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Questioners, What Questions Do You Ask about Your Habits?

question-mark-headI posted recently about “Are you a people-pleaser?”  This question is related to the Four Tendencies framework, which I develop in Better Than Before, my book on habit change.

A key piece of self-knowledge — which is crucial to habit change — is “What is your ‘Tendency?” 

That is: How do you respond to expectations?

  • Outer expectations – like meeting a deadline, performing a “request” from a sweetheart, following traffic regulations.
  • Inner expectations – such as writing a novel in your free time, keeping a New Year’s resolution, starting to floss.

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%).
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense, so they make everything an inner expectation.
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

I gave a talk at LinkedIn about the Four Tendencies, so if you’d like to see me discuss each category in a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here; Obligers, here, and Rebels, here.

I’m always trying to deepen my understanding of how the Tendencies play out. So over the past week, I’ve been posing some questions. One day, I focused on Rebels.

Today’s questions relate to the Questioner Tendency.

I have a lot of exposure to this Tendency, because my husband is a Questioner.

Being married to a Questioner is helpful to me, because as an Upholder, my instinct is to meet an expectation without questioning it too closely. My husband always questions an expectation before he’ll do it, and I’ve learned to question more myself.

This Tendency saves him a lot of work. Sometimes I admire it, sometimes it drives me crazy.

Last night, I pointed to two small drawings hanging on the wall, and said, “Can you please switch these two?”

He said, “Why can’t you?” He didn’t mean it in a bad way, but just — why can’t you do it?

I gave him a look. As an Upholder, I must confess, this response annoys me. I don’t ask him to do much, and when I do ask him to do something, I have my reasons, and I don’t feel like I should have to justify at length every single request. But that’s what a Questioner wants! Explanations, justifications.

I’m making a list of the questions that Questioners pose, before they meet an expectation. Forming a habit is a form of expectation (whether self-imposed or other-imposed), so to form a habit successfully, Questioners need to have their questions answered. They often ask:

  • Why should I listen to you? (This question isn’t meant in a snarky way, but literally.) What’s your expertise? A friend told me, “When my son broke his arm, I interviewed four doctors. My husband thought I was crazy, but I can’t listen to a doctor unless I have complete trust.”
  • Why should I have to do this, instead of someone else? My husband and household habits. Questioners are great at delegating, unless they think that no one else can do something.
  • Where can I get more information? Questioners love information and research. In fact, they sometimes complain of “analysis paralysis”; they want more and more information.
  • How can I tweak this habit to suit my individual needs?
  • Isn’t there a better way to structure this habit? Questioners like to find better ways to do things.
  • What problems has everyone else overlooked, that I can identify? Questioners are good at spotting errors.

Questioners, what other questions do you find yourself asking? Questioner-observers, what do you get asked? Does this list ring true?

Do you find questioning helpful, or does it become tiresome at some points? What am I missing?

Questioners, What Questions Do You Ask about Your Habits?


Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. You can also watch the one-minute book video. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.


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APA Reference
Rubin, G. (2018). Questioners, What Questions Do You Ask about Your Habits?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/questioners-what-questions-do-you-ask-about-your-habits/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 Oct 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.