The Four Tendencies – Book Review

How do you react when you see this type of sign in your office?


(Image credit Essendon Creative)

You really have to love the use of comic sans, capitals and five exclamation marks. But more importantly, according to Gretchen Rubin’s recently released book The Four Tendencies, your reaction will say a lot about how you respond to expectations. This will go a long way to helping you to understand how to “make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.”

Flash evaluation for the Four Tendencies

Answer this question and chose the answer that is most relevant to you

“How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions?”

  1. Enjoy and keep them  – and not just at New Year – Upholder
  2. Will make and keep  resolutions but believe Jan 1 is an arbitrary date and it is inefficient to wait – Questioner
  3. May have given up on making New Year’s resolution as you have failed so often in the past – Obliger
  4. Don’t want to be bound by resolutions – Rebel

If you want to explore more you can buy the book via my amazon affiliate link or take the online test.

Self-awareness game changer


Discovering the tool was a game changer for me – a classic obliger, I realized that my need for external accountability is huge. I know now that when I want to get something done, I need an external deadline, someone else counting on me to show up or do something.

I realised that this is why I love to join groups and organsie things for others. Spartan race, Lean In, being a member of a running club, running Tokyo Marathon to raise money for NPO resiience. All of these are examples of me getting stuff done by using outer expectations. It’s too easy for me to break promises to myself but not so when other people are involved.

How to apply The Four Tendencies framework

1. There is no hierarchy of tendencies

Other tendencies tend to think that being an upholder is the “best” –  self motivated, gets stuff done, focused etc

But there is a dark side to Upholders, as with all tendencies. Upholders will “uphold” without any thought to the impact on others. Even if it inconveniences a others, the upholder will keep to their plan. We’ve all had that person who simply couldn’t find anything on the menu because of their diet plan and makes it difficult to find a place to eat as they can’t change it even for one meal.

The power of the Four Tendencies model is in knowing your tendency or those of people around you and using that self awareness to create habits in a more effective way.

2. Motivation tool for managers

I have used the tool with management teams who discovered how to support their team members in reaching goals. Giving a vocabulary and a deeper understanding to what motivates your colleague and how to help them create habits is  eye opening.

3. Action plans that work for your tendency

In individual coaching, knowledge of your tendency helps you to realise why you might be struggling to create habit like behaviours. Rather than focus on “Oh, why am I so lazy? Why can’t I stick to anything?” story, you can focus instead on creating action based on the strengths of your natural tendency.

Once you know what your tendency is then you are well placed, not to try to overcome it, but to work within the boundaries and find ways to make that tendency work for you

Wash your cups please!!!!

Oh and I guess you already know but the likely responses for those passive aggressive cup wash signs – often created by Obligers in the midst of what Rubin calls “Obliger rebellion” are:

An Obliger will see this sign and wash their cup

A Questioner will want to know why it needs to be done. Why do the cleaners not wash the cup? Is leaving one cup unwashed going to make a big difference?

A Rebel will resist “no one tells me what to do! I’ll wash my cup if I feel like it”

An Upholder will wash the cup regardless of the sign.  As long as they think it is the right thing to do, the sign makes no difference.

Let me know your feedback on The Four Tendencies. How can this self awareness  be useful for you right now?

Coaching Questions

How can you adjust your communication style to work with people of different tendencies?

How can you implement knowledge of your tendency to me more effective, productive and happy in your life?

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