How to Survive Living with a Messy teenager/employee (aka P) When You're a Freakishly Neat (aka
I'm a Judger, a.k.a a freakishly neat, compulsively organized, stressed out, OCD bore. Ditto my ENTJ husband.
So will someone please explain how we managed to produce an INTP teenager, emphasis on the "P"?
I get that teenagers can be irresponsible, unpredictable, moody, absent-minded, deeply protective of their personal space and relaxed about personal hygiene. But there's a big difference between dealing with the usual adolescent weirdness and dealing with the kind of adolescent weirdness that comes wrapped up in a personality that clashes with your own. And when it comes to living with someone – partners, spouses, children, roommates - the J/P dimension can certainly provide some explosive exchanges.
Basically, Judgers like plans, structure and organization, while Perceivers prefer to remain flexible, laid back and spontaneous. You know someone's a Judger when they're always on time (i.e. early), have plans set at least a week ahead, and get seriously wound up when you leave a pile of dishes in the sink.
Perceivers are the ones who breeze through problems, have no set plans until around an hour before, and think that "dinner at 7.00" means opening the fridge door at 7.30 and realizing there's nothing there to cook.
So how can a Judger live in harmony with a Perceiver without driving each other crazy?
Well, you could try to make them all Judgey by enforcing, nagging, structuring, scheduling and being generally passive-aggressive while using phrases like "my house, my rules" and "if you don't clean that mess, I'm throwing your stuff out in the street."
Or, you could realize that it isn't right, it just doesn't work, and you must find a way to embrace the Perceiving aspects of your spouse/partner/offspring/roomie while acknowledging that you probably have enough Judginess for the both of you.
Here are my top tips for living with a Perceiver when you're a Judger, focusing on three major hot spots: mess, time management and decision making.
1: Don't Mess With Me
All teenagers are messy, right? Wrong! I wasn't. I've always needed things to be clean and organized or else I just can't think straight. It's like my environment has a direct channel of influence on my brain.
My Perceiver's room, on the other hand, is a cesspit of filth. The floor is only visible if her monthly allowance is imminent, and then after much nagging. Worse, she really doesn't understand why I ask her to tidy her space - she knows where everything is, and that's good enough for her. And trust me when I say, this causes way more frustration on the J side of the fence.
Couples argue about tidiness/cleanliness more than anything else, according to just about every piece of research ever done on the subject.
And if you're a J/P combo, you will never have the same standards in this area.
Judgers see mess in snapshot - we look and see dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, laundry to be ironed and dirty streaks around the bathtub. These are problems that pull our focus, because Judgers like closure. Who can rest when there's a problem to be fixed?
Perceivers see the same image but in video. Sure, the house is a mess now, but in an hour or two the toys will be in the cupboard and the laundry will be pressed. The dishes will get done after dinner and the tub will be rinsed down after the kids have had their evening bath. For them, mess isn't a problem to be solved, it's simply a part of daily life. So, they relax and let the chores get done in their own good time.
How to cope?
To a Judger, a Perceiver will always be a slob. To the Perceiver, the Judger will always be a control freak. The secret to solving this conundrum is to accept this fact and recognize that there are limits on how much the other is capable of changing. In other words: don't turn the issue of housework into a battleground.
Perceivers won't have the same priorities as you, so be really straightforward about what needs to be done so you're not preoccupied all the time. A chores rota is a great idea. Include the items that are most likely to cause you stress, but try to build in some flexibility for your freewheeling Perceiver.
For example, you could set out the chores that need doing that week, with a reasonable deadline. That way, your Perceiver can procrastinate as long as she wishes, but she will be super-busy on the last day of the week if she hasn't got her act together before then.
Resist the urge to passive-aggressively clean around your Perceiver or hawkishly tut whenever they do the chores their way (and it's very, very wrong) – this behavior will not guilt the Perceiver into action. You'll just end up feeling resentful that you're doing all the work and your Perceiver will feel resentful that you're trying to control how and when the chores are done. If you can, give your Perceiver a place where you do not have a say – where he can pile up his papers and leave his things lying around.
If you're under stress and your J-ness is getting a bit OCD – something psychologists call psychorigidity – challenge yourself to be messy for a week. The experience could be really positive for you and bring some much-needed perspective to the situation. I for one am super-jealous of a Perceiver's ability to sit in a messy house, playing with her boisterous and filthy children, and not care one jot about checking things off a to-do list. But I sometimes need a reality check about this template for relaxed and carefree living.
#2: What Do You Mean, I'm Late?
Ah, the perennial problem. Judgers place a high value on being on time. We set alarms and reminders and check the clock when a deadline is coming up. We are spectacularly good at estimating how long something will take, and will never leave ourselves just 10 minutes to complete a 30-minute commute no matter how optimistic we are about the traffic. In fact, we're more likely to leave 20 minutes earlier than we need to "just in case." Some of us – I'm looking at you, SJs – might even do a dry run of an important journey, like getting to an interview, just to make sure that we will show up on time.
Perceivers, on the other hand, take a much more flexible approach to punctuality.
Meaning: they are almost pathologically late. Unlike Judgers who really don't like the approximate or the unexpected - hence the focus on clock watching - Perceivers are constantly taking in information about what's happening around them, processing it and responding to it in real time. They might be on time if nothing interesting is happening.
But it's more likely that they'll lose themselves to more exciting pursuits such as scrolling through Facebook, watching an interesting news item or having a conversation with someone they bump into along the way.
As Judging types, we feel more than a twinge of irritation when someone we live with is habitually late for shared appointments.
The precise flavor of this irritation depends on your personality type.
NTJs, for example, see tardiness as inefficient and illogical, and will judge a Perceiver harshly for wasting their time. STJs and SFJs, being models of conscientiousness and reliability, will also view the Perceivers' tardiness unfavorably as it implies a lack of respect and self-discipline.
ENFJs and INFJs may be more forgiving, but in their book punctuality is a way to show consideration and appreciation for others. Making people wait (again and again) implies a lack of consideration, and NFs may take it very personally.
How to cope?
First, admit the truth. It's hard to be a Judger living with someone who isn't a Judger. If you think otherwise then – I'll say it – you're wrong. A Judger cannot help but feel that a person should be organized, considerate and careful which, to us, means punctual. We don't want to think of someone who is content to change plans on a whim. It's wasteful.
Now we have that out in the open, the only real solution to to admit that you're strong in this area and your Perceiver isn't. If there's somewhere you absolutely need to be as a couple or a family, or plans that absolutely need to be made, it would be putting everyone at a disadvantage to ignore this reality just to avoid crushing the Perceiver with your J-ness. So you may just have to take charge in this area. Either that, or lie to your Perceiver about when something starts.
Take care though, that you're not perpetuating the stereotype that Judgers do not know how to have fun and we all walk around with sticks up our butts! Try to spot when you're being too obsessive and realize that a little flexibility, which may not square with your plans, can have pleasant results. Studies have revealed that persistently tardy people are more creative, more optimistic and less prone to stress. Can you combine your expectations to get some of these benefits?
#3: Who Decides What's Best For the Kids?
If you're living together as a J/P family, there's a good chance that some of your arguments will be about the right way to bring up the kids. But even roommates have some fairly important decisions to make. How to split the bills? What are the rules on music/ guests/ gorging down your roomie's food? What happens if you need to buy a new washing machine? It doesn't matter if the issue is front page news or immaterial. Whenever there's a decision to be made, the door is opened to opposition, defensiveness and hurt feelings.
Because they extravert their decision-making more immediately than Perceivers, Judgers have a habit of making quick decisions, becoming attached to those decisions (even if they're wrong) and barking orders so that things gets done and the Judger can reach that all-important closure.
This is especially true for ETJ types, who may come across as offensive or domineering when it comes to decisiveness. But even introverted Judgers can be very assertive in a decision-making situation. Judgers cannot bear to wait around for things to be done, so we'll always step up to the plate and make the tough decisions when everyone else is hesitating.
For Perceivers with equal responsibility for decision-making, this is a bit of a nightmare. Perceivers try to avoid making snap decisions and don't communicate strong conclusions like a Judger would. A Perceiver is far more likely to offer up observations and possibilities than firm conclusions. They don't experience that inborn sense of urgency about making a decision and will always wait for enough information before pressing forward. Cue: verbal fits of rage that your Perceiver is stuck in an unproductive loop of procrastination and a key decision is still hanging over your heads!
How to cope?
Of course, you could put your arguments forward, withholding judgment, and then give your Perceiver time to process the situation the way she needs before negotiating like two adults trying to reach a mutual outcome.
Or, you could ask the magic decision fairy to intervene. Which one will produce a better outcome? Answers on a postcard please.....
Jayne is a freelance copywriter, business writing blogger and the blog editor here at Truity. One part word nerd, two parts skeptic, she helps writing-challenged clients discover the amazing power of words on a page. Jayne is an INTJ and lives in Yorkshire, UK with her ENTJ husband and two baffling children.