The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Written by Stacey Williams.

the four tendencies summary framework 910x1024 1The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
Reviewed by Karin Dalgleish

Our last NZBWN book club saw 10 women come together at Ozone Coffee over a delicious brunch – it won’t surprise you to know the kumara omelette was the most popular item ordered, and it was real kumara too!

We discussed The Four Tendencies – the indispensable personality profiles that reveal how to make your life better (and other people’s lives better too) by Gretchen Rubin.

Gretchen Rubin studies and works in the area of happiness and habits, and discovered there is no magic, one size fits all answer for building a happier, healthier more productive life and that different things work for different people.

She observed that when people wanted to achieve or change things it was the expectations they and others had of them that determined why, when, or even if, they would take action. She realised there are two kinds of expectations:

Outer expectations – expectations others place on us, like meeting a work deadline
Inner expectations – expectations we place on ourselves, like keeping a New Years resolution

and that people react to these expectations in one of four different ways, which she classifies as four different types:

Upholders, who readily respond to both outer and inner expectations (discipline is freedom – I like to follow the rules and do what’s right even if people call me uptight)

Questioners who question all expectations, and only meeting them if they believe there is a good reason for doing so, which means they effectively respond only to inner expectations (I’ll comply if you convince me why)

Obligers who respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations (you can count on me – I’ll do anything you ask)

Rebels who resist all expectations, outer and inner alike (you can’t make me and neither can I – you’re not the boss of me)

The book delves into each of these types, giving hints and strategies for dealing with each, from both a personal perspective and in terms of dealing with others. If you are an Obliger for instance you are more likely to go for a run if you run with someone who you will let down if you don’t turn up. An Upholder will run because that’s what they agreed to/decided to do, a Questioner will run if they understand the health benefits of doing so, and a Rebel will run because they choose to, or equally not turn up to run if they don’t feel compelled to.

The book contains a quiz (which is also here) that allows you to identify your type. Those of us who attended were disproportionately questioners, and this is where our discussion started, asking why this was – which by the way is a very questioner thing to do! We had a smattering of the other types, and one Rebel.

The group thought these types would be valuable triggers you could use to better deal with people at work, as well as how people could better deal with us if they knew our tendency. One Project Manager thought it would be really useful to influence people to achieve milestones/complete tasks they didn’t necessarily have to do – she could see how she could frame her requests according to their tendency. If you know you are dealing with an Upholder you would know they will follow the rules and deliver, an Obliger might need specific deadlines and to know that they would be letting someone down if they didn’t meet these. A questioner would need to know why they were doing something, and a Rebel should not be micromanaged, because they will rebel against this.

We talked about how useful the tendencies could be in our relationships, both with our partners and children, and how this framework is useful for both self-awareness and awareness of others.

Gretchen Rubin has also written other books about Happiness, including the new York Times bestsellers The Happiness Project, Better than Before, and Happier at Home. She also has a weekly podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

This was my first NZBWN book club, and I thoroughly enjoyed it – what a great way to roll into a Sunday, an amazing brunch, and thought provoking discussion with amazing women. The next book club will discuss 168 Hours: You have more time than you think by Laura Vanderkam, and is on Saturday 4 August once again at Ozone Coffee