As an INFJ, do you find it difficult to communicate with the people around you?
When you share your insights with them, do they give you the blank look?
And no matter how much you explain to them, they just don’t understand you at all?
Well, you might be talking to a sensor.
Unlike the other dichotomies (extrovert vs introvert, feeling vs thinking, perceiving vs judging), the sensing vs intuitive dichotomy is the most unbalanced. According to the data collected by the MBTI Foundation, approximately 25% of the United States population are intuitives, while 75% of them are sensors.
It’s very likely that you will be surrounded by sensors
in your workplace, family, and social event.
Being the only intuitive in a family of sensors is rather common for an INFJ. Growing up, it’s easy for us to feel misunderstood, especially if both our parents are sensors. They might not get our abstract and imaginative minds. Instead, they might expect us to follow them and be more realistic and practical.
Furthermore, we are placed in a world that is sensory dominant. We can’t ignore the systems that are in place and the majority of people out there who are sensors. Instead, we have to learn how to navigate the system and communicate with the sensors.
However, it’s not always easy for an INFJ to do so. Being an INFJ, the sensing functions are our least preferred. We seldom use our extroverted sensing (Se) function, sometimes only when we are stressed. Most of us also don’t resonate with the introverted sensing (Si) function that much too because it’s our blind spot and we don’t see it as part of who we are.
So how can we get along with the other sensors? Before we discuss that in this article, let’s understand some of the main differences between intuitive and sensing and the problems that we might face when dealing with a sensor.
Myers Briggs Sensing Vs Intuition
First of all, there are many MBTI sensing types, each with a different cognitive function stack. So the problem we have with each of the personality types might be different. See the cognitive function stack for each of the sensors below:
Not all sensing types are the same.
Generally speaking, INFJs might prefer personality types with an extraverted sensing (Se) function (i.e. the SP types) to someone with an introverted sensing (Si) function (i.e. the SJ types) because we have Se in our INFJ cognitive function stack. We might find the SJ types too rigid in their approach while admiring the SP types’ spontaneity and their ability to live in the moment.
INFJs might also prefer SF types to ST types. That’s because the feelers tend to be more compassionate and empathetic as compared to the thinkers. Some of the ST types might be too critical for the sensitive INFJs.
Lastly, introverted sensors (IS types) are easier to get along with than extroverted sensors (ES types). INFJs might find it too exhausting to maintain a friendship or relationship with the ES types.
If you combine everything, the personality type that is the most challenging for an INFJ is ESTJ. But once again, I need to stress that MBTI compatibility does not determine the success of your love relationship. All type combinations can work. It depends on how evolved and healthy both parties are and how willing they are to work through their differences.
Here are some differences and the conflicts they can cause in our relationship with a sensor.
Examples and Differences Between Sensing and Intuition
1. Tangible vs Abstract: Different Ways of Seeing the World
Sensors find it difficult to see what we see. They trust facts, tangible information, and concrete evidence, whereas intuitives like INFJs trust speculation, insights, and hunches. They pay more attention to what they can gather from their five senses, while INFJs use their sixth sense (intuition) to look for hidden meanings behind our sense perception.
So for example, when a sensor looks at a painting, he or she sees the different colors and contrast in the painting. For an INFJ, we look at the meaning and emotions that the artist is trying to convey through the painting. Both parties appreciate the painting but we do so differently.
Conflict arises when our insights are disregarded or condemned.
INFJs find it most difficult to get along with ESTJ and ISTJ because their Si-Te combination is in direct conflict with our Ni-Fe combination. Introverted sensing (Si) and extroverted thinking (Te) are the last two functions for INFJs, while introverted intuition (Ni) and extroverted feeling (Fe) are the last two functions for ESTJs and ISTJs.
With extroverted thinking (Te) as one of their top two functions, ESTJs and ISTJs can wound INFJs with their harsh criticisms. Since their Si tendency is to uphold traditions and stick to what works in the past, our approach to life might be deemed by them to be impractical, dumb, irrational, and out of touch with reality.
Moreover, due to their lack of Fe, they find it difficult to see other people’s point of view or put themselves in other people’s shoes. This is unlike ISFJs and ESFJs who have both Fe and Si as their top two cognitive functions. Even if they don’t get our insights completely, they would still want to maintain harmony and not challenge our views. But ISTJs and ESTJs are not afraid to let us know firsthand that our ideas don’t work and continue to stress how bad our ideas are.
Their blunt comments hurt the ever-sensitive INFJs and might even anger some of us.
2. Details vs Big Picture: Different Ways of Perceiving Information
Sometimes, it’s rather difficult to communicate with a sensor because we are of a different wavelength. Sensors are more literal. If you tell them a joke, they might not get that it’s a joke. Instead, they might take what you say at face value.
Also, the speed of communication is different. When I talk to my elder brother, another intuitive (INFP), we talk very fast. There is a quick exchange of ideas, concepts, jokes, and possibilities. We intuitively get what each other are trying to convey without the need to explain in depth to each other.
But when I talk to my younger brother, a sensor (ISFP), I have to slow down a lot. Sometimes, when I’ve moved to another part of the discussion, he will ask me to repeat the first point and ask me a lot of questions. He needs the details to gain clarity about what I’m saying.
Sensors need the details.
But too much detail can stress an INFJ out.
Usually, when we INFJs speak, we talk in terms of the big picture and we want to get straight to the heart of the issue. However, sensors pay more attention to the minute details. When you tell them something, some sensors are more concerned about whether your grammar and your facts are accurate instead of listening to what you are truly trying to convey.
And this might frustrate the INFJ because the sensors are missing the point. INFJs don’t want to be tied down by the details since the details don’t help to explain the big picture.
Furthermore, INFJs are not that good with details. We don’t remember details that well. When we share a story, we might not be able to recall the exact date, time, the words exchanged, the sequence of events, and etc. Sometimes, we also jump from point to point because that’s how our introverted intuition (Ni) function works.
So if someone keeps questioning the details while we are talking, it cuts the flow of our thought process. We start to doubt ourselves and feel embarrassed when we give the wrong details or when we cannot provide the specific details they are asking. In the end, we might decide not to share our thoughts and emotions with that person anymore.
3. In the Moment vs Future-Orientated: Different Approach to Life
Sensors are down-to-earth, while intuitives are head-in-the-clouds. The Si types rely a lot on traditions, history, and rituals to decide their lifestyle. The Se types live more in the moment and day-to-day. They approach life based on the tangible, what can be seen either now or in the past.
The Ne types live their life based on future possibilities, hopes, and aspirations. The Ni types, which INFJs are part of, are more reflective and focus on what is. We consolidate information from the past and in the moment, spot the patterns, and come up with an interpretation of what it will be like in the future if we continue the same trajectory. The intuitives’ approach to life is based on the intangible and is future-orientated.
We find the sensors’ lifestyle too superficial,
while they find our lifestyle too idealistic.
INFJs have the vision to save the world or at least wish to contribute to the well-being of humanity in one way or the other. But this seems too idealistic or somewhat naive to the sensors. They focus mainly on security, money, sensory pleasures, instant gratification, and etc.
Their lifestyle might appear to be too dull, empty, or superficial for an INFJ, especially the Se type who is all about enjoying life at the moment and have no concern for the future. They dive into action without much thought or planning. We find it too short-sighted and unfulfilling to live a life like this.
In a way, the outer conflict also represents an inner conflict that INFJs have within. To a certain extent, INFJ wants material comfort and wealth (due to our inferior Se). But our idealistic nature and our vision for the world (dominant Ni) might not allow us to enjoy these sensory pleasures without the guilt. We are also afraid that we become too obsessed with them.
So an INFJ might have this hidden, mixed feeling of detest yet envy toward the extroverted sensor’s way of life.
How Can INFJs Get Along with Sensors?
1. Respect them and respect yourself.
First and foremost, we need to have some respect for them and appreciate their strengths. Even though they might not see things our way and lead their life differently from us, it doesn’t mean that what they do is wrong. They are choosing what is best for them based on their way of perceiving things.
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that our way is wrong or worse off compared to them. We too are choosing what’s best for us. It’s important that we recognize our own strengths and stay true to our preferences.
Neither is better. We are just choosing what’s best for us.
Si types enjoy security, so they prefer the status quo and aren’t that willing to make drastic changes to grow. Se types enjoy being in the moment, so they are not into planning. It’s alright. That’s no right or wrong. Happiness is subjective. All of us should lead our lives based on what we desire.
Even though there might be a lot of sensors around you telling you what you should do for your life or that your way of living is too idealistic, as a Ni type, utilize your strengths and do what intuitively feels right to you. Be committed to your path. I have an ISTJ dad who keeps insisting that I should have a full-time job but I’m so passionate and determined in my writing that he has no choice but to give up on persuading me to change. He knows that no matter what he says, I’m not budging.
However, at the same time, I know he means well and I do appreciate his strengths in Si and Te. So whenever I need advice on investment or buying technological stuff, I will approach him. This shows that I trust his opinions and I’m not despising his strengths in any way. It’s just that I’ve just chosen a path that is more suitable for me.
2. Don’t explain too much. Just do the work.
Explaining to sensors your vision or perspective doesn’t work most of the time. Words don’t help them to understand you better. The more you explain, the more you feel misunderstood and frustrated. And there’s no point in arguing with them because you will always lose. They have concrete evidence to back up what they say, but we don’t.
Our way of thinking is abstract, conceptual, and intangible. So how do we convince a sensor who trusts tangible facts to accept our point of view? Well, we show it to them.
Let them see the results and
show them what you say is not all fluff.
Since sensors need concrete evidence, you have to give them something tangible to perceive. For example, my dad doesn’t think it’s possible to be a full-time writer. Rather than spending hours trying to convince him that is possible, I spend my precious time writing. There’s also no need to tell him how much I made being a writer. When I go to him for investment advice, he will know that I’m doing financially okay. The results speak for itself eventually.
This also applies to other areas of your life. For example, if your vision is to help people, then being a happy and healthy person while you work toward your vision will show others that your perception is right. But if you end up feeling stressed and exhausted, taking care of others while neglecting yourself, then what are you showing to others? You are telling them that your ideology is merely a concept. It isn’t feasible at all. Then, how can you convince others to help people?
You will begin to have more credibility when you show up and be the best version of yourself. The sensors around you will have more faith in you and what you say. So show, don’t tell.
3. Accept that they might never understand you.
As INFJs, we have this constant yearning to be understood by others. As we are so different from the other personality types, most of us didn’t get the affirmation we need as children and we feel emotionally neglected. It’s no wonder as adults, we still try to find people who can understand us.
But the thing is, the more we seek understanding from others, the more disappointed we get, especially when we try to seek understanding from a sensor. It’s more difficult for sensors to understand our perspective than for us to understand theirs. So to get along with them, it’ll be easier to accept them and their preferences than try to make them understand us.
Stop expecting the sensors to understand you.
It will make your life easier.
Both of my parents are Si types. As mentioned, my dad is ISTJ and my mom is an ESFJ. Even though my mom is Fe-dominant and tries to cater to my needs, she didn’t have a good sense of what I need as a child, especially emotionally. Many years have passed, it’s still the same. But how can I blame them? If they can’t see beyond the tangible, they can’t.
I’m not going to them to get emotional support or hope that they will understand me one day. I’m just going to take good care of myself. You can’t force someone to use their untapped, intuitive function if they don’t want to. Isn’t it the same as they forcing us to be sensors? We just have to accept that as part of their personality like how we accept our intuition as part of our personality.
Furthermore, most of us don’t understand ourselves in the first place. INFJs have such complex and contradictory personality traits. How can we expect others to understand us? It’s our job to discover and understand ourselves fully. Then, maybe one day, we will have the words to convey our complexity to those who have the patience to listen to us.
4. Improve your sensing abilities (both Se and Si).
Intuitives are probably more unsatisfied with sensors than they are unsatisfied with us. Sensors are just following the mainstream and what most other people are doing. They are the majority. To them, we are more like the weird ones who don’t follow social conventions or the normal way of thinking.
On the other hand, intuitives feel somewhat oppressed because as a minority, we are forced to fit into a norm that isn’t in sync with what we prefer. We come with more emotional baggage because we feel that we can’t be ourselves and use our gifts to their full potential. We are like a fish being forced to climb a tree.
However, to get along with sensors, we have to do the work.
You can lament that it’s unfair: Why do we have to be the one to do the work? But if we don’t do the work, who will? Them, the sensors?
First, it’s more difficult for them to develop their intuitive skills than for us to develop our sensing skills. There are already many sensors around us who we can learn from and the world is already structured in such a manner, so you can’t miss it. Second, it’s beneficial to us when we develop our sensing functions. Our vision gets executed instead of staying as a dream. So why not? Lastly, it really helps the sensors to understand you better when you learn to speak clearly and be more specific.
As a tutor, most of my students are sensors. When they start giving me the blank look or ask me a lot of questions, I know that I’m being too vague in my communication. Perhaps I have used too many analogies or gone too fast. This is my cue to slow down, be present, find concrete examples in our day-to-day life to explain the concept, and to repeat what I’ve said step by step like an instruction booklet so that they can follow what I’m saying.
This doesn’t come naturally to me. But with time, I have gotten better at it. And you don’t have to train your sensing abilities to be better or as good as the sensors. Just make sure that they are adequately developed to communicate effectively with the sensors.
If you want to find out more about how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.
Featured Photo Credit: Nathan Clendenin