Here’s How Thinker-Judgers Really Make Decisions

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on September 24, 2019
Categories: Myers Briggs, INTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ, ESTJ

“I need your help,” she said over the phone, “What should I do?”

My hesitation is staged, as is the question I ask her in return, “What do you think you want to do?”

I’m a Thinker/Judger with a healthy dose of Sensing thrown on top. My girlfriend is doing something I almost never do: ask someone for help with a decision I have to make.

Because she called me, I already understand that she is having an internal pie fight with a multitude of options, layers of emotions, and several opinions of others that are standing in line ahead of mine. I am usually saved for the last opinion, and I’m used to it. It’s not that mine will be any more valid than the others, but none of them will ring with the same utter conviction, the guiding light of true north, the assurance of a seasoned warrior.

Decisions and I go way back.

Whether you’re dithering over having a third child (no) or having a fifth child (yes), there is no escaping the fact that we all have to make them. Not children, decisions. We wake up in the morning and choose which socks are going with our outfit (pink) and what to have with our toast (black tea with sugar and milk) and how many minutes we have before dashing out the door (thirteen, unless you forget your keys).

The decisions that TJs make appear to be immediate and overly confident, but we sure know how to process a decision. And yes, it’s just like clockwork.

Breaking Down the Steps

“When do you need to make this decision by?”

Stand a TJ at the crossroads, and we immediately glance at the clock and our calendar. We are already framing this decision in the greater context of the people standing beside us that might be impacted by it. Whether we have five minutes or five months, our decisions require both Thinking and Judging time. Putting these parameters in place sets up the machinery for the process.

I walk my girlfriend through it.


 “What do you want to accomplish with this decision?” I ask her. “What is the best outcome that can happen?” Thinking time includes assessing the goals, her values and her priorities.

She responds with a fantasy that includes rainbows and butterflies. Instagram or Fortune 500  Fame. I prod her gently for more objective targets.

 “Have you done your homework?” I ask.

 She has, and is about to cross the line between educated and overwhelmed. The stress that comes from TMI overload is on the same level as the stress that comes from circling a decision indefinitely without making it. Two excellent reasons why TJs have mastered the art. We don’t do ambiguous.

 “Will this decision create more decisions, once you decide it?”

 “Yes! It opens the door to a veritable jungle of decisions.”


 “Lovely,” I reply, because this thought alone will accelerate us to our destination. Judging time will include weighing consequences. “What is the worst outcome that can happen?”

 This is the part where I put her on speakerphone and do my nails as she details every possible catastrophe. Pros and cons bounce around the room, alternatives and compromises and everyone else’s warnings pour from the phone and finally come to a stop as I’m blowing my nail polish dry (Game of Chromes).

 “Feel better?”

 “Yes. I’m moving to Siberia.”

Not making a decision is also making a decision. I’d like to applaud her, but we both know there are decisions that you can’t avoid. Sometimes, you can give your decision a trial run, a preliminary test. Put the mac ‘n’ cheese on the menu temporarily and see if anyone loves it (yes). You can stick your toe in the water before you dive in (no). Often, however, you must decide to go through a door and not look back.

 That tattoo is a commitment.

 Sensing vs Intuitive Processing

There are ladies in my life who are blessed with an Intuition, a sixth “Sense” that evades me. Watching the way they make decisions is like watching a magic trick performed. My straight line Sensing mechanism drives facts into the equation and relies on time-tested actions, producing what I see as a reliable and obviously “correct” answer based on the past and the present.

The reason I hesitated at the opening of our phone call is because, although I could have answered her question on the spot and sent her the bill, she needs to process her decision in her own way, and I must leave a space for that. It took me years to stop saying, “I told you so”.

Intuitives, composing some of the rarest of the champion personality types, will process strategies, ideas and concepts. They perceive the decision-making process as a straight line surrounded by an aura. This aura involves gut feelings, nuances, and future possibilities. They aren’t simply processing this decision, they are processing every decision down the line that it might lead to, whereas I will wait and Sense what happens next…when it happens.

An Intuitive will ask questions like, “Does it spark joy?” or “Before you agree to a second date, have you considered what kind of in-laws you’re signing up for?”

I step out of the way and let that voodoo happen.

Just Do It

By the end of our conversation, my girlfriend may or may not make the same decision that I would have made, but it will be the right one for her, right now. As a TJ, I will comfortably take on the challenge of decision-making and stand by my choices, but it doesn’t bother me if my girlfriend chooses something else.

TJs extend a big boost of confidence no matter what we are trying to decide, and this is what the phone call was for in the first place.

Where does that certainty come from?

Part of the beauty of decision-making lies in the fact that we can always make a new decision the next day if we want to. Instead of carrying around the angst of “What If?”, we go find out. Then we either march through the door, or slam it shut and move on. There will always be another door.

 Reliable, engaged, adaptable, TJs have no problem making adjustments to our decisions.

 Even that tattoo.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


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