The ever popular Myers-Briggs Type test categorizes people into a complex mixture of personality types. In a previous post, we discussed the differences between sensing and intuition. This time, we aim to tackle another of the dichotomies (out of the 4): judging and perceiving. Knowing where you fall within these two personality types can give you an idea of how you operate and interact with the outside world.
The two terms immediately bring to mind certain stereotypes – judging is assumed to mean “judgmental,” and perceiving is assumed to mean “perceptive,” but, as we will see, these are far from the actual Myers-Briggs definitions.
These two categories are often confused and misunderstood. What do they really mean, and is one better than the other?
J Is For Judging
If you have scored high, or lean towards being a “Judging” personality, never fear; it does not mean you are a nasty, judgmental jerk. It does not mean you are cold or calculating either.
People with a judging personality tend to be orderly, seek closure, organized, planners, responsible, decisive, controlled, task oriented, and like structure. These people are often found in the following roles: overseer, supporter, chief, examiner, mentor, defender, and strategist.
As you can see, there is nothing inherently negative here – they are not judgmental, they simply prefer to operate within a more structured setting when it comes to external interactions.
They clearly outline their needs and wants, and like having matters settled before moving on. They are not the neater, cleaner, neurotic, uptight party poopers most people believe them to be. While they may veer towards the more self-disciplined, and assertive part of the personality spectrum, it does not mean that they are bad, rigid, aloof robots.
A structured, self-disciplined, responsible person who likes clarity, is a boon to your team at work; and when it comes to personal relationships, you will always know where you stand with them. That’s not so bad now, is it?
P Is For Perceiving
Conversely, if you have scored higher on the Perceiving end of the Myers-Briggs test, this doesn’t mean you’re some kind of a wishy-washy, directionless flake, or that you’re a disorganized slob.
People who display more of a perceiving personality find structure limiting, like keeping their options open, and value flexibility. They make decisions, but only after weighing all the possibilities, and doing so when they absolutely must. They are adaptable, relaxed, carefree, dislike routine, enjoy spontaneity, and like to absorb knowledge.
They can often be found in the following roles: persuader, entertainer, artist, originator, craftsman, advocate, engineer and dreamer, to name but a few.
This personality type has nothing to do with your skills of observation, i.e., how you ‘perceive’ the world around you; like judging, it has to do with how you prefer to interact with the world. Again, it is not an inherently ‘bad’ or ‘good’ type. Perceivers are not necessarily ‘nicer’ or alternatively, ‘messier,’ they simply prefer to maintain control by having more options available to them.
Someone who is tolerant of changes and differences, adaptable, and spontaneous, would also make a good work team member. In a personal relationship, they would be great sources of new ideas, and be easy to deal with because they tend to be flexible and adapt quickly to sudden change. Life will not be boring with a perceiver around.
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What If I’m Both?
An important thing to remember is that none of these categories are absolutes. You can be both judging and perceiving. Being more of one doesn’t preclude you from being some of the other. They are also not necessarily in opposition to one another. You can have a combination of the judging and perceiving that balance out perfectly for you.
You can be 50/50, 20/80, 30/70. No single person is devoid of all judging skills, or devoid of all perceiving skills; we just have them in differing amounts, with most of us leaning more heavily towards one or the other.
For example, I took a pared down version of the Myers-Briggs test just out of curiosity to see where I would land, and it showed that I am 52% judging and 48% perceiving – almost 50/50. This is precisely where I felt I would be, and I can see it reflected in the places where I choose structure, and the places where I opt for flexibility in my life.
Judging: I love and require structure because of the work I do, i.e., I freelance and it requires a lot of self-discipline. I also enjoy working towards tangible goals, and I’m the queen of the to-do list. Everything is written down and checked off, and I like knowing a job is settled before tackling the next one.
Perceiving: I also freelance for a living because I detest formal office structure; the traditional 9-5 environment has never been for me, I find it incredibly stifling. I prefer to make my own hours, define my work parameters, keep my options open for whatever work comes my way, and learn new things.
How To Use Your Results
Do I feel divided or confused by my results? On the contrary, I think the blend of the two makes perfect sense for how I navigate the world. In my day-to-day affairs, I tend to lean a tiny bit more towards judging, but as you can see, that doesn’t mean I can’t be a perceiver as well.
While your results will tell you who you are, and how you function externally, they shouldn’t be deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ The results are uniquely you, they should be used as a guide, not a mantra.
Myers-Briggs results are often used in workplace tests because these personality types give the people who work with you insight into how you think, feel, and operate. They tell others how you prefer to deal with situations, and how you like to be dealt with in return.
The only issue with these tests is that you run the risk of the results being used as unchangeable descriptors that don’t allow for variance or exceptions. There will always be exceptions to the rule because people are messy and complicated creatures that are not so easily compartmentalized.
Just remember, there is no one-upmanship here, one is not better than the other, be you a judger, or a perceiver; they are just different ways of moving through life and meeting its challenges.