The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

In this groundbreaking analysis of personality type, bestselling author of Better Than Before and The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin reveals the one simple question that will transform what you do at home, at work, and in life.

During her multibook investigation into understanding human nature, Gretchen Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was a non-believer of Gretchen Rubin for a long time. She became famous with her book The Happiness Project, in which she realized she was unhappy and so spent a year investigating and doing things that would make her happier. Theoretically this sounds like a nice pursuit until I learned that she basically had it all already – a beautiful family, a loving and handsome and wealthy husband, a posh home in New York City, etc. I still respected her pursuit of happiness because I wasn’t about to begrudge anyone of that, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t roll my eyes at her “woe is me” situation.

BUT. Then she wrote Better Than Before, which examines habits and sorts people into four different types of personalities, and I read an interpretation of myself that completely answered some questions that have tortured me since I was a child.

Let me back up a little here. While Better Than Before is the OG book that covers a lot of ground,The Four Tendencies is a deeper dive into just the personality types themselves: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. I’m an Obliger, which means I’m primarily motivated by external accountability and do excellently in anything relating to completing requests/satisfying others, but can’t keep any promises to myself for shit. THIS WAS REVOLUTIONARY TO ME! My entire life, I’ve always hated myself for being lazy and a procrastinator, someone who can’t work up the internal motivation to learn or do anything for herself. And then this book comes along and tells me it’s ok that I’m the way I am – actually a large portion of the population is the same way, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me.

When I read this, I felt the same way as I did after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts. It was like someone finally understood me and my life was validated. Which sounds dramatic, but it is what it is.

The solution to Obliger problems is to have external accountability for anything that’s important to me. For example, if I’m training for a half-marathon, tell people about it so that I can’t play off missing workouts, or join a running group. If I’m invited to movie night with friends but know I won’t want to change out of pajamas after dinner, offer to pick up a friend on the way there.

I’m still working on doing this more, but honestly this book was eye-opening to me. I don’t think everyone will benefit from it as much as I did, but if you suspect you might also be an Obliger or Rebel, it might be really helpful.