The Four Tendencies – by Gretchen Rubin
Date read: 5/29/18. Recommendation 7/10.
Rubin details four main personality tendencies–upholder, questioner, obliger, rebel–that we all gravitate towards based on how we handle internal and external expectations. It's an interesting look into human nature and quite valuable when considering how we should motivate, persuade, or navigate conflict with ourselves and others. There's no one-size-fits-all. She details each of the four tendencies in depth, while conceding that there are an enormous range of personalities, even among people with the same tendency. This dramatically influences how each of the tendencies are expressed. The goal of the book is to help us better understand ourselves and those around us by building greater self-awareness and acknowledging our differences. That way we can leverage our strengths, navigate our weaknesses, and build lives that work better for us.
See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.
My great interest is human nature, and I constantly search for patterns to identify what we do and why we do it.
Upholder (19%): Meets outer expectations, meets inner expectations
Questioner (24%): Resists outer expectations, meets inner expectations
Obliger (41%): Meets outer expectations, resists inner expectations
Rebel (17%): Resists outer expectations, resists inner expectations
When we consider the four tendencies, we're better able to understand ourselves. This self-knowledge is crucial because we can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature, our own interests, and our own values.
There's an enormous range of personalities, even among people who share the same tendency...These qualities dramatically influence how they express their tendencies.
There's no best or worst tendency. The happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren't those from a particular tendency, but rather they're the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their Tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build the lives that work for them.
Knowing other people's tendencies also makes it much easier to persuade them, to encourage them, and to avoid conflict.
"Of all the tasks which are set before man in life, the education and management of his character is the most important." -William Edward Hartpole Lecky, The Map of Life
-Find it easy to decide to act and then to follow through, easily form habits
-Independent and reliable, high degree of self-mastery
-Discipline may make them appear rigid to others, but they feel free, effective, and independent
Weaknesses include delegating (doubt others ability to follow through), holding others accountable (since they don't need outer accountability, not sympathetic towards those that do).
Upholders value self-command, so they tend to pay a lot of attention to getting enough sleep, exercising, having fun, keeping gas in the car, and so on. Upholders also least likely to struggle with addiction.
Although upholders can indeed reject outer expectations in order to meet inner expectations, they don't always have a clear sense of what they expect from themselves. For an inner expectation to be met, it must be clearly articulated. Therefore, upholders must take care to define for themselves what they want and what they value–that clarity is essential.
For me, once I'd clearly heard the voice of my own inner expectation, doing the work wasn't hard. But it took me a long time to hear that voice.
Upholders want people to do things for their own reasons–which is a big demand.
-Deep commitment to information, logic, and efficiency
-Gather their own facts and decide for themselves, object to anything arbitrary, ill-reasoned, or ineffective
-Almost never unquestioningly meet an expectation
Least distinctive tendency, other three tendencies recognize how they're different from other people. Questioners view their questioning not as evidence of a pattern but as merely the logical, universal response to life.
Upholders and questioners are self-centered and self-ish, in the sense that the aims of the "self," which are inner expectations, are at the core of what they do.
-Meets inner expectations by creating outer accountability (must create structures of outer accountability)
-Gain the most from learning about their tendency (and the largest tendency for both men and women)
-Get along most easily with the other three tendencies
Obligers must pick the right kind of accountability for them...vary dramatically in what makes them feel accountable.
Obliger rebellion - obliger keeps meeting expectations that seem unreasonable until the "snap" which is almost always abrupt.
-Resist all expectations, want to do what they want to do, in their own way and in their own time
-Wake up and think "what do I feel like doing right now?"
-Enjoy challenges and defying people's expectations
-High value on authenticity and self-determination (lives should be a true expression of their values)
Rebel/questioners: "I do whatever I choose." Rebel/obligers: "I refuse to do what anyone tells me to do."
For information-consequences-choice to work, it's crucial that rebels do indeed suffer unpleasant consequences.
Information, consequences, choice. Without lectures or micro-management or rescue.
Rebels become dependent. Their freedom from the mundane responsibilities of life is often possible because someone else handles the duties of daily existence for them.
Rebels respond much better when an action is framed in terms of choice, freedom, and self-expression instead of constraint and duty.
It's all too easy to assume that what persuades us will persuade others–which isn't true. One of my secrets of Adulthood is that we're more like other people than we suppose and less like other people than we suppose.
Upholders want to know what should be done. Questioners want justifications. Obligers need accountability. Rebels want freedom to do something their own way.
Upholders value self-command and performance. Questioners value justification and purpose. Obligers value teamwork and duty. Rebels value freedom and self-identity.
"Just as coffee can grow...under 7,000 [feet] and cedar over 7,000. I think that every human being requires a certain type of soil, temperature, and altitude, very narrowly defined for some, almost universal for others–in order to feel free and happy, that is to say, free to develop his nature to the utmost of which it is capable. I believe that one can feel completely free both in a Trappist monastery or at the court in Berlin; but I think it would have to be an unusual and an unusually gracious personality that would feel free in both places." -Isak Dinesen