Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Knowing your Tendency can be tremendously helpful.
By Grace Cherian
If you’ve always wondered what motivates people, consider personality types—the four tendencies (upholder, questioner, obliger, and rebel) can explain exactly why people do what they do. Curious about which you are? You can find out by reading this article.
Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies describes four personality types: Upholders, Questioners, Rebels and Obligers. Here’s a wrap-up of Rubin’s Four Tendencies and their accompanying mantras. Read up and then take the following quiz to find out your personality type:
Upholders: Adhere to outer and inner expectations
Mantra: “Discipline is my freedom.”
Put simply, Upholders stick to commitments to themselves and to others. They’re reliable, probably stick to a schedule and… well… get things done. People trust their follow-through. Is it possible that life is easiest for Upholders because they probably go all the way in making their decisions? There’s no over-thinking or “but do I feel like doing it?”
According to Rubin, you might wish to improve on being rigid (and at times, defensive). Because it’s OK to make a mistake! And to delegate too. I wonder if Upholders could benefit from evaluating how much satisfaction their actions bring them and checking in with their innermost desires once in a while. Because Upholders can seem a little on auto-pilot as they breeze through their days.
Questioners: Question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense.
Mantra: “I’ll comply, if you convince me why.”
Questioners exhaust all of us sometimes with their questions. “Is getting a dog a good idea? If so, why? If not, why not?” Questioners like data. Because of this, they are fair-minded. They’re not people-pleasers because they are self-directed.
Questioners may be the most interesting of the Tendencies, as they’re always curious. And it’s wise to seek information before making a decision. \ Questioners also have headstrong natures. (Because of this quality, Rubin says it’s easy to get Rebels and Questioners confused). Historically speaking, they may also be our key change-makers, as they frequently question the status quo.
Rebels: Resist all expectations
Mantra: “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”
Rebels don’t live by conventional wisdom. They’re spontaneous and independent. If you’re a Rebel, you might struggle with self-discipline. Another rosé, please! Who cares if it’s Monday at 9 p.m.?).
We might want to consider allowing more structure into our days, because some rules and systems can be helpful and allow us to be more successful. Because passion needs structure, and feeling restless and defiant can be unproductive
Rebels might make life a little easier by being more agreeable at times—saying yes to family holidays, letting Jane plan your baby shower (even though you cringe at anything baby-themed), and just attending those mandatory internal meetings.
Obligers: Meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
Mantra: “I’ll do anything you ask. Until I won’t.”
Obligers, being focused on delivering for and helping others, make great bosses and responsive leaders. They’re responsible. They care deeply about people. But they’re most susceptible to burnout because saying “No” is hard for them.
It’s important to create boundaries to avoid resentment and even what Rubin calls “Obliger rebellion” (when you’ve had enough\). Ever seen that? When someone gives, gives, gives… then blows up? An Obliger colleague did everything for everyone (“Yes, I’ll run that errand. Of course I will go to San Francisco if you can’t make it. I’ll totally help you with your expense report!”), and one day he flipped out in a taxi when one demand too many came through via email request. Even though it seemed unfair, his Obliger rebellion did hurt his reputation over time. Boundaries matter!
So What Does It All Mean?
Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Knowing your Tendency can be tremendously helpful. A Questioner might want to assess the real value of their workout and dive in if it they’re convinced it’s worthwhile. An Obliger would do best with a workout buddy who holds them accountable to a Sunday run in the park. An Upholder wouldn’t have to convince themselves; they’d stick to their schedule.
Understanding yourself and other people means not only do we get the most out of our personality, but the motivations and actions of others make sense too. Because life is just easier—and better—when we all understand one another a little more.