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Did you like the last issue in our series on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™ and how it relates to communication? If so, we think you will especially enjoy our discussion today of the final two dimensions of the MBTI: Judging and Perceiving.

Again, this issue is written in the spirit of "high-stakes" communication. The way people relate in these two dimensions has a huge impact on their relationships with others.

"Organization Is/Is Not a Beautiful Thing"
Vol. 3, No. 6

"Vacations are great! Sun, sand, sea, sights, lots of things to do. A chance to kick back and relax. No worries, no plans, no schedules…"

"HOLD EVERYTHING! STOP! CEASE! DESIST! What about hotel accommodations? Meal times? Packing lists? What if we forget something? And the airport, with all that security? We need to be there at least two hours in advance at a minimum. We’ve got too much invested in this trip to leave anything to chance."

"But that’s way too early to catch a plane. Chill out. The plane will wait for you."

"Oh, sure it will! With my luck, they’ll slam the door one minute before I get there. Something always goes wrong. I’m not taking any chances And so what if I’m early? I’ll read a book!"

Welcome to the world of Judgers and Perceivers!

I’ll bet the dialogue above is very familiar to many of you, especially in a close relationship. And in a relationship, a Judger often has a Perceiver as a partner, and vice-versa. It can make for some really exciting/nerve-wracking times!

These last two letters on the Myers-Briggs are some of the most intriguing—and most fun—of all of them. These are the letters that tell us how much structure we like in our lives. As with the other letters, these also have special meanings in MBTI. Judgers get that name based on what judges do. Think for a moment about Judge Judy or any of the other TV jurists. "Order in the court," they exclaim. "One more outburst like that, and I’ll clear the courtroom!" "Sir/Madam, be quiet. You’ll have your turn in a moment." And at the end of all the testimony, with gavel slamming down, it’s "Rule for the plaintiff. Next case!" Judgers love structure and organization in their lives. For them, Organization is a Beautiful Thing, whether at work, at home, or at play. Our Judger vacationer just can’t truly imagine having fun without an organized, scheduled, and a planned-in-advance approach. Is it any surprise that most managers are Judgers?

Perceivers don’t have anywhere near the need for structure or organization that Judgers do. Perceivers like to hang loose, roll around their options, look at various perspectives on issues, and move spontaneously. A strong Perceiver would not find it strange at all when a stockbroker suddenly chucked his whole career and moved to the South Pacific to pursue painting and live off the land and sea. But that’s the life choice Gaugin made—and never looked back. Our Perceiver vacationer can truly only have fun "running barefoot in the park." As you might imagine, many Perceivers take up artistic and/or entrepreneurial careers, where creativity, flexibility, and risk-taking are rewarded.

Styles of Thought

These two types differ greatly in their overall cognitive styles; and as we’ve seen before, people’s thinking styles affect every other aspect of their personalities. Judgers see the world as a rather chaotic place in constant need of tidying up. Murphy, of Murphy’s Law fame, had to be a Judger. Judgers, especially you introverted Judgers, believe that energy, order, and opportunities are all finite. The classic definition of death for an Introverted Judger would be: "You finally completely run out of energy!" Perceivers, you don’t buy any of this, especially if you’re Extraverted Perceivers. For you, energy is infinite, options are endless, and paths to explore are without number.

Presentation and information-handling styles

As in all things, Judgers follow the Scout motto: "Be Prepared." The presentation delivered by a Judger will almost always be highly organized. You Judgers will "Tell ‘em what you’ll tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em." Your listeners will follow your "through-line" right to the end of your speech. Perceivers, you usually don’t feel anywhere near the need to structure a talk, preferring to go off in interesting directions with curious narratives, as you "read" the audience’s reactions. The world is so full of possibilities that it can be hard for you to stay on point.

Work styles

Judgers clear and away prefer a structured work life. You plan, you execute, and you deliver the goods. You like things wrapped up. Nothing is more frustrating to you than a bunch of half-completed projects—oh, that is, next to a messy desk. I (Neal) find it impossible to work on a desk full of papers all over the place. I’ve even come up with a cure for that. I call it my "junk pile." When I leave for the night, my desk is clear. I’ve moved all the (ugh!) unfinished projects and errands in one neatly stacked pile on a remote surface. Jan, on the other hand, even though she’s also a Judger (slightly), tolerates a lot more disorder. But that’s a relative term. See, she can find anything on her desk at any time. Just ask her to get it for you, but don’t try getting it yourself. There are too many archeological layers to dig down through!

Decision-making styles

This is a biggie! Judgers LOVE reaching a decision. They’ll even tolerate a limited number of options as long as they get to a final decision fast. In the extreme, this desire for closure can override the quality of decision-making, resulting in "groupthink." Perceivers, you don’t rush to judgment. There are always new alternatives to explore. "What’s the hurry?" you ask. "We’ll lose out on all those great creative juices that can make for a quality decision, if we don’t take enough time." Where a real clash can happen is where the top executive is a Perceiver, and all of his or her reports are Judgers. In one such team we worked with, we watched grown men and women literally burst into tears of frustration over their manager’s procrastination in making even simple decisions. On the fun side, Judgers love watching, in disbelief, as the Perceiver contestants on "Deal or No Deal" revel in their 26 attractive "possibilities" beginning every show.

Temporal styles

Judgers, you’ll tend to see time as just another commodity, one in very limited supply. You’re the ultimate time managers. In communication, you’ll tend to come off as impatient and living with a spirit of urgency. After all, we’ve got to get things wrapped up at some point. Why not now? Perceivers say, "Hold everything!" You see time as a virtually infinite resource, one that can best be devoted to creative problem-solving.

Interpersonal styles

Our Judgers’ impatience gets telegraphed quickly to those around them. Your colleagues or workers who want to please you will feel a strong need to "get organized and get on with it!" But those direct reports who are Judgers themselves may find a great deal of comfort in the style of a manager who has a passion for organization. As we saw in the indecisive leader above, Perceiving, taken to extremes, can lead to a lot of frustration and havoc in the workplace. But Judging can be taken to extremes also. In one of our client organizations, the top leader was referred to as a "One-Minute Manager." You only had 60 seconds in her presence to make your point! That Judger could have made life a lot easier for her reports by getting a shot of Perceiver patience.


Perceiving and Judging are both necessary and desirable processes, but they can lead to a lot of self-fulfilling prophecies. Perceivers may say "everything will work out in the end," while Judgers retort "Yes, but it takes a bunch of us Judgers to work out the mess you Perceivers have left for us to clean up!"

As with all the other letters, any one process adopted to the exclusion of its opposite balancing force will result in a lopsided approach to communication, management, and just plain successful living. Nobody can afford to follow one style exclusively, especially "when the stakes are high." We need them all.

Yours in great communication,

Jan and Neal Palmer


Interested in learning more about how we use Myers-Briggs to help train executives in interpersonal communication, public speaking, and team-building, when the stakes are high? Please give us a call at (800) 410-4CEI (4234) or send us an email at cei@talk2cei.com. We’d be glad to talk with you.

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