Podcast 99: Take Personality Quizzes, Consider Your Email Habits, and Book Club Conflicts.

It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

We’re having so much fun with our Instagram project. Every day, for the month of January, Elizabeth and I are posting a photo on Instagram of something that makes us happier (giving us a boost, helping us stick to good habits, reminding us to feel grateful, etc.).  Join in! Use the hashtag #Happier2017 and tag us — I’m @gretchenrubin and Elizabeth is @lizcraft.

Try This at Home: Katie suggested taking personality quizzes to get to know yourself better. We agree!

In episode 80, we talked about the “Five Love Languages” and why we found them so helpful. As a reminder, the Five Languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation — the love language for both Elizabeth and me
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch


We discuss the fascinating book by Daniel Nettle, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are. In it, you can take the Newcastle Personality Assessor that measures the “Big Five.” You can take the test here.

  • Openness to experience:  The degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety a person has.
  • Conscientiousness: A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior.
  • Extraversion: Energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.
  • Agreeableness: A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others; a measure of a trusting and helpful nature; whether a person is generally well-tempered or not.
  • Neuroticism: The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control.


The Enneagram divides people into nine categories. You can take a paid test here or a free one here.

  1. The Reformer
  2. The Helper
  3. The Achiever
  4. The Individualist
  5. The Investigator
  6. The Loyalist
  7. The Enthusiast
  8. The Challenger
  9. The Peacemaker

If you want to take more personality quizzes, there’s a wide range on the Authentic Happiness website.

Here, I wrote a post about ten books of personality quizzes that I’ve found interesting.

As always, to take the Four Tendencies quiz, go here. Understanding whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel is very useful. If you want to be notified when my book, The Four Tendencies comes out, sign up here. I describe my framework as my version of a Muggle Sorting Hat.

We didn’t get a chance to talk about Myers-Briggs! Which is a very popular personality framework.

Happiness Hack: This may be controversial: my hack is to include only one issue per email, with a clear subject line. While some people try to send fewer emails, by fitting more issues into a single email, I (for one) find this confusing and difficult to manage.

Do you agree? Disagree?

If you want to read about the research I mention, about the benefits of using “search” instead of sorting emails into folders: “Stop organizing your email into folders: searching your email is way faster (study).”

Listener Question: Melanie and Rachel ask questions about book club behavior.

Speaking of children’s literature, here’s my list of my 81 favorite works of children’s and young-adult literature.

A lot of people read The Happiness Project in book groups of various kinds; if you’d like a discussion guide, look here.

Demerit: Elizabeth continues to struggle with her eye ailment, blepharitis.

Gold Star: I give a gold star to Eliza for getting me to do a better job of washing my face.

Bonus Gold Star: Elizabeth’s young-adult romance Flower just hit the shelves. She and Shea Olsen have written a novel that combines love, temptation, secrets, ambition, celebrity, college applications…delicious.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also check out StitchFix, an online personal styling service with real stylists who handpick clothing for you — your taste, your schedule, your lifestyle, your budget. Sign up at StitchFix.com.

Check out BlueApron.comWish you cooked more? Get all the delicious, fresh ingredients you need to make great meals, delivered to your front door. Check out BlueApron.com/happier to get your first three meals free.




1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #99

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  • annecore

    Excellent show notes. I have been checking for them all day because I was just discussing personality quizzes with someone at work yesterday. I presume you have these done ahead of time–I would be good if they could autopost at the same time as the podcast so we can look things up on Wednesday morning as soon as we’ve listened. Onward and upward!

    • gretchenrubin

      Alas, I need to write them, and that takes time! they go live at midnight, when I’m fast asleep. Great to know you find them useful.

  • PolarSamovar

    Oh my goodness, I could not agree more with your email hack! It drives me nuts when I receive an omnibus email – for exactly the reasons you give.

    In my experience, omnibus emails are more likely to come from someone who’s older or has been out of the workforce for a while, such as my retired mom.

    This makes me wonder what conventions I need to learn about communication technologies I myself haven’t used much in a work setting, like chat, texting, videoconference. Are there others I’m out of the loop on? Maybe an idea for a future podcast!

  • deborah

    Personality quizzes are great if used the way they should be — for self knowledge and personal growth. I’ve seen them backfire HUGELY in the workplace. The members of my “team” were all required to do the Myers-Briggs and other “quizzes,” and we were told every team member’s results so we could “work together more effectively”! We got a lot of “How can you expect me to do that? I’m an XYXA” and “Well, of course, she reacted that way. She’s an ABCD,” or even worse “Let’s not include him in this discussion/project. He’s a KLNQ. We already know what he’ll say.” Got to say it was pretty much a disaster. Perhaps I was working with some really immature and petty people, but I think they were fairly average folks. We were even given the guidance that the ratings were not to label anyone or to judge anyone. Didn’t work. I tend to think … take the quiz, learn from it, but keep the results to yourself.

    • amandasusan

      We did something similar at work and had the opposite result. We had a certified MBTI facilitator take us through our assessments and it has helped. The thing that had been stressed many times is that that is just a person’s preference, it doesn’t define that person. Anything can flex outside of their preference, it’s just not as comfortable.

  • Katie Hansen

    I was surprised by my low agreeableness score on the big 5 because I think of myself as a kind person, and while I’m very empathetic and often focused on the needs of others (Obliger, INFJ, Loyalist), I don’t always observe little courtesies like opening doors for strangers, don’t care what others think of me, and have strong opinions sometimes so there you go. 🙂

  • Laura Jolna

    I absolutely back your email method Gretchen! I find email to be a daily battle of overwhelm and without a method of organization it becomes a major time suck, source of anxiety and distraction. Emails that stick to one topic or actionable items are a must. Period!

  • amandasusan

    Where I work, we used MBTI pretty extensively. One of the things that is stressed over and over again is that a person’s results are just their preference, it doesn’t define them. Anyone can do things outside their preference, but their personality description is just what feels the most natural. And based on the strength of your score in a certain area can make it easier to flex out of preference.

    So I think that having more preferences is actually better than less. Trying to pigeon hole people into one category can be problem some. For example according to the 4 Tendancies, I’m a Rebel, but I love schedules and lists. A person is not just one thing, there is too much grey to force them into one thing.

  • Karen

    In response to your e-mail happiness hack – you mentioned that research shows that organizing e-mails into folders doesn’t increase efficiency but I truly feel like that depends on your profession. I don’t have my personal e-mail in folders (if I need to find my electrical bill I just type in the electrical company in my search bar!), BUT I am an architect and I am often working on a lot of different projects at once. I have folders organized by project and set up “rules” in my inbox so that e-mails from different people automatically go to the folder for their project. There is NO WAY I could manage my inbox without doing this! If I need to find an e-mail related to a certain project, I search within the project folder.

    • rlk

      I couldn’t agree more! I had a very strong reaction to this portion of the podcast and I suspected it was perhaps related to the type of work I do (I also work in the field of architecture.) Organizing email into folders by client is an absolute must for me.

  • Debra Bouchegnies

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth, I sent this to you via Twitter but finally got my DISCUS account to work so posting here too. RE your email query, you really need to use Slack. It is a life changer. I work with multiple clients on numerous projects and communicate with an ever changing group of people including the client, their team, my core team of free-lancers and additional folks as the projects require. I am agile at switching modes of communication based on the person’s method of choice, be that email, text, FB messenger, What’s Ap, Skype, Two Cans And A String, Beating Drum, even phone (!), etc., etc., but at the end of the day you can communicate with everyone via Slack – or at least put record of your comms in a snippet in the relevant “channel”. That last bit will make sense once you are using Slack and I’m more than happy to walk either or both of you through how I use it and I don’t even use all the apps that integrate with it but just using it as its most basic level will keep you from tearing your hair out looking for that email. And BTW you or whomever handles advertising for you should totally hit them up as a sponsor, especially if you use this opportunity to create serial spots promoting Slack during the period where you are both learning how to use it. It would be a unique approach and would tell a genuine story that listeners would enjoy and be able to relate to. I have no association with Slack, just so much happier that I finally crossed off “learn how to use Slack” from my To Do list last year and it would make me happy to know I have helped another couple of busy women like myself. And if you wind up with Slack as a sponsor and it will help with the creative, I’m happy to call and leave a voicemail as an anonymous listener that you could use as an asset in part of your campaign.

    • statmam

      Thanks for explaining what Slack is. I’ve been hearing that name a lot recently, but sometimes I get tired of asking “what’s that”, so your explanation bailed me out.

  • zilly

    At my workplace, we use a possibly less well known personality framework called Emergenetics – it’s very well researched and validated, and you can’t take a free version, it requires a certified trainer to get a profile (I happen to be a certified trainer so I do these profiles for people at work, along with team building and other sessions for groups based on their profiles) – all of this means there’s a level of quality control for use of the tool. While it’s nice to be able to take some of these free quizzes, the reality is that there’s little to no scientific evidence to support their use, and people can misinterpret the results or how to use them. Emergenetics is based on left brain/right brain and also abstract/concrete thinking styles, as well as a few behaviors that contribute to how we see and are seen in the world. I love it and find that groups also love it and gain huge benefits from working through profiles together. I emphasize heavily that every type of profile is a gift and a strength but that they can be very different, and it helps to understand ourselves and how we are similar/different from others, as well as that it’s best to have a team of divergent people, rather than everyone being the same (which might be more comfortable) – I’d recommend checking it out! (just google the term Emergenetics)

  • Dawn Santin Epstein

    Lightbulb: don’t let my score on a personality test serve as a loophole! I’ve definitely told myself – well I’m an abstainer. It’s too hard for me to just eat one, so I obviously have to eat the whole container (whether I really wanted to or not).

    Kind of like the opposite of a truth is also true – I’m an abstainer, except when I’m not! Look at me, having just one! Gold star for me!

    Have you see the True Colors personality framework? It reminds me a lot of the Four Tendencies. There seems to be a lot of overlap, although it definitely seeks to explain a lot more than one aspect of a person’s personality.


  • Mel

    Here’s an idea for the book club. Rather than creating an entirely separate second splinter book group, as Elizabeth suggests, announce that the book discussion will be held from, say, 7 – 8, and from 8 – 9:30 will be refreshments/socializing/selection of next month’s book. That way, if someone still wants the social aspect of the group but hasn’t had time to read that month’s book, s/he will have the option of arriving an hour later. This is how one of my bible study groups worked–an hour of discussion followed by social time. Everyone knew the schedule and could arrive just in time for the socializing if they wished.

    • gretchenrubin

      Brilliant solution!

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  • Carole Gates
  • Hate the email hack! I read emails, put what I need to do on my to-do list, respond and file. Tons of emails (particularly multiple questions on the same issue) would drive me insane. I also don’t buy the “makes it easier to search” angle as most email programs will search body, not just subject. But it does lend insight into one of my pet peeves, namely, “I sent you an email about 3 things. Why did you only respond about one?” I’m not opposed to tailoring my style to get the info I need.

    • Sutika

      Agreed! I love receiving batched emails and I send them. I would go crazy with the volume otherwise. I use sub-headings and bullets a lot to break up the text. I get up to 100 work emails a day as a mid level exec and would be distraught if that doubled or tripled! My reaction to this is: get better at tracking tasks people! But I get my method causes equal frustration in reverse! 🙂

  • Susan B

    Once again I would like to mention that the iTunes podcast cuts off before the end, on this one right before Demerits and Gold Stars, which I’m sure no one wants to miss.

  • Corrie Howard

    I was so, so excited to hear you on Note to Self again! Two of my most favourite podcasts coming together made for an awesome commute to work.

  • Jeanne

    You are so right about the emails. I have been frustrated about people not answering all the questions I ask in an email. Like one or two out of three. This makes me realize that I need to only ask one question per email. I too felt that I didn’t want to be a pest sending out so many emails, but then I’m just a pest having to follow up because I still don’t have my answers. One question or issue at a time is now my motto. Seems like more trouble, but is actually less trouble.

  • Caroline

    I definitely agree that personality tests can be a happiness tool. I first took the Myers-Briggs as a teenager and found out I was an INTJ, which is one of the rarest types and the least common for women (0.8% of the female population). It made me feel like I wasn’t alone to have that label, and it also gave some validation for why I sometimes feel like I don’t relate well to other women. At the same time, it also made me aware of ways I can try to overcome my challenges in that area.

  • katie

    Hey Gretchen, For the longest time I was going straight to bed without washing my face and I’ve finally made washing a habit. You mentioned you use Cetaphil – and while I LOVE Cetaphil products (particularly the body lotion – which you can get for a deal at Costco), for my face, I use Neutrogena Extra Gentle daily cleanser – Foaming. I love it because it removes my makeup – I had to scrub with Cetaphil – now I can gently massage. It makes for a better overall experience, I think.

  • Kim

    I recently joined my first book club that doesn’t suffer from the same problems your listeners mentioned. We meet from 7-9. From 7-8, we chat and snack. From 8-9, we talk about the book. Whoever hosts that month picked the book, so they lead the discussion. Either she or one of the founders will reign the conversation back in if we aren’t staying on track. It is awesome. I didn’t know any of the women a few months ago and now feel like we are friends, BUT we still talk about the book. Win. Win.

  • Anna Embree

    I totally agree with you on sending many small e-mails instead of one big one. There’s an upfront cost – you do risk seeming batty or overly communicative – but it’s worth it in the reality of how the dynamics of e-mail work. It’s great to have each one be a discrete matter that you can attend to and dispose of, or otherwise file. Also, if there’s one e-mail with a bunch of matters to attend to in it, it ends up being something you put off diving into.

  • Amy Richardson

    YES! One subject per email! I actually took a class on how to write an effective email and that was the number 1 priority. number 2: the subject line. Sometimes if someone responds to an email with a question totally unrelated, I copy and paste into a new email and give it an appropriate subject line. I also edit and save incoming emails with non-descriptive subject lines, that way I can find it in my own inbox easier.

  • Tracy Tolf

    I am a new listener to the podcast. I have enjoyed taking these personality quizzes as I have taken a few in the past. I was having trouble getting the Authentic Happiness link to work, it wouldn’t open a page for me. Thanks! I enjoy the listen!!

  • Kate

    Love listening to every episode of “Happier,” but especially enjoyed this one because you discussed a favorite subject of mine: the Enneagram. There are so many personality assessments out there – something for everyone. In my work with the Enneagram, I have found that the people who respond to it are those who want to dig deep into who they are and what makes them tick. That’s because the Enneagram is about the motivation behind your behavior and preferences. Figuring out your type is a process of self-discovery and can take some time – depending on how adept you are at this introspective work (which most of us aren’t used to doing) and what type you are (some types are easier to figure out than others). While Enneagram tests can give you a clue as to your type, they are only about 50% accurate – this is because it is difficult to formulate a series of questions that accurately determines your motivation. We each lead with one of the nine types – it is our default and represents automatic patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. However, there is a lot of variation within each type – explained by our subtypes, wings, how easily we use our resource points, etc. – which accommodates for the wide variety of human nature rather than cramming all of us into one of nine narrow categories. I find the many layers that the Enneagram offers so fascinating that I started a business teaching it to others through workshops, retreats and corporate team building. I love hearing that Elizabeth uses it to flesh out the characters in her writing! Thanks for this great discussion!

  • Tania Leclerc

    I disagree that using folders for organizing emails is a waste of time. As soon as I deal with an email I want to keep I slide it into a folder so that my inbox ONLY has the items I still need to deal with it. It’s less about ease of finding it later (the search feature does that easily enough) & more about keeping my inbox uncluttered. I suppose I could just simplify it to one folder for everything I want to keep.

  • Carol

    If there is a person in a book club who consistently doesn’t read the book, why not ask that person to choose the next book? Maybe that person is simply not interested in the books being chosen. I have that problem with my book club. I don’t read about half the books they choose because the book doesn’t interest me at all.

  • Kaitlin

    Found a new personality test that others might be interested in – it just uses your birth date, year, and time. It produces a chart giving you some general information (like whether you are a Generator or Projector), and then there is other information you could pay for in a report. I found even the most basic (free) information to be interesting and informative. Who knew a birthday could yield insights into a person’s nature?
    general info: http://goop.com/human-design-were-we-coded-at-birth/
    for the chart: http://www.ihdschool.com/Charts

  • Jules

    I’m literally listening to this episode right now, and I’ve had the book club issue. I started a book club in 2008. After the group got settled, I went through a period of frustration that no one was reading the book, and then I noticed that fewer and fewer friends were showing up. I finally realized that the two might be connected… I was being a militant book club leader!
    So I had to reframe. I actually decided to give myself a break, and after about a month and a half, my friends started asking about book club. So we started back up, and I started fresh. I realized that the thing I liked most about book club was that these women are My Tribe! We care about each other, we help each other, and we grow from each other. WE are better because of the others.
    I agree with Gretchen that some books warrant more discussion. So in those cases, we make sure we discuss it. If someone really wants to discuss the book, they drive the conversation – we do have meandering conversations, but they bring it back to the book. Even our non-reader, has something to contribute, as we generally relate what we’ve read to life, or she’ll ask questions about it.
    Additionally, we choose a light book at least twice a year so that we can really use those as our big social times. Our book club is about reading, growing, and learning. Sometimes that comes from the book, but it always comes from Our Tribe.