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How would you like to make better decisions, meet deadlines more easily, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively with others? According to author and happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin, the Four Tendencies framework help us overcome one of the big daily challenges of life: “How do I get people—including myself—to do what I want?” 

To boil it down: the Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act.

Through her research, Gretchen discovered that we all tend to respond a certain way to outer expectations - like meeting a work deadline - and to inner expectations - like keeping a New Years resolution. This insight led to the four types: 

Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations. They tend to enjoy going by the rules.

Questioners question all expectations; they meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect they respond only to inner expectations.

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. This tendency is the most common.

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They need to feel the freedom to choose and to do what they want.

Of course, we all have a myriad of other personality traits that affect who we are. But these four tendencies - or sources of motivation - are innate. Since they’re practically impossible to change, it’s important to understand our own tendencies so we can set ourselves up for success. Understanding others’ tendencies is also helpful to better encourage, persuade, and avoid conflict in any kind of relationship. 

The Four Tendencies book goes into detail about each tendency, with real world examples and practical advice for improving habits, health, work, and relationships. Later chapters show how the tendencies interact with each other - when an Obliger works with or is married to a Rebel, for example.

If you’re interested in learning more, take the Four Tendencies quiz or check out the Four Tendencies book.



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  • Michelle Chang