Quiz: Are You an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

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

This Wednesday:  Quiz: Are you an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger? 

In the course of writing my book about habit-formation, Before and After, I’ve come up with a character framework. (To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

I have to say, I’m so pleased with this framework. I love it. But what to call it? The “Rubin Tendencies“? The “Expectation Types“? I’m still pondering that.

In a nutshell, I sort everyone into four categories, which 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, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important. For your habits, and for many aspects of your life.

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 (my husband is a Questioner); essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

 

For more explanation, look here.

Many people have asked for some kind of quiz to tell them their Tendency. It’s tricky, because the Tendencies overlap, but here goes…

Check off every statement that describes you.

You’ll probably have checks in more than one category, but if you’re like most people, you’ll find that one will much more accurately describe you.

Upholder

___ I love crossing items off my to-do list.

___ I feel uncomfortable if I’m with someone who’s breaking a rule—whispering to me during someone’s giving a work presentation, or using a cell phone when a sign reads “No cell phones.”

___ Usually, I’m punctual and meet deadlines. In fact, I really dislike being late or missing a deadline, even if it’s somewhat arbitrary.

___ I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, and I usually have good success in keeping them.

___ If something is on my calendar, it gets done.

___ I hate making mistakes or letting people down.

___ It’s just as important to keep my promises to myself as it is to keep my promises to other people.

___ I want to know what’s expected of me.

___ Sometimes other people feel annoyed by my level of discipline. I’ve been accused of being rigid.

___ I embrace habits.

___ It’s painful for me not to do something I’ve agreed to do, even if it doesn’t really matter, so I’m very careful about making commitments—to other people or to myself.

 

Questioner 

___ It’s very important for me to make well-reasoned decisions.

___ If I want to make a change in my life, I’ll make it right away. I won’t make a New Year’s resolution, because January 1 is an arbitrary date.

___ Even when a decision isn’t particularly important, I sometimes have trouble deciding, because I want more information.

___ I get very agitated if I have to wait in line.

___ If I’m asked to do something that doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it—which sometimes causes conflicts with other people.

___ Other people sometimes become frustrated by my demand for information and sound reasons.

___ It really bothers me when things are unfair or arbitrary.

___ I like to hear from experts, but I always decide for myself what course to follow.

___ I can start a new habit without much effort, if it’s something that makes sense for my aims.

___ Occasionally, I arrive at conclusions that violate conventional wisdom or common practice (which can cause problems with other people); I want to act on the basis of my own reasoning.

___ I question the validity of the Rubin Tendencies.

 

Rebel 

___ I never make New Year’s resolutions. Why would I commit myself to do something in advance?

___ If someone asks or tells me to do something, I often have the impulse to refuse—or to do just the opposite.

___ I resist habits.

___ I enjoy flouting rules and expectations.

___ Other people sometimes become frustrated because I won’t do what they want me to do.

___ If someone tells me I can’t do something, I think, “I’ll show you,” and I do it.

___ People sometimes accuse me of being irresponsible or unnecessarily contrarian.

___ I’m not particularly persuaded by arguments such as, “People are counting on you,” “You’ve already paid for it,” “You said you’d do it,” “Someone will be upset if you don’t,” “It’s against the rules,” “This is the deadline,” or “It’s rude.”

___ Sometimes I find myself attracted to institutions with lots of rules—the military, the police, the clergy.

___ If I’m expected to do something—even something fun, like a wood-working class—I have the urge to resist; the expectation takes the fun out of an activity that I enjoy.

___ My significant other is an Obliger.

 

Obliger 

___ I sometimes describe myself as a “people-pleaser.”

___ People often turn to me for help—to edit a report, to take over a carpool run, to speak at a conference at the last minute.

___ I’ve given up making New Year’s resolutions, because I never keep them.

___ I get frustrated by the fact that I make time for other people’s priorities, but struggle to make time for my own.

___ Every once in a while, I snap, and in a sudden moment of rebellion, I refuse to do what other people expect of me.

___ Promises to other people can’t be broken, but promises to myself can be broken.

___ Unless someone is enforcing a deadline, it’s hard for me to get work done.

___ I sometimes feel burned out, and it’s hard for me to take the time and effort for myself, to recharge my battery.

___ I’ll do something to be a good role model, even if it’s not something that I’d do for myself. Practice piano, eat vegetables, quit smoking.

___ It’s hard for me to tell people “no.”

___ I’ve made some good habits, but I often struggle without success to form others.

This quiz is still under construction, so let me know: was it helpful? what is it missing? any false notes?

People’s responses to the four Rubin Tendencies (or whatever they end up being called) has been very encouraging. Most people find themselves within the framework — and also find that knowing their Tendency helps them to understand themselves better.

You may be thinking, “The Rubin Tendencies are interesting, but what the heck do they have to do with habit-formation?” Of the many habit-formation strategies I’ve identified, the first, and the most important, is the Strategy of Self-Knowledge. To shape our habits most effectively, we must understand ourselves. And knowing your Rubin Tendency is enormously helpful in figuring out how to set up habits for success.

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  • Sue Bee

    Many of the statements resonate with me….except the Rebel.

  • Becky

    Surprised to be an Upholder!

  • KD

    Is it possible to be a mix of both? I had the most checks for Questioner, but I would categorize myself as an Obliger because I am better motivated by external expectations/obligations than internal ones. I think it’s perhaps because I meet most external expectations, as long as I see them as reasonable, but lack the self-discipline to meet internal expectations (because there’s no immediate negative consequence of failing to meet them).

    • gretchenrubin

      You’re an Obliger.

      • New questioner

        This sounds like me, too, but I had only two (possibly three) checks in Obliger. I like to impress people, but it’s difficult to impress myself unless there’s some built-in structure to measure against. Have you looked at the Kolbe conative styles? Maybe some of the people you call “Obligers” and “Rebels” just score lower in Follow-Thru mode.

  • Oh wow! I’m a rebel! hahaha. I watched your video on it and it’s so me. I have even taken up running so that I can listen to podcasts! haha. That’s so crazy!

  • HEHink

    A few personal observations…
    – I scored equally Questioner and Obliger, which wasn’t a surprise. A few Upholder marks, but none for Rebel.
    – I literally lol’d after reading “I question the validity of the Rubin Tendencies”! Totally something a questioner might think. I don’t, even as a strong Questioner, because I recognize that observation and case studies can provide data just as valuable as data gathered through careful experimentation. And they are called “Tendencies” as opposed to “Traits carved in granite.”
    – My Obliger tendency seems to depend on who is needing/asking for help or care, and the circumstances. I’m more likely to set my own needs aside for people close to me, or for people in dire need of help. I’m also more likely to go out of my way if it’s easy, like a few weeks ago when a coworker asked me to do something that was essentially his job. I did it, because I had already laid the groundwork for it as part of my job, and taking the extra steps to do his part wasn’t that difficult. That’s no guarantee that I will do the same thing if asked a second time, however. I guess that’s my Questioner side taking over.

  • Meg

    UGH – Obliger in the worst way.

  • Maria Bengtson

    I am definitely a questioner, and I am curious about why “I get very agitated if I have to wait in line.” was included in that category. Doesn’t agitation depend on the particular line and the reasons for the line? For instance, I will skip the queue at the post office when I just need to drop off a letter and the drop box is closed for the day, but will stand in line if I need services requiring a person because the other people were there first and cutting would be unfair to them. Wouldn’t that trait line up better with the Rebel category?

    • gretchenrubin

      I know, right? And yet over and over, when I talk to Questioners, a theme is how much they hate to wait in line.

      Rebels go to a fair measure to avoid lines or thwart them, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t show up for them.

      • Ellie

        Gretchen, I’d be interested to know how you discovered this aversion to waiting in line as a Questioner-associated tendency. I identify so strongly with it as well as many other of the tendencies. Several others were interesting to me because they didn’t seem obviously linked to the Questioner mindset, namely making changes right away (I do like New Year’s resolutions, but I also happily and easily make changes in my behavior at other times of year) and acting decisively and definitively as soon as I’ve collected the required information. (To me, this tracks with the abstainer vs. moderator distinction.) I do really struggle with, and dislike, making decisions. I’d also be interested in what you observe about Questioners’ tendencies in relationships as my significant other is extremely like me in these respects.

        • gretchenrubin

          The waiting-in-line thing is funny – I just noticed that it kept popping up in my conversations with Questioners. It surprised me, but it’s very consistent.

          I haven’t noticed any very distinctive patterns in relationships except for the Rebel/Obliger.

    • Ellie

      This one amazed me! I am very definitively a Questioner and this one describes me perfectly. I hate waiting in line – especially to get in somewhere. I’d rather pay for something than wait in a line to get it for free.

  • Katherine

    Gretchen, so much of what you do is really helpful and illuminating, but these just drive me crazy. I don’t fit into any of the categories– although it’s been helpful to see some hidden rebel leanings– and neither do my nearest and dearest. The drive to sort and sift everyone sticks in my craw. These categories feel inherently reductive and over-simplified.
    Isn’t it reasonable that while some fit neatly into these categories, others combine aspects of 2, 3, or even all of them, depending on circumstances and context?

    • BKF

      katherine, I hate to say this as i am a big admirer of Gretchen’s work but these categories don’t work for me either. Maybe some people who say they do identify with the names of the groups (upholder, questioner etc?) I find myself checking things from each category. I thought my husband was a questioner but he is also an upholder and an obliger…. So sorry as i know this is important to you, Gretchen, but this is sort of your test drive ground, so probably good that you hear some dissent? (I also feel a bit constrained by excessive categorization….)

      As for the name, I really prefer the Rubin Tendencies to the other one.

      • gretchenrubin

        The thing is, a person CANNOT be an Upholder and an Obliger.

        To be an Upholder is not to be an Obliger.

        The test is: does that person meet expectations for which there’s no external accountability? Can they complete a novel in their free time, start going for a run regularly? Are they able to meet outer expectations, but not those for themselves?
        These responses are so helpful…shows that I need to make the quiz, and the descriptions, clearer.
        Absolutely the case that some people don’t like classifications at all, and no system of classification will cover everything, but this one can improve for sure.

        • BKF

          So my husband will not cross a street if there is a red light EVEN if there are NO cars or people around. That sounds like an upholder to me. But then he has a hard time saying, “no” to people who need help etc. He is frequently late to things (although he is German and values punctuality greatly.) (By the way, I think nations have Rubin Tendencies- most German traits seem to be Upholding ones…)

          • gretchenrubin

            He sounds like an Obliger.

          • BKF

            But he also loves crossing things off his to-do list, he keeps all appts on his calender, can be very rigid and HATES breaking rules! He won’t go to DIsneyLand or World because he hates standing in queues….

          • gretchenrubin

            Does he meet expectations that he imposes on HIMSELF? For which there’s no external accountability?

            Obligers will keep an appointment or cross something off the to-do list – if someone else is involved. What if there is no deadline, no accountability, no oversight, no one knows or cares about something?

          • BKF

            He does adhere to his own self-imposed rules, so much that I find it rigid sometimes. For eg -and I admire this- he always does follow-up visits on his in-patients (even though a lot of our colleagues don’t because they are too busy and it’s not expected in general and no one is checking.) In fact he is in an extreme minority there (within the nature of his specialty.)

            The red light thing- is that still “obliging” if no one is there to notice but yourself?

            The other thing is the word “Obliger” sounds like one may be a doormat. It has more negative overtones than for instance a Questioner (which sounds intellectual) or Upholder which sounds moral and Rebel may sound cool to some! There is nothing much positive about the sound of “Obliger” to me at any rate. That may influence someone accepting or rejecting that category.

          • elisa

            This is an interesting point and might explain why I (based in a certain European country) see many more rebels around than Gretchen.

    • gretchenrubin

      I bet you are a Questioner!

      You’re right, classifications are reductive – that’s why I find them illuminating. But not everyone likes this approach. So if it’s not helpful, just ignore.

  • Farrah

    I like your 4 categories, I recognize the people around me. (Sorry for my English, I’m from Quebec, speaking French. But I love your book Happiness Project and your work!)
    I’m an upholder. Most of statements describes me well, very well. I would add that I feel good in an organized and clean place, my mind works better there then.
    I recognize my man in the category of questioners for the following sentences:
    -Even when a decision isn’t particularly important, I sometimes have trouble deciding, because I want more information.
    -If I’m asked to do something that doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it—which sometimes causes conflicts with other people.
    -Other people sometimes become frustrated by my demand for information and sound reasons.
    Thank you for reflexions that you elicit!

  • Jennifer

    Oh my, I read an earlier article regarding this and couldn’t decide if I was an Upholder or Questioner, but I’m an Upholder all the way. I would go as far to say that I encourage change, as long as it’s for the better and I’m the one that came up with the idea 😉

  • Elin

    Don’t particularly like these and never have since you came up with them (one of the only 2 statements I checked under “Questioner” was “I question the validity of the Rubin Tendencies”) but I finally caved and did the quiz. Shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that I was SO much of an Obliger. Ugh. So co-dependent. Maybe that’s why I have resisted/resented this quiz…?

  • Irene

    Hi Gretchen. I must start with saying I have read both of your happiness books, and loved them. I am mainly an ‘Upholder’ – I actually describe myself to people as a ‘rule person’. I think these sorts of things are great – BUT that they must be taken at face value. I love having all of these tendencies and I honour my inner Rebel, Questioner and Obliger for what they bring to my life. One important point: Getting into this sort of analysis does not honour my quest for happiness, and conflicts somewhat with my commitment to ‘Be Irene’.

  • elisa

    As other commentators said, I am a mix of two categories (upholder and questioner), married to a 100% rebel, mother of one and sister of another. Suggestions for your quiz: I would avoid the point concerning the rebel’s ideal partners (out of my family experience, it does not apply at all that rebels match well with obligers). Further, I wonder whether a questioner’s characteristic is the fact of not understanding why people speak so much about how to start a diet and the like (for me, once I decide something, I just do it and I do not feel like a need so much help in holding a decision once I made it –it’s just ‘done’).

    • gretchenrubin

      I mention that about the Rebel/Obliger pairing because it’s so striking in real life.
      Just about EVERY REBEL I’ve met is partnered with an Obliger.

      It’s a very striking pattern.

      Not understanding why people talk so much about how to start something…you express a sentiment that is also held by Upholders and Rebels. Really, it’s Obligers who struggle most to start something.

      • elisa

        Thank you, Gretchen. I still insist on the fact that the (many —I do not agree that rebels are rare, at least around me—) rebels in my life are not married to/in a relation with obligers (which may be a reason for their not-that-fulfilling love lifes?).
        I also wonder whether one tends to become more an obliger through one’s relation with a rebel (and vice versa)? One will end up needing ot pay the bills/get the children ready/etc.!

        • gretchenrubin

          No, in my observation, it’s because Obligers are tolerant of, and enjoy, the Rebel way, while the Rebel tendencies create much more conflict with Upholders and Questioners.

          It’s interesting that you think Rebels are not rare. I’d be curious to hear you describe your social set and the kind of people who are Rebels, if they have common characteristics – maybe I just haven’t looked where all the Rebels are!

          • elisa

            I wonder whether part of the answer regards the age-group. I imagine that rebels might be more common among children and teenagers. I certainly know many rebels in these two groups. Some of them are over-intelligent and thus dissatisfied with every expectation imposed on them (why should they go to school, if they are better at maths than the others?), others are just unable to plan anything and rebel as a reaction if one tries to patronise them. As for my social set: Europe, middle-class, intellectuals (perhaps universities are also akin to clergy?).

  • Strelka

    Dear Gretchen, thanks for the quiz!
    I have had trouble identifying with the categories before as I could not place myself in one. And today, in the test I scored 50% upholder 50% obliger, how common is that really?

  • Jane D.

    OMG Gretchen!! All this time I thought….I’ve done this before, and I seriously thought I was an obliger. Maybe I didn’t answer the questions honestly, but I’m a solid Questioner, all the way!! Kinda cool. I like questioners. Yeah. *solid two thumbs up*

  • Mimi Gregor

    At first I thought I was an Upholder, as most of the statements resonated with me. Then, as I read the statements for the Questioner, they resonated too. I think, however, that I am more a Questioner than an Upholder, because I don’t automatically obey a rule or fulfill an expectation. I always analyze whether it makes sense to me first. Therefore, I ALWAYS buckle up when I get into a car because it makes sense to me — NOT because it’s the law. As for “speed limits”, I find they are usually too slow and I have no problem thinking of them as “speed suggestions”. I am a terribly indecisive person, mostly because with most choices, I just do not have enough facts to make a decision. So really, even laws and social mores are filtered through ME first, and obeyed or ignored as I see fit. Which when you think about it is actually more rebellious than the Rebel, who merely does the opposite of expectations even if it were something he would go along with if left to his own devices.

    • thoughtfully

      I agree completely, Mimi, that’s exactly how I would descibe myself too.

    • Zabette

      As a Questioner (9 answers) and an Upholder (7 answers), I often feel torn between the two. I think this results in a lot of tension in my life. The Upholder may be part of my German-American heritage, as this value is very strongly supported in that culture. My own nature is very much a Questioner, fostered by my artist father, no doubt. The part about Upholder which I don’t have, is keeping promises to myself. Most of my uplholding is externally motivated.

  • Rosie

    When I first read the names and descriptions, I was sure I’m a Questioner – that fits my self-image best. Yet on the quiz, I had only 5 checks for Questioner and 7 for Upholder! Of course, then I thought the quiz must be wrong, which gives me another check for Questioner, right? 🙂

  • Kate Faragher Houghton

    One thing that stands out about this list is that the Obliger billeted list includes more general characteristics stated in a neutral way. The other lists seem to focus more on the difficult or clashy aspects of the type. Is there a softer edge to Obliger because that is your category?

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh I’m not an Obliger. My category is Upholder. SO MANY things became clearer to me when I figured out this framework. I thought I was pretty average type—in fact, I’m an extreme and rare type!

      I love being an Upholder so I was careful to point out the negatives of that category. Which are many, but still, I love being an Upholder. Probably why the idea of writing a book about habits appeals to me.

      I will ponder your point…It’s hard to ask the questions in a way that will try to highlight the distinctions among the categories, because they all overlap (by design). I’ll keep working on it.

  • Amy

    What if I am perfectly tied between upholder and questioner?

    • gretchenrubin

      Questioner is a FAR bigger category than Upholder, so you’re probably a Questioner.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    I don’t see much rebel in myself at all. I would say that as I have aged (almost 67) and matured, the ‘Obliger’ behavior that seems socially expected of women, and the ‘Upholder’ aspect that came along with being the oldest child in the family has given way to much more questioning. I do believe that it’s pretty common to start out by fulfilling others’ ideas of how we should behave, and gradually grow into being who we are. I have ended up as a Questioner who no longer feels very much pressured to be obliging, and more capable of being flexible about rules and deadlines. In fact, I deliberately CHOOSE activities that are not likely to be subject to deadlines. My significant other appears to me to be a questioner through and through–he sure loves to do his research before making decisions!

    • Michelle

      I agree that birth order (also eldest in a large family) has impacted my tendencies as an upholder.

      • Tabitha W. Bishop

        also the oldest of six

  • I had a difficult time with these categories. Initially I reacted to the perceived positive or negative aspects of the titles. Which was better to be? What type did I want to be? LOL I am a bit of them all but 2 answers more of an Obliger than a Questioner. I am surprised there isn’t a “Survivor” category. When the inner expectation of life itself is surviving it. Endurance of outer elements, inner strength and knowledge to deal the biggest rule of all….survival. Not the Reality Show type junk but the security in your own strengths and recognition of your vulnerablities. Perhaps this is what the big picture is about “knowing yourself”. Thanks Gretchen. My 96 year old mother has just recommended your “Happiness Project” to a younger friend (83) to read while she recoupes from an operation!

  • Mary Beth Foster

    I found this quiz really interesting! I’ve always thought of myself as an upholder, but after taking the quiz, I find that I’m more of a questioner. I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant, and I found myself thinking about my pregnancy experience in relation to a lot of the statements. For example, I can’t just accept my doctor’s advice to give up caffeine; I needed to know why. What research was that advice based on? How exactly was caffeine harmful? Ultimately, after doing my own research, I decided her recommendation was unfounded and continued drinking the same amount of caffeine I did before getting pregnant. I think perhaps I was more of an upholder when I was younger, and I still have some lingering upholder tendencies . . . sometimes, I’ll still feel guilty for breaking the “rules” and getting that Starbucks in the afternoon when I’ve already had coffee in the morning even though I know I’ve done my research and made an informed decision!

  • I assumed I was going to be 100% obliger, but I have quite a few upholder tendencies as well. It really is super-useful to know myself in this way. I set up all sorts of accountability systems to help me maintain habits. I decided that I wanted to do a Parenting Project, in a similar vein to a Happiness Project. What’s making it work is blogging about it, and setting it up so that the posts appear on Facebook. I feel monitored, and that suits this obliger super well.

    P.S. I think calling them the Rubin Tendencies is just fine.

    • gretchenrubin

      Upholder and Obliger overlap (on external expectations) so it makes sense that you’d score that way – if you have answers in both, you’re an Obliger.

      • That definitely feels right. As an academic, I have a crystal clear sign: no sole-author publications!

      • Vomka

        Why are you an Obliger rather than an Upholder if you have answers in both? I have five responses in each, so it’s a tie. That makes me an Obliger?

        • gretchenrubin

          Yes.

          Upholders and Obligers overlap on outer expectations (they both respond) so they will answer some questions the same.

          But the difference is: Can you keep an INNER expectation? Keep a New Year’s resolution, say? When there’s no accountability, no oversight, no one watching or knowing what you’re doing? If yes, Upholder. If no, Obliger.

          Do you find yourself meeting other people’s priorities but struggle to meet your expectations for yourself? If yes, Obliger. If no, Upholder.

          For an Upholder, inner expectations and outer expectations get equal attention.

          For Obligers, outer expectations are met, but not inner (unless there’s some form of accountability, which makes them outer expectations).

          • lannabanana

            This is a great clarification.

            I ended up with checks in all four categories–from most to least, the order was Rebel, Questioner, Upholder, Obliger. I know I’m not an Upholder because I’ve met them, loved them, then slowly grown to resent how easily they conformed to outer and inner expectations. (They also turned out to be very, very different from me on levels I didn’t expect.) I don’t think I’m an Obliger, although I often have trouble upholding my inner expectations…I stop believing they’re worth it. I often WANT to behave like a Rebel, but won’t because it seems wrong or pointless. I can’t always tell the difference between an inner and an outer expectation.

            I’m going to go with Questioner until I figure it out. Which seems unlikely to happen.

  • Leanne Sowul

    I’m glad you wrote this quiz, because from your previous descriptions I’d thought I was a Questioner- I hate doing things that are pointless and seem to waste my time. But I got a lot more checks for Upholder, and I realized that even though I don’t like doing pointless things, I still do them if my job or societal norms require it. So I’m an Upholder!

  • Robin Nelson

    I had the same high score for both Questioner and Obliger. Then I watched your videos and it was obvious to me that I am an Obliger. It was the examples in the Obliger one (yoga class, piano lessons, photography class) that made me think “Yes, that is me.” The examples in the Questioner video made me wonder if that was really me. Maybe have more common examples in the quizzes?

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a great suggestion.

      I’ll include a few typical situations, as illustrations.

      • Tika

        Interesting quiz but more now I am confused! Upholder = 8, Questioner = 8, Rebel = 5, Obliger = 5… I do question & analyze facts/details before acting but not to get out of doing something & I would never just not do something I promised/deadline or not show up. I am willing to help others as long as it isn’t as an enabler, so prefer to provide the answers and work with them but not do the entire task for them. I prefer doing things with people but can set & meet goals quicker alone than in a group; in group there are people who are lazy & give excuses. I hate lines bec it is waste of my time when I could be doing something more productive & it shows poor planning by the businesses, often too many rules, lack of planning creates mistakes, lines & selling tactics make me feel captive & manipulated, irritable. I look at the whole picture – what works, what doesn’t, what could be improved w/better model to the same goal… to help, to understand better, toward improved goals/outcomes for all. If a business repeatedly makes the same mistakes, continues making excuses but no changes, I am patient but eventually refuse to do business with them & I do share why. If someone is giving me a hard or a long sales pitch to sell or is repeatedly asking me to do for them, or making the same mistakes over & over or gives me the same worn out classic reasons one should comply to the request (plays on classic emotions), if I witness or sniff a LIE, I will immediately rebel! Often I question, ask for more info, before say NO/refuse to play. (no time for Sales hawkers & auto sales, or manipulators) Yet I do follow rules but not blindly, I do help, I do for the team and often put my needs last. I enjoy seeing joy on other peoples faces, I will root & help their goals but not be in line for the awards.

        • gretchenrubin

          In this response, you sound like a Questioner. And that makes sense, given your score.

  • Clare

    Interesting… I think, if left to my own devices, I am a Questioner, but, due to gendered expectations about taking care of everyone, especially as a parent, I am pushed into the Upholder/Obliger category more, since I am forced to meet external expectations even when I don’t see the point. But then I feel resentful about it, and occasional rebel, just to prove I can (but then feel weird about it…). Wow, I am a mess!!

  • Robin Hunter

    Great questionnaire! I am now much clearer on my categories. I’m a questioner who then follows the behaviour habits of an upholder.

  • Lynn

    The questionnaire is good. I have found your Rubin Tendencies to be very helpful, actually. I had been struggling to understand my own personal “WHY’s”, and was pretty stuck until I found your post on this topic a while back. Once I saw that I am an Obliger by nature, so many things just fell into place for me. I’ve learned to take a friends advice and not “should on myself’. 🙂

    I’ve also realized that folks who are not Obligers expect me to have strong internal rules and set boundaries, and it doesn’t occur to them that I wouldn’t. Folks who are Rebels or Questioners expect everyone to be adamant about any opinion or rule…. why wouldn’t they be? Conversations that are fun to them are wearing to me. Expectations that they express, rules that they set, all seem so hardline. I had never realized that their expectation for me to have equally hard internal rules existed before, and have lived with a lot of conflict in my life because of it. I had felt like I was letting everyone else down no matter what I did because I was trying to meet so many conflicting rules and expectations. Now I know it’s their tendency to demand or expect their internal rules to be followed. I’m much more comfortable now to allow people to be adamant about their expectations without just jumping in to find a way to meet them. All of my resentment and guilt have just evaporated. I’m still working on identifying and externally expressing my internal rules – going against my nature – but when I do it’s been very helpful.

    Lastly, yes, my SO is a Rebel with strong Questioner tendencies.

  • Jenny

    Strangely I thought I was a rebel, but my scores turned out to be:
    Upholder: 5
    Questioner: 1
    Rebel: 4
    Obliger: 2
    I am pleased to find out I have upholder tendencies! I hope they’re not just in my head though and I actually do practice them…

  • Vicky

    I have lots of internally imposed rules and resolutions. I am obsessed with setting such rules up but I am only successful at some. No wheat or sugar for a month, no alcohol unless at a restaurant — doing great. One hour of work a day on my creative project — so hard, fail often. I have so many expectations for myself.

    In responses I tie between Upholder and Obliger. It seems that because Obliger is such a large category I would be an Obliger? It doesn’t feel quite right. But I have to admit that if someone needs something from me, that’s trumps my own needs.

  • marissamuffin

    I found it interesting that my results of this quiz strongly contradict what I thought I knew. I definitely consider myself an obliger because I’m very punctual and reliable when something is expected of me, but horrible at implementing new habits simply because I WANT to. However, this quiz pegged me as more of an upholder/questioner. I definitely knew already that I have questioner tendencies because I’m a chronic over-thinker who loves to hear the logical explanation behind everything, but deep down I don’t think I’m motivated the way questioners are. I sure wish I could be an upholder, and I think I have an alter ego in my mind who IS an upholder, but my obliger self won’t let her out very often. I guess the only thing I’m 100% sure of is that I am NOT a rebel!

  • KatieB

    I think some sort of graphic representation might be helpful. Circles overlapping each other?

    Also, I like the idea of having the word ‘expectations’ in the title as I think that is the point that most clarifies the tendencies – the inner/outer expectations placed on us.

    The quiz really helped me realize I am an “obliger.” I think the more ways we have to look at ourselves (quizzes, video descriptions etc) the better chance we have of nailing down our type. For some reason, I wanted to be a “questioner” so I kept skewing my answers to become one, but this quiz really made it clear to me that I’m an “obliger.”

    • jenny_o

      I agree this quiz was helpful. I thought I was mostly questioner with some rebel and some obliger – now I see I am mostly an obliger. How could I be so “off”?

  • KatieB

    You might draw a connection to the outer expectations to “tropism” from biology? Maybe all rebels are like a certain animal that hides from all outer environmental threats. I can’t think of a biology term that would fit the inner expectations part of the tendencies, but that would be cool.

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  • anonymouse

    Well, I do question the validity of these categories: 1 have seven solid check marks in each of the first two categories: upholder and questioner. It makes it feel like these categories are arbitrary…or at least it’s unclear how they might be helpful to me.

    • gretchenrubin

      You sound like a Questioner.

      In my experience, Upholders readily identify as Upholders, and not the other categories; also it’s a tiny category.

      Questioners and Upholders overlap, by design – they both meet inner expectations. The question is: how readily do you meet external expectations? How important is it that an outer expectation be well-justified, sound, non-arbitrary? How much do you question an expectation? How much effort will you put into researching a decision?

      The word “arbitrary” is a word that Questioners invoke ALL THE TIME. It’s kind of funny, how consistent that is.

  • Vicky

    Gretchen, thought I ask this but can’t find the post here. I’ve got a tie between Upholder and Obliger, but inner expectations are extremely impt. to me and I am almost obsessed with making and trying out rules for myself in order to carry them out. I am very successful at many (eg., no wheat or sugar or alcohol for two months and counting, exercising) but I have a hard time getting myself to do an hour a day on my creative work (which is crucial). I’m very committed to my own sense of values and do not compromise them, even if no one is looking — from being super accurate on my taxes to always taking my cart back to the store. I wish I could be both less rigid and less obliging!

    So my question is, if I am really good at meeting many inner expectations but fail at a big one, does that make me an obliger?

  • Jeanne

    Wow, I thought I was a pure Questioner, but now I see there is a lot of Upholder in me too. Maybe I Uphold when I’ve questioned and make sure what I’m upholding makes sense to me 😉 No Rebel, and very little Obliger.

  • Claire

    oh, this was helpful. i’ve had trouble w/ these. although i have some checks in other categories, i’m clearly a questioner.

  • Andrea

    How fun! I am totally an upholder. I get so annoyed when people talk when they shouldn’t, take pictures when it’s clearly not allowed and walk on the grass in the park when the signs says not to. But I also go to bed exactly when I told myself I would, eat the way I’ve planned to, read for my exams when it’s planned etc etc. They’re both equally important. The problems come when I feel terrible for not meeting an inner expectation, and get too hung up on my original plan. According to my friends I’m crazy.

  • Sar

    Love it! I’m an Obliger, but it’s interesting to see my links to the other Tendencies as well. I was curious – are some questions more important than others to defining one’s Tendency, or are all equally important? Some of the questions for Upholder seem like they could apply to Obliger, too, so it got me wondering whether certain questions might pull the Tendencies apart more than others.

    Thank you for the quiz! Love quizzes, and this one got me thinking.

    • gretchenrubin

      Absolutely. Upholders and Oligers overlap (they both respond readily to outer expectations). All the Tendencies overlap on one aspect.

  • Jocelyn

    Do you think that a person’s Rubin tendencies change at different points in their lives? I was born an upholder and love rules and following rules (both internal and externally motivated). I realize that since having my children, I’m more of an obliger than an upholder. I still identify with upholders but can’t seem to meet my internal expectations consistently anymore, which is a source of great frustration. I feel that I don’t have time for it all, and if I only have time for some things, I pick the things that matter more externally than internally. Case in point, I used to keep my house very organized because I liked it that way and I liked others to see it that way. Now, when I have people coming over, I brush everything on the surfaces into a big box. Everyone thinks it’s clean, but they never see the Box. External motivation trumps internal due to lack of time. How about the idea of being born with a tendency but migrating to another as we age?

    • GoldDustWoman

      I was a Rebel as a pre-schooler (really!) and still am at 55. Those Rebel tendencies Gretchen describes are so core to my being, changing them would change who I am as a person. And I don’t think people ever change who they are, only their behaviors change as they mature. I’ve certainly learned to keep my rebel tendencies in check so I can be a thoughtful, responsible person but deep down – they are always there.

  • phoenix1920

    WOW–I checked off almost every one in the rebel category, except the New year’s resolutions. I have LOVED your 4 tendencies ever since I heard about them because I think this finally explains why I’ve been struggling for so long in keeping resolutions. The only luck I’ve had was when I make crazy high expectations and it’s a challenge to myself.

    The big eye opener was learning my dh is an obliger–I thought he’d be a questioner because we debate all the time, but he fits only half of those tendencies.

    However, for me, I’d change some wording in the rebel category. I feel like I’ve always been a high-achiever/type A personality, but it’s not easy getting thru life as a rebel. If you are constantly breaking expectations and rules, people don’t promote you or are constantly misunderstanding you. I hate constantly being in conflicts with other people simply because I think it’s ridiculous to have to abide by their rules when I didn’t agree to them. Why is it that people think I’m the one being difficult when THEY are the ones imposing their rules on me? I don’t flout rules rules because I enjoy it. I keep doing it because I feel compelled to be me and those rules are in my way–but breaking others’ rules makes me recall all the prior times when it led to conflict and issues–so it’s not fun or pleasant. It’s just necessary. And arguments like “people are counting on you” make me angry. However, the question I think is missing is that having a bunch of new rules imposed on me makes me feel trapped or drowning–even if they are rules I agree with. I internally shudder. I wonder if upholders feel the same shudder when they are in a situation where they have to break a rule . . .

    • GoldDustWoman

      Phoenix1920 thank you! Just last week before I saw Gretchen’s post I was struggling with how to deal a colleague (who is obviously a strong upholder) and my rebel personality (which I was aware of LONG before I found this blog. Like 50 years before.) You are right, it’s not easy being a rebel. I could have written your comments above myself. It’s been a long road, learning how to hide my rebel tendencies to fit into a corporate role. And based on my experience with my colleague, I can assure you that he shudders when he has to break a rule. I do think the high achiever/type A personality is likely part of the Rebel personality too – don’t you?

  • Leslie Rieger

    This quiz was actually very helpful. Even though I’ve read all of your posts about the tendencies before, I could never decide where I fit – and this quiz shows why! I had the most marks in the Obliger category – 9 in total – but I also had 6 each in Upholder and Questioner. Only 2 in the Rebel category though, so I guess I definitely don’t belong to that one!

    As a side note, I think the “Rubin Tendencies” is a perfectly fine name for them.

  • BKF

    The Rubin Tendencies is really a good name, Gretchen.

    Alternative ideas- The Expectation(s) Classification? The Rubin Traits?

  • Amy H.

    Definitely an Upholder based on this quiz (which matches what I’d thought before from prior posts on the Rubin Tendencies) — but one thing I do still struggle with is making myself go to bed earlier! Even though I know how much better I feel and how much better I function the next day with more sleep. I just get to reading something interesting and keep going and going and going . . . .

    One interesting thing — I am now much better about starting projects earlier vs. only being able to get work done when under a looming deadline imposed by someone else. I think it’s partly (slightly more) maturity and partly that I like the core tasks of my job much more. Plus, back in college perfectionism made me the worst procrastinator — and now I finally understand logically that the perfect is the enemy of the good (and can make myself apply that concept at least sometimes) and see the great value in ‘sh****y first drafts.’

  • Madeline

    Even reading the Rebel quiz made me uncomfortable, so I’m thinking I’m an Upholder….

  • phoenix1920

    To me, I think the rebel questions focus too much on the love of breaking rules, instead of the reason why rebels break rules–making them seem like lawbreakers. Here are some questions I think could be useful–but you’d have more experience with whether other rebels have these characteristics than I. The more I think on it, the more I realize that I don’t even have any friends who I would consider as a rebel. My closest friends all seem to be obligers. (Interesting!)

    1.You desire to authentic to yourself at this moment in time.
    2. You feel rules and expectations are too limiting and need an end-date for any change.
    3. Injustice really bothers you.
    4. Others often say you have to everything your way.
    5. You rely on your gut or instinct in making decision and can make decisions quickly.

  • Jvdz123

    I love your posts and books. I like the idea of the Ruben Tendencies, but I’m not sure what to make of my results: I had five check marks in each of the four …what does that make me? Confused?

    • CB

      How about well rounded?
      I’ve been an Obliger with strong Rebel tendencies most of my life, but this quiz brought out the tendency to be a Questioner. That’s something I’ve noticed emerging within myself over the last 10 years. Ah, evolution!

  • AmyK

    Hmm. Could I be in one category for certain matters (e.g., Questioner when it comes to medical advice), and in another category for other matters (e.g., Upholder with respect to frequent, regular solo exercise and obeying to the letter the uniform policy of my children’s school) and in yet another category for other matters (e.g., an Obliger who makes her preschooler wear a coat when it’s cold not because she thinks he will get sick, but because strangers will think she’s a negligent mother if he doesn’t)?

    • gretchenrubin

      From what you say, I suspect that on further questioning you’d emerge as an Obliger

  • Dorothee

    Dear Gretchen 🙂

    I just took your test and as with all tries to figure out my Rubin Tendency before, I ended up knowing that I am not a rebel, but having almost equal crosses in upholder/questioner/obliger.

    Here are some personal thoughts on how the test might turn out more efficient:

    After having a look at your question setup, I wondered whether it would help if you had the same ‘question resorts’ in all four tendencies, like you did with habits (Upholder: I embrace habits/ Questioner: I can start a new habit without much effort / Rebel: I resist habits / Obliger: I’ve made some good habits, but I often struggle).

    I am aware that this would maybe cut out interesting points like “my significant other is an Obliger”, but it might lead to clearer results.

  • Liz

    Hi Gretchen, maybe you’ve already addressed this…but any advice for upholders who find themselves highly irritated with rebels? 🙂 Love your books and your blog, you make such a difference for so many people.

    • gretchenrubin

      Upholder + Rebel is a tough combination.

      Speaking for myself, now that I understand more clearly the Rebel point of view, and why they make the choices they do, I do feel much more understanding (and therefore less annoyed or puzzled).

  • Marcy Holmes

    I checked the most boxes in the Upholder category but I checked some I feel are key in the Obliger category – and I struggle with new habits even when they are very important to me. I have never set New Years resolutions. I have to have an external system in place, even if it’s just a chart (that I update) showing my progress. The role model one is huge for me too. If I’m doing something that is going to set a bad example, that is a habit I can break almost instantly, but if it’s just an improvement I want to make for my own good it’s very difficult.

    • gretchenrubin

      Sounds like you’re an Obliger.

      The need for external systems is the thing that distinguishes Upholders from Obligers.

      • Marcy Holmes

        I think you are right, I was just surprised at how many boxes I could check in the Upholder category. I can’t wait for your book. I spend a lot of my energy setting up systems to enforce new habits and I think it’s really important to improve ourselves where we can.

      • Marcy Holmes

        I may just fall between the lines, but I wanted to provide feedback for your quiz in case it’s helpful:
        The only Obliger boxes I checked were ‘good role model’ and ‘some good habits but struggle with others’.

        The only boxes I did *not* check on Upholder:
        New Years Resolutions
        It’s just as important to keep promises to myself
        Accused of being rigid

        Promises to myself are important, yet I let things slip so I can’t honestly say I take them as seriously as promises to others.

  • lauraincomo

    It would be really helpful to make this a blind quiz. Mix up the questions, so that you don’t see as you are answering that you are stacking up a lot of marks in one category. Then at the end, score to see which category most of your marks fell into. I think I’m more of a questioner than anything else, but am I subconsciously weighting my answers in that category because I like the idea of being a questioner more than being say, an obliger or a rebel? Now here I am questioning the validity of the Rubin Tendencies, lol – which I guess throws more weight into the questioner category for me!

    • gretchenrubin

      Good suggestion.

      I just can’t figure out how to do that without the scoring being nightmarishly complex.
      As with everything related to self-knowledge, the key is HONESTY.

      • Beto Perfectionisodd

        What if you were to take the 4 categories and note them as ABCD or arbitrary letters, MPWZ, etc and mix them up? You can hold the key as to what question belongs to what category referenced at the bottom of the quiz?

        M=upholder
        P= Rebel
        etc.
        good luck!

      • Jarrod Lombardo

        I was recently in a web development class and put a simple looking page together that does it:
        https://jarrodlombardo.github.io/quiz.html

  • Oh no. I thought I was an Upholder, at first. But I’m definitely an Obliger. Sigh.

  • Tamara Parisio

    OMG … UPHOLDER-OBLIGER with a bit of REBEL … married to an AVOIDER (not on your list but should be) and raising a pure QUESTIONER …

  • Laura

    I am a strong QUESTIONER with some REBEL tendencies. I have developed more OBLIGER tendencies as I’ve moved into motherhood and am trying to model good behavior for my daughter. My daughter is a very strong QUESTIONER – we have lovingly called her “the attorney” since she was three. I think my husband is a QUESTIONER/OBLIGER or OBLIGER/QUESTIONER. He is much nicer than I am 😉

    • Laura

      Some
      feedback on your quiz. When I took it, I marked each answer: Most of the time.
      Sometimes. Almost never. Most of the time = 2, Sometimes = 1 and, Almost never
      = 0. That way I felt I could more accurately answer the quiz. It felt too
      binary for a personality survey. Interestingly, I have been a QUESTIONER all of
      my life. I was more of a REBEL in the
      past, but not so much so now (my “Sometimes” answers.) I am more of an OBLIGER now, but not in the
      past (more “Sometimes” answers.)

  • Erin

    I’m not sure I fit in any of the categories. I would say questioner, but I saw some other tendencies I had in rebel. I picked questioner because I really do not like waiting on line! I like quizzes with multiple choice answers better. I wonder if you already know the title of each category, are you likely to relate more to the one you want to be rather than the one in which you really are?

  • Rebecca Morgan

    Weirdly enough I was dead tied as an upholder and questioner. With only one or two checks in the rebel/obliger boxes. Potentially making it possible to narrow it down to one category by creating a more effective/specific questionnaire would be cool [I saw someone’s comment of using a rating system – that would be a very good way of doing it, when I did that upholder edged out questioner by two points.]

    I think including some sort of graphic with this would be cool, I saw someone say that below.

    I like the name “Rubin Tendencies,” some of the previous titles were unnecessarily long. I think this definitely fits really well.

    All in all, very interesting and helpful, even for a young college student. We read your book, “The Happiness Project”, in a very fun English course I took and did our own three month Happiness Project, I kept mine going. The book has definitely inspired me to take a closer look at my life and to get happiness out of every aspect, instead of only a few. Thank you! I can’t wait to read more. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific!

      Here’s my question for you: How do you feel about a new year’s resolution? Does the idea of a new year’s resolution appeal to you? (whether or not you actually make them)

      If you think – sure, that could be helpful, you’re an Upholder.

      If you think – I’m not going to do a new year’s resolution, because Jan 1 is an arbitrary date, you’re a Questioner.

      Great to hear about YOUR happiness project!

    • Zabette

      I am like you, a Questioner (9 answers) and an Upholder (7 answers). I often feel torn between the two. I think this results in a lot of tension in my life. The Upholder may be part of my German-American heritage, as this value is very strongly supported in that culture. My own nature is very much a Questioner, fostered by my artist father, no doubt. The part about Upholder which I don’t have, is keeping promises to myself. Most of my uplholding is externally motivated.

      • gretchenrubin

        If you’re upholding is externally motivated, you’re an Obliger.

  • Michelle

    I used to be an obliger, until five years ago when I reformed my life and made a commitment to honoring myself and my self worth. I definitely NOT a rebel, but a combo of the other two fits best at this point of my life.

  • Txlinx

    Gretchen,

    I have a three way tie with questioner, rebel and obliger and upholder was only 2 behind. Was this quiz suppose to be your first thought when you read the statement or were we suppose to delve into each with thoughts on all aspects of our lives. I do feel that I am many personalities that are not in conflict with each other most of the time. Is it possible in your framework to be so evenly distributed or should I have spent more time with each questions. I loved “The Happiness Project” and enjoy the daily happiness quotes. Basically I’m blessed to be a happy person but I feel like one should always reinforce the good things in life and you have contributed greatly to this! Thank you!

  • yogini

    I scored equally on questioner and obliger which is not a surprise. Four for upholder and two for rebel. It seems many people have some questioner mixed in. I guess that’s part of being an intelligent human, so the real question is how much questioning do you need to do to be a questioner? Some is “normal” and a huge amount may make that your operating system.

  • Kelsey Miller

    I agree with all of the Upholder statements, but I also agree with most (9.5/11)of the Questioner statements. I guess that means I’m both!? I wonder: does that make my life easier to keep happy or more difficult? Hmm…

  • Kathryn Lester

    I’m an Obliger, but by 1 less question checked I’m also an upholder. Lists for myself are always put after someone else. I can usually easily see why a request is being made so don’t really question it. Today was my rebel day – but only after making sure dinner was in the crockpot so my hubby wouldn’t have to fix dinner after working all day. I feel that it is my obligation to do that since I’ve had to take a medical disability and it has so badly impacted our income. So, yes, my pain didn’t matter as much as making sure my husband didn’t have to tend to dinner – but by golly, no laundry, or dishes, dusting, etc…. was done. lol

  • Shmuel

    I need to think about this, maybe I’m a questioner… I suggest randomizing the questions so a person doesn’t know ahead of time which category each item would put him in. Then use an answer key to tell him which ones the person falls in in the end. Most personality tests, like Meyer’s Briggs etc… are done that way. Maybe there’s a quick program online you could do it with, so you don’t have to do the numbers yourself.

  • Beth Sexton

    I am difinately a questioner. I hate alegabra because of it. It needs to make sense to me! I always ask why! I am the oldest and would be a rebel before an upholder

  • Vanessa

    I can’t speak for the other categories, but you nailed “Upholder”!!!! How do you know me better than I know myself?!?!

  • Anwhite

    I knew the result before even taking the quiz. I quesiton everything. Of course once I completed the quiz and read the intro my first thought was “what’s the puprose and how is this useful?”

  • Islam Ashraf Ali

    I think I am an Obliger. And regarding the quiz I think if it were formed in questions it would be easier.

  • GoldDustWoman

    I am a strong Rebel, with only a few checks in Upholder and Questioner and none in Obliger, which is no surprise to me. One of the things I notice is different about me from others and I think is tied to my Rebel tendencies is my dislike of competition. I watch my friends try to keep up with each other with their cars, their homes, their careers, their children and I do not understand it. Why does one care about what other people – who they do not love or cherish – think about their lives and their choices? I have never understood this and I think it ties to my Rebel tendency and it seems to be rare. Don’t misunderstand – I like nice things. But I like and have them for me and I don’t pay any attnetion to what others have or what they think of what I have. So I think that may be an add to the list for Rebel.
    Someone below said something about Rebel tendencies being tied to a desire for authenticity. This is so true. I often tell my loved ones that at least with me they know that I do and say what I do because I want to and not out of some obligation that I should. I take great pride in this. Others may perceive it as self-centered – I only do what I want. I perceive it as authentic and honest. (And for the record, living up to the expectations of my loved ones is something I want to do, so my devotion to them and what they need from me is quite intense.)
    Finally, because everything do is based in my desire to do it, I excel at everything I choose to do. At work, at home, in every part of my life that I care about – I exceed expectations. But don’t ask me to do something that involves spending my time on something I don’t care about. I won’t just fail – I won’t do it at all. I have always thought my Rebel tendencies were actually based in a fear of failure. What do you think? Could that be true for all Rebels? Or do we all live our lives with fear of failure? Anyway, I do think that the ability to excel at everything they choose to do may be a common Rebel tendency. What do you think about adding those 2? Or do you think they are covered within the current list?

  • Br_t

    This was tough. I scored the same on all 4 areas. I feel like this must either mean that 1) I don’t know myself very well (which is not true at all) or 2) I am going through a period of change in my life and letting go of some of my old tendencies that didn’t serve me well and picking up new ones (so to speak). The latter is true. I am going through a bunch of changes and am obviously still a work in progress.

  • MidwestLady

    I’m delighted to discover that as I age, and after retirement, I can finally be a questioner. I’ve spent my life doing what was expected, and doing it effectively. I am still as efficient as all get out when I want to be and have had a great career as an director in health care. It’s wonderful to say no thanks and ask why. I think women who were young children before the age of changing roles (late 60s – 70s), grew up with a lot of obligations to please. It wasn’t a choice, it was what girls did. When the need exists I can do anything that has to be done, disagreeable and difficult is irrelevant, and I’ve done it for many years in career and home, but when I get to pick for myself, I’m different. Does your scale address what one actually feels like, versus what one has to do? I think there is an occasional dichotomy here. How does one correlate a nature that is different than how one performs? Having a responsibility that one does not want to perform is a cause of stress. I am almost 66 and a retired professional. Interesting questions you have proposed!

  • Shona

    Hi Gretchen, I love your books and blog, and have been following the discussion about the Rubin Tendencies closely – it’s so interesting! I suspect, like you, I am also an Upholder, although I have strong Questioner tendencies too. In telling others about the framework though, I’ve found something I have trouble explaining: If someone wants to meet both internal and external expectations, but struggles with both (like an Obliger, but also bad at meeting deadlines and other external expectations), would you call them a Rebel? The Rebel tendency, as I understand it, is characterised by a more conscious resistance to expectations, not a desire (but failure) to meet them. Am I missing something? Do Rebels necessarily reject expectations, or can they just struggle to meet them?

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent distinction.

      Rebel is a conscious point of view, not just a failure to meet expectations.
      Some people just aren’t good at meeting expectations, period. The person you describe is an Obliger who needs very strong consequences to feel accountable. In short, they only do what they REALLY MUST do.
      Habit strategies can help with that…a big theme in my book. E.g., Strategy of Scheduling is a big help for chronic procrastinators.

  • karen

    I’m definitely an Upholder. Another attribute is that I like procedures, recipes, instructions, etc. I may try to improve them but only after I’ve tried to follow the instructions.

    • Zabette

      Haha, same here! I have had to learn gradually that I know enough about cooking, knitting, gardening, now that I don’t need to follow a recipe. But it took a while to get out of that recipe comfort zone. (I have half Upholder and Questioner.)

  • Nicole Blean

    I swear, taking this quiz changed my life! I found out I am an obliger, which explains SOOO much about how I operate and why I get stuck. Realizing that helped me to make some promises to myself and start working on new goals and habits so I can KEEP THEM instead of always planning my days around what others need. Thank you so much for posting this, Gretchen. I look forward to the new book and now I want to know how an obliger can change her habits to beome more like an upholder!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that you’ve found this framework helpful.

      Good luck with the external accountability!

  • Cheri

    I scored dead even on upholder and obliger. I guess either way that means I’m a stickler with deadlines, but not great at keeping promises to myself (although I THINK they are important and wish I would).

  • Stephanie

    I’m am a mix of all of these; I scored 6 for upholder, 10 for questioner, 4 for rebel and 6 for obliger. My tendencies are driven by social expectations. I would not talk during a presentation because it is rude. But I been known to flaunt the rules when I find them foolish and especially if I feel no one will be harmed by it. I seek others approval as an obliger, especially for authority figures (boss, teacher, parents) but question everything and can not stand being told what to do. I have been known to skip dance classes that I enjoy simply because they became obligations instead of just fun.

  • Eve Johnston

    I scored almost equally between questioner and rebel, 7 of the former and 6 of the latter, but I think the rebel tendencies that I have come from questioning everything!

  • Vincci

    I thought I was an Upholder (and maybe I still am) but when you mentioned how rare it was in a previous post I think I’m more of an Obliger. My own expectations are important, but I will let them slide in favour of other people’s expectations. In the quiz though, I had an equal number of checks in both categories, and was surprised by how much I scored in the Questioner category – I’m a very indecisive person!

    I work as a dietitian so I can definitely see how this would be interesting in terms of behaviour change. I was recently counselling a client who was definitely a Rebel – since it is so rare I did find that the “tricks” I usually use did not work at all! Would be interested to read more about them in your new book.

  • Sharla

    I’m an ‘Obliger’ through and through. I get extremely nervous if I think someone is upset with me. I try to do everything that is expected of me and there are a lot of times that things I want or feel I need to do don’t get done. My rebellion is smoking, I hate it and love it. I’ve always been the ‘good girl’ and it has gotten me in a position of being a single mom to two amazing kids who have become my reason for being. I’m trying so hard to finish my undergrad in social work but am terrified of my upcoming internship, “Will I do everything right?, Am I really capable of handling what I’ve been told I’m going to be doing?” I end up procrastinating getting things done that I need to in order to move forward because I’m so scared I’ll upset someone. I hate being an ‘Obliger’ and would love to be a ‘Rebel’. It sounds freeing and non-anxiety producing…

  • I’m a Rebel who’s coped through my career by faking being a Questioner. My mother questioned (heh) which I was, but then I pointed out that just packing up and going on a round-the-world trip by myself was pretty rebellious. So was doing it again the next year.

    My husband is a Questioner with Upholder tendencies. Initially, I thought he might be the other way around because he hates people asking pointless questions, but then I realized he was just questioning the need for questions. Very meta.

  • lannabanana

    I was sure when I read your descriptions that I’d be an Obliger. Imagine my joy when I turned out to be a Rebel! I’m so glad you made this quiz–two minutes ago I was thinking, “Great, another personality quadrivium to tell me how much I need to Try Harder”–but this one is kind of awesome. There’s a lot to be said for telling people what they want to hear. ;p

    I can’t wait to learn more about enhancing, embracing, and intellectualizing my Rebellious tendencies! Hurray that it’s no longer something I have to hide!

    • lannabanana

      P.S. I’m also a Slytherin, and was equally overjoyed and surprised about that. Coincidence?…

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  • Jessica

    I feel like the fact that I am a Questioner with Obliger tendencies is causing quite of bit of stress in my life. Do you have strategies for those of us who are pulled between two or more tendencies?

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  • Sziszo

    I have very strong Upholder tendencies (I’m the older sibling as well), but I also have some Rebel in me. I guess it’s because sometimes I just get tired of being an upholder and start to rebel a bit.

    • gretchenrubin

      Hmmmm….that sounds more like Obliger.

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  • Westcoaster

    Hmm. Puzzling…What if ticked off a few items in each category? How do you interpret the quiz then?

  • Katy

    Agh! I’m an upholder and an obliger in equal measure with a bit of rebel thrown in. Yikes?! Do these tendencies change throughout life? As I think I am moving away from being an obliger.

  • Josh K.

    According to the quiz, I’m an obliger. When I went through the boxes above, I had 9 in questioner, 7 in obliger, and 6 in upholder. Therefore, as I checked off above, “I question the validity of the Rubin Tendencies.” This is an interesting concept though, especially as it affects relationships and interpersonal dynamics.

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  • Judy

    I am apparently an Obliger and a Questioner. Since these two do not overlap and seem to be complete opposites I am confused. I certainly do not qualify as a Rebel so what goes?

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  • Paris Rebl

    I’m a questioner with obliger tendencies. It’s too bad that I don’t value helping myself as I do helping others.

  • smerler2graham

    So what does it mean when you have a tie between two of the categories? I had 5 each for upholder and obliger!

    • smerler2graham

      So, just saw your post from earlier, will take the new quiz!

      • gretchenrubin

        If you think you’re part Upholder and part Obliger, you’re an Obliger.

  • Vesi

    Interesting. When I was reading the book, I could swear I am Obliger. Because it’s main feature fits me more than anything else ” I can do stuff for people I can’t do for myself” + occasional rebel phase..so me.
    But after the quiz : 6 for Questioner, 5 for Upholder, and 4 for Obliger (maybe 5, if we take a few halves) and 3 for Rebel( mainly fits me the ” if someone says I can’t -it’s a challenge” – attitude). But I still know I am Obliger (unfortunately) 😀
    I see the questions try to describe the main characteristics of the 4 types, but through some kind of flawed perspective, kind of like looking it in a twisted mirror. It doesn’t take in account so many things, that lead to wrong results. Like the questioner stuff I got. I am a person of logic(from the math school, my computer science bachelor, to the computer programmer job)- so logic was always part of me… and I guess this leads to the many questioner points. But I don’t have it’s main stuff – I don’t really question everything, I follow rules when they need to be followed and listen, I like set rules, I prefer to be in “listen and understand”-mode.. than in “question”-mode. Well..maybe sometimes I question/complain, but even so I do it, because I am Obliger. I don’t follow myself, like a true Questioner will 🙁
    And some of the stuff can be things learned (or not yet learned) with your life expirience, and have nothing to do with the Tendencies (the way you were brought up, the things you saw, the people and situations you met, cultural stuff, other influences, the lessons you learned, etc) – so you kind of check the points. I agree the 4 main categories and I am pretty sure anyone can tell which he/she is, regardless the quiz. Just the questions doesn’t make them right exactly.. like a little broken,broken mirror.

  • Kate

    Very late to the game here… (I’m reading portions from your archive) but I am definitely a questioner. I write a blog at QuestionedMind.com, and my current mission statement is ‘to ease the suffering of humans.’ 🙂

    Gretchen, you’re one of the first bloggers I started following in a big way. Some of your posts have made a huge impact on me! Thank you, and keep up the good work!

  • I think the statement for Questioners that they get agitated waiting in line may be misleading. There are many sound reasons for queuing that many Questioners will understand. It ensures people get dealt with in a fair and orderly manner. Queuing is much better, and more evenly handed, than a free for all where the most pushy, rude and physically strongest may get served first.

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  • Caitlin

    I just took the quiz, and have equal marks in everything except rebel (which I have none). Not sure what to make out of that!

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  • Empress

    Would the “habit” of making progress on cleaning your house more in the ten minutes before someone is supposed to visit rather than throughout the course of, say, a whole day you’ve set aside to clean it be a trait of an obliger?

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  • SoMdNatsFan

    First of all, a quiz like this loses a lot of usefulness if the categories are labeled. The questions should be blinded so those taking the quiz do not know which questions go with which category. This prevents people from answering the questions the way they want to see themselves. Second, items referring to life situations like what your significant other is should be avoided. I, for instance, don’t have a significant other so that statement is irrelevant to me. Third, was unable to either enter my answers online or to print the quiz so I could do it elsewhere. Needs to be fixed.

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  • I am getting the same number of checkboxes for two. Is there a way to break a tie?

  • This is really interesting that the significant other is am obliger for the rebel. What’s the reason behind that? I’m curious.

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  • Melanie Martins

    Oh very nice article! From my side I’m a Rebel. I will accept rules that make not only sense to me but that are also strictly necessary/vital that can otherwise seriously compromise my life, reputation and my goals if I don’t follow them.
    I don’t have bosses neither tolerate hierarchy. I’m a business owner and leader in teams. I don’t impose anything to my teams unless is really urgent/necessary. We work altogether. I want them to feel independent, inspired and happy. Usually my teams become my friends and we work in a very cool environment. Flat system with leadership.

    Self-imposed expectations are very hard too, I don’t have much discipline. Going to the gym or follow a healthy diet (AKA getting a routine of healthy habits) was very challenging even if it’s for my own sake. I’m always late to the gym. I basically arrive 40-50mins before it closes.
    I have also to travel all the time to break the routine and can’t work well in offices (must be outside in a coffee shop/restaurant, terrace, anywhere with people). If I don’t travel for 1-2 months I start feeling very depressed. I’m now planning to become a full-time digital nomad.

    Regarding meetings, 10-15mins after the time scheduled is the rule. But this is also because I’m living in Southern Europe.

    In romantic relationship, I’m the same. I’m very independent and I only had one serious relation.

    I agree with the majority of the features of Rebels except the attraction for institutions: religious, military, etc. Unless you wanted to mean being attracted to dislike or hate them.

  • Shelly Cornelius

    I’m an Obliger, my husband a Rebel (which really pisses me off sometimes), my 16yr old stepdaughter a Questioner (which drives everyone nuts sometimes), and my 4yr old son a Rebel…or maybe he’s just 4. I find it interesting that Rebels and Obligers attract, and an Obliger can “snap” and essentially become a part-time Rebel when they’ve had enough people pleasing. I love the idea of an Upholder, but I don’t have nearly enough discipline.

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  • Jd

    I’m an obliger and I hate it! Can I change what I am? I hate that I can achieve amazing things when they are for other people or other people’s approval, but that the things I want and need I just ignore or even deliberately sabotage. I feel like I am an extreme edge obliger – I actually actively don’t do things for myself, as a punishment for being so crappy. And its a vicious cycle because not achieving makes me feel worse about myself so I punish myself more. I am a high achiever and any one looking at my life would think I really had it together, but inside I’m in turmoil all the time and feel like I’m failing myself but keeping up appearances so no one sees. So – can you change your tendencies? Has any one done it?

    • gretchenrubin

      Big question! My book The Four Tendencies will come out in September – hang on, I discuss these issues at LENGTH.

  • Marsha Redwood

    I have two questions:
    1. Do you think one can take this quiz to find out what tendency someone ELSE is? Say, someone one has worked with/for for a number of years?
    2. Is there one type that tends to be a liar more than other types?
    Thanks

    • gretchenrubin

      I don’t think you could complete the quiz for them, but I think you could probably easily guess their Tendency. It’s often quite obvious!
      I think that lying probably isn’t correlated to Tendency.