Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pretending to be Myers-Briggs, Part 4

“Judging” and “Perceiving” are really vague titles that don’t give you an accurate picture of what they’re supposed to mean. Judgment has a negative connotation, like some old lady waving a crooked finger at you and squinting in old-fashioned condemnation. No one is really sure what perceiving means, unless they think of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride closing his eyes and letting his sword guide him to the right spot.

(What, no one else thought of that in connection with the word “perception?” Okay, fine. I’m weird.)

These labels are probably the least helpful out of the bunch. I would have renamed them “Structured” and “Unstructured,” but S is already used and it doesn’t sound quite as official. Also, I am not, in fact, Myers-Briggs.


I am a firm P, meaning that I’m very flexible and slightly disorganized. Right now, I 100% guarantee that my sister is reading this and going, “Slightly? Are you kidding me? Have you seen her desk?” This is because Erika is a firm J. Whenever she can, she’ll grid things up, check them off, and arrange them in alphabetical order.

Here are a few quick scenarios to show how our P and J sides interact with each other:

Erika: What do you think about this book?

Me: (Talks on and on for a half hour about which points I agreed with and which I thought the author had to kinda stretch in order to get and why there are certain subjects that I’m not sure about because the Bible seems to teach both sides and why if you really believed that people who never hear the gospel don’t go to heaven you would drop everything and just go evangelize.)

Erika: I was looking for a more of a “Yes, it’s right,” or “No, it’s not.” And maybe a few sentences that proved why.

You see, J people are much better at bottom-line, organized ways of thinking. Ps like me are much more likely to randomly wander around and throw thoughts everywhere, kind of like we do stuff in our rooms. Here’s another example that has more to do with scheduling:

Erika: What are we doing for the party in two weeks?

Me: Oh, I’ve got some great ideas, but they’re still a little vague. Ask me later.

Erika: (One week later.) So, what are we doing for the party next week?

Me: Some kind of Easter egg hunt with a twist. Maybe outside. Or with blindfolds. Or with Truth or Dare slips inside the eggs.

Erika: What if it rains? Someone is going to get hurt if we use blindfolds. The Truth or Dare doesn’t make any sense.

Me: Um…I’ll get back to you.

Erika: (One week later) So, what are we doing for the party tomorrow?

Me: An Easter egg hunt. We’ll kind of improv how it goes because I forgot to tell people to RSVP and I’m not sure how many are coming. It’ll be fun!

Erika: You’re killing me, Am.

It’s not that Js are incapable of functioning without a plan or schedule. It’s just that they prefer to have one. Ps don’t like creating schedules, and sometimes they don’t even like following them.

From what I’ve seen, in friendships, group projects, and work situations, these two traits lead to the greatest amount of misunderstandings and frustrations. Each set of characteristics rubs against the other, and it’s harder to find compromises.

If you’re a writer, putting a J and a P in close proximity is a good way to create conflict. In stories, this is a good thing, because it makes the plot more interesting. In life, it usually isn’t that great. So, here are a few pleas from my little P heart to all the Js out there.
  • There will probably be times when we need to clean the room or give ourselves deadlines or decide exactly what the group will present. But be nice about getting us there. Remember, for most of us, creating a detailed plan of attack is not a relief; it is a stress-causer. Bossing us around or getting frustrated won’t help things.
  • Don’t interrupt us and tell us to get to the point unless it’s necessary. We’ll get there eventually, and, to us, everything we’re saying is important.
  • Be forgiving when we mess up and let things fall through the cracks. (Shoutout to my awesome roommate for being a great example of this one!) It’s probably really frustrating. But we usually feel pretty bad too. Don’t make us feel worse.
  • Listen for the sake of listening and don’t always default to coming up with a plan to fix the problem (this is especially true if you’re also a T).

Now I’m going to step into my sister’s shoes and give some advice to myself and the other Ps from a J perspective.
  • Respect other people. Do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it, whether that means showing up to a meeting on time or remembering to print out the right documents. Find some kind of system that works to help you out. We understand that it doesn’t come naturally to you, but there comes a point where your disorganization can hurt others.
  • When everything goes wrong and we’re freaking out, please don’t tell us it’s not a big deal. It is a big deal. It’s fine to calm us down and give us a little perspective, but what we really need is help making a Plan B.
  • There are some levels of messiness that are just unacceptable. If you’ve reached biohazard level, you cannot chalk that up to your personality and let it go. You cannot.
  • Humor us when we need way more details than you think are necessary. It’ll make everything go smoother in the long run. Trust us.

Next week I’ll finish up my armchair psychology with a little Myers-Briggs evaluation to use on yourself and your characters. (Which, of course, is only vaguely planned out in my mind right now.) It’ll be fun.

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