Quixote Consulting

Judging and Perceiving-
How You Like To Live Your Outer Life

Judging (J) and perceiving (P) are two different techniques of approaching your outer life – the way people see you. This preference pair, the fourth in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is your face to the world – how you are oriented, and your attitude toward life ‘out there’. It shows itself in how you complete projects, organize your life, interact with others, and order your world.

Judging types are comfortable putting edges around things up, establishing closure. They like to have things decided, and plan their work to avoid rushing to meet deadlines. Perceiving types like to open things up, gather new information and keep the door open for future possibilities. They work in bursts of energy, and can often be energized by last minute changes and rushing to meet looming deadlines.

Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs made an implicit part of Jung’s theory explicit when they introduced the judging and perceiving preference pair in the MBTI. Along with describing your attitude toward the outer world, it’s also the determining factor when working with type dynamics – which of your preferences overall is strongest for you, in what way and in what order you prefer the others. We recommend coaching or a multi-day MBTI session if you’re interested in leveraging the power of type dynamics.

Here are some words and phrases often associated with the two types. What’s the type that you prefer more often? If you’re having trouble deciding, it’s sometimes easier to use the process of elimination method by recognizing yourself in what you don’t like. Ask yourself, “Which of these descriptions isn’t me – which one would I loathe if I did this most of the day?”

Judging (J) Perceiving (P)
Planning Adaptable
Organized Spontaneous
Decisive Curious
Closure Openness
Structure Flow
Deliberate Discoveries
Making decisions Gathering information
Purposeful Flexible
Work, then play Mix work and play (work can be play)
Outcome Process
Sustained effort Zest for experience
Settled options Open-mindedness
What Judging and Perceiving Aren’t

Judging means ‘preferring to make decisions’, and has nothing to do with ‘being judgmental’ in the sense of negatively evaluating people’s actions. Perceiving means ‘preferring to take in information’ and has nothing to do with ‘being perceptive’ in the sense of getting a quick and accurate read on people and situations.

Two Clues – To Do Lists and Your Workspace

To Do Lists
To Do lists are one of the favorite tools of a judging person. If you live by Stephen Covey’s time management material, and even form To Do lists for family vacations then you probably prefer judging. If you treat To Do lists like a necessary evil, and find they drive you nuts if they’re too much in the driver seat of your life, you probably prefer perceiving. Visit our resources page for a Quix Tip about making your To-Do lists work for you. One hint for those perceivers lost in To Do list-land: ask yourself, “What is engaging my curiosity within this To Do list?”

Your Workspace
One other clue is to look at the condition of someone’s desk. People who prefer judgment often have a neat, well-organized desk with everything in its place. This is the way the desk looks when each day starts and ends more often than not. A perceiver’s desk might be quite a bit less organized! There may be several piles of papers to be filed, works in progress, magazines, books, and other sources of information. Things to be decided on may be buried, which conveniently relieves them of the necessity of making a decision – if the time on an offer or workshop has passed, a decision has been made for them. They may have moments of neatness, but more often than not, what may look like chaos to an observer is the norm, even though a perceiver usually knows exactly where something is if asked. 

"I Can’t Decide Which One I Am!"

If you’re uncertain which you prefer, answer this question: Are you most comfortable using the judging preference or do you use the judging preference under emotional duress? Does your role at work require you to take on aspects of the judging preference? If you’re energized after taking on judging characteristics for an extended period of time, you have your answer. If you’re worn out, and more tired than you’d like to be you may prefer the perceiving function. If there’s a discrepancy between what you ‘ought to do’, and what you naturally tend to do, go with what you naturally do.

Do You Know Your Other Preferences?

One note for those of you who have determined your other MBTI preferences:  The characteristics that are true about judging behaviors are especially true for sensing types that prefer judging, but less true for intuitive types that prefer judging. All the things about perceiving are truer for intuitive types that prefer perceiving but less true for sensing types that prefer perceiving.

Judging and Perceiving in Conflict

The fourth preference pair of the MBTI – judging and perception – is statistically the largest cause of conflict between team members, especially when working together under pressure. Here are some ways that conflict may play out.

A judging person may ask a perceiving person “What’s on your agenda today?” and the perceiving person may say, “I don’t have an agenda!” Remember that a perceiving person’s passion is information gathering and exploration. Judging people often see them as goof-offs and see themselves as workers. Perceiving people may wish judging people would lighten up. While judging people may live by goals, perceiving people may prefer to call them ‘present intentions’. That’s not what judging people want to hear. They may reply, “make it final”.

Judging people make deadlines, treat them seriously and expect others to do the same. Perceivers often look at deadlines as an alarm clock that tells them to kick it into high gear (and yes that alarm clock does have a snooze alarm on it).

Judging people often prefer to make the decisions, organize, and catalog. Perceiving people often say, “Wait, what about this [article that I saw in the New Yorker yesterday] (and this and this and…)” which can be maddening for judging people who want to make a decision and move on.

Judging people will take on the ‘responsible’ roles – preparation, maintenance, and clean-up. Perceiving people place a much higher priority on the work itself being enjoyable and get really bored with the pre- and post-work.

Perceiving people don’t like being forced to make decisions. Judging types on the other hand tire of what seems like endless information gathering without a decision being made. In fact, judging people look at perceiving people and see what they think is an absence of decision-making. Perceiving people look at judging people and see an absence of exploration; they may feel pressured and get annoyed at what seems like unnecessary urgency. But neither is true – both just get excited by different things. People who prefer judging’s motto might be, “I love to decide” while those who prefer perceiving might declare, “I love to explore”.

The more you’re aware of your team members’ unique needs and preferences, the more you can accommodate each other and create a whole team with no blind spots. Remember, you need each other! Perceiving without enough judgment leads to procrastination. Judgment without enough perceiving leads to prejudice.

Perfect Project Management with Judging and Perception

If you know your team members’ preferences, you can rely on their strengths during different phases of a project. Here are some examples:

Judging (J) Perceiving (P)
On time from start to finish Gathering information for Js to make informed decisions
Sift through information that Ps gather and make decisions when needed Making the work fun
Make sure the ‘dirty work’ gets done – preparation, maintenance and clean up Reacting quickly, energetically and positively when things change, whether deadline, goals, parameters, budgets. (especially effective for last minute changes)
Staying focused on the project and getting it finished Juggling other projects simultaneously if necessary

A (slightly tongue-in-cheek) Look at Stress Level (and visible output) During a Project

Judging (J) types often plot out the logical series of steps needed to complete a project. In the beginning, this means a lot of setup work, which can be tiring. It’s also the moment that’s most uncomfortable – the time that’s farthest away from closure. As the project moves along, the items on the To-Do list get systematically ticked off one by one, giving the J person small bits of closure and the accomplishment of completing tasks that are leading to the ending of the project on time. Others can see the steady progress towards project completion.

Perceiving (P) types really enjoy the beginning of projects. It’s a time of exploration and gathering information. They get excited throughout the project whenever they can gather new information. They are often endlessly optimistic about the small amount of time needed to complete a project, so much of the time is spent in exploration of the topic. As the deadline looms, so does the realization that this needs to be closed, finished and put away, in a very short amount of time, which raises the stress level. To other people it seems like the P person isn’t getting anything done, but they’re gathering important information. They use this information in a flurry of activity at the end of a deadline (or just after the end) to wrap up a program. This flurry of activity can either be energizing or stressful for the P person.

Type Examples

Below are some examples of movie characters, writings and quotes that exhibit many of the traits of the two different types. These are examples only, and they’re all guesses. We can only guess at what people’s types may be, or characters may be by their words or actions. It’s dangerous and ignorant to presume to know what someone else’s type is unless they’ve told you. Jungian type is completely self-determined.

So be careful with real people – avoid stereotyping. However it’s fun to speculate with famous people. For example, Gandhi’s two hours a day quietly using a spinning wheel alone, his numerous anecdotes in his Autobiography of his shyness, and even his solutions to his country’s problems – fasting, non-violence, walking to the ocean – all point to him probably preferring introversion.

So enjoy these guesses. Take them with a grain of salt, and feel free to agree or disagree with our guesses as you deepen your understanding of type.


"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
- Ben Franklin
"Where can be the difficulty in making a final decision?" - Gandhi
"The buck stops here!" - Harry S. Truman
"Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."
- Shakespeare, Merry Wives
"Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do…play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do." - Mark Twain
"Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write."
- Anthony Trollope
"A place for everything and everything in its place." - Henry Bohn
"An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching." - Mohandas Gandhi

"Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead."
- James Thurber
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." - James Howell
"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." - A.A. Milne
"One never goes so far as when one doesn’t know where one is going."
- Goethe
"It is better to have loafed and lost, than never to have loafed at all."
- James Thurber
"Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established." - George Carlin
"Order. A tyrant in the hands of bad men." - Anonymous
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I don’t know whether my life has been a success or failure. But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other, and just taking things as they came along, I’ve had a lot of extra time to enjoy life." - Harpo Marx

Fictional Characters

Judging Perceiving
Dwight, Andy, Angela, Ryan, Jan, Toby, Stanley (The Office) Michael, Jim, Pam, Kevin, Creed (The Office)
Hobbes (from Calvin and Hobbes) Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes))
Jack Bauer (24) Indiana Jones
Gandalf (Lord of the Rings) Frodo (Lord of the Rings)
Batman Spider-man
Marge, Lisa, Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders (Simpsons) Homer, Bart, Krusty the Clown (Simpsons)
Luke Skywalker Han Solo
Scully (X-Files) Fox Mulder (X-Files)

Judging Perceiving
Takin’ Care of Business – Bachman Turner Overdrive Bang the Drum All Day – Todd Rundgren
Respect Yourself – The Staples Singers Changes – David Bowie
Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! (Blitzkrieg Bop)
– The Ramones
Daydream – Lovin’ Spoonful
It’s Too Late – Carole King Whatever Gets You Through the Night
– John Lennon
Got the Time – Joe Jackson 59th Street Bridge (Feelin’ Groovy)
– Simon and Garfunkel
Tired of Waiting For You – The Kinks Time for Livin’ – The Association
Waiting In Vain – Bob Marley Funny How Time Slips Away – Willie Nelson

We’re All Types Every Day

Would you like to know what you have in common with every other person on earth? We all use all personality types all day, every day. For example, regardless of your preference for extraversion or introversion, every day you get and give energy to external people and events (extraversion) as well as the inner world of thoughts and reflections (introversion).

You may have noticed this when you read the descriptions of the different types. Perhaps you said to yourself, “Yes, but I do what the one type description says some of the time, and some of the time I do what the other type description says.” You may even have been hard-pressed to decide which one you preferred. “But I do both!”

And that is exactly true. You do indeed do both every day. The important piece is to try to discern which type you prefer. Even though you use both of your hands throughout the day, you probably prefer to use one hand to the other. Either your left or right hand feels more comfortable and natural. And you get better results. To illustrate this, try writing your name with your non-dominant hand. This holds true for your type – you use both, but one feels more comfortable. And you’re more efficient and productive if your preferred type is in play.

Your Type, Your Gift

Jungian type theory is a tool to give you options, not to put yourself or someone else in a box. All types are good – there are no bad or wrong types. Your type is your gift either to be utilized for a more successful life or to be squandered by not using it. Your type is a gift, not an excuse. It’s not a free pass to be used to avoid assigned tasks or performance issues that need to be addressed.

Look at the people around you, whether co-workers, friends, or family members. Get curious about their unique gifts. Encourage these gifts to blossom and be leveraged to best do the work at hand so that everyone can have more successful lives.

Your Neighborhood

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” – Mr. Rogers

Consider the neighborhood analogy. Within each town or city there are different neighborhoods. You live in your neighborhood for a reason, and if you like where you are, you probably share many of the values of others in your neighborhood. You are most comfortable in your neighborhood. Like most of us, you probably enjoy exploring, but as the song says, “It’s nice to go traveling, but it’s nice to come home again.” If you don’t live in your ideal neighborhood right now, you can think of what kind of neighborhood you’d be most comfortable in.

Deciding what your preferred type is accesses a common language that you can use to discuss your differences with others – a language of ‘neighborhoods’. How common is this language of types? The MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), which uses Jungian type theory as its basis, is the world’s most widely used personality inventory. When you use this language with others in discussing differences and how to leverage them, chances are pretty good that many will already have some understanding of what you’re talking about. And it focuses your search for your ‘home’ into a more efficient process. After all, now you know what neighborhood to look at.

Home, Sweet Home

You’re more than your preference. Some of the descriptor words and phrases may ring true, others won’t. Just as your home in your neighborhood is unique, so you occupy a unique position within a type description. What it does do though, is to focus your quest on a particular area, which makes your search much more efficient. If you can clearly articulate your unique home within a type of neighborhood you will be able to be at your best more of the time.