Writing Type: Judging v. Perceiving

This is my final post on how personality type (specifically, Myers-Briggs personality type) affects your writing and critiquing style. Previously, we covered introvert/extrovert, intuitive/sensing, and thinking/feeling. Today, we’ll talk about judging/perceiving.

First, some general characteristics about this final division. This division has to do primarily with an approach to time management and decision making. Judging types tend to manage their time carefully and are generally organized and systematic. They value structure. They may rush to judgment (decisions) because they feel more comfortable when things are settled. Similarly, they may be resistant to change because they like to feel in control of a situation.

Perceiving types, on the other hand, are much more flexible. They prefer a spontaneous approach to time management. They may delay making a decision or judgment because they like being able to explore their options (and they may resist closure). They tend to resist structure in favor of free form. The downside to this approach is that perceiving types may take on too many projects and then fail to follow through.

Not surprisingly, in writing parlance, judging types are more likely to be plotters; perceiving types are more likely to be pantsers.

How does a judging preference influence writing?

When writing, judging types

  • Work best on a schedule 
  • May prefer to break down writing into manageable goals
  • Prefer to deal with one project at a time (hmm . . . this may explain why I’m unable to start my shiny new idea until I’ve finished my current revision)
  • Work well with outlines; writing tends to be focused and organized
  • Often draft quickly 
  • May skimp on researching before writing and then get blocked when they lack necessary information
  • May jump from drafting to proof-reading without really revising the work (because of their eagerness to complete the project)

When revising, judging types

  • May need to set aside writing to generate more ideas and/or conduct more research
  • May need help revisiting the work conceptually, instead of just focusing on polishing draft
  • In academic writing, may need to qualify assertions

When giving feedback to judging types

  • Praise structural strengths in the work and the writer’s efficiency
  • Help the writer set an agenda for revision–i.e. prioritize things that need work
  • Ask questions to help the writer revisit main ideas in the work
  • Encourage the writer to delay final polish on the work until the content is solid

How does a perceiving preference influence writing?

When writing, perceiving types

  •  Write best under pressure (otherwise, they may entertain so many options that they find it hard to start)
  • Explore multiple angles to a story–they are particularly good at developing ideas before starting
  • May juggle multiple projects at once
  • May have a hard time breaking writing into manageable tasks and thus put off writing until they have a large chunk of time available

When revising, perceiving types

  • May need to work on the structure of their work (look for plot gaps or holes in argument)
  • May need to simplify the focus of their story (may include too many interesting ideas or themes)
  • May need help to stay on task (revising!) rather than starting a new project

When giving feedback to perceiving types

  • Praise the work for creativity, innovation, depth
  • Help the writer recognize extraneous information or places where the story needs more structure.
  • Encourage writer to keep working on the revision (i.e., stay on task!)

The great thing about personality preferences is that they’re just that–preferences. They’re not set in stone. And I fully believe that by understanding our strengths–and weaknesses–as writers, we can learn to adopt the strengths of other personality styles. I think we also learn to be more tolerant of differences in writing when we see them as a reflection of a preference, rather than believing there’s a right and a wrong way to write.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am a distinctly judging type–of the four categories, this is the only one where I routinely score 100% judging over perceiving. (What can I say? I’m also an oldest child.) And yet, understanding how this preference influences my writing has, over time, also helped me adopt perceiving writing habits (particularly the ability to explore a topic before writing and learning to flesh out my arguments).

I also think it’s really valuable to find critique partners with other personality preferences, because they can bolster you (and your writing) in places where you’re weak. In turn, you can do the same for them.

Do you recognize yourself in these preferences? Does your writing reflect that preference? How have you learned to compensate for your weaknesses in writing–and exploit your strengths?