I must admit—I’m a huge geek when it comes to personality tests. I love the details– the validation of the traits that make me who I am, understanding how to interact successfully with others, being able to explain my quirks because I fall into a specific category.
Maybe it’s a cop-out, but I love being able to easily explain my Type A OCD personality by saying, “Well, I kinda sorta max out the ‘Judging’ scale on Myers-Briggs.”
Personality tests are obviously not everything, and there are always exceptions. We can have overlap, we can act outside our dominate traits, we can cope. But I do believe that there is something to it—I am an introvert that can easily fake it as an extrovert when necessary. But sometimes the thought of answering the phone or responding to a text message exhausts me.
Why does any of this matter??
When you fully understand yourself, and can get a peek into the inner workings of those your interact with, magic happens.
Stronger relationships. Effective and efficient collaboration. Successful navigation of crucial conversations and critical decisions.
Who wouldn’t want that?
So let me ask you this–
- Do you get frustrated when others fail to meet expectations?
- Do you get stuck in analysis paralysis?
- Do you wonder why it might be easy for a friend to form (and stick to!) a new habit, but you can’t get motivated?
- Do you love to defy assumptions and prove other people wrong?
As it turns out, the answers to these questions may reside within your dominant tendency.
We all respond to expectation in some way. As Gretchen Rubin details in her Four Tendencies Framework, there are four dominant tendencies that individuals fall into– Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel.
Upholders want you to tell them what needs to be done; they value self-reliance and performance. Questioners want you to justify what needs to be done; they value justification and purpose. Obligers want you to hold them accountable for what needs to be done; they value teamwork and duty. Rebels want you to let them decide what needs to be done; they value freedom and individuality.
Each is unique, and each is important. No single tendency is necessarily better than another. Instead, like I already mentioned, awareness is the key.
How do you determine your dominant tendency? Gretchen Rubin has created a quiz! You can access her quiz here.
I originally took this quiz in 2016 and scored as an Upholder, but I took it again recently and discovered I was a Questioner. On her website, Gretchen explains that you can’t really have more than one dominant tendency. That mostly makes sense in my head, but I can’t help finding myself nodding along to several of the details and challenges of Questioner, Upholder, and even some of the Rebel traits.
I’m not entirely certain what that means for me, but I would bet there are others out there with similarly confusing results. Maybe I’m coping. Maybe I’m internally battling what I wish I was with what I actually am. Maybe I’m subconsciously gaming the quiz.
Here’s what I do know–
- I have no problem meeting expectations– if I think they make sense.
- I question everything. Before I’ll agree to something I need to understand the whys.
- I don’t like being told what to do.
Good or bad? Meh. Probably neither.
It is what it is. But at least I know. I am aware. I can use this information about myself to grow and be the best version of me.
So tell me– What is your dominant tendency? Are you surprised? How will you use this awareness to your advantage?
Keep reading for a summary of The Four Tendencies.
Excel at meeting both inner and outer expectations.
- Upholders respond well to both expectations placed on them by other people and ones they place on themselves.
- Upholders get their work done efficiently and make time for themselves.
- An Upholder is the kind of person who has no trouble getting to work on time and getting a full eight hours of sleep.
- Upholders are fond of schedules, to-do lists, and having a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
- Upholders find great satisfaction in meeting expectations and following rules, which means they are the kind of people that find it gratifying and liberating to have a disciplined life.
- Upholders often have easy interactions with doctors and manager since they will readily take orders and aim to please.
- Upholders are generally self-starters and do not require a lot of micromanagement.
- Upholders make great bosses and managers.
- Upholders can be so ready to follow the rules that they neglect to ask questions and end up blindly adhering to rules and directions that are harmful or just plain wrong.
- Upholders are most likely to be a snitch and the least likely to embrace change.
- Upholders can have trouble delegating duties and adjusting to change in routine.
- An Upholder can causally start a new habit, but over time it’ll tighten and become stronger and more controlling over their life.
- Upholders can get frustrated and impatient with people who fail to meet expectations. They don’t understand why some people can’t just put their mind to a task and get it done.
- Upholders can get upset and hostile when a mistake is made, which includes becoming defensive or beating themselves up for a mistake they made themselves.
- Making an error is such a potent fear that Upholders will avoid accepting a good opportunity, like a promotion, if they sense there is a chance they might fail.
- For the spouse or partner of an Upholder, dealing with these characteristics is a matter of understand and tolerance.
- If you are trying to manage an Upholder make sure you give clear and precise instructions. Once they have a clear understanding of the priorities and what is expected of them, Upholders can be left to take care of business.
- Remember that Upholders want to meet expectations. You can help by avoiding making spontaneous changes or casually suggesting a plan that hasn’t been thought out. Upholders are eager to please, so they might latch onto a bad idea and think they need to see it through to the bitter end.
Meet inner expectations but question and struggle with outer expectations.
- Questioners do a fine job of setting and meeting their own expectations, but they resist those of others.
- Questioners feel a strong desire to question everything.
- The moto of a Questioner– “I do what makes sense, even if it means ignoring rules or other people’s expectations.”
- Questioners will not follow your instructions just because you are the boss, even if it’s a procedure people have been following for years. They want to know why you made this rule and whether or not it’s fair.
- Since Questioners are skeptical of rules and procedures, they are great at spotting the ways in which a procedure can be improved.
- Questioners are always thinking there is a better way to do something, which makes them a perfect fit for an organization that wants to stay on the cutting edge.
- Questioners ask challenging questions which can be a great benefit to any company as long as the management is looking for novel ideas and doesn’t consider questions to be an act of insubordination.
- “Why are we using this software?”
- “What is the benefit of this policy?”
- “Why do we need weekly meetings?”
- Questioners don’t like being questioned.
- Questioners tend to feel insulted when someone questions their motives or reasoning. This is likely because they are so thorough in their decision-making that they feel their choice should be seen an unquestionably logical.
- Many Questioners find success in research-heavy roles and auditing jobs that suit their inquisitive nature and their knack for improving efficiency.
- Questioners may be exhausting to deal with, but their nature can make them tremendously valuable.
- Some organizations may see a Questioner as not being a “team player”.
- The nature of a Questioner can be a hindrance when it results in analysis paralysis. The main reason for questions is to make sure the right decisions are being made, and even something as simple as buying a washing machine can result in days of research to identify the best machine. Sometimes this can result in the Questioner being overwhelmed and unable to make any decision at all.
- Jobs that require a lot of decisions, like designing a home, are best left to people who do not have a tendency to fall into analysis paralysis.
- The key to dealing with a Questioner is to be precise with your reasoning and justification when you want to give them a task.
- Questioners like to share their knowledge. To avoid hurting feelings— instead of asking “Why are you doing that?” ask something like “How did you come to this conclusion?”
Deal well with outside expectations but struggle with their own.
- Obligers always put others ahead of themselves.
- Obligers are effective at meeting the demands of others.
- Obligers are the largest of the four groups; they are the dependable rocks of society.
- Obligers may be used to people telling them they simply need to be “more selfish”.
- Obligers have no problem working overtime to help his boss but feel uncomfortable asking for any time off.
- Obligers might get through difficult times through small acts of defiance, like being deliberately late to work or refusing to prepare for a presentation.
- Obligers have trouble with exercising, taking an online class, or doing much of anything that requires self-motivation.
- Obligers struggle mightily to give themselves the same respect they give others.
- Over two-thirds of Obligers report feelings of frustration over their inability to devote any time to themselves.
- This frustration can erupt into Obliger-rebellion, which is when an Obliger snaps after one too many times of being taken for granted, treated unfairly, or shamed with accusations of being lazy or pathetic.
- Feelings of low self-esteem are common, which can be made worse by ignorant Upholders who call Obligers lazy.
- Many Obligers have had to deal with bosses and therapists who don’t listen to their requests for accountability and tell them to “grow up and learn how to be accountable for yourself.”
- To fix the unhealthy imbalance, turn internal expectations into external ones. By doing this, Obligers can create the kind of outside accountability they need to take action.
- For some Obligers, all it takes is to imagine there are people on the way over and they can start cleaning their messy home.
- Another method is the threat of being charged a fee. Some Obligers find the motivation they need to exercise regularly because their gym will charge them if they don’t show up to their appointments.
- Sometimes, the necessary accountability is only achieved when there is also the threat of letting a real per down
- Obligers may be the toughest category to be in, so they may get the most out of understanding the Four Tendencies.
- As more people who fall into different categories discover the Four Tendencies, they will also be able to make life easier for Obligers. They will see that they aren’t, in face, lazy, and that they need a certain amount of oversight.
Push against both inner and outer expectations.
- The moto of a Rebel—“You can’t make me, and neither can I.”
- Rebels not only resists meeting outside expectations, they resist their own expectations as well.
- Rebels are all about individuality, and they want everything they do to be a reflection of their unique self.
- Rebels love to defy assumptions and prove people wrong.
- Even though Rebels hate being bossed around, they are willing to work hard. It is all a matter of framing things in a way that makes Rebels feel like they are the ones making the decision.
- Often Rebels have used play-acting to get around the barriers of pushing against expectations.
- If a Rebel has an audience staring at them and waiting for a decision, this will still feel like they are being bossed around.
- Anything that could be considered an expectation gets rejected.
- If you are they parent, teacher, or boss of a Rebel, you know it can be a challenge dealing with their attitude. If you send an email to a rebel with the title “Please Read!” you should not be surprised if it’s immediately deleted.
- Rebels can frustrate themselves, but there are ways they can meet their own expectations.
- Rebels can have trouble taking care of themselves and meeting their inner expectations.
- Rebels can be frustrated with their inability to stick to routines and do what’s good for them.
- You don’t want to give a Rebel any sort of direct order. If you give them the necessary information, explain the potential consequences, and offer them the freedom to make their own choice, you stand a good chance of getting your desired outcome.
- Provide Rebels with the details of the current situation, the consequences of the different choices available, and then walk away. This will give them the space to make their own decision.
- Instead of “Let’s meet up next week.” try something like, “Let’s meet up when you feel like it. I have next week off so that works for me.”
- For a Rebel looking to get into a healthy frame of mind—consider going against the corporations that want you to live an unhealthy lifestyle. If you’re trying to set inner expectations relating to quitting an unhealthy vice, you can use the anti-corporation angle.
- One method that has proven quite reliable to setting inner expectations in a Rebel is a bet. This has worked well for loved ones of Rebels. All it takes is saying something like, “I bet there’s no way you can ______.” Rebels love a challenge and they love to prove someone else wrong, so this bit of reverse psychology is surprisingly reliable.