The Four Tendencies

the-four-tendencies-cover1-300x445I love personality frameworks, and I think Gretchen Rubin’s idea for The Four Tendencies is helpful in the sense that the tendencies provide insight into how people are motivated–and how to motivate people who are different than you are.

Rubin says that people are motivated in four different ways:

  • Upholders meet inner and outer expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations
  • Questioners have to understand the why of everything, but once they personally own the why, they meet the expectation
  • Rebels resist inner AND outer expectations

I’m a Questioner married to a Rebel. We have at least one Questioner child and one Rebel child, with a couple of Upholders. I found these frameworks insightful. Especially since I spend my days trying to inspire the children to do schoolwork and aspire to be an encouraging spouse, the book gave me a lot of good ideas.

I’m not sure that I buy everything about this book–I don’t know if the framework holds in every case, and I looked askance at there being just four categories, and which ones could overlap. Then Rubin pointed out that Questioners were the ones who questioned the framework and I said, “oh.”

However, if you like personality insights, you would probably enjoy The Four Tendencies. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought!


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

2 thoughts on “The Four Tendencies

  1. I listen to Gretchen’s podcast so I think about this a lot. I keep thinking that certain people end up functioning in one of those tendencies because of their childhood influences even though Gretchen says we are born this way. This would definitely be fun to discuss in person.
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    1. I would love to hear more about that. Do you really think that people can be upholders because they were raised that way? It would be interesting to come up with scenarios for how to motivate kids to grow up in one of the more productive tendencies! I would say, off the cuff, that Josh was raised to be an upholder, or maybe is sometimes an upholder by conviction, but he’s actually a rebel. So he conforms very easily to some expectations, both outer and inner, but unless his motivation is really central (like motivated by spiritual commitment) he chafes. He winds up doing rebel things like Gretchen’s examples of exercising at night. I was raised to be an upholder/obliger, but I oblige when I really internalize the why (even if the why is wanting to please my family or something) and not if I don’t buy it on some level. Anyway, I would love to hear more of your thoughts!

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