When my daughter was 14 and I was 39, I had a very upsetting realization. I was trying to change her, to mold her into something she was not. Hers was a spirit of open curiosity and fluid activity. She floated through the world appreciating all that was around her. She was flexible with time and with people and didn’t like to be restricted. And as for planning, well, let’s just say she saw plans as things that boxed her in – but she got her tasks done nonetheless in her own time. She was a straight A student. 

So what was my problem?

The problem was that my daughter was a blossoming Perceiver and I was a veteran Judger, but I had no idea what this was. At 39 I found out, and it changed my relationship with my daughter forever. 

So what do we mean by Judging and Perceiving?

Let’s get this one out of the way. Judging doesn’t mean “judgmental,” and Perceiving doesn’t mean “perceptive.” In the Myers and Briggs personality system, Judging simply means organizing the world in a structured way, while Perceiving means approaching life in a more freewheeling way. Neither is right nor wrong, and we all use both approaches. However, we all have a preference for one or the other. 

The last letter in the four-letter code that you receive when you take the Typefinder personality assessment indicates whether you are a Judger or Perceiver. This letter, either a J or a P, tells you how you approach and interact with the outside world, what we think of as attitudes. Let’s look at how these two attitudes inform the way we like to live in the world in general.  

Judgers – “I’ll Plan. I want to be settled!”

If you are a Judger, your attitude toward the outside world is founded on narrowing choices in order to make decisions.  Plans don’t feel limiting, they feel empowering. By structuring your world you can create order and focus, and this brings you comfort. Being late?  Nope, don’t want to do that. Whenever possible, you stick to the plan. Perceivers may view you as “uptight” or rigid, but this is because your way of approaching the world is different from theirs, and they don’t understand.

Perceivers – “I’ll Adapt. I want to stay open!”

If you are a Perceiver your attitude toward the outside world is founded on open curiosity and a desire for more and more information. You don’t like plans in general because you feel they limit you and will cut you off from all the possibilities you want to explore. You are more flexible with time and with people. You love spontaneity. Judgers may view you as “flakey” or unreliable, but this is because your way of approaching the world is different from theirs, and they don’t understand.

OK, so how is this useful in the real world?

About half the population naturally navigates the world just like my daughter, as a Perceiver.   The other half navigate it like me, as a Judger. When I learned this, I knew I was trying to change my daughter’s spontaneous and adaptable nature into one that looked more structured like mine, instead of helping her appreciate who she truly is.   

Studying personality typology can be incredibly useful in all areas of living, not just in personal relationships. I once worked in a state park creating programs for the public where we taught visitors the history of our area. I was excited to do this, so, without knowing why, I jumped right in with confidence in my ability to coordinate and plan. I had no idea that my strengths would cause me to suffer later. My challenge was that I was good at planning in advance but I wasn’t good at solving problems in the moment. 

Last-minute changes for a Judger are very stressful. I know this now, but at the time I blamed others when things went wrong. I’d think, “I’m more organized than others, so why can’t they stick to my carefully thought-out plan?”  

Later, it became clear to me that type played a big role in producing this blind spot. So, while I had great planning and discipline, it was my Perceiver colleagues who stepped in to meet the unexpected and gracefully took us in a new direction. And all the while they grumbled … “Why is Becky so uptight?  All we need to do is make a few easy changes.”

My time at the park was filled with interactions and relationships brimming with lessons in psychological type, even though I didn’t know it at the time. 

Wait, this sounds like a superiority complex

Yep that’s right, and we all have it. We love to learn about our own type and especially our own strengths. If we are honest, we secretly believe that the letters that make up our own personality type are the best ones, even when we know better. It’s easier to appreciate what we find in ourselves because what we find is already what we like (that’s why we call the letters preferences). 

Studying our own type is a good place to start – but we can do better. Be a person who can see the world through the eyes of others. This is the highest value in type theory. It’s much harder to understand and appreciate how others think and feel, but we have the tools to do it!  

Be proactive, it’s easy!

Is there someone in your life that you care about but who gets on your nerves, or worse?  Try this … if you haven’t already, take the free Typefinder assessment here, and encourage that friend or loved one to do the same. Once you both have your 4-letter type, read the description of your type. Does it sound like you?  If you don’t relate to every word, that’s okay. We are all individuals and there are plenty of differences within any given type. We are looking for a “best-fit” match. 

Once you have confidence in your results, sit down together and find the letters that differ in your codes. For example, my daughter and I differ in the Judging vs. Perceiving dichotomy and share all other letters. Now explore your differences here where you will find descriptions of each preference (represented by each letter). Discuss how you see or behave differently in those areas. Be prepared to listen sincerely and resist the urge to think in terms of right or wrong. You may find that there is a whole universe inside that person that you never knew!  

What drove you crazy about them now becomes something you can grasp, and even appreciate. I awakened to new world views that helped me understand the gifts of others. You can too.

Becky Green
Becky Green is a Social Worker and MBTI® Practitioner certified by The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. Becky loves to explore human differences, and she is convinced that proven typology tools can help us foster compassion today when it's sorely needed. Her INFJ happy place is writing in her home office with 432 Hz music playing and a dog named Rocker on her lap.