Say What?! Myers Briggs and The Communication Conundrum

Bridging the gap between Myers Briggs iNtuitives and Sensories

A Myers Briggs iNtuitive and Sensory walk into a meeting…

Have you ever wondered why certain meetings with certain people fly by, full of fun and accomplishment, while others feel awkward, bloated and ineffective?

No, you have not entered “The Twilight Zone.”  Welcome to…

The Myers Briggs Communication Conundrum

A conundrum is “a confusing and difficult problem, question, or riddle.” One riddle in relationships is how to bridge the gap between Myers Briggs pairings. The (E)xtroverts and (I)ntroverts, the (T)hinkers and (F)eelers, the organized (J)udgers and spontaneous (P)erceivers can at least understand, if not share, the perspective of their paired type.

The trickiest gap to bridge spans the second letter in our Myers Briggs type: i(N)tuitives and (S)ensories. This N/S cognitive function defines input – how we take in information – and it directly affects our output in a meeting.

iNtuitives, as the name suggests, glean information from beneath the surface, through hunches and bursts of insight.  Theirs is a deeper, quirkier dive into the land of abstraction, theory, concept, and hidden connection.

An iNtuitive’s internal brilliance can manifest as a predilection for weird independent films, nuanced humor, and surprising leaps. These types – also called “Idealists” – are full of ideas, and don’t always notice what is happening around them. An iNtuitive’s genius burrows deep – think of Albert Einstein’s paradigm-shifting perspectives, of his uncombed hair and wrinkled shirt.

Sensories, on the other hand, gather information through their five senses. They are “Explorers” of the tangible world that’s in front of them, in real-time.

Sensories don’t delve into the hidden depths beneath the “here and now” – they live in, and through, the external world. A Sensory’s brilliance, like Sherlock Holmes’, is literal, descriptive, and tends towards pragmatism.

So what’s the conundrum in N/S communication?

Both the N and the S want to create great meetings and solve problems, but they define good communication differently: For an N, as a web of deeper connections and future possibilities; for an S, as a concrete set of conditions and solutions found in the here and now.

And so: They can often miss – and dismiss – each other.

In one meeting with a leadership team I shared my insights about how to use their new strengths and personality tools to improve outcomes. As an iNtuitive, I could “see” in my mind’s eye the concepts I was describing – and the connections among them.  But when a Sensory on the team repeatedly asked for a concrete, step-by-step recipe, I realized I had unwittingly entered the Communication Conundrum Zone.

I understood the dynamics on the team as a web of relationships and conceptual patterns – and I expressed myself that way. It made sense to the other iNtuitive leaders, but to the Sensory it was a foreign language: There was nothing tangible to grab onto.

I’ve seen this with clients in my Free to Shine!℠ program: while iNtuitives speak my native language, Sensories often ask me to translate what I’m saying into concrete terms and real-life examples.

Solving the Conundrum

The key in a meeting is to recognize, and value, both N and S input styles, and to adopt one’s output accordingly, in service to a solution:

Honor your iNtuitives’ leaps from A to Z and you will unleash their genius for uncovering hidden patterns.

Invite the iNtuitives to share their insights, connections and creative ideas. It’s YES time:  Their ideas may not be immediately practical, but they provide new options, and fertile ground for nurturing them. Just let your Sensories know that the group is in a brainstorming stage, so they will feel less lost, impatient, or frustrated.

Sensories thrive on concrete data points and real-world connections – and will gift you with practical observations and solutions in return.

When it’s time to land on a solution, your Sensory types will ground the options in the here and now. iNtuitives can be reminded that, while their ideas have merit, it’s time for practical, hands-on implementation.

Einstein and Holmes on the Case: A Powerful Combination

I’ve seen the power of a Visionary “N” Leader and a Boots-on-the-Ground “S” Second-in-Command or COO who understand and honor each other. And I’ve seen the frustration and disconnection when they don’t.

A recent iNtuitive, Idealist leader I’ll call Max struggles to say “No” to clients. He easily leaps from now into possibility, from A to Z without considering the 24 letters in between. He often puts his team – and his Sensory COO Lauren – in a bind as they strive to juggle new demands and overlapping obligations.

By understanding this dynamic, and the superpowers and kryptonite inherent in their N/S input functions, they found a simple solution:

Instead of automatically saying “Yes” in every client meeting, Max now says “Great idea! Let me check with Lauren to make sure we can serve you in that time frame.” Max gets to keep his idea alive and tell the client he wants to serve them, while promising that the company – through Lauren’s superpower – would consider all the letters from A to Z.

Lauren is relieved that she no longer has to disappoint clients with a practical “No” after her boss’ visionary “Yes.”  She can focus on the practical steps, guided by Max’s deeper vision.

Your Turn

So, the next time you’re feeling a little awkward, confused or frustrated in a meeting, consider that you may have bumped into a Communication Conundrum. The lens of Myers Briggs can provide a perspective shift.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you and your team to take the Myers Briggs assessment, discover where you stand on the N/S spectrum, and adjust your expectations – and your meetings – accordingly.

In the meantime, if you have questions about how to apply strengths and personalities on your team, or if you’d like to learn more about how my Shine From Your Original Design℠ for Teams program can help you improve engagement, communication and bottom-line results on your team, I’d love to chat with you!

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