The Battle Between "P"s and "J"s

So Thursday’s movie was “Music and Lyrics”. It was surprisingly good….a bit cliche in parts, but overall pretty entertaining (especially for those of us who grew up in the 80s). It was a prime example of the clash of the Js and the Ps……Don’t worry, I’ll explain myself.

If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs type indicator test, you know that you are assigned four letters that sum up your preferences. Think of each of these as a continuum. We all fall somewhere on the continuum and aren’t solely one type, but generally lean one way or the other. The first preference is introvert/extrovert (do you get energy from being around others or from being alone). The second is sensing/intuitive (the way in which you take in information). The third is feeling/thinking (how you evaluate information and make decisions). And the fourth – the J and the P – is Judging/Perceiving (your lifestyle).

Here’s a quick synopsis of the differences between Js and Ps:

Js: / Ps:
Value structure / Like to go with the flow
Plan ahead / Adapt as they go
Like Order / Like flexibility
Goal-oriented /Process-oriented
More structured / More easy-going
Like things settled and decided / Like things open and spontaneous

Being in a psychology field, of course I have an interest in human behavior. I’ve always found the Myers-Briggs fascinating, and at one point read a book on speedreading people. I discovered that the people I work most closely with at work are all “J”s, while I am a “P”. One in particular (who shall remain nameless), is more J than the others. She is very scheduled, gets things done way ahead of time (and nags me when I don’t), keeps an extremely tidy office, and is bugged by things being out of place. She can’t even eat a sandwich when the meat and cheese are hanging off the edge. Sometimes, when we’re in her office, I’ll toss something on the floor just to see how long it takes her to compulsively pick it up. Sometimes she’s on to me, but it’s still interesting to see how unfocused she becomes when something is on the floor. So we give each other a hard time about our foibles. We Ps are often classified as being irresponsible and unorganized (which isn’t necessarily true).

Anyway, Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore were a classic example of the P/J clash. She was very flighty and spontaneous, while he was very neat and tidy. As she came into the apartment to water his plants, she unfailingly tried to drop her purse and coat on his baby grand. He was so perturbed by this, he barely let them touch the piano before he had them moved. When they decide to pair up to try their hand at song writing, she moves the furniture. This obviously drives him nuts and he complains that she’s in his space. Really, just go see the movie. You’ll see what I’m talking about. It is interesting how two people who seem so opposite can hit it off so well (I’m not giving anything away, but it is a romantic comedy you know).

So, BTW, if you haven’t taken the Myers-Briggs, here’s a place where you can take a free test…. Let me know how it turns out for you.
And here is a site with both a brief and more detailed profile of your type: BTW, in case you’re wondering, I’m an INFP.

~ by tawnyamarie on February 25, 2007.

11 Responses to “The Battle Between "P"s and "J"s”

  1. eNFj

    Did you have me pegged correctly? This is fascinating stuff! I’m going to try to read a few of those books mentioned on the site.

    Funny that we’re opposites and best friends. Than again, my husband is opposite of me as well. The old saying must be true…Opposites attract!

  2. Niki: I had you right on the nose! Like I said, I would have been really surprised if you were anything else. I have a book you can borrow when you come out.

    We may be opposite on two of the four, but we’re both NFs (which is a whole sub-category called, Ideal seekers). According to the profiles for our types, my ideal match is an ENFJ and one of yours is an INFP. How cool is that!?

    The P and J in us probably don’t clash because we don’t work or live together! The way things are, I admire your organization, and you have said you like my adventurous spirit. If we worked together, we might occasionally get irked with the other’s style (though I think we’d work quite well together).

  3. Tawnya, I’m also an ENFJ, like Niki. I figured you and I could never live together a long time ago, because you would think I’m anal retentive and I would think you were flighty! 🙂 HA! But I love you anyway! (P.S. I married someone just like me, and that is both a blessing and a curse.)

  4. Krystal: That’s funny you and Niki are both my friends and both ENFJs! Honestly, I would have gotten yours right, except that
    I would have guessed you as a P. Now that you mentioned it, I remember some slightly “anal retentive” qualities as you called them, like the fact that you hate being surprised. But I also remember that you were pretty spontaneous. I mean after all, you quit your job and moved to AL for some guy all within a short amount of time (and look how well that turned out, by the way!). And how about the fact that suddenly I hear you’re running for mayor and opening a coffee shop and becoming an EMT?! I guess I see both sides in you.

  5. I’m a strong p. INFP to be exact. I CANNOT STAND J’S! My mother (INFJ) is an intense J. I do respect how she keeps things in order, but I get frustrated when she nit-picks me for not being able to give her every detail. She comes off as anal to me really. I try to compromise for her, but she refuses to compromise for me.

  6. Alyssa: I wouldn’t go so far as to say I can’t stand J’s, but they can be rather inflexible at times. But it takes all kinds of people and everyone has their own system (or non-system). We just have to be careful not to impose our way of doing things on to others as if it’s the best or only way. And since 70% of people are J’s, sometimes society does tend to lean towards their way of doing things.

  7. […] both Ps (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here). We both like spontaneity and flexibility over rigidity and […]

  8. Thanks for the examples of differences between the P and J types. I used to test INTP or INFP when I was younger, toggling mostly on the T or F. Now, I tend to test INTJ, but with only a very, very slight J preference (about 1-5%). With your explanations, I can see why. I chose a career where the J is much more valued than the P, so I guess I learned to favor that a bit. Still, at home I am an absolute slob and I only like to plan certain things in my personal life. I’ve been thinking of getting a joint MBA/HR degree to switch gears and get into either administration or HR management. I found a list of suggested careers by personality type and HR came up on INTP but not INTJ. I was worried at first, but after this maybe all I’ll need to do is loosen up a bit. Hopefully getting the degree, doing a few internships, etc. will help with that. Thanks again for the info and insights!

  9. I was happy to find this post, since I’ve always found the distinction between Ps and Js to be a slippery one that’s hard to grasp. Your characterizations seemed to simplify the differences in a way that makes sense.

    Reading the comments, though, I think it’s funny how no matter what people’s type, they always try to “spin” different types in a negative light. Ps use terms like “rigid”, “anal”, “uptight” to describe Js; Js use words like “disorganized” and “careless” for Ps.

    I think Jung first and the Myers-Briggs folks later were attempting to synthesize and celebrate differences in order to bring about peace, tolerance, and acceptance. The whole notion of the book “Please Understand Me” was that rather than use “anal” or “careless” descriptors you learn to acknowledge & embrace others’ differences instead of railing against them.

    The world of personality is a varied place and that’s a wonderful thing. I don’t want to be surrounded by other INFPs all the time. What a bore that would be. Instead, I’d rather all the various types share the goal of moving, in Platonic fashion, toward a less extreme position, toward a “golden mean”. Some of the comments here make me think that people are missing the point.

  10. And I realize what an idealistic, INFP-ish post that was! ; ) Sigh…

  11. Well said, Elspeth. You’re right abou being careful not to judge those who aren’t our type. I can remember how I felt upon first taking this test in college, when a peer basically chastized me for being an introvert. He started making remarks to help “coach” me to become more extroverted.

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