4 min. read
In his play “No Exit,” Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “Hell is other people,” and sometimes sharing a house or apartment with others can feel like that. There are some people that we seem get on with and others that, well...we find more difficult. Fortunately, most of the people we'll have as housemates or flatmates don't deliberately set out to make our lives a misery, despite what it might feel like to us sometimes. But they may have a different approach to life, and that can cause conflict, so understanding these differences can be crucial to having a healthy relationship with them. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) model is a useful framework for better understanding this and bettering your relationship with the people in your home.
What does the MBTI measure?
The MBTI assessment looks at four aspects of the differences between people:
Are we energized by and do we focus our attention on the external world (Extraversion) or our internal world (Introversion)?
Do we prefer and trust information that is solid, practical and bases on the evidence of our senses (Sensing) or do we prefer to look at connections, possibilities, and the big picture (Intuition)?
Do we want to make decisions on the basis of objective logic (Thinking) or would we rather concentrate on our values and on how people will be affected by the decision (Feeling)?
Do we want to live our lives in an organized, structured, planned way (Judging) or in an emergent, spontaneous, unplanned way (Perceiving)?
It’s the last of these preference pairs — Judging or Perceiving — that is often the most important in living harmoniously with the people we live with.
How do Judging types prefer to live?
People with a Judging preference like things to be structured and organized. That typically means that they like the place where they live to be tidy and organized too.
They also like closure. Once they start on a job, they want to finish it, and often they can’t really switch off and enjoy themselves until they do. There’s a little voice in their ear saying, “You haven’t finished that yet."
How do Perceiving people prefer to live?
In contrast, people with a Perceiving preference don’t have the same need for organization and closure. They tend not to get so wound up by things being untidy, and don’t feel the same urgency to finish the cleanup once they start.
If something more interesting comes along, hey they can always finish the housework later. Perceiving people will of course tidy up before a visitor comes around – but will likely do this at the last minute.
How do people with different Judging and Perceiving preferences live together?
A Judging flatmate may become increasingly worried that the cleanup is never going to happen, end up doing it themselves, and complain to their Perceiving flatmate – who may find this irritating because so far as they were concerned, there was plenty of time for them to do it later.
Judging people can get quite annoyed by untidy environments in a way that Perceiving people tend not to. In a research survey about people’s workplaces, we asked people to what extent they agreed with the statement “It annoys me when people have messy, cluttered desks”.
55% of people with a Judging preference agreed or strongly agreed with this, but only 25% of those with a Perceiving preference. These Judging-Perceiving differences of course play out in other ways too. Judging people like to plan things in advance, and may be irritated if their Perceiving flatmate suddenly says something like “oh, I’ve just decided not to go away this weekend after all,” while the Perceiving person will wonder why their flatmate is making a fuss and what the big deal is.
Perceiving people like to be spontaneous and will feel irritated if they feel they are being pushed into a routine or forced to make decisions well in advance. There is a danger that the relationship may become even more dysfunctional, with the Judging person imposing artificially early deadlines and the Perceiving person deliberately delaying things.
So, can Judging and Perceiving people ever live together in harmony? Well, yes, they can, but they need to work to understand the other person’s point of view.
How can Judging and Perceiving types live together successfully?
The first step is to realise that when your flatmate does something that seems odd, annoying, different from what you would do, it’s unlikely that they are deliberately trying to annoy you. They are just acting in a way that seems natural to them. And sometimes, their approach might actually be useful.Next, think about yourself and your flatmate. Do you have a Judging or a Perceiving preference? What about them?
The best way for you to find out is for you to complete a type questionnaire like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, but if not, the descriptions earlier in this article might help.
Then, if you can, sit down and have a conversation with them. Talk through how you approach your home environment, tactfully outline how you see them doing things differently (and pay attention if they disagree with any details) and explore how you can both work out ways in which you can complement each other rather than ending up in conflict.
Here are some ideas:
- Aim to create a balanced home environment where there is some structure, but where you also allow for flexibility.
- Work out a set of ground rules for what has to be planned and agreed up front and what can be more spontaneous and decided in the moment.
- Agree on when chores need to be done and who will do what when. Maybe write this down. If you have a Judging preference, don’t press for unrealistic or unnecessarily early deadlines, and try not to worry or drop hints until your flatmate is actually late. If you have a Perceiving preference, make sure that you do stick to any deadlines that have been agreed.
Judging preference folks: your superpower is making quick, decisive decisions.
Perceiving preference folks: yours is to take in all the information you can and consider all the options before making a decision.
Combine your powers to make efficient but thorough decisions about your house or apartment.
If you are organizing a party or other get-together at home, maybe allow the Judging person to organize and plan this, but allow some wriggle room for last-minute ideas and be prepared to be flexible once the party starts.
Judging and Perceiving is not the only aspect of personality that’s important in getting along, but it’s a great place to start. Appreciating each other's strengths and differences is key a harmonious home environment.
This article was first published by Brit + Co, August 2023.
Ready for more?
If you don’t know your MBTI type, take the real, science-backed MBTI assessment.
Are your housemates not quite adults yet? And possibly related to you? Check out this article on How Your MBTI Type Influences the Way You Parent.
Want to learn more about MBTI types and other relationships? Check out the blog and podcast episode about personality type and relationships with MBTI Master Practitioner Michael Segovia.