Myers-Briggs In-Depth: Judging vs Perceiving

by Ron Potter

MeyersBriggsIn-DepthWork or Play

I have set up the following two signs in a team meeting:

  • I have to get my work done before I can play.
  • I can play anytime

I then ask the team to position themselves along the spectrum between those two signs.  Once positioned it almost always correlates between their Judging vs Perceiving preference on this scale.  The J’s have a much clearer definition (and more differentiating) of what’s work and what’s play.  The P’s have a less clear and differentiating definition of what’s work and what’s play and certainly don’t believe that play has to wait until the work is done.

Business World Imbalance

Although not to the degree that we saw in the Thinking vs Feeling imbalance, my data base includes about two thirds with a preference for the Judging side and about one third on the Perceiving side.  Often this is a trained function.  The Judging function includes words like:

  • Plan the work and work the plan
  • Get things decided, settled, and finished
  • Dislike surprises
  • Decide quickly and expect others to follow through

While our Perceiving preference includes words like:

  • Enjoys flexibility
  • Take time to search for options
  • Like adapting to last minutes changes
  • Expect others to adapt to changes in direction

Much of the business world prides itself with the Judging approach to the world and even those who may fall more naturally on the Perceiving side have been trained and disciplined in the Judging functions.

How do you like your Vacation Structured?

One of the best ways for me to get at the true personal preference on this scale is to ask people what their ideal vacation looks like.  The more natural Judging types (like myself) want the schedule and events settled and planned in advance.  I want my airline tickets in place, hotel reservations confirmed, specific days and times for sightseeing, playing golf, relaxing, having “spontaneous” fun.  Did you notice that?  Scheduled spontaneous fun!?!  Yup, that’s us J’s.

Our Perceiving friends and family members on the other hand would tell us, don’t bother me with any of that detail, let’s just get up see what happens.  Maybe we’ll do nothing, maybe we’ll decide to do something, we’ll figure out what sounds like fun in the moment.  In the personal world you can easily see the different types.  Not so easily in the business world.

Hidden Preference

However, one thing that doesn’t change in the business world is the deeply ingrained beliefs about the purpose of meetings.  Our Judging types like to do their “judging” or deciding in public, in their extraverted world of meetings.  In other words, why do Judging types come to meetings? To DECIDE!  However, our Perceiving types like to do their “perceiving” or learning and exploring in public.  Why do Perceiving types come to meetings?  To LEARN and EXPLORE!

Lesson Learned

So the lesson to be learned her is that if you don’t put the purpose of the meeting clearly at the top of the agenda, the Judging types will enter the meeting assuming the purpose is to decide something.  The Perceiving types will assume we’re here to explore and learn which will lead to a decision at some later date.

Always Identify Purpose

Now, if you actually explain the purpose of the meeting up front, the Judging types don’t mind coming to a meeting where a decision is not expected but every effort is going to be put into learning and exploring.  And the Perceiving types are thrilled to come to a meeting where a decision is expected.  Just don’t leave either group guessing as to the purpose of the meeting.  One side or the other will be incredibly frustrated with the outcome when they don’t have a stated purpose.


Myers-Briggs In-Depth is a blog series in which I dive into each MBTI function with more detail, providing some practical applications for creating better dynamics and better decision making. Click here to read the entire series.
Interested in an overview of each of the four Myers-Briggs functions? Click here to read the Using MBTI to Great Advantage series.

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