(J) vs. (P) – Beyond Introversion and Extroversion

(J) vs. (P)?  So far, we have looked (S) vs. (N) and (T) vs. (F)  to examine Jungian archetypes beyond introversion and extroversion. The last category is Judging vs. Perceiving. Consider the following scenarios:

J Road Trip – The internary is laid out in advance. She knows how many miles per day she will travel, what she will visit along the way, and where she will  spend each night. Hotel reservations are all made. Sticking to a  schedule and knowing what to expect provide a sense of security.

P Road Trip – She gets in the car with a sense of adventure. There are no fixed plans, she will drive until she is tired. The risk of not knowing where the next hotel room can be found is a bit exhilarating.  Impromptu side trips off the main highway add whimsy to the experience.  Sticking to a schedule is confining and kills spontaneity.

(P) vs. (J) – Preference Descriptions

According to the Meyers & Briggs Foundation both groups have the ability to be organized.  The J group appears this way, at least to the outside world. The P group, however, comes off as more flexible and adaptable.  In Please Understand Me, Character & Temperament Types, Keirsey and Bates give the following descriptors for each.

(J) Group

  • Settled
  • Prefer closure
  • Decisive
  • Like to feel in charge of their lives

(P) Group

  • Always want to gather more information
  • Prefer to keep their options open
  • Tentative
  • Like to let life happen

(J) vs. (P) – Work or Play

It has been said that the (J)s have a work ethic and the (P)s have a play ethic, but this too can be misleading.  Both groups have the capacity for hard work. According to Keirsey and Bates, the (J) group  puts work above all else.  They need to make sure every chore is finished before they can rest or play.  After a long day, a (J) will make sure all the dishes are done before they can go to bed.  A (P) can let them wait until morning.

(J) vs. (P) – Misunderstandings at the Office

One potential source of conflict in the (J) vs. (P) dichotomy is deadlines.  A (J) likes to wrap things up.  They are most comfortable after decisions have been made and plans are put in place. For a (P) however, that sense of finality is  a source of discomfort.  They might get their best ideas right after the deadline has passed.  Ad hoc situations encourage their creativity, while closure can shut it down.  As one musician told me, he always sees himself rehearsing, he never envisions his final performance.

Are Jungian Archetypes Still Relevant?

In wrapping up this three part series, it is appropriate to ask if these categories are still relevant. There has been increasing skepticism directed at Jungian temperament sorters, particularly the Meyers Briggs test, which is heavily used in the corporate world.  Some academics point out the lack of scientific replication.  Much of the noise appears to be coming from pop journalists who simply need fresh angles for their stories.

To determine the worth of Jungian archetypes, it is necessary to look at what they can and can not be used for.

They should never be used as the sole source for any life decisions, including and especially hiring.  No psychological test is 100% accurate.

They should not be used to limit people. We are all capable of developing traits that are not dominant. When I was first took the test, my results registered INTP.  I was told we were not writers.  I challenged the administrator.  He doubled down and said we can’t write because our capacity to detect minute contradictions paralyzes us.

Instead of trying to appear infallible, he could have pointed out that perhaps I answered the questions the way I thought they should be answered rather than how I really felt.  Or,  looked at my actual score  to see that my F/T line was relatively balanced, only slightly tipping toward the T side.  NF’s are indeed writers.  Sadly, he chose to protect his theories at the expense of discouraging a 19 year old.

Personality assessments are meant to explore options, not wall them off. What Jungian archetypes can be used for is insights into ourselves and those around us, as long as we don’t become dogmatic about them. Having been mislabeled as a snob for an intensely reserved personality, understanding introversion has been a huge relief.  Likewise,  discovering that intuitives are not careless, we simply process information differently, has also been a sanity restorer.  If these test don’t speak to you, simply move on.  But if they do, know that they remain relevant for many of us.  Anything that helps us build bridges and tear down divides in worth exploring.

For further reading, check out “Are Scores on the MBTI Totally Meaningless?” in which psychology professor John A Johnson critiques the critquers.

Offline Source Used: Keirsey, David & Bates, Marilyn (1984).  Please Understand Me Character & Temperament Types. Del Mar, CA. Prometheus Nemesis Book Company.

Sherie Sanders is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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