The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (And Other People’s Lives Better, Too) is a book by Gretchen Rubin that presents a personality profile framework about how people deal with outer and inner expectations.

One aspect of this framework and book that I particularly like is that Rubin doesn’t try to explain too much of an individual’s personality with her framework. She writes:

I think that many personality frameworks cram too many elements into their categories. By contrast, the Four Tendencies describes only one narrow aspect of a person’s character—a vitally important aspect, but still just one of the multitude of qualities that form an individual. The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

The book suggests taking a quiz (here is the link) to discover our own tendency. It takes only five minutes.

The other three tendencies are described in these articles:

  1. Upholders. They meet inner and outer expectations. They love rules, having a clear plan and are self-motivated and disciplined.
  2. Rebels. The defy both outer and inner expectations. Above all, they want to be free to choose and express their own individuality.
  3. Obligers. They meet other peoples’ expectations easily, but struggle with their own.
  4. Introduction to The Four Tendencies


“I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”

So what does it mean to be a Questioner?

A couple of my children, now all adults and even married, are “questioners” according to the Four Tendencies Framework Quiz.

“Questioners question all expectations, and they respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense—in essence, they meet only inner expectations. They’re motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. They wake up and think, “What needs to get done today, and why?”

Most children, and especially teenagers, ask a lot of questions, but some more than others: these are the “questioners”. In my experience, another hard thing with children-questioners is that often they don’t even ask questions, but simply “resist doing anything that seems to lack purpose”. Unfortunately, sometimes things that have a purpose are hard to explain to children or there is not enough time to explain, or just not enough patience!

Close-Up Photography of a Man Holding PPen

According to Rubin,

“Questioners sometimes suffer “analysis-paralysis” when they find it difficult to make a decision or move forward because they keep wanting more and more information.”

Parents of teenagers “questioners”, may have a hard time to deal with children who want almost never ending information before actually doing anything.

The same may happen with spouses or co-workers. If you like to see things move forward fast enough, questioners may at times seem an hindrance, even annoying. However, they can also help you avoid making premature or uninformed decisions.

Interestingly and

“ironically, many Questioners dislike being questioned. They consider their actions carefully so they find it tiresome or explain to be asked to justify their decisions.”

In other words, questioners May bombard others with questions, but often they don’t bother to answer when they are asked to explain themselves. A very frustrating combination!

While it may be hard to always provide explanations that will satisfy young children and teenagers, with adults questioners (like co-workers or spouses) it’s a great strategy to include plenty of justification, when making a request to them.

On the positive side,

“because Questioners want to make well-considered decisions and come to their own conclusions, they tend to be intellectually engaged, and they’re often willing to do exhaustive research”

This is a very valuable characteristic that can be used at work with great results.


“once Questioners believe that a particular habit is worthwhile, they’ll stick to it”

In other words, you probably need more time to persuade questioners, but once “they decide there’s sufficient basis for an expectation, they’ll follow it”. The same cannot be said of the “rebels”, for example.

When dealing with questioners at home or at work

“at times, people may feel overwhelmed by a Questioner’s relentless appetite for information and justification. Their constant questioning may be perceived by others as disrespectful, defiant, undermining, or showing a lack of “team spirit.”

The best solution is probably to remember that it’s just their way of being, and that they don’t necessarily mean to be negative; they just “need” more information than people from other tendencies, to make up their mind and act.


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