Type at the Family Conference Table: Introverted Sensing

05 May 2016

Written by Mathew David Pauley, JD, MA, MDR

As care providers, we are often balancing experience with hope. When our patients are critically ill, we weigh our desire to help them return to normal life against our experience with all the cases we have dealt with in the past—those that had a good outcome and those that did not—and we try to make the best recommendations we can. From a type perspective, there is an intriguing analogy between analyzing data and maintaining hope and our preferences for Sensing or Intuition. And just as every person uses both Sensing and Intuition to take in information about the world, every person needs good data as much as they need hope for the future. The struggle for many care providers in finding that balance is determining where to begin.

Patients and their families also perform the same balancing act. We often hear things like, “My mother spent months on a ventilator and had an awful death—and I want to avoid that,” as much as, “Mom got over cancer three times before, so she can surely overcome this,” and “Y’know, they told me I had only six months or so left to live, and here I am alive five years later.” People with preferences for ISTJ or ISFJ use their experiences to help them understand what is happening currently and make confident decisions. Medical recommendations that fail to link facts and experience to the goals (or worse, fly in the face of them) are not endearing to Introverted Sensing types.

It is uniquely difficult for a nurse to have a loved one facing surgery because she knows—she knows the iStock_Nurse with Old Man_Smallgood and the bad, the risks and the benefits. Saying, “The surgery will go fine,” may do less to reassure her than it would run afoul of her years of experience caring for patients for whom surgery did not go fine. Baseless assurances without an empirical foundation, coupled with the inherent high level of stress in treating a loved one, can definitely trigger this nurse’s least favorite mental process, Extraverted Intuition. And whereas individuals with preferences for ENFP or ENTP like to look toward the future and possibilities, they are also savvy at discerning what is more or less likely while remaining optimistic. On the other hand, those who have preferences for ISTJ or ISFJ tend to catastrophize, which typically does not lead to making the best decisions.

For some care providers, positive reassurance is a great approach, but it’s not for everyone. It may seem counterintuitive for the critical care doctor to sit with his patient’s daughter and go over all the data covering potential risk and harm; it may seem that doing so would only exacerbate her worries. But Introverted Sensing types are at their best with handling data and nuancing it, and one shouldn’t shy away from the reality of the situation.  Once having a firm grasp of the facts of the situation, the doctor and the patient’s daughter can explore the possibilities of hope.

Want to read more? Check out my previous blogs in this series:

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