The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin – Book Summary

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Ready to learn the most important takeaways from The Four Tendencies in less than two minutes? Keep reading!

Why This Book Matters:

If you don’t know whether you’re an upholder, questioner, obliger, or rebel, then you are missing out on critical knowledge that you can leverage to live a more successful and happier life.

This bestseller explains these four tendencies and gives you actionable steps for getting unstuck and achieving your goals depending on your personality type.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Upholders respond well to both expectations from themselves and from others
    1. Upholders are excellent at following orders reliably and at maximizing productiveness.
    2. Example: Upholders will get 100% of their work done and follow doctor’s orders to a T, but the risk is that they may blindly follow bad rules rather than question them.
  2. Upholders need clear instructions and patience from others
    1. Upholders can get frustrated if they don’t understand what is expected of them and may have difficulty accepting change.
    2. Example: If you work with upholders, check in to make sure expectations are clear and be patient in situations that require the upholder to change.
  3. Questioners are excellent at meeting their own goals but may need convincing to work towards others’ goals
    1. Questioners often ask why, which means they are excellent innovators, but they are at risk of “analysis paralysis.”
    2. Example: A questioner will perform days of research to identify the best washing machine instead of purchasing one quickly based on a friend’s recommendation.
  4. Questioners need clear justification before they will act, and hate being questioned
    1. If you disagree with a questioner, you should be thorough and compelling.
    2. Example: A questioner will be much more willing to discuss an issue if you phrase your question as “How did you come to this conclusion?” instead of “Why did you do that?”
  5. Obligers have no trouble living up to external expectations but struggle to meet their own expectations
    1. Obligers often make the best workers but they require outside accountability.
    2. Example: An obliger with a messy home may purposefully invite people over to create external pressure to clean up because they won’t do it on their own.
  6. Many obligers feel ashamed they have to resort to others
    1. Obligers often repress their own needs, which can hurt self-esteem.
    2. Example: Obliger rebellion such as outbursts or acts of sabotage often occur when they become frustrated from helping others too much and failing to meet their own needs.
  7. Rebels reject expectations from others and struggle to help themselves
    1. To motivate a rebel, don’t tell them what to do. They must feel they have a choice.
    2. Example: When possible, try to offer the rebel different options and explain the consequences of each one.
  8. Rebels can frustrate themselves
    1. Rebels may struggle to consistently exercise because they feel they are conforming.
    2. Example: Many rebels respond well to reverse psychology bets like “I bet you can’t eat well for a whole week.”
  9. Knowing your own and others’ tendencies can help you succeed in all aspects of life
    1. Understanding how you and others respond to expectations can help you be strategic.
    2. Example: A great leader knows how each person on their team responds to expectations and formulates their approach accordingly.

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