Podcast 280: Very Special Episode—We Tackle Questions from Listeners about the Four Tendencies Personality Framework, and a Spotlight on Samantha Irby.

Spotlight on a Black Author

This week, I’m shining a spotlight on the hilarious, edgy, vulnerable, and raunchy essays of Samantha Irby (note: some of the essays are quite explicit). I’ve read her bestselling collections Wow, No Thank You (AmazonBookshop) and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (AmazonBookshop). Next, I want to read Meaty (AmazonBookshop), her first collection. She has a style that seems very casual and conversational, and I know from experience how hard it is to achieve that effortless effect. She writes about anxiety, art, Crohn’s disease, her devilish cat, race, identity, living in Illinois and Michigan, her day job, her love of make-up, her wife, her love of television, everything. On the site The Cut, I read her essay “The Worst Friend Date I Ever Had,” from her collection Wow, No Thank You. It was so funny that I immediately tracked down her books. I love essays and I love humor writing, so her work was a big find for me. 

Very Special Episode

Listener Questions about the Four Tendencies

If you want to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take the free, short quiz here. Almost three million people have taken this quiz.

In a nutshell, this framework distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectationsouter expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

  • 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–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (Elizabeth is an Obliger)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

Questions from listeners:

  • How can Obligers take better care of themselves?
  • As a Questioner who doesn’t like answering questions, how do I deal with my future step-daughter’s incessant questions?
  • How might “Please wear a mask” messages be tailored to appeal to each of the Four Tendencies?
  • How can a Questioner give Obligers permission to say “no?”
  • An Obliger who finds it easier to be productive when her husband is also working from home plans to use Focus Mate to recreate that helpful environment in the future. 
  • An Obliger married to a Rebel found that she could nudge him to help her to clean the kitchen by starting to work herself—and importantly, without asking him to help. (She also mentions the one-minute rule.)
  • How can an Obliger make progress on starting a business, with no accountability? We mention the terrific podcast Side Hustle School.
  • How does an Obliger avoid falling into Obliger-rebellion in a new job?
  • How does an Obliger deal with a Questioner boss who refuses to answer the question, “What exactly are you talking about?”

Note: While a few questions involved Questioners who don’t like to answer questions, this isn’t a universal aspect of the Questioner Tendency. Some Questioners don’t mind answering questions, and many Questioners enjoy teaching, but don’t like questions. So don’t assume, “Well, I’m fine with answering questions, so I must not be a Questioner.” It’s not a deal-breaker.

Such interesting questions.


  • Are you looking for a creative outlet and way to relieve stress during this time? If coloring appeals to you, check out my Happiness Project Mini Posters: A Coloring Book. It’s full of hand-lettered quotations to pull out and frame. Purchase your copy here. You can get a free PDF sample here (scroll down to “The Happiness Project”).

LATEST episodes



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.