Structure and Flexibility in Personality Type

Jené Kapela Develop your leadership ability, Focus on you, Personality Type

roadI’ll admit I’m not the most flexible person in the world. I like to plan. Whether I’m working or on vacation, I want a clear schedule for what I’m doing during the day. (And the next day, and the next week…)

When I was younger, I was genuinely confused by people who didn’t need this kind of structure in their lives. How do they manage?, I would wonder. How can they not know what their plans are for the weekend when it is ONLY FOUR DAYS AWAY?

When I entered the professional world, I wondered the same thing about people who liked to hold impromptu meetings. How can they do something that wasn’t scheduled on their calendars?

Of course, I’ve since come to realize that people approach the world around them in different ways and that there is value in different approaches to going about work. However, it wasn’t until I took part in a Myers-Briggs certification training that I really understood why I feel the need to be so organized in my life but how my best friend can travel around Europe for months without a schedule or a map. It all goes back to personality type.

What is personality type?

Personality type describes different patterns of behavior. There are four aspects, or dichotomies, of personality type that result in 16 distinct personality styles, based on the work of Carl Jung. He believed that differences in people are not random and developed a theory of personality type to describe these behavioral patterns. Personality type is measured through a tool called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or Myers-Briggs, for short.

One of the dichotomies of personality type considers how you prefer to interact with the outer world. Are you more structured and organized (Judging), or are you more flexible and adaptable (Perceiving)?

Just like we naturally prefer writing with one hand over the other, we naturally prefer either Judging or Perceiving. This is really important to understand, because once you do you realize why people (including yourself!) tend to behave in very specific ways. These different ways of being related to structure and flexibility aren’t right or wrong – they just are.

What is the difference between Judging and Perceiving?

People who prefer Judging tend to want to organize the world around them. They like to bring life under control – to have things planned and orderly. They feel more comfortable once decisions are made and there is a clear plan. This doesn’t mean people who prefer Judging can’t be flexible and spontaneous – they can. They just prefer to be in control whenever possible.

People who prefer Perceiving generally like to live life as it comes. They are open to new experiences and are comfortable adapting to the world rather than trying to organize it. They are seen as very flexible and spontaneous. This doesn’t mean people who prefer Perceiving can’t be organized – they just don’t feel the need to structure things.

Tips for working with people who are different from you:

Knowing about personality type, it is easier to understand differences people have and why you might find someone with the type opposite of you difficult to work with. Here are some suggestions for working with people of the opposite preference:

With people who prefer Judging:

  • Acknowledge that they like having time to prepare, and give them advanced notice of things.
  • Provide closure on discussions and identify clear action items for moving forward.
  • Honor their schedule whenever possible.

With people who prefer Perceiving:

  • Provide the opportunity for spontaneity and flexibility.
  • Allow them to be creative and to explore new ideas.
  • Realize they embrace change because this is how they see possibilities.

We aren’t necessarily tied to our way of being. We can choose different behaviors. But our type influences how we naturally respond to situations and people. So while I’ll continue making my lists and planning my schedule, I’ll also reserve the right to be spontaneous and flexible – every now and then.

What’s your preference? Share in the comments!

Jene Kapela, Ed.D.

You can contact Jene at

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