Leaven Blog

A personality quiz that works? Yeah, right.

by Olivia Martin

A typical title coming from me.

Last week I borrowed a book from the library called “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin. And, yes, it was a personality profile book.

I’m not one who gravitates toward personality books or quizzes — in fact, I often find them restrictive and avoid them. But this one piqued my curiosity.

This one limited itself to examining how people respond to internal and external expectations. In other words, why people do the things they do.

I picked it up, leafed through the pages, and started reading somewhere in the middle. I couldn’t put it down.

The framework goes like this: A person with the “upholder” tendency has no problem meeting inner goals and external expectations; the “obliger” responds to external expectations but struggles to meet inner expectations; the “rebel” resists meeting both inner and external expectations; and the “questioner” frequently bucks external expectations in favor of inner ones.

As I read each of their descriptions, I instantly thought of people I know who correspond to each category. 

But I wanted to be certain.

So, I went on a personality-quiz administration spree. 

I started with myself, and for once I felt like my results fit: I’m a questioner.

According to the book, questioners “decide for themselves whether a course of action is a good idea, and they resist doing anything that seems to lack purpose.”

They are motivated by logic, reason and fairness, but they can be perceived as defiant, lacking team spirit and may struggle to make decisions because of their need for exhaustive information. 

I chuckled to myself. I’ve been searching for summer vacation lodging during the past week — I’ve probably looked at over 100 AirBnb properties!

Next came Joe Bollig, The Leaven’s senior reporter. He was a tricky mix of two opposite tendencies: the questioner and the obliger. 

I was pleased to see the quiz knew him so well. The man is a bona fide paradox!

The obliger is a hard worker who can do things like meet a work deadline but can’t sit down with a book he or she wants to read.

A classic obliger line is “I can take time for others, but I just can’t take time for myself.”

And like Joe said to me, if you’re a parent, you’ll understand this tendency perfectly. 

In other words, the obligers are the most selfless among us, but they also tend to be the first to be overworked. 

Third was Beth Blankenship, The Leaven’s advertising coordinator. Her results showed her to be an upholder with a tinge of questioner.

An upholder finds joy in following the rules and doing things correctly. And that makes sense as well when you meet Todd Habiger, our production manager — he is pure upholder.

I didn’t get around to quizzing managing editor Anita McSorley or editor Father Mark Goldasich, but after reading the entire book I think I’ve got them pegged. They’d probably start a cough, rebellion, cough, if I let my conjectures slip.

The true joy of reading the book and quizzing my coworkers came from the simple fact that it allowed me to get to know them better. 

How many times do we take our coworkers for granted? Or assume that we can’t get to know them any better because we already spend the majority of our waking hours together? 

It’s been a way for me to pay more attention to them and appreciate our differences as well as our similarities, the greatest of which being our shared Catholic faith. 

About the author

Olivia Martin

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