How Unlocking Your Natural Tendency Leads to a Happier Life
I can’t stop thinking and talking about Gretchen Rubin’s groundbreaking book, The Four Tendencies, about how one meets, or doesn’t meet, expectations.
More than any other book I’ve read, this book has given me insight that has forever changed how I view and understand myself, as well as the people around me.
The Four Tendencies is a framework of four personality types.
The Four Tendencies inform how you respond to and meet expectations. Both the outer expectations which are expectations that others place on you, like meeting a deadline; as well as inner expectations which are expectations that you place on yourself, like meeting a New Year’s resolution.
Tendency, by definition, is a natural or dominant inclination to move or act in a particular direction. Our individual tendency is one narrow aspect of our personality that tells us how we respond to what we expect of ourselves as well as what others expect of us.
The tendencies overlap, as depicted in the image below, because each person meets expectations differently in different situations based on other personality traits. Although we have parts of us in each of the tendencies, each of us has one dominant tendency.
Why Understanding the Four Tendencies Is Important
When we understand our own tendency, we’re better able to harness the strengths of our tendency and mitigate the weaknesses so that we can build a life that works best for us.
When we become aware of another person’s tendency, we’re better able to understand their point of view and makes sense of their actions. In order to communicate effectively, we need to reach people through their own tendency, not our own. This helps us live and work more effectively.
Overview of the Four Tendencies
One of the things I love about this framework is that you don’t need to have a PhD in Psychology to understand the Four Tendencies and consider them in your daily life. If you’re like most people, you’ll be able to identify your tendency from a brief description.
Keep in mind that there is no one preferred or superior tendency. They each have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Because your tendency is defined by nature, best practice is to embrace your tendency as well as the tendency of others.
The Upholder Tendency
Upholders readily respond to both outer and inner expectations. They want to do what others expect of them, like being on time for the meeting, and what they expect of themselves, like keeping to your exercise schedule, is just as important.
Upholders wake up and think “what’s on my schedule and to-do list today?”
Upholders like to know what’s expected of them and they don’t like making mistakes and letting people down, including themselves. They are independent and reliable, if they tell you they’re going to do something – they do it.
Motto: “Discipline is my freedom”
The Questioner Tendency
You guessed it. Questioners are those people who are always asking “but why?”
Questioners meet inner expectations and are not too concerned with outer expectations.
Questioners wake up and think “What needs to get done today and why?”
They want to gather their own facts, decide for themselves, and act with good well-considered reason, even if it goes against the rules or other people’s expectations.
Motto: “I’ll comply – if you convince me why”
The Obliger Tendency
Obligers meet outer expectations and resist inner expectations.
When an expectation comes from the outside – a boss, a friend, a coach, a teacher, a family member, a client, a colleague – Obligers will respond. On the flip side, they struggle to meet expectations they have for themselves.
Obligers wake up and think “What must I do today? For whom?”
Obligers are people pleasers and often complain that they don’t have any time for themselves because all of their time is spent helping others.
Motto: “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me”
The Rebel Tendency
Rebels resist all expectations.
Rebels want to do what they want, when they want, and how they want. I found this funny as I’ve been saying this about myself for years. Turns out, Rebel is my dominate tendency.
If someone asks a Rebel to do something, their natural tendency is to resist.
Rebels wake up and think “what do I feel like doing right now?”
Rebels want to act from a sense of choice, freedom, and self-expression.
Motto: “You can’t make me, and neither can I”
How Do You Meet Expectations? Take the Quiz and Find Out!
Most people can determine their tendency with a brief description. But for some, like me, I needed the quiz to identify my tendency as I saw a little of myself in three of the four tendencies. If you’re not sure of your tendency or just want to verify your hunch, you can join over 1.3 M people who have taken the short 13 question quiz here and find out.
Understanding the Four Tendencies gives us a richer understanding of ourselves, of others, and of the world around us.
Other Articles About The Four Tendencies
If you enjoyed this article and would like to stay connected, sign up for my email list here.
Sandra is a business and life coach who specializes in helping clients who are craving a change but feel stuck where they are. Sandra helps them discover a new vision of the future and follow through on their ideas with enthusiasm and confidence. With a diverse background that spans more than three decades, Sandra combines her educator’s perspective, business acumen, life coaching skills, and everything she’s learned along the way to help her clients make bold moves that advance them forward in their careers and in their lives. When she’s not working, Sandra loves practicing yoga, traveling, cultural experiences, and enjoying the desert southwest.