Know Who You Are – Judging and Perceiving

On a scale of 1 to 10, how judgmental are you? Be honest here, people. How about this: On a scale of 11-20, how perceptive would you say you are? 17? Hm. Interesting.

Well, no need to share those results with us, because they have nothing to do with what we’re talking about today. (Also, those scales are nonsense. 11 to 20? That’s crazy.)

Judging and perceiving are what’s represented in the final letter of your Myers Briggs type as either a J or an F, and they do not reflect whether you are an especially judgmental or perceptive kind of person.

The J or the F at the end of your type tell us two things. First, they tell us which of your middle two letters is strongest when you’re interacting with the world. Sensing and intuition (S and N) are perceiving functions — they tell us how you absorb information — so if you have a P at the end of your type, it’s pointing back there. (Example: If you are an ESTP, the P points back to the S, meaning that being a sensory processor is what people see most strongly about you.) Thinking and feeling (T and F) are judging functions — they tell us how you make decisions — so if you have a J at the end of your type, it’s pointing there. (Example: If you are an INTJ, the J points to the T, meaning that being a rational decision-maker is what people see most strongly about you.)

More on all that another time, because that’s some complicated stuff right there.

The second thing those letters tell us is the focus of what we’re actually going to be looking at today. Judging and perceiving have to do with how we structure our worlds. Judgers tend to like having things decided, they like having a plan, and they like having things tidy around them. Perceivers generally like leaving their options open, they enjoy the freedom to be adaptable or spontaneous, and they’re usually perfectly content with a little clutter.

This certainly has some impact in the workplace. Judgers like to have a plan and will typically finish projects on time or ahead of schedule, while perceivers are more likely to wait until closer to the last minute, when the pressure of a deadline may actually draw out some of their best work. The adaptability of perceivers means that they’re able to recognize where changes may be advantageous and adjust their work to match those changes. Judgers struggle with making changes to the plan but are instrumental in keeping a project or idea on track.

It probably goes without saying that there can be some frustrations on both sides when judgers and perceivers work together, but when they’re able to work together well they can create something amazing. Where a task-oriented but open-minded judger and a go-with-the-flow but responsible perceiver intersect, great things can happen. Both of those are so valuable, and they’re even better when they intentionally and humbly balance each other out.

The problem with balancing each other out is…people sometimes become what they need to be in a professional setting, and that doesn’t necessarily reflect who they’re really wired to be. This is especially true in a business partnership. Sometimes you have two perceivers running a business together, and if one of them is a bit more of an extreme perceiver, the other may find they need to function as a judger in order to make sure tasks get done and they stay on track with their goals. Over time that person may come to believe that they are in fact a judger, when really they’ve just become good at behaving like one. (This can be just as true for two judgers working together. One may find that they need to function as a perceiver in order to make sure they can be flexible and adapt as a business, but this does not make the person a perceiver.)

A good way to know if this is going on with you is to think about how you are in your home life as compared to your work life. If you can be super organized at work but you come home and there’s no order to your environment or your personal schedule, then chances are you’re a perceiver who has learned to function as a judger at work. If you’re laid-back at work but your personal life is very structured, then you may very well be a judger who has learned to function as a perceiver at work.

It’s important to know this because it can create some underlying tension in your life if you are functioning too long and too consistently in a way that is contrary to how you’ve been wired to function. My minivan was not made for off-roading. (This is going somewhere, I promise. And I know nothing about cars, so it’ll be good.) If some insanity prompts me to suddenly drive out of town and then take a shortcut home by driving through the desert sands, I may be able to get my minivan from Point A to Point B, but it probably won’t be doing too well by the time we get there. It’s going to need a rest, it’ll probably need a tune-up, and that’s assuming my little adventure doesn’t do the minivan in altogether.

The minivan might able to temporarily function as an off-road vehicle because I need or want it to, but that’s not good for the minivan. You might be able to function in a way that’s opposite to how you’re wired if that’s required of you, but long-term that may not be healthy for you.

Here we’re going to stray from the minivan example, though, because unlike the minivan, functioning in a way that’s different from how you’re wired is not necessarily unhealthy, either. No one should be all perceiver all the time or all judger all the time. As in all of these categories, we all reflect both sides of the coin at one time or another, it’s just that we primarily reflect one particular side. It’s a good thing to learn how to reflect the other side well, so if your work situation is not causing you to make excessive changes, then you may just have to look at it as good practice and then find healthy outlets for you to function as you were made to when you’re off the clock.

Being required to function differently than how you’re wired is one thing that can make it difficult to really know who you are. Another thing that can make it difficult is comparing yourself to others, and I have seen that happen in this category more than any other. If you are married to an über-J, it doesn’t mean you’re NOT a judger. If your best friend is an über-P, it doesn’t mean you’re NOT a perceiver. It can be easy to look at yourself next to someone who is super-duper organized and tidy (or super-duper disorganized and spontaneous) and think that because you’re not as super-duper organized and tidy (or as super-duper disorganized and spontaneous), you must be the opposite type, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you took the test at 16personalities.com, you may recall that your results came with a percentage attached to each letter. That percentage is not an absolute, but it’s still useful to know that for both judgers and perceivers, some test at 51% in that category and some test at 99%, and most test everywhere in between. Some people are simply wired to be extremely ordered or extremely adaptable, and some are wired to be mildly ordered or mildly adaptable. So don’t let someone else’s style affect who you think you are.

As you understand more of who you are, embrace all the strengths of your type while being committed to working on the weaknesses. Both of these types bring so much value to the table, and it would be foolish for either of us to think ourselves superior to the other. We both bring value and we both have lots to learn from each other.

What’s something you feel you can learn from the other type? What’s something you can embrace about your own type? All of this information is fun on a surface level, but internalizing the information and taking time to consider the practical ways it can impact your life is when it starts to matter in very real ways. So think about these things, and let us know your thoughts!

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