Meri Paterson

The ideas business and other interests

Questioner
Questioner

I’m a Questioner. Or am I?

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As my nearest and dearest can attest, I’ve become obsessed with Gretchen Rubin’s model of dealing with expectation. I like personality tests in general, and this one made such intuitive sense to me when I came across it that I just can’t stop talking about it.

The model basically posits that people are one of four types, when it comes to expectations. Expectations can be

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

The book that introduces the ‘four tendencies’

outer ones – like work deadlines, or promises you’ve made to other people; or they can be inner ones, such as New Year’s resolutions or projects you start for yourself. Some people have no problem with either, and they always meet expectations. Rubin calls these robots Upholders. At the opposite end of the scale there’s people who can’t or won’t meet any expectations whether inner or outer (Rebels). And in between are two types that can do one, but not the other. There are Obligers, who keep promises they make to other people but struggle with commitments they’ve made to themselves, and Questioners who meet their own demands but struggle with expectations from other people – so called because they will only do things that make sense to them.

The reason I’m so excited about the four tendencies is that once you know what you are, it helps you to find ways to minimise your bad behaviours. For example, if an Obliger wants to do something just for themselves but can’t seem to keep that promise, being accountable about it to someone else can really work.

There is a quiz you can take to figure out which type you are (here!), but I’ve taken the quiz a number of times and got all sorts of results. Rubin maintains that you’re always just one type and there isn’t much overlap, but I think I might be a Questioner with strong Upholder sympathies and a Rebellious streak! Pretty much the only thing I’m sure I’m not is an Obliger.

A good way to find out what I am would be to try the different remedies to solve an expectation problem I have. A bit like Dr House who, when a diagnosis isn’t forthcoming, will just try different, usually highly dangerous, drugs on his patient so that when one of them works, he knows what the problem was.

The case of the diary

One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to keep a diary, but in the last month or so I have all but stopped. I have written quite a few pages, but I don’t look forward to it, and I’m usually not very pleased with what I’ve written.

If I’m actually an Upholder…
I probably wouldn’t have this problem at all if I was a true Upholder, because I would have made my mind up to do it, and that was that. But I might be a bad Upholder, I suppose. I think something like scheduling the diary-keeping might work for most Upholders, but I have already scheduled diary-writing to Sunday. All that happens is, all day Sunday I avoid doing it. Maybe I need to be more specific.

If I’m actually a Rebel…
If I’m a Rebel, the theory is, I resist journalling because I expect myself to do it. So I could tell myself, ‘no one can make me keep this diary. If I want to do it, I can, but it’s completely up to me’. There is something appealing about this, but I don’t see how this will result in writing, tbh.

If I’m actually a Questioner…
If I am a Questioner, the way to tackle this would be to make sure that my reason to keep a diary is clear in my mind. I have a vague sense that it would be nice to read about my life now when I’m older, but I do have unanswered questions at the back of my mind:

  • will I enjoy being reminded of events that happened, or rather thoughts and dreams I had?
  • what if later, I don’t enjoy my scribblings, but am embarrassed by them?
  • should I talk about work more, in case I become a VIP and someone will want to publish my diaries?
  • how can I make sure I’m capturing everything worth remembering?

The Questioner cure would be to figure out exactly why I want to do it and support it with lots of arguments.

I’ll let you know what works! What tendency are you?

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