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The Four Tendencies – Obligers in Business

Four Tendencies Obligers in Business

Four Tendencies Obligers in Business

Before you read this post about Obligers in business – check out this quiz and Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies which will describe the principles I’m discussing.

The Four Tendencies tell a LOT about how you operate in the world – and in your business.

Obligers make up the largest percentage of the population, so it’s worth looking at how to optimise your business as an Obliger business owner, and to understand your Obliger customers.

This is the second article in a series of four – here’s the first article, about Questioners.

This blog outlines what makes Obligers tick, and how they can get the best out of this tendency when running their business.

The Obliger

Let’s start with an overview of the type.

Gretchen defines an Obliger as someone who:

“accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.”

In a nutshell, this is the person lives to please, support and help other people – usually at their own expense.

The Obliger may lack confidence in themselves, or may simply place a higher value on helping other people or meeting their responsibilities to others, ahead of their own needs and wants.

Obligers are externally-motivated, so they are driven to do, purchase or engage in something based on what other people think, or want them to do.

They often operate from a position of serving others and wanting to be liked, and/or appreciated.

They are (usually) not very accountable to themselves because they put others first.

They feel that in business, good service and low pricing are the most important things.

Does this sound like you, or someone you know?

The Obligers’ downfall is that they may give too much of themselves, until one day they snap and lash out (in their own gentle way).

Obligers in Business

Effective Relationship Builders

My opinion is that Obligers are usually very successful in building connection within customers, suppliers, partners and staff their business.

That’s because Obligers usually get a whiff of someone else’s unrest or pain before that person even realises they’re suffering.

Then, they reaches out with compassion, a soothing voice and the offer of help so that the recipient feels better.

This means that the people who work with Obligers feel supported, valued, trusted and nurtured.

But things may not go smoothly for all Obligers.

Because they give so much of their time and energy to others, Obligers often find themselves working long hours for little money, and with no time for themselves – overwhelmed and anxious.

And then there is the breaking point – Obliger Rebellion.

Obliger Rebellion

The thing with Obligers is that they eventually get fed up with “all work, no respect” or no recognition – and they snap.

This can happen to both business owners AND employees who are Obligers.

Here’s an example of how that could play out for an Obliger business owner:

Tanya has done EVERYTHING for her customer.

She cancelled a netball game to field the customer’s enquiry at a time to suit the customer.

Tanya gave her customer an extra long first session, and then cut her lunch meeting short to post out a hand written message with a welcome freebie.

Her prices were already low (fair, she thought), but she also discounted the price for this customer who didn’t seem to have much money.

When her customer had to cancel her second session at the last minute, Tanya understood….or…maybe there was something wrong with the first session?

Tanya spent the next hour writing her customer a carefully-worded email, saying it was ok, and things happen, and let’s reschedule.

She wanted to make sure the customer liked Tanya and felt supported enough.

That’s important.

Three days later, Tanya’s client cancelled again, this time with even LESS notice.

Tanya was so fed up – all her efforts were going unnoticed – AND – she had discounted her already-cheap session.

“What does this woman want?” thinks Tanya. “What am I, a doormat?”

She’d spent so much time giving her all, yet felt unappreciated, and a bit hard done by.

It tipped her into Obliger Rebellion.

Beyond the normal sleepless night worrying about her customers, Tanya felt angry this time.

She ruminated on the situation for two days, then eventually called the customer – defensive and angry.

An argument ensued and Tanya hung up feeling intimidated and let down….resolving NEVER again to take on THAT kind of client.

Does this sound familiar?

Despite the tendency to give too much, Tanya is very empathetic, compassionate and a good listener, which makes for engaging customer service.

She also knows that running a business requires her to be clear and confident about her offering and pricing, knowing that her customers’ engagement is not so much about her, it’s more about how ready they are to buy and/or engage.

With a little bit of help, Tanya could move forward in leaps and bounds.

In this case, Tanya could make big improvements by:

  • setting clearer personal boundaries and working on being firmer on these
  • developing a clear business plan with non-negotiable business parameters and boundaries
  • outsourcing tasks that feel ‘difficult’ or ‘pushy’,
  • getting enough time for herself so she doesn’t fall into Rebellion
  • working on a ‘sales conversation’ that feels comfortable and un-salesy, and
  • getting a business mentor or coach to help her stick to a business schedule which achieves her personal AND business goals, while still supporting her customers.

Obligers Bosses

Obligers are wonderful bosses (and coaches) in terms of their human interaction and nurturing.

While can be great with people, they might struggle with business systems and/or management.

Because they put others first, other areas of their business suffer.

They may end up slashing prices, creating a pile of ‘personalised’ (= different) agreements or services that are unwieldy and inconsistent, not following procedures.

They tend to get on best with customers or staff who are like them – giving, reasonable, people-focused and flexible.

Obligers can be wonderful listeners and cheerleaders.

However, staff members or clients who are assertive and/or are Questioners or Rebels might feel very frustrated with the Obliger, who appears clingy or subservient in comparison to themselves.

In a coaching sense, a Obliger coach can build great rapport and relationship but might ‘judge’ or smother their client with sympathy (careful!) or compassion.

An Obliger coach might also leave the client unsatisfied through coaching without courage (e.g. unclear boundaries and goals, letting them off the hook, not enough exploratory questions).

Here’s an example of how an Obliger coach might feel when they run a coaching session.

Toni was worried about whether she would ask good coaching questions and give the client real value in the coaching session.

She spent the session alternating between listening, and working out where to use the questions she practiced.

She didn’t want to pressure the client to be specific with behavioural goals, so left them as fairly general.

At the end of the session, Toni wondered if it had been value for money for her client, who was still unmotivated.

What was the real outcome of that session, anyway? What had she really DONE for that client?

In a nutshell, overextending yourself for others is actually more about you (and your performance/worth) than about your client, and it makes for unclear boundaries and intangible outcomes.

The successful Obliger is the one who can set fair boundaries and focus on the client’s needs in a healthy (objective) way – by stepping back and acknowledging that the client is in charge of their own actions, decisions and outcomes.

Obliger Clients

Go gently

The greatest consideration for business owners is that they meet the needs of their Obliger clients in a healthy way.

Obligers will rarely complain – to your face.

They will more likely get upset (eventually) and then tell everyone else behind your back.

If you have Obliger clients, it’s important to notice them, listen carefully and reflect what you hear so that your customers feel heard, supported and cared for.

It was the start of another busy day and Jody noticed a new customer walk into her office, looking timid.

She buzzed around as she normally would called out ‘be with you soon!’

Then the phone rang, and Jody grabbed it, putting a finger up to the customer to wait a minute and she’d be there.

A moment later, Jody turned around and heard the door bells jingle as the lady left her office – who didn’t want to be any trouble to Jody who was obviously busy!

In the end,  Jody lost a customer who didn’t want to bother her or get in her way.

In this case, Jody could have walked over immediately and ignored the phone to make time for a genuine connection with this lady and ask a few questions about her needs.

Luckily, it takes a lot for Obligers to truly walk out on you – they will forgive you for many things before they reach Rebellion stage!

But expressing empathy and giving undivided attention will win the heart of your Obliger customer, and the little special touches will be very much valued and appreciated.

After all, it takes one to know one.

Do you have Questions?

Got questions about tendencies in business?

Want to know how to boost your business and overcome the  hurdles of an Obliger?

Get in touch and find out how you can optimise the way you work and get the most out of your tendency.

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The Four Tendencies – Questioners in Business

Questioners in Business | Melanie J White

Questioners in Business | Melanie J White

Before you read this post about Questioners in business – if haven’t yet heard of the Four Tendencies, I suggest you check out this quiz and Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies.

I love the Four Tendencies because I am curious about people, behaviour, and how different tendencies operate in different situations.

Recently, I’ve seen some interesting scenarios unfold with different tendencies in business, and that has prompted to write a series of articles – starting with Questioners in Business.

This blog outlines what makes questioners tick, and how they can get the best out of this tendency when running their business.

The Questioner

Let’s start with an overview of the type.

Gretchen defines a questioner as someone who:

questions rules and accepts them only if they make sense. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment.”

In a nutshell, this is the person that always asks WHY. And then they want more information, so they as WHY again.

The questioner drills deeper and deeper into the why – how things work, why things work, and whether things are worthwhile.

In fact, the last point is the most important.

Questioners are internally-motivated, so they will only do, purchase or engage in something that seems justifiable, logical and reasonable to them.

They often operate from a value-based, integrity-based position, and value quality and high standards.

They are (usually) highly accountable to themselves and others.

They feel that in business, being transparent is a sign of honesty.

Does this sound like you, or someone you know?

The Questioners’ downfall is that they may question things so much – including themselves – that they get into analysis paralysis.

Questioners in Business

Efficient Systems Management

My opinion is that questioners may be the most successful of all types in the mechanics of running a business.

The questioner is someone who asks why they need each element of their business, resulting in ONLY practical, reasonable and effective policies, procedures and systems.

This means that daily operation of a business is quick, easy, simple and practical, with no time wasted on frivolous or useless things.

But things may not go smoothly for all Questioners.


Here’s a Questioner who gets bogged down in analysis paralysis, and it prevents her from growing her business:

Sue is sure that her business will be amazing once she has everything perfect.

She wants to set up some useful systems, but not being very tech-savvy, Sue questions every decision she makes.

That’s a long, laborious process.

So rather than move ahead in business, Sue often gets stuck in a quagmire of questions about software, whether to make videos or write blogs, which Facebook groups to be in.

She also gets side-tracked when writing and researching blogs, taking days to look up all sorts of references before finally condensing her blog into 6 pages of deep explanation.

Sue makes elaborate plans that are too overwhelming and detailed to action.

She struggles to write short, punchy marketing copy.

However, she’s very good at understanding her ideal client, because of her probing, curious and inquisitive nature.

She also understands that running a business can be multifaceted and complex.

With a little bit of help, Sue could move forward in leaps and bounds.

In this case, Sue could make big improvements by:

  • working on her perfectionist streak
  • developing a clear business plan with single, specific targets and due dates
  • deciding whether to do some training or to outsource certain tasks in her business, and
  • getting a business mentor or coach to keep her focused, on track and to help her make decisions.

Questioner Bosses

In many ways, Questioners make great leaders because they aren’t afraid to take risks and make tough decisions.

While can be great with business management and systems, they might struggle in their dealings with staff and/or clients.

Questioners are people who value integrity, quality, and are generally direct and fair.

They tend to get on best with customers or staff who value a “no-BS” approach with clear, non-negotiable boundaries.

However, staff members or clients who lacks self-confidence and/or are Obligers might really struggle with their direct, probing nature.

In a coaching sense, a Questioner coach might overwhelm and confront their client with too many questions, or too much deep probing.

Jade had a nervous tummy at the thought of attending her weekly meeting with her Questioner boss.

His questions made her feel like she’d done something wrong, or like he was watching her every move to catch her making a mistake.

Jade often prepared for these meetings by imagining all the possible scenarios that might come up, so she would be able to answer all those questions about her work.

In a nutshell, certain types of people might feel personally challenged by all those questions.

But really, those questions aren’t about them – it’s simply the Questioner seeking clarity, truth, continuous improvement, practicality and efficiency.

Questioner Clients

It’s not about you

As above, being questioned can be confronting or threatening for some business owners.

A Questioner customer who keeps asking ‘but why’ is simply attempting to understand something, or decide whether they should buy it, or understand something that isn’t working.

If you’re a sensitive business owner, or if you lack self-confidence, you might feel that your integrity or authority is being challenged by all those questions.

Sam was busy fixing Peter’s car and had put lots of effort into getting things just right.

So he felt pretty confronted when Peter started asking why he had done things a certain way, and why he had put certain parts in.

Same felt like he was being made to justify everything he’d done, and that Peter didn’t trust him.

To top it all off, Peter got upset when he found out that Sam hadn’t rotated the tyres.

Sam had felt it wasn’t necessary and wanted to save Peter some money, so he didn’t do it.

In the end,  Peter was irritated because he felt he was being fobbed off, and treated like an idiot.

In this case, Sam could have diverted a bunch of angst by calling Peter to talk about the need for tyre rotation or not, and to simply and patiently answer Sam’s questions.

Luckily, most of the time, all those Questions are NOT about you.

It’s simply the Questioner trying to satisfy their own curiosity about something!

You can simply relax and let the person know you will do all you can to help them and/or understand their queries.

That sort of approach will build far better relationships with Questioner customers, than becoming reactive and defensive.

Or, you can simply make a decision not to have a Questioner as a client.


Do YOU have Questions?

Got questions about tendencies in business?

Get in touch and find out how you can optimise the way you work and get the most out of your tendency.