Perhaps there is not an S in your type code, so you may be wondering what I am talking about. Back when I was conducting the MBTI® Qualifying Programs (5 day workshops that later become MBTI® instrument Certification programs) we tried to emphasize that even if you prefer iNtuiting, you can access and use Sensing. But still many people would say things like, ‘We just laugh at each other because we miss street signs and do not notice the details.’ I can still remember a husband and wife, both with iNtuiting preferences, who said this in a casual setting. I wanted to object and point out how she used extraverted Sensing all the time in the attention to detail of what she was preparing for a meal and how her home was so well appointed.
I also remember when someone was showing me around the lakeside town we were in and we needed to find certain streets, I would point them out before he even saw them. He said to me, with great surprise, ‘You sure have amazing Sensing abilities for someone with an iNtuiting preference!’ My response was that I had developed a fair amount of access to extraverted Sensing in the art classes I was forced to take for my elementary teaching credential!
By this time, I had learned a lot more about how each of the eight Jungian functions show up in each of the sixteen personality types. That type code stands for a holistic pattern of cognitive processes that fill certain roles in our personality. So we do have access to all of them and sometimes we use them with skill and other times, we don’t use them, and even other times, they seem to ‘have us’ as we get stuck in what I would call archetypal use on the negative side.
Each pattern has a theme that we have given names to to express more than the ‘sum of the parts.’ When we unpack the pattern of how we are inclined to use them, we then have access to a richness to personality type that is missing from focusing on the 4 letter type code.
There are several considerations in looking at how a particular Jungian function (aka Cognitive Process) shows up in each pattern.
- What is the essence of the function? A definition that would fit all the ways it is used.
- What does it look like when very well developed?
- What does it look like when not well developed?
- What does it look like when used skillfully? (which may be different from being well developed.)
The essence of extraverted Sensing is “experiencing the immediate context and recognizing “what is.” It can involve following exciting physical impulses or instincts as they come up, it can mean total absorption in the experience of the moment, to name a few ways it shows up.
When it is well developed, extraverted Sensing provides an experience of oneness with the physical world and total absorption as we sense what is really there. We might call this sophisticated extraverted Sensing, Presencing. There is a oneness with the context such that immediate action and next steps are very apparent. Clues are noticed to see how far we can go to get the impact or result we want.
When it is not well developed and we are reacting to it, we can get caught up in what is going on and act impulsively. It is as if we are drawn out to experience more and more regardless of what is relevant or our goals might be.
What I’ve described so far is pretty much how it looks as we would expect for people with ESTP and ESFP preferences and even ISTP and ISFP preferences.
But let’s just take a look at how extraverted Sensing shows up in positive ways in several of the type patterns where it might not be expected.
One of my colleagues has ENTJ preferences. Extraverted Sensing plays a Relief role in the ENTJ pattern and as one would expect she ‘plays’ in this process often. When I went to her house for the first time, I was struck by the color coordination and the attention to detail. She is the same way with her clothing choices, always looking well put together. As a facilitator, she watches people’s expressions and tracks how they are experiencing the learning process and then instantly adapts to take those clues into account. She seems to really enjoy immersing herself in sensory experiences. I see a similar pattern in a friend with ENFJ preferences, extraverted Sensing also plays a relief role.
I gave an example of how extraverted Sensing shows up in my INTP pattern in a positive way that surprised those around me. I attribute my ability to use extraverted Sensing in a productive way to having been required to take art classes for my elementary teaching credential. Our first art assignment was to go home and bring in 20 objects that were white, but were different shades of white. And then we were taught to draw something without looking at the pencil and paper. I did it and produced a beautiful line drawing. But it is not something I can rely on. I did get some skill in using extraverted Sensing when I’m teaching and facilitating as I read the room, but that is not a strong skill. In the INTP pattern, extraverted Sensing often shows up in a Trickster role and I can get caught up in experiencing something too much and then it results in buying clothes I don’t need or eating food that is even harmful for me.
We could write a whole lot more about how extraverted Sensing shows up in different personality patterns, but you get the idea here. When Dario Nardi and I wrote the descriptions of each of the sixteen personality types in Understanding Yourself and Others, An Introduction to the Personality Type Code, we wanted to provide at least a glimmer of what each process (Jungian Function) would look like in each pattern. It was challenging to get it to match each person because what prompts us to get skill in using a Cognitive Process varies so much with the contexts we are in and our experiences. While we could give an idea, it always varies so much. I think this is one of the reasons why we ask our students in the InterStrength™ Cognitive Dynamics Certification to share lots of their own stories. And it is partly why our graduates like to join us in our journey of digging deeper into all of the cognitive Processes and retake the course over and over.
So how does extraverted Sensing show up for you? How skilled are you in using it appropriately in many situations? How often does it get a hold of you and “pull” you into behaviors you know you shouldn’t engage in? Or have you just decided that it isn’t in your type code so it isn’t important? Believe me, it is important and can be very powerful, no matter how it shows up for you.