Guardians and The Communication Conundrum: How SJ Personalities Can Make a Bigger Impact at Work

Professional communication is vital in the business world. Sensing-Judging types -- the SJs of the 16-type personality system -- are adept at communicating important information clearly and concisely, and use it as a tool to move tasks along or educate others.  Analyzing the overall goals of projects, we are quick to spot and fill in any gaps in information and use it to make sound, quick decisions.

We tend to gather our communications into organized files, ready at a moments’ notice when needed.  With all of these words flying around, it makes sense to stop for a minute and see how our personality plays into how we view and handle our workplace communications, and what that might mean to our supervisors, coworkers, and clients.

Just the facts, please

The SJ personality is busy saving the world most of the time, and as Sgt. Joe Friday says, we’d prefer “Just the facts, ma’am”. If your profession is crime fighting, this communication style may advance your career, but for the rest of us, a little brushing up on our approach to written interaction is a good idea.

Sensor-Judger personality types have a distinct way of passing information back and forth, and that is generally how you spot one: data nuggets, bullet points, facts and flowcharts. We are here to get a job done and we say what we see. You won’t find emoticons in our texts or exclamation points in our emails. Instead, you will find a compelling explanation of how we arrived at our conclusions and what you, the receiver, should do next about them. We are so certain of our viewpoint -- whether it’s on the project or the weather -- that it doesn’t occur to us to ask what you, the receiver, might think about them.

Or, God forbid, feel about them.

The SJ Communication Gap

Our contributions to a company, project or marketing campaign require a great deal of written and oral communication at a professional level. It’s tempting for SJs to be brusque with our messages and forgo the niceties that oil the moving cogs of our team. Consistently using a dry and direct style does nothing for the professional relationships that we need to foster for career growth.

But what do we do when Intuitives and Perceivers, those of the opposite end of the spectrum, are more interested in our intentions instead of our message? They read between the lines and prognosticate and extrapolate, and in general, make a hash of our simple, straight-forward information.

They will muse over office politics, imagine innovative alternatives, and wonder whether we have considered the carbon footprint implications of our decision. Not that we were misinterpreted, but the fact that we are working with so many other personalities in the company guarantees that there will be other points of view, followed by a variety of responses to our communication. And this, for us, is a painful reality.

Our initial reaction is to become even more succinct. But maybe there’s another way.

Don’t jump!

It’s smart to learn adaptations in our communication habits so that managers and coworkers will understand our message without misinterpreting our intentions. SJs can lose valuable job opportunities without ever knowing it, if they can’t combine grammar rules with the proper professional level of human touch.

The information we need to convey feels more important than the style in which we convey it, and we tend to push things through to completion, unmindful of individual protests. People are in the business of people, and they need to know who we are, not just what we think.

Avoid the impulse to respond with “mansplaining”. Our conclusions were drawn from carefully linear reasoning and our rock-solid explanations as to methodology and proving we are right will always fall on deaf ears. We love to defend our hard-won facts. But it sounds boring. And it feels patronizing.

As difficult as this may be, learn to recognize that our reasoning powers were not challenged nor were our abilities questioned. Our supervisor may not be asking us to show our worksheets as proof of our thoroughness, but instead may be attempting to direct our attention to an area that will enhance and add to a job well done.

Our teammate is reaching out, seeking to find a connection that has nothing to do with the immediate task. What is obvious to us is not obvious to others, and when we can listen patiently to their thoughts, our coworkers feel valued, not steamrolled or controlled. SJs are usually the person on the team asked to put down final stamps on projects but everyone wants to feel like a contributor.

The trick is to curb our leadership to the inclusion of anyone we want to follow us.

Build bridges, don’t burn them

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt’s advice is a good piece of professional advice for all SJs in the workplace. A little understanding of how to enhance and adapt our communication for other personalities in the office will go a long way towards a successful career.

Use our need for people to be tidy and predictable to figure out who we can count on to be untidy and unpredictable. Expect it, applaud it, make space for it. Do not communicate a need for them to be otherwise. They were hired for contributions only they can bring to the office, even if we can’t tangibly see or quantify them.

Respond to someone who sounds disrespectful with a moment of extreme attention and respect. Seek to understand, first. The following five minutes could prove amazingly insightful. This ritual can change any relationship, not just those at work.

Collect as much information as possible before drawing conclusions or making a decision. Be sure to gather feedback from all of the applicable people, even if up front their contributions feel irrelevant. Make adjustments for our own personal bias. Although we are comfortable asserting our conclusions, we aren’t always open to admitting we are wrong and readjusting our trajectory accordingly. It’s always possible that our facts were skewed somehow. Have the guts to say so publicly and the team will respect us all the more.

Make room in a busy day for the global conceptualizers, the possibility proposers, the vague and fluid tangent droppers. Once in a while, when you follow a rainbow…you find gold.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is a freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where - aided by innumerable pots of Yorkshire Gold tea - her first novel is in progress. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

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