Judging and Perceiving MBTI
What You See (and What You Don’t): A Guide to the Judging & Perceiving Preferences in Relationships

We already know how each of the preferences can affect a relationship, but let’s get a better understanding of what the Judging and Perceiving preferences of MBTI type mean can help you understand what you’re really hearing when you communicate with others. Particularly in ongoing relationships, whether friendly, professional, or romantic, the dynamics connected with the J–P dichotomy can make or break long-term interpersonal harmony. We’re going to get a little more in-depth here when it comes to your personality type and theory, so don’t worry if you have to read the next paragraph more than once. While understanding the basics of what each of the 8 MBTI preferences mean and how they relate to each other is your base of knowledge, learning about type dynamics is like going to college after graduating high school.

You already know that the last two letters in someone’s MBTI personality type can be J or P, for judging and perceiving. But did you know that Judging and Perceiving preferences are really an indicator for which of the middle two MBTI type letters a person expresses most strongly to others? People with a preference for Judging will express (or extravert) either Thinking or Feeling, and people with a preference for Perceiving will extravert either Sensing or Intuition. So, someone with preferences for ENFJ will have their Feeling process come across strongly to others, but someone with preferences for ENFP will have their Intuition process be the one that’s most readily apparent (aka the process that’s extraverted). As we’ll show, knowing whether you’re encountering someone using a judging or perceiving process can smooth over a lot of the discord that can arise in any relationship.

If you’re confused by some of the terminology, remember that a preference refers to one letter in your MBTI type or all the letters combined. You can have a preference for Judging, a preference for Feeling, or have preferences for INFJ. When we talk about a process, we’re talking about how these preferences function and how they interact with one another – it’s the preferences in action.

Why Judging and Perceiving, Anyway?

There’s a reason Thinking and Feeling are considered judging processes. They are associated with decisions being made and conclusions being drawn, even if these are just being proposed in conversation. On the other hand, the perceiving processes, Sensing and Intuition, are involved with initial, exploratory statements and ideas.

Whatever process a person shows most strongly to others, the other process will occur internally. So while the person with preferences for ENFP may explore fresh ideas and possibilities in conversation, it’s in private reflection that she’ll engage her Feeling preference and come to a decision or conclusion. Meanwhile, the decision or conclusion that someone with preferences for ENFJ expresses is the result of a lot of internal hashing out of the possibilities with an inward-focused Intuition.

Make Up Your Mind

In the example above, these two types are like opposite sides of the same coin, engaging similar perspectives on the world (Intuition and Feeling), but differing in whether the first thing they express is initial ideas or final conclusions. This can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings. If the one with ENFJ preferences isn’t aware that she’s witnessing a brainstorm from someone with ENFP preferences, it can sound to her like the ENFP’s “plan” is all over the map. The compulsion for her to swoop in and “fix” the plan can really throw a wet blanket on the ENFP’s enthusiasm. It can be just as unsettling for the ENFJ. If she buys into one of these perceiving explorations as a signed and sealed conclusion, she’ll be pretty upset when the ENFP launches into a whole new direction of possibilities. Without an understanding of what kind of statements you’re hearing, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the other person is either indecisive or some kind of know-it-all.

Tips for Judging and Perceiving Harmony

Labeling people important to you as indecisive or domineering can make your life miserable. For the people you spend the most time with, it can be worthwhile to dig a little deeper and examine whether a judging or perceiving process misunderstanding is at the center of the disagreement.

Listen closely to whether you’re hearing initial or final statements, and adjust your approach accordingly. Remember that whatever’s happening on the outside, the opposite is happening on the inside. So an “indecisive” person with preferences for ENFP really just needs some reflection time to filter all the ideas into a conclusion, and a “judgmental” person with preferences for ENFJ is not beyond changing her mind given some reflection time of her own. Like many aspects of important relationships, judging or perceiving process differences come down to trust in a different perspective, and patience and understanding in working through it.