Thinking that the Judging/Perceiving preference has to do with how judgmental or perceptive an individual is is a common misconception, especially when people are first learning about Myers-Briggs® types. It’s easy to see where this idea comes from. Judging and Perceiving are right there in the names, after all.
In reality, the Judging-Perceiving distinction is more about describing how we make decisions and learn new information, as well as which side of our personality we prefer to use in the outer world. Before we can answer the question of, “Are Judging types more judgmental?” or a related question such as, “Are Perceiving types more perceptive?” we need to take a closer look at exactly what these terms mean in Myers-Briggs® theory.
Judging and Perceiving Traits
Sensing and Intuition are both Perceiving functions. You can click here to read an article that provides an overview of the whole concept of functions in Myers-Briggs®. For more on the traits of Judging and Perceiving types, you can see Personality Hacker by Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge and Personality Types by Lenore Thomas. I referenced both books when writing this post.
If you’re a Perceiving-type, then you use either Sensing or Intuition as your preferred way of learning (i.e. perceiving) new information. The P in your type tells us that for you, this function is outer-world oriented (Extroverted Sensing or Extroverted Intuition). Perceiving traits include flexibility, information seeking and gathering, resistance to structure, improvisation skills, impulsiveness, and a present-moment focus (Personality Hacker, p. 29; Personality Types, p. 48-49).
Feeling and Thinking are both Judging functions. If your’e a Judging-type, then you use either Feeling or Thinking as your preferred way of making decisions (i.e. judging). Having a J in your type tells us that for you, this function is outer-world oriented (Extroverted Feeling or Extroverted Thinking). Judging traits include understanding and valuing structure, a tendency to make and follow plans, long-term focus, organizational skills, comfort with familiar environments, and responsibleness.
How You Use These Functions
If you’re an E–P type, that means your primary or driver function is Sensing or Intuition. For an E–J type, the primary function is Feeling or Thinking. For example, an ENFJ uses Extroverted Feeling as their favorite function and an ESTP uses Extroverted Sensing as their favorite function. This is pretty straight forward, and most extroverts find that their self-experience lines up well with their J or P traits (Personality Types, p. 48).
It’s not quite so easy to explain for introverts. If you’re an I–J type, then your judging side is used in the outer world so your favorite inner-world function is actually a perceiving one. An I–P type’s perceiving side is used in the outer world and so their favorite function is actually a judging one. Thus, an ISFJ’s primary function is Introverted Sensing (a perceiving function) and their co-pilot function is Extroverted Feeling (a judging function). An INTP’s primary function is Introverted Thinking and their co-pilot is Extroverted Intuition. An introvert’s self-experience is likely to be somewhat opposite to descriptions of the J or P type.
So Does Judging Mean Judgmental?
With those explanations out of the way, we have a much better understanding of what judging actually means in Myers-Briggs® theory. It has nothing to do with how we commonly define judgmental, which is “having or displaying an excessively critical point of view.”
Judging types can be excessively critical. They’re more likely to comply with and understand social structures (for example), and so they might “judge” those who do not fit in as well. Lenore Thomson notes in Personality Types that J types “are decisive, committed, determined” and “can be controlling” (p.49). Those traits would all seem to indicate that these types might be more likely to judge other people for not measuring up to their personal rule system.
However, Perceiving types can also be excessively critical. They might judge you for complying with the social structure (for example) because they see more value in being counter-cultural. Thomson says these types tend to “resist structure” (p. 48). They might judge others for not doing so even through they tend to be curious, adaptable people themselves.
To share a personal example, one of my conflicts with an ENFP ex-boyfriend involved him criticizing me for caring about social conventions (I’m an INFJ). He thought I was too motivated to follow arbitrary rules, whereas I thought that trying to keep the peace in relationships was more important than self expression (especially in casual relationships where I care more about avoiding conflict than about making myself understood). Whether or not it was his intent, I experienced him as judgmental and failing to see things from my point of view.
In Conclusion …
Our Myers-Briggs® personality types describe the way we think. They don’t dictate what we do with our preferred mental functions. Those functions do influence how we live our lives, though, and in general types that lean heavily on their Perceiving functions often have more of a “live and let live” mentality. But that doesn’t make all J-types judgmental any more than it makes all P-types unusually perceptive or indiscriminate.
Someone’s personality type does not excuse or explain an excessively critical attitude. Any type can choose to be judgmental about something, whether or not there’s a J in their type’s name. Some of us may act more judgmental than others but it’s usually more about our personal preferences, experiences, etc. than is is about which personality type we have.
I’ve linked the books mentioned in this article below if you’d like to purchase a copy for yourself. Please note that these are affiliate links which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.
- Personality Hacker: Harness the Power of Your Personality Type to Transform Your Work, Relationships, and Life by Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge
- Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual: A Practical Guide to Understanding Yourself and Others Through Typology by Lenore Thomson
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