Yes, I know, cheeky title, but one I know I can get away with as I weave it in regularly when I do Myers Briggs training, and I haven’t been sued yet!

Let me explain.  One of the Myers Briggs dimensions explores whether you are a J (for Judging, bad word to describe being structured, planned ahead, organised, logical in approach to projects) or a P (for Perceiving, odd choice of word to describe being spontaneous, in the moment, unplanned, leave it open as long as possible in case something better comes up).  So, if you do the profile you find out which your preference is, and when you do it will explain a lot to you.

In my mind the different worlds that people with these opposite preferences inhabit are a source of arguably the greatest tension between individuals.  If you’re a J you think that P behaviour is incompetent, disorganised, childish, and that those displaying P’ness need to grow up and get their lives sorted out.  If you’re a P you think that J’s are boring, risk averse, no sense of adventure, and that their J’ness is a sad reflection on their monotone existence, and they should get out more and find out what life has to offer.  Different worlds, no good or bad, just different.

I suppose like everything else in life, when you start to overdo it you start to get problems.  A bit of P’ness is OK, but when it’s incessant it drives the J to distraction.  I used to work for a consultancy where all 12 trainers were P’s, and all the admin people were J’s.  The poor admin folks spent their whole lives chasing up stuff, reminding the P’s of the rules, the policy, the need to plan things like flights further ahead than one day: basically picking up the trail of devastation we left in our wake.

I often find that teams are either predominantly one of the other:  sales teams are often P’s, operations teams often J’s, for instance.  And too much of one preference can be a bad thing.

This all popped back into my head the other day when doing some Presentations training using Cisco’s fabulous TelePresence video conferencing equipment.  There I was in London, others in Amsterdam, another in Barcelona, and to all intents and purposes we were in the same room.  We were talking about the relationship this group had with their internal clients (primarily operations type people, J in style).  This group is, guess what, all P’s.  Maybe this starts to explain why the ops people might think their new schemes are insufficiently thought through, haven’t gone through the correct approval procedure, can’t be fitted in to this quarter’s plan, and so on.  When we analyse it this way, the J’s aren’t getting enough J, and the P’s will gain huge respect if they just become a bit more J in their approach.

When the Myers Briggs Type Indicator was being developed, the people who did the initial work were motivated to develop a tool which might improve relationships between people and reduce conflict worldwide.  On the evidence of this tiny example, they were certainly onto something.

So if you are having difficulty building a relationship with an individual, ask them what their Myers Briggs profile is (it’s easy enough to find out), and then adapt your style of thinking to theirs for a bit.  You’ll be amazed at the result.

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