Part Two: The Questioner

by | Jan 16, 2018 | Blog Posts, Goal Setting, Lessons from Books, Uncategorized | 2 comments

I appreciate all of the feedback to last week’s post about the Obliger Tendency.

One reader wrote, “I’m huddled in my bedroom getting caught up on all my work and personal emails. I was feeling so upset—honestly, I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. But miraculously, your blog was waiting for me, and I feel better because I know I’m in (Obliger) Rebellion, and everything makes sense.

It can be so powerful to understand what’s happening to us and to know that there’s nothing wrong with us.


This is Part Two of a special series on Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies.

What’s a Questioner?

Questioners respond to their own internal expectations. However, they struggle to meet external expectations…until they understand the reasons behind an external expectation.

To carry through on the same scenarios we’ve been using… If a Questioner wants to go to the gym, they’ll have their reasons for it and they’ll get there. However, if a Questioner’s boss asks for an assignment at a certain time, the Questioner may miss the deadline…unless the Questioner understands why the deadline is when it is.

Gretchen Rubin writes, “Questioners show a deep commitment to information, logic, and efficiency. They want to gather their own facts, decide for themselves, and act with good reason; they object to anything they consider arbitrary, ill-reasoned, ill-informed, or ineffective.”

According to Rubin’s research about Questioners…

  • This is the second largest Tendency (after Obligers).
  • It can be the hardest Tendency for people to recognize in themselves.
  • There are Questioners that lean more towards Upholders and Questioners that lean more towards Rebels.

Questioners don’t always know they’re Questioners. They just feel like they’re asking the logical next question.

You may be a Questioner if…

  • you like to thoroughly research every decision you make.
  • you prefer to do your own research and make your own conclusions, rather than just accept what the “experts” say.
  • you want to really understand something before you get behind it.


Questioners are enormously helpful to the rest of us. They challenge the status quo. They’re responsible for new policies and innovations because they ask important questions. 

But Why…?

“Why do you want the numbers by Friday at 5pm instead of Monday at 9am?”

“Why can’t I wear jeans to the conference?”

“Why should I switch medications?”

The challenge for Questioners is that all of their questions can be frustrating to the other Tendencies.

If they’re not careful, Questioners can be viewed as irritating, trouble-making, or as constantly questioning authority.

Questioners, once you embrace your Tendency, how can you help others to understand that you just need a little more info so you can be all-in?

Questioners have to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.

The rest of us can help them.

“Why do you want the numbers by Friday at 5pm instead of Monday at 9am?”

Because I’m going to take them home over the weekend and add graphics before we hand everything over to the CFO on Monday morning.

“Why can’t I wear jeans to the conference?”

Because television crews will be there and we want to really show off the company and it’s employees.

“Why should I switch medications?”

~ (Medical professionals, please insert specific reasons here….)

​Once they get their answers, Rubin says, “Questioners have the self-direction of Upholders, the reliability of Obligers, and the authenticity of Rebels.”​​

It’s important for managers, doctors, teachers, parents (and really everyone) to understand the Questioner Tendency.

For example, Questioners often struggle to follow “doctor’s orders.” They may even do their own research and come up with their own treatments. If a doctor understands the Tendency and gives a Questioner all the info they need, a Questioner can get on board and follow the strictest instructions.


Questioners sometimes benefit from boundaries that help everyone, including themselves, to move forward.

“Bill, I’ve got ten minutes before my noon meeting. Feel free to come into my office and ask me your most pressing questions about the press conference tomorrow.”

“Sarah, thanks for looking into all angles of this. We need to decide by the end of this week in order to get everything approved by the finance department in time.” (Notice there was a deadline and a reason.)

Sometimes, there’s not an answer… “Nancy, how would you feel about trying it for one week and just seeing what you think about it?

Last week, we talked about how Obligers can struggle with New Year’s resolutions.

Questioners aren’t likely to make resolutions because January 1st feels like an “arbitrary” date to them, but they’ll set goals at other times.

I feel like the automatic answer to anyone who’s struggling to do anything has always been to add outside accountability. 

Struggling with a goal…? Get an accountability partner. Join a group. Have someone call you and ask you if you did that thing you’ve been wanting to do. And so on….

It works for Obligers.

But it doesn’t work for for everyone.

It doesn’t work for Questioners.

Again, if a Questioner wants to do something, they have to know why they’re doing it.

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Are you a Questioner? What’s something really “Questioner” that you’ve done lately?

What do you love about your Tendency and how’s it challenging? Let me know in a comment below.

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​Coming up next week… We’ll be looking at the Upholder Tendency.

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  1. I’m a 50 year old woman who’s coming into my own skin & learning about myself. I’m a questioner because I need to understand the why & how we do things. I grew up an only child & felt before finding this tendency type that I must have always questioned my own gumption to just go & do !! Why couldn’t I just go & do and jump in with both feet? I am also an HSP which is really making me wonder what I can do for a career. I think about starting my own business as a solution to being an HSP but I’m scared by all the unknowns. I just want to live the rest of my life as happy & healthy as I can & still have money to provide for my basic needs.

    • Hi Mimi. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad that understanding you’re a Questioner helps you understand some of your experiences in a new way. In terms of career transition and possibly starting your own business, it’s normal to be scared of the unknowns. How can you get as much real info as possible before making any big decisions? Lots of times people make career changes without all of the info. What questions do you have about starting your own business and then how can you get those questions answered?


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