This is part of a mini-series, based on Gretchen Rubin’s framework, the “four tendencies.” (Here’s the overview.)

Last post, we looked at Obligers, like me. (Obligers have an easier time meeting other people’s expectations than their own.)

On the flip side, Questioners are more likely to meet their own expectations than others’ for them.

To carry through with the same scenarios we’ve been using…

—> If a Questioner wants to go to the gym, they’ll have their reasons for it and so they’ll get there.

—> If a Questioner’s boss asks for an assignment at a certain time, they may miss the deadline… unless they understand why the deadline is when it is.

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.”

>> This is the second largest Tendency, after Obligers.

>> This time of year, Questioners aren’t likely to make resolutions because January 1st is an “arbitrary” date to set a goal.

>> “Questioner” can be the hardest Tendency for people to see themselves as. (They’re just asking the logical next question.)

You may be a Questioner if you:

  • thoroughly research every decision you make.
  • prefer to do your own investigation and make your own conclusions (instead of simply accepting what “experts” say).
  • really want to understand something before you get behind it.

Questioners can be enormously helpful. They challenge the status quo. They’re responsible for new policies and innovations because they ask important questions.

But their probing can be frustrating to other Tendencies.

  • “Why Friday at 5? Why not Monday morning?”
  • “Why can’t I wear jeans to the event?”
  • “Why take that medication?”

If you work with a Questioner, you can help by providing them with more info.

  • “Please send the numbers by EOD Friday. I’ll create graphics over the weekend so we can give everything to Sam on Monday morning.”
  • “We’re asking everyone to wear business casual. TV crews will be there for the announcement.”
  • “We’re not seeing the effect we were hoping to with the first med. We want to see if this other one might bring your levels down more.”

If you are a Questioner, you can help the people you work with to help you.

1) Prioritize the most important questions: What do you need to know in order to move forward? (How can you ask that clearly and concisely?)

2) Consider time and place: For example, instead of keeping the whole team on Zoom, is it possible you could connect with someone after the call?

3) Tell them why you’re asking:

  • “I’d like to work more on this over the weekend. Is there a reason you want the numbers on Friday instead of Monday?”
  • “I’ll be coming from an event in my son’s classroom. Why no jeans for this event?”
  • “This one hasn’t had any of the side effects we were worried about. Help me understand… why switch?”

Setting perimeters around questioning can protect time and minimize the chance of frustration and/or resentment.

With a Questioner:

>> “I’ve got 10 minutes before my noon meeting today. Want to pop in my office to ask any questions about the press conference tomorrow?”

>> “Thanks for considering all the angles of this. Please let me know what you think is best by Friday. We’ll need to get this approved by the finance department.”

—> If there’s not a clear answer, you might say, “Try it for a week. We can talk again before the next team meeting.”

As a Questioner:

>> “Do you have 10 minutes?”

>> “Would you be willing to answer a few questions?

—> By asking permission, listening to whether you get a “yes,” and sticking to what you asked for (ex. ten minutes or three questions), a Questioner is less likely to step on people’s toes.

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

👆 That’ll mean more after we talk about Upholders and then Rebels.


Are you a Questioner? Or do you know one? What did this email make you think? Comment below and let me know!

Sheila Devi is an Executive Life Coach.

She focuses on deadline-driven, high-pressure careers (like law and accounting).

Individuals: Sheila helps private clients get perspective on professional/personal challenges so they have more time to focus on their best work and other priorities, such as family and health.

Firms/Corporations: Sheila teaches EQ (in a way your team has never heard) to help them navigate working with stressed clients/colleagues, avoid burnout, and rediscover satisfaction and engagement.

Interested in one-on-one coaching or having Sheila connect with you company? –> Simply email

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