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by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
In Part 1, we introduced the Myers–Briggs Personality Indicator and the first pair of characteristics, Introversion and Extroversion. In Part 2 we covered the second pair, Intuition and Sensation, and in Part 3 the third pair, Thinking and Feeling. Here in Part 4 we explore the fourth pair, Perception and Judgement. Remember that everyone has, to varying degrees, both of the characteristics described in each of the pairs of attributes. The descriptions here are of extremes that rarely apply to real individuals, but rather indicate tendencies we all can recognize in ourselves and in others.
The fourth pair: Perception versus Judgement
If you’ve read prior posts in this 5-part series, you know that Carl Jung’s choice of descriptors can be somewhat problematic to our understanding the eight character traits he identified. With this fourth and final pair, we again need to blur the usual meaning of these words. The P and J characteristics differ from what we usually think of as perception and judgement.
The P here could sometimes stand for procrastinator. That, at least, is how it can appear on the surface. What the P type really indicates is a person who wants to gather as much information about a situation as possible before deciding or acting. They really do believe that an essential fact or opportunity may be revealed, right up until the final moment before a decision must be rendered or an action taken. This means that P types have, overall, a fairly high tolerance for uncertainty, because they are willing to leave things open-ended as long as possible, and don’t mind changing their minds.
The potential ramifications of this aren’t always desirable. Very broadly, a P type is somewhat more likely to be disorganized, to be chronically late, and to be indecisive (though this varies, as with all MBTI types, as everyone has all eight characteristics to a varying extent.) We could surmise that P types are probably the ones with the messy desks and messy rooms. And they can be frustrating to deal with, since they might seem hard to pin down, don’t want to commit, or are always thinking something better might come along. Come to think of it, this describes a lot of relationship problems, doesn’t it?
On the positive side, Ps can be refreshingly spontaneous, because they don’t make their minds up way in advance. They can be thoughtful, because they’re open to new information. And Ps are eminently flexible, which can be a very good thing—because sometimes, new information does comes up and new opportunities do arise, “late in the game.”
J types, by contrast, do not like uncertainty, at all. They want to collect the minimum amount of information necessary (within their own way of thinking and behaving) to make a decision or to take action, and then close the door. Indeed, judgement is an accurate descriptor for these people in the sense that they are in a rush to judgment, or at least to reach a decision. The hardest thing for a J type to bear is the time between having to make a decision, and making one.
Obviously, J types are decisive, an admirable quality. However, a compulsion to make decisions with inadequate information is a liability, not a strength. At their worst, J types go off half-cocked, and because they’re convinced they are right (they dislike changing their minds because it means having to admit new information), others might be left picking up the pieces that result from imprudent decisions.
Of all the characteristic pairs, this one is the biggest potential deal breaker in relationships. This could be as simple as one partner interpreting the other’s chronic lateness as disrespect, or a lack of caring, or selfishness. Whereas the P may be late for their own funeral: there was just too much other interesting stuff going on! It could also manifest as messiness vs neatness; differing views on commitment; or a fairly rigid J-type trying to live with an uber-flexible P-type.
Visit the website of the Myers–Briggs Foundation »
Of the many excellent books and articles that explore MBTI to varying degree, What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are does a great job of simplifying the Myers-Briggs tool, making it easy to understand and apply to your own life »