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The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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“The Four Tendencies will immediately improve every area of your life—and I say this from personal experience. If you’ve been feeling stuck in your relationships, career, health, or self-confidence, understanding your Tendency and how to make it work for you is the game-changer you’ve been looking for.”
—Melissa Hartwig (Upholder), author and cocreator of The Whole30
"The path to happiness starts with your personality. In The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin upends the conventional wisdom of one prescription fitting all people and offers readers a tailored path to better health, relationships and well-being. A remarkable read from one of the most practical storytellers on the planet."
—Tom Rath (Questioner), author of Are You Fully Charged? and StrengthsFinder 2.0
“This Rebel can’t help but agree with the crowd: you need to read The Four Tendencies! The online quiz is mega-popular for good reason, but the book will give you unexpected, lasting insights. You'll learn to make better decisions based on what works best for your specific personality profile—not what anyone else expects or demands.”
—Chris Guillebeau (Rebel), author of Side Hustle and host of the podcast Side Hustle School
“The Four Tendencies is a remarkably well-crafted and insightful book. Gretchen Rubin taught me why, as a Rebel, my expectations often clash with others’ expectations and helped me develop a more compassionate view. Better still, The Four Tendencies offers powerful steps that we can all take to have more constructive relationships with the people in our lives.”
—Robert Sutton (Rebel), Stanford Professor and author of The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt
“The greatest predictor of growth and happiness is actionable self-knowledge. Gretchen Rubin gives you the tools to not only understand yourself and others, but what to do with that knowledge. Insightful, practical and crucial, The Four Tendencies will help you overcome the biggest impediments to your happiness and success.”
—Shawn Achor (Upholder), author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness
“Gretchen Rubin has discovered a new framework for understanding ourselves and other people. When we know our Tendency, we can manage ourselves more effectively and reach our goals faster—and we can help others to do that, as well. As a researcher who has studied habits, addiction, and change for 20 years, I’m excited by the simplicity and power of The Four Tendencies as a tool for anyone seeking to make his or her life better. I am implementing this in my clinical programs to help people understand their Tendencies so they can change behaviors such as stress and emotional eating.”
—Judson Brewer, MD, PhD (Questioner), author of The Craving Mind and associate professor in medicine and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
“Gretchen Rubin’s groundbreaking Four Tendencies framework is a simple yet powerful tool that helps us better recognize our own nature, harness its strengths, and counteract its weaknesses. With her trademark wit and insight, Gretchen gives us the tools to create the life we want, in a way that’s right for us. The surprising thing? Once you know about these four types, you see them everywhere.”
—Susan David, PhD, (Upholder), cofounder of the Institute of Coaching and author of Emotional Agility
“If you want to change anything in your life, you need Gretchen Rubin. Her ideas are original, instinctive and revolutionary. Whether you want to get fitter, work smarter or be tidier, she shows you how to tweak your habits (almost) effortlessly. This Rebel sleeps better, deletes more email, is three stone lighter and forever in her debt.”
—Viv Groskop (Rebel), journalist and comedian
"I love Gretchen Rubin and she helps me understand both myself and the people around me."
—Cathy Rentzenbrink (Obliger), author of The Last Act of Love
About the Author
Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She's the author of many books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Better Than Before and The Happiness Project. A member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, in more than thirty-five languages, and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. She also has a highly ranked, award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Rubin started her career in law, and was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.
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Gretchen begins her book with a test we need to take to identify our most important Tendency: Upholder, Obliger, Rebel, and Questioner. Gretchen tells us: “You are the best judge of yourself. If you believe that a different Tendency describes you better, trust yourself.” I took the test and the results told me that I am a Questioner. This result is accurate, but like the good questioner that I am, I question the validity of Gretchen’s test. Is it reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive? The answer is no. We need to do just what Gretchen says; that is, look at the descriptions of each Tendency and decide for ourselves what Tendency describes us best.
Does the fact that her test is not valid mean that Gretchen’s book is useless? Not at all. Many readers are going to enjoy Gretchen’s relaxed and breezy style of writing as she talks about our Tendencies and how they affect our interactions with people at home and at work. Her book is often a “fun read.” Her book may not qualify as science, but her observations about people are often valid. She says about me that I put a high value on reason, research, and information. Absolutely! Also, she tells me that I make decisions based on information and reason. Right again. She goes on to say that as a Questioner I hate anything arbitrary. Well, hate is too strong a word, but by and large she is correct. Gretchen described me well and I think many other people who read her book are going to agree that one of her Tendencies is going to accurately describe the way they behave with people at home and at work.
Most self-help books and self-help tests don’t qualify as science. Even a famous test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has received much criticism from scientists. That criticism does not stop more than 2.5 million people from taking this test every year. We should be guided by science, but not ruled by it, at least in my opinion. Remember, as a Questioner I even question some of the results science gives us, particularly when these results come from our doctors. My doctor tells me that science tells him that taking supplements like glucosamine for knee pain is useless. I question his findings; my glucosamine supplement definitely helps my knees. My doctor tells me it is all in my head. I tell him my head is not a bad place to start if my head helps relieve the pain in my knees.
Gretchen’s test for the four Tendencies may not be valid according to strict scientific standards, but much of her advice and counsel is valid, at least for me. Additionally, Gretchen invites readers to participate in her blogs and web site. She wants to open up communication with as many readers as are interested in communicating with her and other like-minded people. Her book will provide all the particulars readers need to hook up with her.
If you noted “personality types” in the title and figured this is yet another book about personality types that are based on Jungian psychology, you’re in luck. It’s not. In fact, I’m not sure that “personality types” is even the right description for what Gretchen Rubin calls “tendencies.” They don’t come from psychology at all. They grew out of an insightful answer to a puzzling question. Here’s how Rubin describes it in the book.
“And here was my crucial insight: Depending on a person’s response to outer and inner expectations, that person falls into one of four distinct types: Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations 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 Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.”
The first part of the book describes how that insight came about and offers an overview of what she calls the four tendencies. Then, the bulk of the book is devoted to the four sections, one for each of the four tendencies. Each section has a chapter on understanding the tendency and one on dealing with it. Here’s a list of the tendencies, with Rubin’s catch-phrase for each one.
Upholder: “Discipline is my freedom”
Questioner: “I’ll comply – if you convince me why”
Obliger: “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me”
Rebel: “You can’t make me, and neither can I”
This book is like Gretchen Rubin’s other books. It’s engaging, and well-written. It’s based on some unique research. There’s a test where you can determine your own tendency. One option is to answer the questions as they appear in the book. The other option is to follow the link to the book website and take the test there. I recommend the latter. It will give you a good idea of where you fit as a primary tendency. Then, as you read the book, you’ll learn a bit about what other tendencies you lean toward.
You Probably Won’t Like This Book If…
You probably won’t like this book if you don’t like simplified presentations of complex subjects. Some people find these sorts of things, especially these 2x2 matrices, helpful. I’m one of them. But I know from talking to my friends and working with my clients that you and I may not see this issue the same way.
You probably won’t like this book if you’re searching for hard science of some kind. Yes, there is a large and well thought out survey that underlies the tendencies, but if you’re looking for several academic papers and lots of laboratory research to support what’s here, you’ll be disappointed.
You Probably Will Like This Book If…
You’ll probably like this book if you’ve liked Gretchen Rubin’s other books. There’s the same common sense melded with experiment and the same engaging writing style.
Obviously, you’ll also like this book if you enjoy simplified explanations of complex issues. Ditto if you like 2x2 matrices.
You will probably like this book if you try to put some of it to work. Reading some books is like studying history. You can read the book and get the points and increase your knowledge. But other books, and this is one of them, repay some personal real-world trials. In other words, it’s more like learning to swim than it is like learning history. Try out the ideas you get from the book to see if they work for you.
If You’re a Coach or Other Helping Professional…
If you’re a coach or other helping professional, you should try some things to see if they work for you and with your clients. I work with writers, and I coach people through the book-writing process. The book gave me several ways to help people achieve what they want to achieve. I now know that there are some people that don’t want me as an accountability partner and others who will really appreciate my ability to get projects on track. I’ve always known that there were those differences, but The Four Tendencies gives me a language for talking about them and a template for using them more effectively.
In A Nutshell
If you are a coach, or a consultant, or a medical professional, or anyone who helps people achieve things they want to achieve, The Four Tendencies should be on your shelf, but don’t just leave it there. Read it. Experiment with what you find. Put it to work.