Picture this: You’re in charge of a group that’s designing a new creative campaign. You’re all holed up in a small conference room with the requisite coffee, donuts and aspirin. You’ve reviewed the client’s needs, and talked about what the competition is doing. Now it’s time for the brainstorming to begin.
It isn’t long before one of your bright young associates leads with an idea that you think will work. Do you say,
A: “Great idea! Let’s start developing it”
B: “Great idea! Who’s got another one”?
If you answered “A,” you’re probably a Judger — someone who’s decisive, likes to make decisions, and is focused on results.
If you said “B,” you’re probably a Perceiver — someone who’s focused on the process, likes to gather information, and wants to keep their options open.
A Marriage of Inconvenience
You can see how, in theory, these attitudes might complement each other:
- The flexible, spontaneous and open-minded Perceivers would bring a lot of options to the table, and
- The systematic and methodical Judgers would choose one.
In practice, it’s not always that smooth. In fact, some people believe that the greatest source of at-work tension is the way Js and Ps can view each other:
- Ps may feel that Js are command-and-control freaks who rush to judgment without considering alternatives. They may also resent that Js dominate the business world, getting paid the big bucks for making decisions that Ps think are (to put it kindly) ill-advised.
- Js may feel that Ps are indecisive flakes who obstruct the forward march of progress by insisting that nothing can be decided, ever (or at least before the last possible moment). Js may also get impatient when Ps search for other options, when the Js feel there’s already a good one at hand.
It’s a J World, but Ps Add Possibility
Many of my clients — who have no trouble deciding if they’re introverts or extraverts — find it difficult to place themselves among Js and Ps. (Here’s a very big hint: Reliables, by definition are Judgers (Js). Experiencers, by definition, are Perceivers (Ps) . Only Helpers and Improvers come in both varieties.)
And that’s not surprising, because most people have to adopt the Judging style at work. Trying to leave your options open, or focusing on process rather than outcomes will not win you points, unless you’re either (a) in process management, or (b) working for a perceiver boss who’s powerful enough to do things his or her own way.
So to get to the bottom of “what you are,” try to think about what you would do if there were no external pressures or constraints. Would you still make lists? Would you plan your day? Or would you prefer to go with the flow? Is your favorite part of a project the early stage, when all things seem possible? Or is it the final step, of “closing the book”?
And what does all this mean for you as a Public Speaker???
Side-Stepping the Decisiveness Trap
As a hyper-J, it’s taken me some time to see that the next step for my Perceiver clients is not to become more “Judgerly.” After all, isn’t the Gold Standard in public speaking decisiveness? Focus? Clarity? Pull-through?
Well, sure — if you’re a J! And those aren’t bad qualities to bring when you’re speaking to a J audience of, let’s say, top executives.
But there’s more than one way to be a good speaker. Hile Rutledge, CEO of Otto Kroeger Associates, recently wrote to me about this, saying,
I don’t think there is anything in J or P that should impact quality of speaking. Ps will be a bit more relaxed, flowing, facilitative, and off the cuff (especially if also an Extravert). Js will be a bit more focused, serious-sounding, directive and closed, but either style could be compelling and easily considered great.
To illustrate (and because we spoke during an election week), Hile also gave this non-partisan list of politicians who seem to be Ps and are successful speakers:
- Barack Obama (D)
- John McCain (R)
- Bill Clinton (D)
- Newt Gingrich (R)
What’s Your Style?
Are you a Judging or Perceiving public speaker? If the latter, how does your love of options contribute to your impact when you speak in public? And Judgers, how do you avoid sounding inflexible, or cut-and-dried?
These are the kinds of questions that will point all of us toward growth as public speakers.
So Js and Ps, there is an alternative to us bashing each other: Let’s use these insights to help us summon more patience, and keep trying to live in peace.