Why do I ask why? According to Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies I am a Questioner. Questioners are very good at meeting internal expectations because they have done their research and know what they want to do. For external expectations they have to determine if the expected action is the right thing to do – they won’t take it on face value. They will also ask “why?”.

They will reject anything that they feel is arbitrary. The notion of “we’ve always done it that way” is met with “why?”. And the argument of “we’ve never done it that way before” is met with “why not?” Tradition and routine is no basis for validity in their minds. Gretchen mentioned a conference where she asked the audience to divide up into their four tendencies and create a motto for their group. When it came time for the Questioners to present their answer was “why do we need a motto?”

Because of the need for more information to make a correct decision sometimes Questioners can suffer from analysis-paralysis. As one put it the questioning of your own questioning. This can be solved by deciding to trust some authoritative person or source as a sounding board for questions. And then just setting a deadline to make a decision. Flipping a coin does not help -because it is to easy to say “best two out of three” etc and it ultimately is arbitrary and contrary to their nature.

Oftentimes I have encountered instructions at work that seem unreasonable or inefficient. I have no problem with deciding I will do it my own way. I won’t clearly contradict my boss, I will just do it the way I think is best. If I encounter a supposed expert who I do not respect I will especially work to do things my way. I am always interested in doing things the most efficient way.

When training I show my trainees the way I do the work, and why I do it that way. I explain what the end goal is. And then I add “if you can get to the same correct end result by doing it another way, go for it”. I will never say “do things my way”, though I have had bosses who have said that. I always welcome questions – there is no dumb question, only unasked ones. I would rather someone ask me a dozen questions than blindly proceed thinking they know the answer when they don’t.

Questioners are end results oriented, efficiency driven, and know that there are always more than just one right answer. They are open minded when it comes to rules. While Upholders and Obligers would see rules as “if it doesn’t specifically say you can do something, you can’t”. A questioner like me will say, “if it doesn’t specifically say you can’t, then go for it”. That’s one reason when I hiked the Grand Canyon down to the river and back up in one day. The sign at the top of the trail didn’t say you couldn’t do it, it just said it wasn’t recommended that you do. I did and I know now why it isn’t recommended.

As children we all ask questions and it is considered normal. Just because we are older doesn’t mean the need ceases to exist. We are still learning. Anyone who objects to questions should ask themselves “what are you afraid of?” If what you are saying is true and valid you should be able to defend it. If it is not valid you will be found out eventually

Again I would recommend you check out Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies. It can help you understand yourself and why you do the things you do. It can help you understand others – especially those with other tendencies. And it can help guide you to better work and organizational situations where you can thrive and avoid those places that are not the best fit.