Intuitive Driving vs. Sensing Driving

I’m convinced that how we drive says a lot about us. I think it also helps explain why we get irritated at other drivers, especially when they’re sitting beside us inside the car. At its best, it gives us a greater appreciation for our differences, the flip side of which is tolerance. I like that.

So here’s what I’m thinking. How we drive partly reflects the way we perceive our world and take in information – in other words, whether we use intuition or sensing to gather data.

People who prefer intuition for perceiving things tend to see the forest … not so much the trees. They love the big picture, but details can sometimes be overwhelming (often ignored). They’re focused on the future as opposed to the present or the past, and they tend to pay attention to possibilities, patterns, and randomness. Hunches play a key role in their information gathering, and they use their sixth sense – the one that’s not so tangible. I prefer intuition.

On the other hand, people who prefer sensing for perceiving things tend to do much better with all those trees … not so much the whole forest. They love details more than the big picture, which they can find overwhelming (often ignored). They’re focused on the present (plus the past), and they tend to pay attention to details and what’s real right now. They like sequential information, in pieces, and they trust their five senses – the ones that are very tangible. Charlie prefers sensing.

It makes for an interesting ride.

Considering that we live in a world more attuned to Sensing than Intuition (the ratio is about 73% sensing to 27% intuition), look at how we navigate from here to there. Many of us use a GPS system while others use old-fashioned roadmaps.

GPS is a natural fit for Charlie (sensing), because it parcels out information in chunks, leg by leg, step by step. It’s a sensing person’s candyland. Heaven forbid I try to give him directions with several steps. His response is inevitably, “No. Just give me the next step when it’s time. I don’t need to know two steps down the road.” See? It’s sequential, not big picture. GPS is excellent for that and was undoubtedly designed by someone with a sensing preference.

For me (intuitive), that’s too restrictive. I chafe at not knowing my ultimate destination and general path. It’s a great illustration of trees vs. forest, and I covet that forest. With a roadmap, I can trace my path from A all the way to Z, thus building my journey – the big picture – firmly in my mind. Once I’ve created a general pattern of where I need to go, I can break it down (if I absolutely must). When Charlie gives me directions with several steps … oh, what am I saying? He doesn’t give me directions with several steps. He gives me the first step. And inevitably he gets this response: “What’s my end point?”
It’s more than just the big picture. Maps offer a plethora of routes between A and Z. For me, it’s all about the possibilities.

Nowadays, of course, there are hybrid versions that hit both preferences – Mapquest, Google Maps, etc. These offer an overall map with the path outlined from A to Z plus step-by-step directions. The overall map is unfortunately rudimentary, but at least it’s an option. Mind you, I also use our GPS and Charlie also reads maps, so having a preference for intuition or sensing certainly doesn’t mean you don’t ever use and appreciate the other.

A few years ago (BG – before GPS) we traveled to New York City. When we crossed over the river into the Big Apple, we suddenly realized our printed directions had gone AWOL. Panic? Maybe a shade (Charlie was driving). But I simply relied on the city maps I had pored over and together we managed to drive right to our hotel without incident. It was a proud moment for both of us, a melding of sensing and intuition.

Here’s another difference I also attribute to our perception differences. I often find myself getting into a particular lane and staying in it, even when traffic is slower there, because I know my lane turns where I need it to turn somewhere in the future. I have that end point in mind, so I will therefore drive in that lane, unless I pass a spot that triggers an alternate route or something intriguing catches my eye. Then all bets are off because the whole end point could change. That’s my intuitive approach.

Charlie doesn’t do that – he’s very much in the present. He gets caught up in moving into other lanes of traffic that are faster or smoother because, as he has asked so many times, “why do people just follow each other like lemmings when this other lane is open?” The answer I probably should proffer, as we miss the turn because we’re stuck in that fast-moving lane, is obvious to me. “So they won’t miss the turn.”
I’ll admit it. His in-the-moment driving method sometimes frustrates me. But I’ve come to realize something. He’s not frustrated a bit. Sometimes he wins and gets into the right lane at the end and sometimes he doesn’t, but for him it’s not a problem. In-the-moment means just that – he adjusts moment by moment. Overshooting the turn means little because the next segment will take care of everything. I’m quite certain he is just as frustrated by my single-lane approach.

One more example, just for fun: Charlie irritates himself when he pulls out of the garage and begins driving somewhere only to realize that he’s taken the less direct route. “Should have gone the other way. Why do I do that,” he’ll ask as he beats himself up. I have no answer for him because his pathway doesn’t register — there are many paths up the mountain and we’ll get there in any direction. It doesn’t bother me to go roundabout ways. It’s fun. There’s always something to see, new routes to explore. “Let’s drive this route,” I’ll say. “Let’s see what’s new.”

It’s nothing more than intuition vs. sensing. As the intuition-based perceiver, I’m all about possibilities and big pictures. He’s the sensing-based perceiver who’s all about segmentation, details, and realities. The more I remember that, the more fun all kinds of travel becomes, even if we do miss a turnoff, stay in the slow lane, or fight over GPS and paper maps. Maybe it’s the same for you.

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3 thoughts on “Intuitive Driving vs. Sensing Driving

  1. Kristi - ENFP says:

    I loved this Jenny – after having just taken the MBTI certification class, it made me wish that you had been our instructor! Such a perfect explanation!

  2. younglifeperception says:

    I am so happy you wrote about this. You know, I had the same exact thought not too long ago about this very same subject. As someone with Intuition, I look at everything but instead try to predict what is going to happen next. I try to predict what other drivers will do. So far it has worked well. I noticed while riding with my friends, their speed is relative to how they are feeling that day. Angry; faster, Content; slower and more laid back. One thing that interested me in the article was the GPS. I always zoom out so I can see more of the path! Also with mapquest, I look at the entire route before I read the directions. It is always exciting to think about something and then stumble upon someone else thinking the same thing later down the road.

  3. Jennifer Crow says:

    Thank you for your comment! I love the MBTI for the insight it offers me, personally. I know how I think. It continues to amaze me when I see real-life examples that reinforce what I’ve learned. I do have a love/hate relationship with GPS!

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