Getting Along: Judging vs Perceiving

My picture nameI once heard of a head of a major corporation who used to say proudly to his associates, "I may have my faults, but I am able to make decisions." Apparently that was something of which he was quite proud. To him, it seemed to mean that unlike others who would dither between two choices, he was "the man". He could settle any confusion with a firm decision. The problem, according to reports I heard, is that he often made preemptive decisions which were not necessary, and which only made things worse.

He was proud of his ability to decide, but wasn't aware that this came naturally because of his personality type, rather than being a virtue that made him better than other people. Such people in business, as well as at home, can appear arbitrary and unrealistically confident.

I've talked before about how we take in information about the world around us, either with our five senses (sensing), or through our sixth sense (intuition). Do we take in many, many details and build up a complete picture or do we just instinctively know things? Once we've taken in information about the world around us (there is a polar bear in the living room), we have to make a decision about it. We do that either with our head (thinking) or with our heart (feeling). If it is with our head, we are making rational, logical decisions - does this make sense? (what is the most logical way to deal with the polar bear in my living room?). If it is with our heart, then we are making decisions based on our values - is it kind, generous, fair, decent, etc. (what is the kindest way to deal with the polar bear in my living room?)

Now that we know how we take in information, with sensing or intuition, and how we make decisions, with our thinking or feeling, the questions is: do we prefer to make decisions (I must get this polar bear out of my living room now!) or hold out for more information (let's look around and see if there are any more polar bears in the house, and not rush into a decision)? In business do you want to look at all the options or just a representative sample before you make a decision? Are you someone who prefers the head or the heart, who prefers making decisions or leaving things open?

To help us get more of a sense of the difference, here is another snap quiz.

Are you more likely to:

  • Organize, set priorities, and decide about things?
  • Find security in structure, even if it changes tomorrow?
  • Make categories, decisions, lists?
  • Automatically come to some assessment of what you are dealing with?
  • Be impatient?

What is your Judging score? Does this sound like you or others you know? How do you find working beside people like this?

Are you someone who prefers the five senses or the sixth, prefers leaving things open to jumping to a decison? Do you believe that:

  • Something new might appear, and therefore you shouldn't rush to make unnecessary decisions?
  • There is excitement and variety in exploring new routes?
  • It is important to be available for many interesting options?
  • Decisions may eliminate interesting choices?

What was your score of Perception like? Does this sound like you or someone else in the office?

I'll give a quick example of these types can get into conflict. Several years ago, my son Stephen was working at a newspaper and when I had a problem with my printer toner cartridge, he charged over to fix it, claiming that he knew all about malfunctioning printers from his work at the paper. I'm a perceptive type and Stephen is judger and our types started to conflict. I told him that we should wait and try to get some more information. Showing great disdain for my inability to get things done, he pulled the printer cartridge out and shook it violently back and forth , which was how they got low cartridges to work at the paper. After we cleaned the ink off of ourselves, the computer, my desk and the carpet, he cautiously allowed that maybe we should have waited.

I was right in that case, but this sort of thing happens all the time. In fact there is a considerable difference between people with different preferences. The critical source of misunderstanding about the judging types is that at their worst they endlessly repeat the rules, and are the worst kind of bureaucrats. At their best, they get a lot done because of their ability to organize things.

Perceptive people at their worst are insecure, indecisive and resistant, behaving like a child. At their best they are a curious discoverer of the world's secrets, although it is not necessary to do anything about them.

The problem, as usual, is that we don’t trust each other. A perceptive person at work is not going to trust the judgers, because they always roar off and make decisions without having all the facts. Likewise, judgers are not going to trust the perceptive types, because they drag their feet endlessly and never get anything done, do they?

The problem is two-fold: that we don't trust what we don't understand; and that a good team needs people of both types to work effectively. The only solution that I know of is to get to know my own type more and to realize that every other type is just as legitimate as mine -- I can learn from each of them. Business and other relationships always swim along much easier if all of us can learn to be more open to other types.

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A lens with a view

Judging and Perceiving are part of the Jungian Type Inventory, a preference to approach life in a structured or a flexible way. But they are also a lens through which we view ourselves and others. Judging implies negative evaluation, while perceiving means seeing and understanding. When we choose to view with awareness, we are choosing love over fear.

A rubber-band effect

I have a friend who is apparently pushed into J-type behavior by her job -- she works for a consulting company, doing change management/leadership stuff and designing training classes for new software projects.

When she is not on the job, she often goes into "P-mode" -- where she bounces from one thing to another as the inspiration strikes her. Sometimes this flightiness makes her seem unreliable, but I try to understand that she's just doing her thing.

Is this effect relatively typical? If we have to behave in certain ways that are not like our "natural" type, do we often find ourselves swamped with the "opposite" impulses when we're free to choose?

Do you procrastinate?

getting along

I appreciate both or your comments. The first one indicates a frequent misunderstanding, which I had for some time, of this section of Jung's theory of types. Judging sounds like it means judgmental but it really means liking things settled. My comment about Steve moving to save the day with my toner cartrage is typical. He was not being judgmental simply going quickly towards a solution. Like some judging solutions it only worked after making quite a mess.

The other comment is also a good one. People who are fundamentally perceptive types can function in a structured world but, like you say, they need to relax and let the rules lapse whenever possible. Both of these issues can be confusing for people. Since we all have both tendencies, we can, with difficulty function out of our inferiour side for a while. As the coal miners in our end of the country say: "You can only shovel left handed for so long." After a while it exhausts us and we have to revert to our natural way of functioning..
Henry Sharam