Using MBTI to Great Advantage – Perceiving

by Ron Potter

Using MBTI to Great Advantage is a blog series in which I’ll do an overview of each of the four Myers-Briggs (MBTI) functions and then in subsequent blogs will dig into each one in more depth with some practical applications for creating better dynamics and better decisions making. Click here to read the Series Introduction.


Perceiving (Attending) Overview: Sensing vs iNtuitionMBTI series header

We looked at an overview of our Energizing function in the last Myers-Briggs (MBTI) blog. Now let’s look at the Perceiving function.

For many years the MBTI referred to this function as your attending function, “What do you pay attention to? or What is your preferred source of information?” However, more recently they have gone back to Carl Jung’s (MBTI is based on Jung’s original analytical psychology work studying healthy personality types) original description of perceiving, “Through what lens do you perceive the world around you?”

Also note that was not a typo when I identified the second function as iNtuition. Myers and Briggs had already used the “I” indicator for the introverts so chose to use the “N” indicator for intuition. On this function your natural preference will be either an S or and N.

If you happen to be a more natural “sensing” type, you will tend to “pay attention to” facts, figures, what’s in the present, the immediate problem and what’s “real”. This is how you “perceive” the world around you.

If you happen to be a more natural “iNtuitive” type, you will pay attention to the possibilities, how might this play out in the future, what are the implications of the issue we’re dealing with? And maybe more importantly, does this fit into the world as “I believe it should be?”


Decision Making Function. This function is the first “decision making” function. It identifies where and how we gather our information, what information we gather and pay attention to and what information we tend to put more stock in when it comes to making our decisions (which will be the next function we discuss). We all have what is known as confirmation bias (the book Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization by Edward Hess is a good source of understanding) where we tend to look at and accept only data that agrees with our beliefs of how things work (or should work). Understanding your Perceiving function and balancing it with a great team (this one is difficult to balance within us personally so it takes a trusted team to provide the balance) is incredibility valuable to you personally, the team and the company.

Hidden cause of confusion. Like Extraverted and Introverted preferences (previous blog overview) this function is a hidden cause for much team confusion and misunderstanding. Because we use our preferred function to ask and answer questions, if we’re not clear as a team one person may be asking a Sensing question “What is the impact of only hitting 87% of our goal this month?” while someone provides an iNtuitive response “There is no impact at all because the entire market is going to shift over the next three years.” This is like two ships passing in the night. Teams must be disciplined about aligning Sensing and iNtuitive questions with Sensing and iNtuitive answers.

Therefore, the same three rules apply to working more effectively: Balance, Balance, Balance. What I’ve discovered in business is that good leaders have often figured out their need for balance on this one to run a business effectively because if you let this one get out of balance for too long, you will lose the business. It’s great to create balance in the other three functions. It’s critical that you balance this one if you’re running a business.

So remember the three rules:

  1. Balance
  2. Balance
  3. Balance

You can’t be sure of what you’re learning or need to learn unless you balance this function.

Share with us some of your balancing act stories.

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