moment awareness.
  • Practicing mindfulness. Mindful breathing, walking, eating, and other mindfulness exercises can help intuitives reconnect with their bodies and become more attentive to their surroundings. Not to mention, mindfulness has numerous health benefits, including reduced stress, improved cognitive flexibility, and even increased immune function.
  • Adopting a hands-on hobby. Picking up a hands-on hobby is, without a doubt, the most fun way to engage your senses. The options here are limitless; some examples of hands-on hobbies intuitive types might enjoy include photography, pottery, woodworking, cooking, and learning to play an instrument.

3 Tips for Sensing Personality Types

Here are some practical tips that sensing personality types can follow to tap into their intuition:

  • Envision the future. Since sensing personalities are mainly fixated on the past and the present, they can develop their intuitive side by reflecting on the future. The question “Where do I see myself in five years?” is a great place to start; from there, they should ideally identify one or more long-term goals and brainstorm ways to achieve them.
  • Create a mind map. Sensing personalities might find it much easier to generate ideas by creating mind maps, as these enable them to see the big picture and connections between different ideas with their own eyes. While you can create mind maps on paper, there are also lots of mind-mapping software options to choose from.
  • Stimulate the mind. Sensing types who wish to develop their intuitive side can greatly benefit from engaging their minds rather than their senses. Some ways in which you can do this involve delving into fictional worlds through books and movies, picking up creative or intellectual hobbies, and exposing yourself to alternative viewpoints.

Is Being Intuitive Better Than Being Sensing?

Being intuitiveis not better than being sensing. However, this doesn’t mean that sensing personalities are superior to intuitive ones. Both preferences come with different strengths and weaknesses, which is something you should keep in mind when comparing intuition vs. sensing.

It’s not uncommon for intuitive personalities to look down on sensors. To the intuitive eye, they can come across as lacking profound insight or overly concerned with physical reality. Similarly, intuitive types can seem impractical, absent-minded, and overly idealistic.

Even though intuitive and sensing types might not always understand one another, they can achieve great things together. After all, they bring completely different—yet equally valuable—things to the table.

Not to mention, everyone has access to both intuition and sensing and while you may be more comfortable with one of them, you can also develop the other. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that those who succeed in harnessing them both reign supreme in the intuition vs. sensing competition!

3 Strategies to Leverage Both Intuition and Sensing

Developing your weaker cognitive functions and, consequently, learning to leverage both intuition and sensing is key to unlocking your full potential.

Here are some strategies you can use to integrate and leverage both intuition and sensing:

  • Brainstorm and implement ideas. Leveraging both intuition and sensing can help you successfully turn your ideas into reality. For best results, you should use your intuition to brainstorm different ideas and identify a clear vision before creating a detailed plan and executing it (sensing).
  • Make balanced decisions. Although intuition and sensing are perceiving functions, they play a major role in decision-making by helping you gather information. To mend the intuition vs. sensing gap, collect facts (sensing) before taking a step back and looking at the situation from a wider perspective (intuition). You can also use sensing to weigh the pros and cons of each option before reflecting on their long-term implications (intuition).
  • Refine your problem-solving process. To perfect your problem-solving process, consider breaking down the problem into smaller components (sensing) before brainstorming possible solutions (intuition). Alternatively, you can start by brainstorming and then evaluate each option based on practicality.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to intuition vs. sensing, you should always remember that both of these preferences are equally valuable. Because of this, it’s worth integrating both instead of developing one and neglecting the other.

Lastly, if you’re looking for an intuition vs. sensing test, consider taking our free personality test. Within minutes, it can help you find out not only your personality type but also your unique strengths and weaknesses, best career matches, compatibility with other personalities, and more!

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