Myers-Briggs Under Pressure: Sensing

by Ron Potter

I’m telling you it won’t work!! We’ve tried this a hundred times and it just never gets us anywhere. No, this is not a new approach and it won’t get us any closer than the last effort. We’re missing something. We just don’t have enough information to make the final decision. Now leave me alone so I can get the information we need from marketing, demographics, customer surveys, the last time we tried this, the data base, the internet, etc, etc, etc.”

(If you didn’t start with the introduction to this “Myers-Briggs Under Pressure” series, I suggest you make a quick review because it will help you better understand these subsequent blogs.)

Norm is stuck! He can’t seem to find his way out and he wants the security of more information and data. Often that information and data doesn’t exist, especially when we’re trying to make decisions about new directions or innovative approaches. Norm’s dominant function is Sensing (need for detail and information) and his inferior function is iNtuitive (conceptual and future focused).

There are four types that have this particular combination, the Introverted ISTJ, ISFJ and the Extraverted ESTP, ESFP. As noted above the dominant in all four cases is Sensing and the inferior in all four cases is iNtuitive. These are what’s known as our Perceiving functions, how do we perceive the world around us? These are the functions that we use to take in the information that we’ll need to eventually make a decision.

In a healthy state, these Perceiving functions would work in tandem with the “deciding” functions of Thinking or Feeling depending on type. But, under pressure or stress, Norm begins to lose this natural balance, falling back to his dominant function which has a need for more and more data and becomes unable to combine it with his deciding function to keep things moving along. Norm becomes very pessimistic about the future.

Balance, Balance, Balance

This is where team members and colleagues come into play. It’s difficult for any one of us to break out of these pressure packed situations. As colleagues, we want to help Norm back into a balanced state by asking and sometimes even forcing him to use his auxiliary function. Notice that Norm’s auxiliary function could be either Thinking or Feeling depending on type. Let’s start with the Thinking balance.

“Norm, what do you think the answer will turn out to be?”

“I told you I haven’t gathered enough information.”

“I know, but tell me what you’ve figured out so far.”

“Not much”

“That’s OK, just share the pieces that you’ve thought about. Even if they’re still open questions in your mind.”

As we begin to force Norm to try a little balancing act, he’ll begin to regain his footing. Note that we can’t tell Norm what we’re thinking. It has to be the act of balancing his own functions of Sensing and Thinking that begins to restore his sense of balance and allows him to begin functioning on a more normal basis for his own type.

If we’re dealing with either the ISFJ or ESFP than Feeling is the auxiliary function, not Thinking. The approach is similar, just using Feeling questions rather than Thinking questions,

“Norm, what’s bothering you about this decision?”

“I don’t know yet I just know something’s not right.”

“Let’s talk through the source of your concern.”

“I don’t even know what that is yet, I haven’t gathered enough data to even express what’s bothering me.

“Well, give me some clues. Is it a concern about values? Are you concerned about how people will react or be affected? Is it more anger or fear?”

As Norm begins to answer these very basic Feeling questions, he begins exercising his own balancing mechanisms and it begins to help him out of the rut. Norm is regaining balance.

It doesn’t help to point things out or share what we think or feel about the situation. Our job is to help Norm regain his own, natural balance.

Stay tuned, this was just the first of four installments about working under stress titled “Myers-Briggs Under Pressure”. Come back and join us for future installments.

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