Consider These Questions Posed to You Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: More questions about the Four Rubin Tendencies.

I’m still obsessed with the four categories I’ve developed–which, for lack of a better name, I’m currently calling the Four Rubin Tendencies.

These categories describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, train for a marathon).

To learn more about the Four Rubin Tendencies, read here and here. In a nutshell:

Upholders respond readily to both inner and outer expectations

Questioners question all expectations, but will follow expectations if they think the expectations are sensible (effectively making all expectations into inner expectations)

Rebels resist all expectations

Obligers meet outer expectations but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

I’m still working on refining these types, and I’d love to hear what you have to say about the following questions.  Obviously no one would answer all these questions, but if one strikes a particular chord with you, I’d be interested in your reaction.

Do you feel that you have to work by yourself, or be in charge, or work with others?

How do you feel about standing in line?

Do you make and keep resolutions? Why or why not? Do you do them as New Year’s resolutions?

Is it important to you to have a lot of information?

Are you powerfully motivated by a desire to avoid feeling guilty?

Do you struggle with the question, “How do I make time for me?”

Do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball?

If you believe that a rule is arbitrary, though not unethical, would you be likely to follow it or not?

If you have difficulty sticking to a course of action, do you find yourself assigning responsibility to someone else? “I can’t stick to a diet because my mother urges me to take more food.” “My boss makes it hard for me to exercise.”

Do you prefer to do things spontaneously?

Do you prefer to do things according to a plan?

Do you sometimes feel paralyzed when you feel that you don’t have enough information to judge a course of action?

Do you enjoy the process of questioning and learning?

Do you like to be the boss? Do you need to be the boss?

How do you view shared work in a household? (Laundry, trash, cooking, etc.) How do you view your obligation, if any, to contribute? Who does what work in your household?

Do you find yourself researching issues that other people make with much less knowledge? Or do you make decisions with less knowledge than others might wish to have? E.g., picking a summer camp or a travel destination.

Do you believe that it’s very important that people keep their commitments to themselves—to go to an exercise class, to make time for their friends?

Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar?

Here’s something that’s a bit hard to pose as a question. I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern of Obligers sometimes “snapping” and refusing to do something they’re expected to do, or stubbornly and uncharacteristically not obliging in a particular matter, though they oblige in general. Has anyone noticed this themselves or in others? Is this pattern peculiar to Obligers or do Questioners and Upholders also do this occasionally? (Not an issue for Rebels.) I suspect not, but would be curious to hear from others on this question.

I welcome all observation and insight!

Jump to this post here.

  • Maggie Olson

    I think I’m a questioner… I tend to think most rules make sense, but if one doesn’t, I’ll disregard it. “Rules” may even be the wrong word… “societal pressures” is better. If I don’t think I should have to bend to a norm, I won’t. So here are the questions that stuck out at me:

    Is it important to you to have a lot of information?

    I don’t know about important, but I like it. StrengthsQuest defines me as “Input,” which means I like to collect information. This is very true: I’m a proud vegan and read vegan blogs like a crazy person! I also love your “types” and “categories” on this website – that kind of information is fascinating to me!

    Do you think it’s very important for people to keep commitments to themselves?

    When you blogged a while back about the man who “wanted” to start exercising but kept giving excuses why not, I was irritated FOR you! That absolutely drives me crazy: “Why can’t I lose weight?” while eating a third cupcake, or “I hate procrastinating!” on Facebook chat at 3:00 a.m. when a paper is due in the morning, or “I don’t ever see my friends!” while watching their fourth hour of Netflix. People complaining about things within their control is my biggest pet peeve. I related to your post very much: don’t say you want something and then speak to the contrary. That’ll change your mindset and you won’t do/want it anymore. When I started training for my marathon, I was very aware of how big a time commitment it would be and how difficult it would be some days, but I actually wanted it even in the face of that. Was it time-consuming? Of course. Was it difficult some days? You bet. But I DID IT. Because I WANTED it. ACTUALLY wanted it. You can’t say “I want to run a marathon” and then not train, plan, RUN.

    How do you view shared work in your household?

    I live alone, so all responsibility is mine. I do a pretty good job of washing dishes and tidying. If I have a busy few days, I take a night at home to catch up on cleaning. I NEVER have a slobby apartment with an unmade bed, mountains of dishes, clothes, everywhere, etc. ICK. When I’m at home with my parents, I help a LOT, even though I don’t live there. College made me learn how much work it is to keep a space clean. When I was younger, if my room was messy, I could be somewhere else in the house. In college, my dorm room was my only home, so I had to keep it clean. I then started helping my parents more and really enjoyed contributing, especially since they were so thankful! Plus I like spending time with my parents – shoveling the walk with your dad is great!

    Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar?

    More to my to-do list. If I write myself a list of things I need to accomplish in an evening (whether it’s boring like paying bills or fun like cooking a new recipe), then I find it extremely satisfying to cross EVERYTHING off my list!

  • Randee Bulla

    I’m a questioner and I love to continue learning. I don’t believe in the flip-flop, I believe in acquiring additional information and continuously assessing if my previous answers/beliefs still hold true with the new information. I am very comfortable making a decision on what little information I may have, and then making adjustments as additional information comes in. I have no problem, and even enjoy, following others as long as I believe in the goal. I also enjoy leading under the same circumstances. I do like to have some alone time to process the information I take in, but really thrive when working with a group to gather differing insights and energies to whatever we’re working on. And I also take complete accountability if something is working for me or not. I firmly believe that you find the time and/or money for what your priorities are.

  • Anna Catherine

    I think I’m a questioner. I don’t have to be in charge, but whomever is in charge needs to be able to explain why they want it done they way they do. I don’t necessarily have to agree to work for them, but I need to understand their thinking. I don’t mind standing it line, it keeps things orderly, despise line breakers. I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. I did much better with the Happiness Project line of thinking in doing something for a month, keeping it as routine if it betters my life, dropping it if it’s too much or not beneficial. Yes, I want to be informed! I don’t even know, because I’m constantly guilty, but I relate that more to being a first child. Mistakes or letting someone down eat at me terribly, especially if it’s work related. I received a ticket for parking the wrong way on the street; I have yet to pay it; I don’t understand the purpose of how parking one way or another keeps anyone safer, thus I’m not ponying up. I take blame upon myself for most everything. I find lack of personal responsibility infuriating. My worst nightmare is the same thing every day and having life scheduled out. Really enjoy learning, love asking questions. I’m single, but should I marry, I can’t imagine sharing household responsibilities like some of my friends’ marriages. I just see the woman as more of the household duty person. I may change my mind later, I know, very unfeminist of me. No, I wish my calendar held me accountable.

  • Margaret

    I’m an Obliger–most definitely! Although I’ve had times in my life where I have leaned a little toward being an Upholder. I would love to be more of an Upholder so I can take commitments to myself as seriously as I do those for others.

    Now, I’ll happily answer a few of your questions:

    How do I feel about standing in line: most of the time, I don’t mind! I can either daydream, make mental checklists, or chat with someone else in line.

    Do I hate making a mistake or dropping the ball? Most definitely! I feel like I’m letting people down if I do!

    And to your last point about “snapping” and refusing to do something: yes, sometimes obliging everyone (except oneself) gets stressful–and saying no is very stressful!–so I might snap. Fortunately, I don’t think this happens a lot.

    I’d love to hear from other Obligers to discover if they feel the same.

  • http://www.janaleemiller.com/ Jana @333 Days Hand Lettering

    ps- I think im a questioner

  • Bailey Olfert

    I think I’m an obliger with some questioner tendencies.

    I prefer to work by myself.

    I don’t like to stand in line :)

    I rarely make resolutions, and keeping them is even rarer! I can more easily
    keep promises made to others because their expectations are motivating for me.

    I feel less & less guilty about *anything* as I mature!

    I have lots of time for me, so I don’t understand people who don’t prioritize that. Yet I don’t have big time for me, just lots of small time; I don’t travel by myself, for instance, because of family obligations.

    I do hate making mistakes. I find that lately I agree to fewer responsibilities so that
    there are fewer chances for me to drop the ball.

    I take the blame for not sticking to something; I know that not exercising and not eating well are choices within my own reach.

    I’m much more comfortable with a planned life than spontaneity.

    I like to have a plan – for instance I’ll list the logical order for a bunch of errands
    and then stick to that plan.

    I like to learn, but I learn best by reading and then talking about what I’ve read. I don’t generally have opportunity to question others. With lindyhop, charleston, & balboa, I sometimes have chances to question advanced dancers and learn improved technique, but I much prefer just dancing to learning.

    I do not like being the boss!

    Everyone in a household should pitch in to make it run, and ideally we should know how to do most tasks even if someone else routinely does that chore. Children
    definitely need to contribute, and they need to learn the skills, patience, & responsibility associated with keeping a household. Shared work should be discussed in a household, and it is best when people can routinely do the tasks they prefer or are most efficient with. People who work outside the home shouldn’t be expected to do the same amount of household tasks as those who do not have paid work, but household work should be valued and appreciated. In our house, everyone does dishes & takes out the trash. I do laundry for my husband & myself; my son does his own laundry. I cook during the week and my husband cooks on the weekend because he enjoys it. He does most of the outdoor work because he likes the change from office work and he likes to work in the yard. I take care of the mail, calendar, bills, banking, grocery shopping, etc. I take the dog to the vet, and deal with things like booking furnace check-ups.

    I do considerable research related to trips & vacations. I want to make the most of the time & money committed to these.

    I am not good at keeping one-time commitments to myself so I have to roll these things into habits. I can make a habit of a proper sleep schedule, and that is easier
    than keeping a promise to “go to bed earlier tonight.”

    I don’t feel a sense of accountability to my calendar, just to the people associated with the appointments. If the entry is just for something like “go for a jog” I am not likely to do it.

    I have considered it, and can’t think of a time that I’ve snapped and uncharacteristically refused to oblige. At least, I can’t think of an outward expression of that; I can stubbornly hold a grudge even though I am expected to let it go. Hmmm, well, I do refuse to participate in potlucks, even under intense pressure/expectation, and that has seemed surprising to some people – they may consider that to be a stubborn refusal.

  • peninith1

    I’m not sure what category I fall into–probably questioner. I have recently brought my Mom to live with me, which is an amazingly powerful test of character in about eleventy-dozen ways. I am discovering all kinds of behavior in myself, and wondering who I will be at the culmination of some indefinite period of this way of life.
    * I feel a need to be (tactfully, if possible, but firmly, if not) in charge of my own household.
    * Never have minded standing in line; feel that it is one of those ‘leveling’ occasions when one simply has a responsibility to wait one’s turn along with others, whose needs and priorities are an unknown to me.
    * I make resolutions; often I break the big ones about eating, exercise, and weight, but I’ve done pretty darn well with money.
    * I love research and information; but I certainly don’t ‘need’ it to make a decision!
    * Guilt is not my biggest motivator, although I’m capable of feeling it.
    * No, I have always known how to take time for myself, even if this has been no more exciting than diving into a book and ignoring others.
    * I don’t like dropping the ball — it’s important to me to do my part — but I don’t really agonize over mistakes.
    * Arbitrary rules? The phrase “it is better to get forgiveness than permission” is one of my absolute favorites. I have a strong internal set of rules, and I follow them when I think it’s important to do so. I don’t mind cooperating with petty minor restrictions at all, however. Somethings are just not worth fighting about.
    * No, the blame is mine when I don’t do what I should with respect to health rules, although ‘stress’ surely is a cop out.
    * I think OTHERS would say that I’m a very spontaneous person. I’d say that I spontaneously really like to go to bed on time and like to do what I like to do when I like to do it.
    * Plan. Hmmmm. I have very long-running internal plans that I get around to over time (I mean years) but in the meantime there can be a lot of really interesting diversions from the path. REALLY interesting . . . . and there’s a cool idea for a quilt right there! Bye!
    * Analysis paralysis: NOPE–master of apparent snap decisions underpinned by a lot of ‘in background’ mulling things over.
    * Questioning and learning–all the time. all the time!
    * Being the boss: In command of my own life, you bet. In charge of others . . . I HATE it. One reason I don’t have an animal companion.
    * I want to be in charge of what happens in my house, though when I’ve been sick and my kids have been here to help, their housework has been a great gift.
    * Oh. .. . I am running out of gas here. I don’t know if I can be said to ‘snap’ because I am not all that obliging.
    I don’t think I’m a rebel, I think I’m a questioner. My life has been very pleasant and easy for me since my kids left home because I have no one to manage but myself and no one overseeing or watching what I do. I find it difficult to share my household with my Mom because, frankly, she raised me to be an obliger and I am NOT one. I do my best to hold my own ground, and that means conflict, which I prefer not to experience.
    Question–I observe that my Mother appears to be BOTH an upholder and an obliger, depending on who is running the show. Have you considered that people are different in different relationships?

  • NewGrayMare

    I am absolutely an obliger! If I know what is expected of me by others, I will bend over backwards to do it; I will do it to the best of my ability, and I will try to do it better than was asked.

    Despite being an obliger, I have to understand the reason for the rules. If a rule is arbitrary and not unethical, I will likely follow it. If a rule is created to control, degrade, or is completely stupid, I will rebel against it. I’ve been known to follow the rules to the letter while still rebelling. One clear example was the dress code at a previous job: black or tan pants, no jeans and a white or black collared shirt. When the new assistant manager started making life difficult for everyone around here for no reason, I showed up to work wearing black, squeaky pleather pants and a ruffled, white pirate shirt with a collar. I fit the dress code to the letter, so there was nothing she could do to me, and I still showed my independence. Besides, the fact that I squeaked every step I took kept me infinitely amused. This is a great example of an obliger snapping. I couldn’t stand the way she treated everyone (drove away 30% of the employees within two months!), but I couldn’t afford to quit. I made her life as difficult as she made it for everyone else. I guess, you could say that I was obliging my coworkers and making things nicer for them instead of obliging the boss.

    Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar?

    Um…. Not really. I used to think I did, but these past few months have proven otherwise. I can set out the best of plans with a detailed list of action items and when they need to be done. Then, I get caught up in some other project and totally abandon my own calendar. I’m not accountable to myself at all, which does bug me. But, it doesn’t bug me enough to change, apparently!

  • Kristen

    Very interesting questions. I’m very much an Obliger (though as I stated when we were first discussing these personality types, I’m not terribly happy about that).

    A few answers for myself… I hate leading or being in charge (makes me feel like I’m going to screw up for sure any minute). I also have an overactive guilt reflex that I strive to avoid triggering as much as possible–feeling like I made a mistake or dropped the ball on a project (even a small, inconsequential one) will trigger it pretty hard.

    I do, however, love learning and and the process of gathering information. Once I have that information, I can get overwhelmed and have trouble making a decision, though (see above guilt reflex).

    I do follow pointless, stupid processes that I find no use for in my job. But they aren’t hurting anyone, and not doing them will hurt my performance. So I do them.

    I answer to your last question, I needed to ask my husband for help. Turns out that yes, I do follow that pattern of occasionally snapping and stubbornly refusing to oblige on one thing or another. He, an upholder, really doesn’t.

    The examples he gave me were sort of strange though. Most of them weren’t things that had truly been imposed on me by others. They were half-me, half others. Or else they were things that I had been trying to do myself for so long that I’ve finally given up and decided to play to my strengths–enlist outside help (like dieting). But it’s almost like the very act of getting that outside help reinforced the fact that I’d ALREADY failed on my own, which triggered the guilt reflex, which made me angry because I was supposed to be starting fresh. I hadn’t done anything wrong yet. And that, I think, made me just dig in my heels and refuse to play my own mind games. Or something.

    It sounds crazy, and I can’t really describe it well. Even if I could, I’m pretty sure I would come across as a nutjob.

    • Cathy

      Your post sounds just like me too. Maybe it is just common for women, or some people. I am a follower because if I lead and make a “mistake” I would and do feel terrible and beat myself up over it. and a huge guilt thing, Therefore I my kids have grown up with me pampering and stepping in because I have to have a perfect house and family. This site is so helpful. I love hearing others comments.

  • Deanne Beattie

    I believe I’m an obliger, and my partner a questioner. I prefer to have a plan in place, and follow through on it without dithering. He, on the other hand, doesn’t like to commit to anything until he absolutely has to—asking questions and considering his options until the last moment. Sometimes I commit too soon, say purchasing a pair of shoes that aren’t exactly right—but sometimes he misses out, going back to the shoe store to see they’ve sold out of the pair he’s been considering for weeks.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a good example of the fact that all the tendencies have their pros and cons. Sometimes it works for you, sometimes it doesn’t.

      • Deanne Beattie

        It certainly helps to know your tendency, and work with it. Your theory of the tendencies definitely puts our behaviour in a new light!

  • Kins

    Ok, typed a whole thing and think I did wrong…I am NOT a blogger. I’ve got a good story love some theory on. I was an Upholder my entire life. Eldest kid, revered my father and grandfather, literally followed the tee my entire life. Top 10 in my high school, engineering major, excelled at school w little effort, etc.
    Then comes life. A fabulous career but 24/7 world of advertising and tons of great travel. Married a few years, no kids. Been single last 16 years.

    Flash to more recent, 3 job layoffs 3 years in a row and I’m now an Obligator. Will kill myself for my job as needed, but personally stopped doing my resolutions lists each Jan 1 that I always met. Procrastinate like no tomorrow if for me, vs work. Doesn’t bother me in the least.

    The oddity of it all is even though I’ve been a bit of a Type A personality, I have an amazing amount of patience. I can be in traffic or stand in a line forever and be completely fine with it. I have a very long fuse, also have very high tolerance for unwieldy people…I could win one of those “hands on car” contests in a heartbeat as I’m super patient, don’t play politics or mind games and come across more laid back than I am.

  • Chris

    I am a questioner and an obliger who wishes she could be an upholder…..

    Working by myself is much easier for me than working with others.

    I tried to make resolutions but never kept them, so I stopped.

    Arbitrary rules really annoy me. But at work, I will follow them as long as they’re to nobodys disadvantage and are required by the boss. Outside of my work environment (where there isn’t something as important as my job at stake) I probably would point it out and question the rule.

    I definitely hate making a mistake – the curse of the perfectionist.

    I need information in order to judge a situation or make a decision, a lot of information. But recently I try to relax more and not to use my precious time to gather every bit of information that might possibly help. I think this also relates to the maximizer/optimizer issue.

    The “boss” question is interesting: On the one hand, I don’t like to be the boss but on the other hand, I definitely am a bossy person by nature and people who need help or guidance seem to gravitate towards me (might be a kind of natural authority thing?).

    As for commitments: I need to tell somebody of my goals to keep myself accountable – if I won’t tell anyone, it probably would never happen!

  • AliB

    I love thinking about your categories Gretchen so thanks for more on this topic – I think I’m somewhere between rebel and questioner…

    I’m a questioner when it comes to standing in line – I think an orderly line is important if for example, only the first 20 will get on the bus. However, I won’t stand in one when getting on a plane if I know I’ve got an allocated seat!

    Don’t like resolutions – a rebel here I think – they never work and just annoy me – I don’t want to be forced to do something – I’ll do it if and when I want to at a time that suits. I do have ‘to-do’ lists – non-urgent items can stay on them for a long time but will get done when the time is right!

    Very unlikely to follow an arbitrary rule – hence I really hated working in a place where arbitrary rules were constantly imposed on me – I now I have control over how I achieve a particular aim

    Always questioning and learning – as a career and for fun. However, I’m not an excessive researcher before making a decision – happy to make a few mistakes – not afraid to bail or make a change if something doesn’t work.

    Struggle with actually finding time for me but not with the concept

    Spontaneous or a planner – my favourite kind of day is one with nothing in the diary so I can choose depending on weather, mood etc – I guess that’s spontaneous – too many things in the diary and I feel stressed even if they are fun things. Then again, I do plan – to keep those free days free!

    The question about keeping to your commitments seems to imply you don’t want to exercise or see friends but you should do so anyway – this doesn’t make sense to me – if you want to go – go. If you don’t – dont (or don’t commit in the first place) – find exercise that you like, find friends that you like, if you are feeling unwell, stay home. I know that sometimes you have to get over a small hurdle of inertia to do things you like but it should only be a small hurdle or it will never work in the long run

    Ok – I’ve run out of time – Look forward to your further thoughts on refining these categories

    • gretchenrubin

      From what you’ve said, I’d say you’re a Questioner with an inclination to the Rebel.

      Questioners often have a default tendency—they come in two flavors! Questioners who are inclined to Uphold, and Questioners who are inclined to Rebel.

      My husband, for instance, is a Questioner with a default to Uphold, which is a very good match for an Upholder like me. He questions, but his inclination is to uphold. You sound like you question, but with an inclination to rebel.

      • AliB

        Thank you for your reply – I agree – questioner/rebel – but I remember after a previous rebellious comment on this topic you put me as a rebel! It got me interested in some of the comments from other rebel/questioners – do you think you have found any pure rebels or does it generally surface as a secondary tendency?? Can anyone really resist every rule??

        • gretchenrubin

          Oh boy, yes, there are 100% Rebels. For them, the question is less, “Why should I do this?” which is what Questioners ask, and more, “”Do I want to do this?”

      • lady brett

        interesting, because i would consider myself a questioner with an inclination to oblige. that is, internal expectations had better be very solid if i am going to bother sticking to them, but as long as external expectations are acceptably sensible, i’m liable to follow them.

        i hate conflict, and i hate to disappoint people which leads me to accept more questionable rules from others than from myself – but i don’t accept arbitrary or unsensible rules, either.

  • Faz Raza

    Thumbs up! I will certainly endorse my acquaintances to read this post and spread the word!

  • Brigid

    Do you feel that you have to work by yourself, or be in charge, or work with others?
    If I work with others I like to be in charge–or rather it just happens. I like to move fast so will work by myself if others are slow to pick up the objective.

    How do you feel about standing in line?
    Crazy impatient if I am on my lunch hour or have to pick up my kids. Lately, since I am off work on leave, much more patient–will even let people in line.

    Do you make and keep resolutions? Why or why not? Do you do them as New Year’s resolutions?
    Some–I have stuck to a very very very limited diet based on blood work that identified foods I have a sensitivity to. It was excruciating and all you do is think about food and what you can find to eat. Other things I say I will do (like the gym) and then do or don’t …or do sporadically. But then again, I vowed I would get through every Dairy Queen Blizzard flavor one month and didn’t do that either so…resolutions are not always good things! LOL

    Is it important to you to have a lot of information?
    Yes–to know the plan–expectations–locations etc for some things.

    Are you powerfully motivated by a desire to avoid feeling guilty?
    With family yes—but sometimes the guilt is better than dealing with family drama.

    Do you struggle with the question, “How do I make time for me?”
    Always–I am off work due to a breakdown – so now I have time for me but schedule myself like crazy around the housework and kids so I often avoid dealing with me

    Do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball?
    Work – yes
    Forgetting something – yes
    Home – not as much but still…

    If you believe that a rule is arbitrary, though not unethical, would you be likely to follow it or not? depends on who it is impacting

    If you have difficulty sticking to a course of action, do you find yourself assigning responsibility to someone else? “I can’t stick to a diet because my mother urges me to take more food.” “My boss makes it hard for me to exercise.
    Mostly I will assign blame to the fact there is not enough time

    Do you prefer to do things spontaneously? yes, but my perfectionist tendencies ruin that for me

    Do you prefer to do things according to a plan? yes yes yes

    Do you sometimes feel paralyzed when you feel that you don’t have enough information to judge a course of action?
    NO…I won’t act usually until I know. But I am ok making decisions with incomplete information – again- depends on the impact

    Do you enjoy the process of questioning and learning?
    yes – have 3 university degrees

    Do you like to be the boss? Do you need to be the boss?
    I thought so–now I am feeling less so with all that has happened with being on stress leave

    How do you view shared work in a household? (Laundry, trash, cooking, etc.) How do you view your obligation, if any, to contribute? Who does what work in your household?
    My son is 17 – he helps with dishwasher, vac – I do the bulk of everything else and my husband will help a bit with laundry – and he cooks often. He will also do the “fixing of things” –whereas we will both pain if the house needs it. I garden and dust and laundry and lunches and homework and drives. He works long hours

    Do you find yourself researching issues that other people make with much less knowledge? Or do you make decisions with less knowledge than others might wish to have? E.g., picking a summer camp or a travel destination.
    Others do WAY more research than I do…I am amazed. I do research for sure–but try to keep it simple.

    Do you believe that it’s very important that people keep their commitments to themselves—to go to an exercise class, to make time for their friends?
    YES

    Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar?
    Calendar is usually for things like doc appts. Putting it on the calendar in the kitchen makes it “REAL” in our house. SO that is a good idea! Thanks! Might help with the gym.

  • Amy

    I’m an upholder.

    I hate standing in line, I don’t like wasting time.

    I make and keep New Year’s resolutions, but I think that has more to do with being an abstainer – the flip side of abstainer (as I’m sure you’ve mentioned before) is the ability to Do Something once you decide to do it. All or nothing, my husband likes to call it.

    I definitely prefer to plan, and am very motivated by a need not to feel guilty.

    Information is incredibly important to me. I get obsessive about gathering information when I encounter a new dilemma, and can’t relax until I’ve gathered enough. I don’t feel the need to make a decision right away once I have the information, but I NEED to have the information.

    Shared work in a household – I do all of it. We’re working on that.

    I believe it’s extremely important that people keep their commitments to themselves and simply can’t understand when they don’t. If you say you’re going to exercise, than exercise. Don’t keep talking about it and then not finding the time. (Again, I think this is the “abstainer”.)

    I do feel a sense of accountability to my own calendar.

    • gretchenrubin

      Everyone’s responses are so fascinating!

  • Elizabeth C.

    I think some of these questions are closely related to whether a person is an introvert or extrovert. I realize that most people are a combination but usually we derive our energy either from other people or other people drain our energy and we need to be by ourselves to recharge. I need to work by myself, have a strong obligation to the things I put on my calendar like exercise class. Other obligations coming from outside myself are open to my interpretation and I decide what I will do or what I won’t do. I need every scrap of information I can get my hands on before I will make a decision.
    I question everything and listen to what other people have to say but in the end the decision is mine. I hate making mistakes and disappointing someone so I am careful about the commitments I make. I never make resolutions because other factors yet unknown might impinge on the resolution at a later time and I just find them silly in the first place.

    • gretchenrubin

      From my observation, these tendencies aren’t related to introvert/extravert but are separate from that.

      From your description of yourself, you fit squarely in the Questioner category.

      • Elizabeth C.

        I would think that the Obligers would be more likely to be extraverts as they are more willing to
        meet the expectations of others because that’s where they get their energy from. As an introvert, my expectations for myself carry much more weight.

        • gretchenrubin

          From my observation, I don’t think the two frameworks line up like that.

          I wouldn’t say that’s what Obligers “get their energy from.” In fact they may feel drained and overwhelmed by it. It’s just what they are able to get themselves to do.

        • Sonny

          I am an introvert and an “obliger”. I’d say part of my introversion is not wanting to say or do the wrong thing in social situations, which ties in with not wanting to disappoint people.

  • Megan Gordon

    Is it important to you to have a lot of information?
    This one jumped out at me. No, I don’t. But my mother does and it makes me insane because she expects me to need it as well. I have to be careful what I discuss with her because she constantly asks questions that I didn’t ask, wouldn’t ask and generally don’t think I really need to know.
    I need a certain amount of information. It’s important to me to understand rather than have all the details. It rarely, if ever, is an issue.

  • Sarah

    I’m an Obliger. As I grow to believe others expect something of me, I’m more likely to do it. (Examples: I gathered the trash a few times before garbage day when my husband was late at work, and now it’s become my thing…NOT because my husband expects it, but because I *believe* he does. Same thing with yoga class…I forced myself to go a few times and now I can’t not go, because I’d be disappointing the instructor. What??? Whatever, it gets me to yoga.)

    Your question about Obligers snapping has given me pause…It’s not that I’ll refuse to complete an obligation, but that I’ll snap when I perceive someone is “telling me what to do.” How childish, right? “Don’t tell me what to do!!” I always thought this was just a weirdo quirk, but now I’m wondering. I am compelled to follow rules, do what others expect, etc – and sometimes just can’t take it when I feel someone is imposing yet another rule on me, especially when I feel differently (when, in fact, they’re probably just stating their opinion). My reaction: I immediately go into defense mode, thinking I need to defend my decision/action to convince them I’m right (b/c the only other option would be to follow their “rule,” right?…Wait, what??!I). Fascinating!! Thank you for helping me think this through.

  • Cbeth

    I think that I am an upholder. I want to meet expectations set by myself and by others. The question that stuck out to me most was “do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball?” I would say YES! My crazy lists of things to do and remember help me make sure that I get everything done. I would say my strength is I get things done, my weakness is I worry about it along the way!

  • marlyss

    I am an obliger, but I feel bad that I’m an obliger. Being dependent on other people’s approval is not a reliable way to be happy. I think this is why obligers snap (which I have definitely noticed in myself). We may not be aware of our inner desires, or we may think we need to push aside our inner desires, because we focus on what we think other people want us to do. Often we only notice what we want when it gets very frustrated or very insistent, or when we’ve pushed it aside many times before. By then we’re too frustrated to be calm about it.

    I would actually argue that the key happiness-related component of these four categories is the presence or absence of one skill, which you’ve called “following inner expectations” and I might call “staying over your own inner center of gravity” or “listening to yourself” or “realizing that you’re in charge of your own life.” Upholders and Questioners have it, Rebels and Obligers don’t. (Obligers are controlled by external rules because they always follow them, Rebels are just as controlled because they always do the opposite.)

    But it’s a skill that can be learned, and I think it’s maybe the key to happiness. So I don’t know if the categories are helpful or might just discourage people from trying to learn this skill.

    • gretchenrubin

      It’s interesting – of the Four Rubin Tendencies, Obligers are the only ones who often lament the fact that they’re in the category they’re in.
      But on the other hand, it’s the Tendency that’s the easiest deliberately to counterbalance – with external accountability.
      With greater wisdom, I think that everyone, no matter what their tendency, can learn how to offset its limitations.
      That is one of the challenges of adulthood!

      I know that as an Upholder, I’ve learned to do a lot more questioning.

      • Virginia

        Hi Gretchen, I’m so interested in this topic bc as an Obliger, I’d love some better strategies to help me meet my internal goals. I have tried external accountability (weekly e-mail check-ins with a friend, blogging) before but it doesn’t quite work; I don’t have the same internal guilt breaking an accountability plan I’ve set up for myself the way I would about a real, external expectation.

  • Gerhard Dashi

    I think I’m in between an upholders and an obliger, and probably more of the latter since I tend to be better at meeting outer expectations (possibly because they often have deadlines, whereas my major personal expectations are long-term or permanent and can be put on hold or forgotten). I’ll answer a few of the questions I found most appealing:

    Do you feel that you have to work by yourself, or be in charge, or work with others?
    – I always want to work with others and take charge, but I find I do my best work by myself when I have clear rules to follow.

    Do you make and keep resolutions? Why or why not? Do you do them as New Year’s resolutions?
    – I make resolutions all the time: I always need to feel like I’m improving, or at least changing. I often re-make resolutions I haven’t kept but change my method of approaching it, such as splitting a big/ambiguous resolution (being healthy and active) into smaller, short-term, measurable goals (# of workouts a month)

    Is it important to you to have a lot of information?
    – Yes. I feel like I over-do it with research before I begin anything, and still I feel uncomfortable expression an opinion, unless I have to (such as in an essay for example).

    Are you powerfully motivated by a desire to avoid feeling guilty?

    – No, though I often feel very motivated after feeling guilty.

    Do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball?
    – No. I feel like that’s when I learn, and appreciate my successes, the most (though obviously I don’t try to fail on purpose).

    If you have difficulty sticking to a course of action, do you find yourself assigning responsibility to someone else? “I can’t stick to a diet because my mother urges me to take more food.” “My boss makes it hard for me to exercise.”
    – No. I know that I’d probably eat healthier if my mom stopped filling the house with unhealthy snacks, yet I know that I’m the one making the decision to eat them (though sometimes I feel like I have no control) and really, that I need to get used to dealing with such temptations/problems in order to really be healthy.

    Do you prefer to do things spontaneously or according to a plan?
    – I really love to plan for everything and love the feeling of accomplishing my goals, yet I always feel more engaged and energized when I do things I like spontaneously.

    Do you enjoy the process of questioning and learning?

    Simply, yes.

    Do you like to be the boss? Do you need to be the boss?

    Yes to the first, no to the second.

    Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar?

    Not really. I like to plan my days but realize that if my plan changes, it’s probably because I’m doing something better or more fun.

  • TJ

    I think I’m a cross between a questioner and obliger. I don’t think that I “snap” when others ask me to do something, but I do notice that I resent people assuming I will do something, even if I’ve done it cheerfully in the past. It’s about their expectations and what I feel has now become an obligation. I guess I hate “shoulds” in my life, imposed by myself for myself or by someone else, mainly because they make me feel guilty by not meeting them (mainly because I am a perfectionist in some ways and the “shoulds” are just too energy-sucking).
    As for my questioner side…I don’t mind waiting in line (has to be done; it’s only fair), someone else taking the lead or taking credit in a group (as long as the goal is accomplished), hate arbitrary rules that don’t make sense (will likely not follow, unless will get me in trouble with the law), and not do things “just to keep up with the Joneses” or “just for show.” Conventions based on these things are just silly, in my opinion.

  • hdiwan

    I straddle questioner and rebel.

  • Kathryn

    I really like Marylss’ comment about happiness and being comfortable with our inner desires. A close relative of mine used to go out of her way to resist expectations – a Rebel – and she was very unhappy. Years later, now, she is often in a state of anxiety or apologetics over what she *perceives* our family members expect from her, and what she thinks is the right way to dress, etc – an Obliger – and she doesn’t seem very happy about it either.

    I think I’m a Questioner – if something seems rational and fair then I am more than happy to go along with it, even if it’s a little annoying. (I don’t mind waiting if the grocery store is very busy, and everyone is doing their part to make it move along, but BOY do I hate it if the self-checkout lanes are closed, or if the person in front of me is taking forever!) I hate following arbitrary, amoral, rules (I jaywalk, as long as there are no cars coming) but rules that I find based in morality/ethics/reason are VERY compelling. To answer a couple of your questions, I love to have a lot of information (for planning trips, buying pants, you name it); I hate making mistakes (although I’m trying to work on that); I prefer having a plan (but with built-in unstructured time); I like, but don’t need, to be the boss (although it drives me insane when I could do a better job at being the boss than whoever the boss is); I take very seriously the shared responsibility of household duties. I guess I have a very deeply ingrained sense of fairness and responsibility. So I don’t respond well to expectations that I don’t think are reasonable or that seem irrelevant; but I will respond very well if it makes sense to me (“you paid for dinner last time so I should do it this time”).

    hope that helps!

    • Marie

      I am also a Questioner, and I agree with every word you said.

      I don’t mind waiting in line or in traffic at all (I can keep myself entertained).

      I wouldn’t say I like to be the boss (I’d prefer a specialized task rather than overseeing others), but I don’t mind it.

      I do make resolutions, and I keep them (or try to keep them) over the long-term. I think using the term “resolution,” and not “self-actualization,” or something makes it more accessible.

      I ask “why?” of pretty much all rules and follow the ones that either (1) make sense; (2) are attached to dire consequences; (3) are part of a system I’ve bought into. Otherwise … probably not!

      I don’t have trouble making time for me (and I agree about having a plan with built-in unstructured time). I don’t blame others for my failings; I have the opposite tendency.

      If I may ask, Kathryn, what is your Myers-Briggs type? Do you know?

      • Marie

        Also, Gretchen, I appreciate these questionnaires very much — they have enhanced several relationships in my life!

        • gretchenrubin

          Terrific! so happy to hear that.

      • April

        I’m a questioner and an INTJ – my I/E is almost equal, my T and J are off the chart extreme.

  • Marabeth Duncan

    I can’t decide if I’m a questioner or obliger. I’m definitely a people pleaser, so that kind of falls more under obliger, but I don’t struggle to meet my own expectations. I have “snapped” a few times, and often a bit dramatically, when I find someone else’s expectations (particularly those who hold authority) to be detrimental or unrealistic. If a rule seems arbitrary, I will not follow it. Case in point: as a vocal major in college my voice professor told me I was NOT allowed to be in the vocal jazz ensemble, even though that is my favorite genre. It was a big fight, and ultimately she kicked me out of her studio and I found another voice professor because I felt it was very important to be in the jazz ensemble. I love information, and need a lot to make a decision. I do think it’s very important to keep commitments to yourself, although on must be honest if it’s a worthwhile commitment before making it.

  • Katie S. Davis

    I am a questioner (with a little bit of rebel mixed in), and in response to your last question, I believe it’s all a matter of being centered and knowing your personal boundaries. It seems to me that an obliger needs to oblige willingly and with a full cup in order to avoid feeling resentment. I see this in my parenting sometimes. I have a “yes” philosophy (why say no if yes is a possibility?), but if I’m not aligned with myself, I can begin saying “yes” when I don’t really mean “yes”, and that’s where things start to get fuzzy. I start by saying “yes” with enthusiasm, then my “yes” becomes neutral. After a while, my “yes” is reluctant, and if I don’t realize this soon enough, my “yes” turns into “NO NO NO!” :). If I’m not paying enough attention to my own needs, or if I’m saying “yes” when my gut is telling me “no”, I am likely to snap.

    (Also, this is my first comment on your blog! I just want to say thank you, because both The Happiness Project and Happier at Home have meant a lot to me. I am almost 6 months through my first happiness project!) :)

    • gretchenrubin

      Good points about the tendencies.

      Thanks for the kind words! so happy to hear that my work resonates with you.

  • carolyn

    I’m a Questioner, but once my questions are answered, I can jump to Upholder (if I’m convinced by the answers) or Rebel (if I’m not). Somehow the Obliger gene skipped me…

  • Virginia

    I’m an obliger.

    “Do you feel that you have to work by yourself, or be in charge, or work with others?” I prefer to work mostly by myself but appreciate opportunities to be in charge and to work with others in small doses.

    “How do you feel about standing in line?” I don’t mind – I usually have a book to read or a blog feed to catch up on!

    “Do you make and keep resolutions? Why or why not? Do you do them as New Year’s resolutions?” I always make them bc I’m always interested in improving, on New Year’s and all throughout the year. I do not necessarily keep them; I have a hard time with is, as I think most people do?

    “Is it important to you to have a lot of information?” Yes.

    “Are you powerfully motivated by a desire to avoid feeling guilty?” Yes.

    “Do you struggle with the question, “How do I make time for me?” I always make time for me, although even though I think I prioritize it more than most, find myself wanting more.

    “Do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball?” YES.

    “If you believe that a rule is arbitrary, though not unethical, would you be likely to follow it or not?” I can follow rules I don’t agree with to keep a job or the like. I will ignore smaller rules when I think I’m likely to get away with it.

    “If you have difficulty sticking to a course of action, do you find yourself assigning responsibility to someone else? “I can’t stick to a diet because my mother urges me to take more food.” “My boss makes it hard for me to exercise.”” No.

    “Do you prefer to do things spontaneously?” No.

    “Do you prefer to do things according to a plan?” Yes.

    “Do you sometimes feel paralyzed when you feel that you don’t have enough information to judge a course of action?” Yes but I also paralyze myself with too much information, maybe even more often. I’m often relieved when there are few choices and/or limited information and have to go with my gut against my tendency to research.

    “Do you enjoy the process of questioning and learning?” Yes.

    “Do you like to be the boss? Do you need to be the boss?” I like to be second-in-command; similar authority and autonomy but given some direction and not having to shoulder all responsibility.

    “How do you view shared work in a household? (Laundry, trash, cooking, etc.) How do you view your obligation, if any, to contribute? Who does what work in your household?” I prefer use to equally share chores but I insist on counting non-labor things like managing finances and appointments – particularly because I hate chores. We try to align what we do with what we least mind, though there are things both of us hate and those usually wait to be done until it’s a crisis and one of us jumps in.

    “Do you believe that it’s very important that people keep their commitments to themselves—to go to an exercise class, to make time for their friends?” I believe it in theory but not practice.

    “Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar?” I am devoted to using my calendar but at the same time feel constrained by it and will cancel something if I feel like it.

    “Here’s something that’s a bit hard to pose as a question. I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern of Obligers sometimes “snapping” and refusing to do something they’re expected to do, or stubbornly and uncharacteristically not obliging in a particular matter, though they oblige in general. Has anyone noticed this themselves or in others? Is this pattern peculiar to Obligers or do Questioners and Upholders also do this occasionally? (Not an issue for Rebels.) I suspect not, but would be curious to hear from others on this question.” I rarely refuse to do something important that I’m expected to do. I do find myself resenting obligations, sometimes getting really peevish if I’d committed to too many activities or too many activities I’m not looking forward to. But I’m not actually stubborn. I think I just get pent up and overwhelmed doing things I think I should do for work/friends/family/life and it affects my mood but I’ll usually sacrifice the least important/expected thing on the list.

  • Lillimo

    “If you believe that a rule is arbitrary, though not unethical, would you be likely to follow it or not?”

    I am currently living in Norway and work life here is kind of arbitrary all the time. It drives me mad! Maybe that is because I am German – I want things to be efficient. I want to understand why things are done in a certain way, and if there is a better way, why people choose to follow the other, less efficient path. Most of the time there is no answer to that in Norway. They just don`t seem to find it so very important to get things done.

  • Scarlett

    Your question about obligers “snapping” is so interesting. I am 100% obliger, and even though I’m the world’s biggest people-pleaser, there are many times when I do get angry and refuse to do something. I noticed that it’s usually with family members, though. In high school, I refused to practice my violin even though my mom was constantly on my case about it. And I’ve gotten very upset with my husband when he points out that I’m spending too much time pointlessly browsing the Internet. I keep doing it, even though I know he’s right. I think I’m hyper-sensitive to whether or not people approve of me, so when someone points out something I should be doing (or nags me), or gives me criticism (constructive or not), I can take it up to a point, but I soon become offended and stubborn and refuse to do what they say. I don’t like feeling that someone has to “babysit” me–because I’m already so worried about doing things the “right” way that I don’t need anyone else telling me what I already know. It just sends me over the edge!

    • Cindy

      You, and several other people, are describing me so well that it’s creepy. I take my husband’s comments as harsh criticism and take everything personally, even at work. Your last point especially struck me. I hate being “told what to do”…but I didn’t understand why. I guess it makes sense what everyone is saying — Obligers are already following all the rules, sometimes one more rule or judgement is just more than we can take.

      Gretchen — this is like free therapy. Very interesting. Thanks!

  • J. Elizabeth

    I commented just now because I realized I am a full-blown obliger. All my life, I have worried about those outside expectations! When I quit speech therapy as a little kid, I was more worried about the speech therapist’s disappointment that I wasn’t coming anymore than I was about my freedom to say my ‘r’s as I pleased.

    Also, I just graduated from a very competitive and academically challenging high school- and I lasted all four years not because of some strong inner drive, BUT because I just didn’t want to think about what my teachers, friends, and parents would think of me.

    Regarding your last question, I think obligers do snap. I’m usually a neat freak and very organized, but sometime during this past year (which was VERY stressful) I just let all of that go. I’m back to obsessively tidying up my bedroom in case someone comes in and looks around. But for a while there, I just couldn’t find the energy to keep up appearances as a smart student AND organized person.

    • Cindy

      I can completely relate to this. I think I chose my college just because people would be more impressed with it than a state school (though I don’t regret it now). I feverishly clean my house before parents or in-laws come over…while my husband sits on the couch or computer. I guess it is only a problem if we are unhappy being Obligers. :(

  • EdSez

    I’m a questioner and I think the distinction of ‘arbitrary, though not unethical’ gets quite close to the nub for me, but not quite. A prosaic example is driving (and walking) on the right vs on the left. I am quite happy to follow the social norm in whatever country I am in. In the U.S., I get irked when people do not seem to recognize the custom of walking on the right in sidewalks and hallways.

    So, a rule being arbitrary is not always a strike against it. If the social order would be improved by everyone following the rule in question, I am for it, arbitrary or not.

  • Jessica Slavin

    I am an Obliger. What’s interesting to me is why Upholders don’t snap. I do snap, sometimes, when some inner voice says, “I can’t! It’s too much!” Since upholders follow not only the outward rules, but also the inner ones, it amazes me that they don’t snap more often.

    • gretchenrubin

      Upholders, do you snap?

      As an Upholder, I don’t think that I do snap…which I think is because as Upholders, we have a strong sense of obligations to our self-generated expectations, which is a kind of protection against the burn-out that Obligers seem susceptible to.

      • Jessica Slavin

        Hmm, good point, I hadn’t thought about that self-generated expectation as a bulwark against burnout. When I think of it that way, though, I start to wonder what the difference between Questioners and Upholders is. If you accept outward obligations internally to such an extent that they become self-generated expectations (or is it that you have an internal expectation of upholding outward expectations?) then it seems like questioning. Anyway, so fascinating to think about. I do try to challenge myself, when I sense the overwhelm is coming on, to think of the reasons behind the outward expectations I am attempting to adhere to, which is often a way of transforming them into self-generated ones. If that makes any sense….

  • EBennetDarcy

    How do you feel about standing in line?

    I’m not sure what I am, but I’ve got to answer your question about lines. I don’t mind waiting in a line, but I HATE locations that do not have only ONE line. Line psychology suggests that one line is best–one line means that people proceed first come, first served, and they aren’t subject to interference by fate (an especially slow cashier, a person in line ahead of you who turns out to have a hard-to-solve problem). There is nothing more maddening than choosing what you believe to be the shortest line and then seeing people who got in a different line later get checked out faster.

    Do you prefer to do things according to a plan?

    I prefer that things go according to a plan. This is perhaps unsurprising given the above…

    Is it important to you to have a lot of information?

    Strangely, I do not need to make decisions based on a ton of info. My fiance and I are in the midst of trying to choose new shingles for our roof. I like the idea of green shingles, but he wants to go around Google finding pictures of our kind of house with green shingles, or using photoshop to try to paste green shingles onto a picture of our house to see how it would look. I just think green would look good and would be willing to make a snap decision based on that gut feeling.

  • April

    I’m a questioner. I prefer to work by myself – I get bored chasing others (being the boss), and I am too bossy to be accepted easily by bosses. I find it easier to work alone and get things done. Luckily I’m a consultant, so I deal with clients not a hierarchy.

    I don’t stand in line unless there is absolutely no other way. Most places that have lines are rule driven organisations, and often behaving like a rebel will completely confuse them. Like walking into the bank managers office and handing him your deposits will often result in a cup of coffee while a junior employee sorts it out. Alternatively behaving like a bit of an idiot can work with tellers. They will fill in forms for you (leaving out all those unnecessary questions).

    I rarely make resolutions, but when I do I keep them. Except about exercising.

    I research everything to death, and I never trust the opinion of just the first 20 people/websites.

    Guilt is integral to the “questioning”. Who will I hurt or annoy and what are the consequences of that. I often do decide to go with the flow but I have to consciously remind myself it was my decision or I feel resentful.

    I create time for me, but it is usually time I am already on my own. I feel guilty about me time, and that I should be more productive.

    If I make a mistake I have to talk myself through it. Usually along the lines of “it was the best decision with the information you had at the time. Don’t do it again”

    I would follow an arbitrary rule based on the likely consequences and potential effort required to follow it.

    If I fail, I have no-one to blame but myself. It makes you work twice as hard at not failing!

    I am rarely spontaneous. Other people might think it’s spontaneous but I have planned things to the point of boredom. When I try to be spontaneous, I usually mess up.

    I love learning. I like being in charge, it is efficient, but really emotionally tiring. I am finding people under 30 VERY tiring – they are sensitive and easily frustrated or upset but simultaneous have boundless arrogance. For young teams, I actually appoint a person whose primary job is to be friends with people and be a shoulder to cry on or complain to, mediate fights between team members and find out what the real progress on the project is (I’m never sure if they lie brilliantly, or they don’t in fact realise that don’t know what they are doing.)

    I resent doing housework but I try to do more than half. However when I find myself washing the dishes for the third time in a row, most of my thoughts revolve around haranguing my partner. That often results in me realising that he has done other tasks around the house which I conveniently forgot about (like gardening and fixing broken windows). And that washing dishes is much easier and quicker than the job he was doing. I have a suspicion he feels much the same way, but is too nice to say. He is an obliger.

    I am often horrified at the major decisions that people make without any research at all. I enjoy the research part of things, because I feel more prepared.

    I think you can stop believing in yourself if you fail or give up to too often. Every time you do something difficult and succeed you build mental strength that will help you stay on your feet in the tough times. What you stick to isn’t important, but knowing that you are the kind of person who succeeds “when it matters” means that all you need to do is decide “it matters”.

    I think parents need to make sure their children get a steady stream of easy, fulfillable challenges from a very young age, so they build resilience. The hard part is balancing difficulty and providing that little bit of extra toughness when they want to give up. I find it useful to provide a deadline – I”m going to learn the piano for 6 months and then decide if I want to continue.” Avoid quality challenges – being the best or brilliant or stronger or thinner is a doomed, ever moving goalpost. I’m not going to eat chocolate THIS WEEK is achievable.

  • Haley

    Hi Gretchen,

    I think I may be a questioner, and I wonder if both “questioner” and “rebel” align with what a woman named Ariane Benefit calls “outliers”. She uses the term to define ultra creative/intense/emotional, and often A.D.D. people (not sure if Steve Jobs had A.D.D., but she mentions him on her website.)

    I have reason to believe I may have adult ADD, and this realization has blown apart my understanding of myself and my tendencies. According to Benefit, ADDers want to respond to, and do work which for them has meaning. e.g. a perfect job for an ADDer would be emergency room dr.

    Thinking of things this way has helped me understand many pernicious paradoxes in my life, why I thrive in certain enviroments, and all but collapse in others.

    Benefit’s extremely insightful website is at http://arianebenefit.com/ if you’re interested.
    Thank you Gretchen for your continued insights and inspiration,
    Haley

  • jkitty

    I think that I’m a Questioner.
    I definitely prefer to do things according to a plan.
    When it comes to an arbitrary rule, I will follow them if I believe that they are ethical, and if not following the rule is going to cause harm to myself or others.

  • Lori

    This topic is my favorite of all your blogs, Gretchen. I have never left a comment with you before, but I wanted to thank you for your insight. I am a questioner. I love figuring out and learning how we are all unique. What makes us do what we do. It helps me understand and appreciate others more, and be less inclined to judge, when I improve my understanding of human nature. One point I would stress is that all the types are equal in value. We need each other to provide a balance in our lives, when we all bring our different personalities together, with respect for each other.

  • Postdoc

    Do you think these just map to the 4-category simplification scheme (“temperaments”) of Myers-Briggs – Traditionalists, Conceptualizers, Idealists, Experiencers? I could see Upholders = Traditionalists, Questioners = Conceptualizers; maybe Obligers = Experiencers and Rebels = Idealists. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

    • Postdoc

      It would be easy to investigate actually – ask people which Myers-Briggs 4-letter category they are, and then which of your personality types they identify with. For instance, I’m an INTJ, and definitely a Questioner. I noticed other NT-type commenters here also self-identify with Questioner. My husband is an ISTJ, and definitely an Upholder. I’m less familiar with the other two types, but I could see the NF-Idealists matching to Rebels, and the SP-Experiencers matching to Obligers.

  • Mo

    I definitely identify as an obliger (and like many, wish I wasn’t one) and I had to answer this:

    “Here’s something that’s a bit hard to pose as a question. I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern of Obligers sometimes “snapping” and refusing to do something they’re expected to do, or stubbornly and uncharacteristically not obliging in a particular matter, though they oblige in general. Has anyone noticed this themselves or in others? Is this pattern peculiar to Obligers or do Questioners and Upholders also do this occasionally? (Not an issue for Rebels.) I suspect not, but would be curious to hear from others on this question.”

    I do this. I’m a bit shy and a people pleaser, so I sometimes have a hard time saying no. There are people who take try to take advantage of my niceness and willingness to help. Sometimes those people ask me for “favors” that aren’t entirely in my self interest or they are giving me tasks that no one else wants – that sort of thing. I HATE this. If I feel like my good nature is being taken advantage of or that I’m being backed into a corner (stuck between my desire to help people out and an extreme dislike for the request), then I will totally and stubbornly dig in and refuse. And I will be a lot less likely to oblige that person in the future. I like to think that I am helpful and kind and do what’s expected because I want to, not because I can’t act in any other way. In reality, this is only partially true. Even when I stubbornly refuse, I still feel guilty for being difficult, even though I know that my decision was justified. And sometimes I “snap” because I get tired of people making assumptions that I’ll do things as expected. It’s sort of a rebellious way of asserting myself. I can’t always bring myself to do it in small ways like a “normal” person would, so I’ll pick my battle and make a stand.

    I feel like as an obliger, that I spend a lot of time worrying about things that don’t make me happy. Or I make myself unhappy by worrying about following rules that other people find important and discounting the value of my own self imposed rules.

    Interesting topic! I’ve enjoyed reading about fellow obligers and people who identify with the other categories

  • yasmin

    Yasmin:
    Upholder yes I am definitely an upholder in that I observe rules in a certain system and like to follow the general social pattern as well. I like to be “IN” as it is said though not to the extent that it makes me uncomfortable. Come to think of it this is what makes me a truth lover as well not that I am saying that other categories do not observe truth but am now able to understand why I like going the right way. It just makes me feel good. I have certain inner expectations and do try to meet those head long. However where outer expectations are concerned I am more of a Questioner and though I do try to fulfill these but only within a certain criteria I have chalked out. I would rather say No to something rather than follow through and then blame others if uncomfortable.This read has clarified me to myself.

    I find the questions interesting and want to answer as
    many as possible. Yes I like to work by myself and to be my own boss. Another thing,I prefer going by plan rather than spontaneity though it was vice versa when I
    was young. Now I have my routine and just love it because it keeps me healthy
    and happy. As an Upholder I make and keep resolutions. I follow my calendar and
    hope others will do too yet it doesn’t bother me too much if they don’t keep
    commitments. At the age of sixty plus I want to live and let others live too. I
    believe in shared housework though am part of a culture that believes in women
    doing most of the household chores. Here being an Upholder would for me mean to
    uphold my own values and needs.

    As for your last question I have clearly observed this trend of not obliging in certain circumstances as I will again say because I am an Upholder of my own needs and cannot take being stamped upon. But at times I do feel I am being unreasonable or selfish and try to improve my rude behaviour.

  • Jane D.

    I’m an obliger to a fault. I push aside my own goals and expectations in order to meet the demands, deadlines, and expectations of others so easily. I think it’s part of my DNA. lol I don’t like it. I’d like to be an Upholder, because it feels straight and true for some reason. :( Help me, Rhonda!

  • Marci

    Hi! I am an upholder, married to an obliger. We are both self-employed and it works very well for me, not as well for him. He always complains about people asking him to do things last minute and he feels like he has to do it, whereas I am ok with those last-minute requests. I volunteer for a lot of things, too, and get a lot of satisfaction from that. (I am making him volunteer for something for me – have a shift to fill – and now I feel really guilty about it, because how could he say no? He’s an obliger!).

    He is very sensitive about not having time for himself, and I don’t care that much. (I have a lot less time for myself then he does, but I try to give him time by taking our daughter on outings, for example, because I know he needs that time). The housework is divided up (we re-assess at the beginning of the school year to see if things need adjusting) – but it’s not divided evenly. I feel guilty if I’m not doing more.

    I’m not a blamer, I’m more of a blame-accepter. My husband is the same way, which is good because we don’t blame each other for things!

    I think we both like rules (arbitrary or not) and following a plan. And we’re not very spontaneous.

    As I am writing this, I am starting to feel sorry for our daughter, living with us! I don’t think, though, that I can tell what “type” she is yet since she’s only 8 (we are starting to have some clues, though, and at the moment she’s more of a questioner, but maybe this is an age thing?) . When do you think you can tell?

  • Cathy

    WOW. i am sitting down reading your blog after not looking at your site for a while. What timing! I am a obliger /(upholder?)married to a questioner which is, in my relationship not a good combo.. Just had a graduation celebration dinner at my house for 25 people with no set up or planning help from my husband. He had to have propane for the bbq. That’s it. We ran out of propane after 20 burgers cause thats all that will fit on the grill. So with so many people and stuff happening I thought that was all we needed, cause “I am in charge”. When they all lined up to serve, we were 4 short , so had to cook on the stove. So I am beating myself up today because I didn’t plan enough food. On top of that , realize out nephews each must have taken 2 burgers each to start. Why do I worry about it and not laugh it off. WE all had food in the end.

    I prefer to work on my own , I think because then I will not be judged by others.

    I am impatient so don’t like to stand in line ups but am working on that one.

    I hate making mistakes or “dropping the ball” ,(See above)

    I like to have a plan and my husband like to do spontaneous. I live by being organized and knowing what i am doing each day. He just going with what’s happening and doesn’t plan , which then makes me always responsible if there is a screw up. And I get resentful.

    I need to spend this summer working on me, as my last child has just finish high school. time for a change.( Which of course I find hard cause I might “fail”). I find it interesting the posts I have read are all from obligers. thanks for listening. I would appreciate any feedback and will stay more posted.

  • shellahj

    “I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern of Obligers sometimes “snapping” and refusing to do something they’re expected to do, or stubbornly and uncharacteristically not obliging in a particular matter, though they oblige in general.”

    I used to be an obliger but became overwhelmed by what everyone expected me to do, and I had a huge snap. I didn’t just have a little snap and then go merrily back to being an obliger (as if anyone is happy being an obliger!). I am becoming more of a questioner. I need information to make a decision, but it doesn’t help when the situation involves varying shades of gray or factors that I can never predict, and these situations have absolutely paralyzed me. To get unstuck, I am arbitrarily saying “no” to the next ten requests where people get a bit pushy, and I say it with authority. It has been very liberating! I can also look at the delivery only: if someone is being pushy, then they may very likely be pushing me to do something that isn’t in my best interests, and this is something that I should consider. I think this may be why my arbitrary “no” feels so good: it feels like I am practicing self-defense.

    All part-timers at my workplace were cut to a maximum of 30 hours across the board. This has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I have a bit more time to do more for myself (yoga! reading!). I don’t think I will ever really go back to caring at the level I once did. While I will occasionally do something at the last minute (depending on who requests it and how long it will take), I more often find myself telling people that I have a lot on my plate and don’t have enough hours to accommodate them. I look so exhausted now that no one questions this.

  • Laura H

    Pretty sure I’m a Questioner with a few Obliger traits. Reading the comments I found if intriguing and telling how many of your commenters are Obligers (many more in proportion to the other types it seems.) They’re happy to oblige and follow instructions / meet your request? :)

    I’m intrigued by the “snapping” question at the end. I don’t snap in the way you describe of Obligers. As a questioner, I find that I sometimes “snap” and get frustrated by my need to have ALL the information before making a decision. Every once in awhile I just “snap” and say, “Aw, heck with it” and make choices without doing my characteristic research. In other words when I “snap”, it’s looking at my usual tendency and forgoing it (whether for a single decision, or a period of time, usually depending on my stress/frustration levels.) Usually, it is precisely the points where I am able to look at my researching tendencies and see them as a weakness (over researching spending more time than is really needed) and this leads to the “snap”. (As a side note: Usually these decisions work out just fine… and they provide a “base point” for me to use to help balance my questioning tenancies ie: You made that decision without researching it, you are capable of good choices without the research.)

    So, I would wonder if “snapping” is seeing our natural tendency and being unhappy with it and seeking to change it. Since Obligers are (by your observation) most likely to be unhappy with their type, it makes sense they would be the ones to “snap” more often. I wonder if any of the types will “snap” when faced with disappointment or frustration about their natural traits here.

    Side Note: As a questioner, I tend to get lost in Google searches for inordinate amounts of time to answer even a simple question. (ie: How do I prune my raspberry bushes?) I’ve discovered that for me, the right balance is to limit myself to reading 4 of the Google results. After that, it is unlikly I will find any new information on a simple question. Four pages seems to be enough to satisfy my questions, without being so much that I begin to get frustrated with myself.

    Any other questioners have guidelines they use to keep themselves from going to far down the questions rabit hole?

  • http://www.ScheduleMakeover.com/ Elizabeth Grace Saunders

    I’m finding that I’m an upholder or questioner based on the position I put the source of authority.

    If I’ve submitted to the authority of someone/something and implicitly trust that following them is good, I’m an upholder. For all else, I’m a questioner.

    To your brilliance!

    Elizabeth

  • Zabette

    Do you feel that you have to work by yourself, or be in charge, or work with others?
    By myself or be in charge.

    How do you feel about standing in line?
    Hate it.

    Do you make and keep resolutions? Why or why not? Do you do them as New Year’s resolutions?
    No – because they’re artificial constraints and as such you are bound to break them.

    Is it important to you to have a lot of information?
    No.

    Are you powerfully motivated by a desire to avoid feeling guilty?
    Yes.

    Do you struggle with the question, “How do I make time for me?”
    No.

    Do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball?
    Yes.

    If you believe that a rule is arbitrary, though not unethical, would you be likely to follow it or not?
    Follow it, if it’s legal or at work.

    If you have difficulty sticking to a course of action, do you find yourself assigning responsibility to someone else? “I can’t stick to a diet because my mother urges me to take more food.” “My boss makes it hard for me to exercise.”
    No.

    Do you prefer to do things spontaneously?
    Yes.

    Do you prefer to do things according to a plan?
    Only for things that require it – plane tickets, paid events.

    Do you sometimes feel paralyzed when you feel that you don’t have enough information to judge a course of action?
    Yes.

    Do you enjoy the process of questioning and learning?
    Yes.

    Do you like to be the boss? Do you need to be the boss?
    Like, don’t need.

    How do you view shared work in a household? (Laundry, trash, cooking, etc.) How do you view your obligation, if any, to contribute? Who does what work in your household?
    I believe the chores should be divided and not switch back and forth. For example, my roommate always takes out the recyclables and garbage, and I wash the curtains, rugs, tablecloths, towels, etc. in the shared areas. He buys the paper towels, I buy the toilet paper.

    Do you find yourself researching issues that other people make with much less knowledge? Or do you make decisions with less knowledge than others might wish to have? E.g., picking a summer camp or a travel destination.
    I do some research, but I am a Sufficer, not an Optimizer. I used to be an Optimizer but I decided it wasn’t worth it (there’s a book on that subject).

    Do you believe that it’s very important that people keep their commitments to themselves—to go to an exercise class, to make time for their friends?
    Yes.

    Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar?
    Somewhat.

    Here’s something that’s a bit hard to pose as a question. I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern of Obligers sometimes “snapping” and refusing to do something they’re expected to do, or stubbornly and uncharacteristically not obliging in a particular matter, though they oblige in general. Has anyone noticed this themselves or in others? Is this pattern peculiar to Obligers or do Questioners and Upholders also do this occasionally? (Not an issue for Rebels.) I suspect not, but would be curious to hear from others on this question.

    My roommate is an obliger and he has snapped a couple of times. I think it comes from their feeling angry at always being obliging and then blaming the other person like they’re being forced to oblige by them.

  • dogwood

    I am an obliger and I snap about certain things for two reasons, !)if it goes against my moral code (my soul) or if I am not feeling appreciated for all the obliging I have already done!

  • Angie Allen

    After reading this and each previous post about the Tendencies, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to another personality categorization called The Color Code by Taylor Hartman. Dr. Hartman divides into four categories, too. The motivations are Power (red), Intimacy (blue), Fun (yellow) and Peace (white). What triggered my recollection was the observation of Obligers to “snap”. That is a trait of the White personality, too. The others fell into place pretty well. Upholders are blue, Questioners are red and Rebels are yellow. My friends and family and I have used this book for years to help us understand ourselves and each other and it has greatly inhanced our relationships. I think your take on self-awareness and understanding those around us and closest to us can be valuable, as well. I look forward to becoming more familiar with The 4 Rubin Tendencies! Oh, I’m a Questioner.

  • Kelly Gatfield

    In any given day, I flip between all of these tendencies. I undoubtedly flip back and forth between upholder and questioner when in my own space. However, in the presence of my father, I quickly become the obliger and become resentful of the constraints on my life that I allow my father to impose – throwing me into the rebellion of a teenager.

    Until recently, I was an absolute obliger when it came to my father to keep the peace for my mother. Having lost my mother in December just an hour before my 40th birthday, I have this new sense that I do not want to waste time with resentfulness, constraints, or suppressing my desire to make the most of each moment I have left on this earth.

  • Miss Bliss

    Having read the definitions of the Four Rubins Tendencies (FRTs) and many of the comments in this thread, I started seeing parallels between the FRTs and Hippocrates’ Four Temperaments https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_temperaments): Sanguine – pleasure-seeking and sociable; Choleric – ambitious and leader-like; Melancholic – analytical and thoughtful; and Phlegmatic – relaxed and quiet. I came to learn about these four personality types in Florence Littauer’s book, ‘Personality Plus’.

    My initial thought with regard to the alignment of the FRTs and personality types is: Cholerics are Upholders; Melancholics are Questioners; Sanguines are Rebels; and Phlegmatics are Obligers. This holds true for me as I am a Questioner by the definitions of the FRTs and having just re-taken the free Personality Plus Quiz after many years (http://www.gotoquiz.com/personality_plus_1) the result was that I am a Melancholic (88%), just as I suspected.

    As Littauer describes in her book, I feel that you can be more than one of the FRTs/personality types, but most of us are strongly one of them and know which one it is. I would consider myself a Questioner with Obliger tendencies, who is sometimes an Upholder and rarely a Rebel. My quiz results matched my estimation in this regard.

    It would be interesting to hear what others think about this nexus between the temperaments and FRTs and if you take the quiz after categorizing yourself into one of the FRTs whether the results align with my proposed pairings above.

    What a fantastic, thought-provoking topic btw, Gretchen – thanks for your contribution to my happier life! :)

  • camrezabek

    I can’t identify myself… I don’t question expectations generally, but if I’m told outright that I must do something that I already intend to do, I rebel. I also meet my own expectations generally, but if I let my inner plans slip to outsiders, I rebel.

  • http://www.nerdkicks.com/ Mindy Holahan

    Holy buckets, Gretchen, that last question/point is spot-on and covers the one part of the classification I was struggling with since I heard you speak about this at WDS.

    I am definitely an Obliger. I work very hard to keep my commitments to other people, but I’ll be darned if I can keep a promise to myself. I’m absolutely motivated by putting a smile on someone else’s face. I’ve always been a rule follower, and it honestly wasn’t until I hit my late 20s that I started to realize that not all authority figures were trustworthy.

    The part I was having trouble reconciling, though, was that every once in a while I will encounter someone for whom I absolutely refuse to please. I won’t submit to their direction and I get downright belligerent about following direction. [It often seems to be community band directors, of all the ridiculous things.] It’s like a Rebel streak coming out, and what I’ve managed to figure out, after a LOT of thought, is that the rebellious streak comes out when I encounter someone who doesn’t ask, but rather tells.

    I will knock myself out trying to please someone who will entertain my input, but if I encounter someone who I feel is trying to tell me what to do without asking my opinion, may God help you, because I won’t. I turn into hell on wheels.

    I love this concept, I loved hearing you speak at WDS, and I just devoured The Happiness Project. Thanks a bunch!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much for your kind words.

      You’ve described something that I’ve noticed – that Obligers often have a streak of rebellion, one person or one task that they just refuse to accept—often something very major. So interesting!

  • Grace Bouchard

    Questioner/upholder — I answered all the questions

    Do you feel that you have to work by yourself, or be in charge, or work with others? I prefer working alone usually. Sometimes I really enjoy working with people as a team. Sometimes I feel compelled to be in charge if no one else is. I do not like being herded around by someone who likes being in control.

    How do you feel about standing in line? I don’t mind it. I usually have my ipod on, or I’m thinking about something, or there are new things to look at – like other people.

    Do you make and keep resolutions? Why or why not? Do you do them as New Year’s resolutions? I do make New Year’s resolutions but not formally. I tend to keep resolutions soft. Sometimes I just want to start moving in a direction. I don’t have any clear idea of what the end result should be. Although, my boyfriend was making fun of me for never finishing games that I start, and so I did tell myself that this year I would finish “Fallout New Vegas”. It’s August… and so I still have a few more months!

    Is it important to you to have a lot of information? In general no. I usually just want the information that is going to help me with this one step. I don’t want ALL the information.

    Are you powerfully motivated by a desire to avoid feeling guilty? I fell guilty anyway, so probably not.

    Do you struggle with the question, “How do I make time for me?” No.

    Do you hate making a mistake or dropping the ball? Yes. Mostly if it affects other people.

    If you believe that a rule is arbitrary, though not unethical, would you be likely to follow it or not? I would not follow it if I didn’t have to.

    If you have difficulty sticking to a course of action, do you find yourself assigning responsibility to someone else? “I can’t stick to a diet because my mother urges me to take more food.” “My boss makes it hard for me to exercise.”
    No, I’m actually pretty good about that. I know when it’s all me.

    Do you prefer to do things spontaneously? Yes, most of the time.

    Do you prefer to do things according to a plan? That can be fun too! Depending on the plan!

    Do you sometimes feel paralyzed when you feel that you don’t have enough information to judge a course of action? Yes.

    Do you enjoy the process of questioning and learning? Not always. Sometimes I can’t get enough.

    Do you like to be the boss? Do you need to be the boss? No, not really.

    How do you view shared work in a household? (Laundry, trash, cooking, etc.) How do you view your obligation, if any, to contribute? Who does what work in your household? I do the big majority of housework (female) and it really makes me mad. I get tired of asking. I try to rationalize it as me being the one who cares. I care how it looks and feels, so I am the one to clean up. Plus I have way more stuff than he does and a greater portion of the mess is me. However this does not include floors, dusting, dishes…

    Do you find yourself researching issues that other people make with much less knowledge? Or do you make decisions with less knowledge than others might wish to have? E.g., picking a summer camp or a travel destination. It depends on the decision, but I usually go with less information.

    Do you believe that it’s very important that people keep their commitments to themselves—to go to an exercise class, to make time for their friends? Yes, but I forgive myself and others when they don’t keep those commitments.

    Do you feel a sense of accountability to your own calendar? So that you’ll do something if it’s on your calendar? I am better about that with some things than others.

    Snapping and refusing to do something committed to? I don’t think that I do that. I sometimes back out of things but I try to do it gently.

  • Carol S.

    Wow am I an Obliger when I am compelled to work with others. My expectations that I impose on myself are ALWAYS much higher than those that are imposed on me by others. I can answer the following question with an emphatic YES!when I am compelled to work with others. My expectations that I impose on myself are ALWAYS much higher than those that are imposed on me by others. I can answer the following question with an emphatic YES!
    Here’s something that’s a bit hard to pose as a question. I’ve noticed what seems to be a pattern of Obligers sometimes “snapping” and refusing to do something they’re expected to do, or stubbornly and uncharacteristically not obliging in a particular matter, though they oblige in general. Has anyone noticed this themselves or in others?
    My example is from last Friday, October 4, when I stunned the whole team of people I work with at the church by sweeping through the main foyer like a tornado, insisting that the main entry floor was going to be washed RIGHT NOW in big caps with bold highlighting. I would not take No for an answer from anyone. We had two groups coming in for event rehearsals in less than an hour, and the floor had not been washed yet that week. It was disgusting with sawdust, ground-in muddy footprints and other yuck all over it. I flung rugs, whipped the cord off the vacuum cleaner like a skipping rope, and generally was about as obnoxious as I could be. But eventually, everyone got the hint, got out of my way, and the floor got washed.
    Next Friday, I handled the same situation a little differently: by coming in at 0730 to do the floors, I got them done the way I wanted, and I was not “in the way” or being told by anybody that what I was doing was “not important
    My example is from last Friday, October 4, when I stunned the whole team of people I work with at the church by sweeping through the main foyer like a tornado, insisting that the main entry floor was going to be washed RIGHT NOW in big caps with bold highlighting. I would not take No for an answer from anyone. We had two groups coming in for event rehearsals in less than an hour, and the floor had not been washed yet that week. It was disgusting with sawdust, ground-in muddy footprints and other yuck all over it. I flung rugs, whipped the cord off the vacuum cleaner like a skipping rope, and generally was about as obnoxious as I could be. But eventually, everyone got the hint, got out of my way, and the floor got washed.
    Next Friday, I handled the same situation a little differently: by coming in at 0730 to do the floors, I got them done the way I wanted, and I was not “in the way” or being told by anybody that what I was doing was “not important
    Next Friday, I handled the same situation a little differently: by coming in at 0730 to do the floors, I got them done the way I wanted, and I was not “in the way” or being told by anybody that what I was doing was “not important

    • Becca

      Carol S. I am also an Obliger, with Rebel tendencies. I am eager to take on roles and tasks, but have found I do not like being told what to do. Taking on too much and then having work being assigned on top of that I’ve found can lead to my Rebel tendencies coming out. Once overwhelmed I get upset at the notion of not fulfilling everyone’s needs and sometimes Rebel by deprioritizing the work I’ve been assigned to do, rather than the work I want to do…even though I got myself into the situation! Learning I need to set better boundaries and speak up when I am overwhelmed!

  • Carol S.

    Sorry about the double-up of paragraphs on the previous message, I have not posted here before, but I LOVE your books, Gretchen, and am leading a book club session about The Happiness Project in December.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific!

      Don’t worry about the comments, it happens.

  • Alex

    I’m an Obliger but I can make and keep resolutions as long as they are within the Abstainer spectrum. So I can’t “exercise three times a week” and having something on my calendar does not mean I will do it – but I can “not drink alcohol for a year” or “not eat chocolate for a year” (both of which I have done in the past). So to me it looks like the Four Rubin Tendencies can’t be viewed in isolation of the Abstainer/Moderator characteristics.

    • gretchenrubin

      But they don’t always match up in the same patterns.

      Many Obligers are Moderators.

      I’m an Upholder/Abstainer, but I know Upholder/Moderators.

      The Abstainer/Moderator distinction is about resisting strong temptation.
      The Four Tendencies are about response to expectation.

  • Anne

    I think I’m an Obliger – I would prefer not to be and I snap and stubbornly refuse something if I’m put under pressure. I feel really bad when I do this and then spend time feeling guilty and making it up to the people that I feel that I let down as I hate letting people down!

  • annon

    I wasn’t sure what I was but now it seems I’m the Obliger. In the past I just followed all the outside rules and requests I accepted but recently I have been “snapping.” I can’t stand sort of feeling cornered- like I have choice A, B, C but I’m expected (not asked/requested but its what I ‘should’ do) to choose A so now I resist A both mentally and physically. The inner monologue sort of goes like this: “Ok A…what if I can’t/don’t do it? but I don’t have to! but if I don’t I’m a failure/it’s stupid if I don’t…oh f* this, whatever, i dont care,” and with that I end up doing nothing of what I’m expected.