See that header image up there? Four puzzle pieces not quite fitting together? It’s one thing to understand what each individual piece of our personality type means. It’s a whole other game to look at how those pieces all fit together, and sometimes it can feel like they just don’t. But this is where it gets really good, where this whole thing starts to switch from learning interesting facts to actually understanding on a deeper level. By the end of this article, I hope you find those pieces falling into place!
A friend of mine is an NP, meaning she is an intuitive and she’s a perceiver. Her husband is an SJ, meaning that he is a sensor and a judger. (See this post and this one if you need a refresher on what those mean.) She told me once that her version of communication sometimes causes stress to him, because she frequently dreams aloud and he hears all her dreams, thinks she’s serious, and starts mentally trying to figure out how on earth they can make her whole range of ideas work.
You’d think that eventually they’d understand this well enough to not have miscommunication anymore, but at some point as we were talking it struck me that my husband Todd and I are the same, but switched. He’s the NP and I’m the SJ, and I can attest to the fact that knowing this about ourselves does not make the miscommunication stop.
Let’s unpack why this is. Sensors (S) see the world as it is, through what they can observe with their senses. They see (and like) details. Intuitives (N) see the world as it could be, through something like a gut instinct that reveals possibilities. They see (and like) the big picture, and have more of a reputation for being dreamers.
Now, judgers (J) approach the world in an orderly way and tend to like structure, schedules, and predictability. Perceivers (P) approach the world in an adaptable way and tend to like spontaneity and variety. They generally don’t mind moving the goalposts on an idea or project.
SO, when an intuitive (N) is also a perceiver (P), you have a person who sees the world in terms of dreams and possibilities and is perfectly comfortable going with the flow and changing their goals along the way. All N’s are dreamers and big picture thinkers to some degree (that’s what makes them an N), but when you couple that N with a P you end up with an uber-dreamer.
And when a sensor (S) is also a judger (J), you’ve got a person who sees facts and details and always wants to know the plan. To some extent, all S’s are detail people who like to be able to see the way forward, but when you add a J to that you’ve got an uber-decider!
I’ve referred to NP’s as dreamers and SJ’s as deciders. At GiANT (an awesome organization I’ve mentioned before), they refer to it as using provisional or promise language. It amounts to the same thing: When NP’s talk, they assume the people around them are hearing hypotheticals. And when SJ’s listen, they assume they’re being given a plan. Those assumptions are real and they are important!
This is why miscommunication continues to happen when you have NP’s working with SJ’s, whether that’s in marriage or business or any other context. Remember, I’m an SJ, and even though I know that Todd is an NP, and even though I can sometimes tell that he’s in dreaming mode, there are many times that I hear the words coming out of his mouth and it sounds for all the world like he’s telling me what he definitely wants to do. And maybe I bristle because I don’t like the idea, or I start to stress because it seems impractical, or I get excited because I really love it, and at some point he has to say “Hang on, hang on, I don’t even think this is going to happen, I was just curious what you’d think.”
What?! I feel like I’ve been emotionally pranked! But for NP’s, talking about ideas with people they care about is something they really love, and dreaming together is a way to build closeness. If you’re an SJ and have experienced this same thing, don’t think the NP’s in your life are just trying to jerk you around. Far from it. Dreaming big is such a fundamental part of how they’re wired, they just want to bring you in on the process.
And if you’re an NP, don’t think that SJ’s are trying to stomp on your fun or squelch your creativity (although to the SJ’s out there: beware of trying to squelch creativity!). If you’re wanting to dream and the SJ in your life is trying to move on to details, it’s because they care about making your dream a reality, because they care about YOU.
This difference becomes even more exaggerated when you look at the third letter of a person’s type. If an SJ is also a thinker (the ISTJ’s and the ESTJ’s out there), that rational component represented by the T is going to make them absolutely intent on having a workable plan. And if an NP is also a feeler (INFP’s and ENFP’s), that relational component represented by an F is going to cause them to stay even more thoroughly in the world of possibility, because now you’ve added the element of how those dreams affect the people around them, and that might always be changing.
Todd’s and my types don’t go that direction. Todd is an ENTP, so he has the big dreamer element represent by the N and the P, but, being a thinker, he’s driven enough to make those dreams reality. He doesn’t get stuck in dreaming mode. He dreams big AND he makes big things happen.
And I am an ISFJ, so even though the SJ in my type makes me want to deal in details and what is really going to happen, the feeler (F) in me makes me open to the idea of change so long as I can see that it’s best for those around me.
So those are the extremes. NP’s are uber-dreamers and NFP’s are super-uber-dreamers. SJ’s are uber-deciders and STJ’s are super-uber-deciders.
For everyone else, a tendency towards dreaming or deciding is going to depend quite a bit on the individual person.
What about NJ’s? They’re big dreamers who also like structure and predictability. Maybe they place limits on themselves in terms of how much time they can devote to blue-sky thinking before moving on to a plan. Or maybe their dreamy thoughts are also very orderly. Maybe they have a clear picture of how they want to move forward with their dreams. Maybe their ability to see the big picture has more to do with understanding what will bring benefit and what will bring harm to themselves and those around them.
And how about SP’s? They see the details around them and like to know what they’re dealing with but also tend to be adaptable and spontaneous. Maybe they take in the details of their environment so that they’re ready to adapt to whatever comes next. Maybe when they’re working under the pressure of a deadline they are able to do their best work because of the information they’ve previously taken in. For many SP’s, their attention to detail has more to do with an appreciation for aesthetic beauty, including fashion, art and music.
If you are an NJ or an SP, think about which letter is keeping the other in check, or whether one letter is changing how the other shows itself. Many people can share the same personality (or aspects of personality), and yet see it play out in very different ways.
That is beauty of how we’re all wired — similar enough to feel a sense of companionship, and different enough to be truly unique.
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