Whatís going on with these people?Ē And so on and I would see these patterns and so I was trying to make sense of things that I kept seeing in the way people behaved and the way that people talked, just as you said, just around me. Gretchen Rubin: There are upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels. They make everything an inner expectation because if it meets their standard, if they think that it makes sense, they will meet an expectation and if they donít think it makes their expectation, they will reject it. John Jantsch: And I donít think that Iíve given myself away yet. John Jantsch: However- Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. Gretchen Rubin: Because itís like, ďThis makes no sense.Ē Thatís the questioner thing. John Jantsch: ďThat makes no sense like you canít even explain it to me.Ē Gretchen Rubin: But hereís a good example, talking about the workplace. Iím a tax accountant and Iím a questioner and I spend all day enforcing rules that are totally arbitrary and make no sense and it makes me nuts.Ē Itís like, yeah, thatís not a good fit just for your nature. Gretchen Rubin: Well, the way I think that the mixtures works is I donít think people are really mixtures, but the way that this comes up is if you think about it, every question, every tendency overlaps with two tendencies. Some people are more extreme or more defined than others, but I do feel like people do Ö Itís not like astrology where, ďOh yeah, Iím totally that.Ē Itís like, ďIím this and Iím nothing else.Ē John Jantsch: And I do like, as you said, the very narrow focus on expectations because I think it does allow people to create situations in their mind of, ďOh yeah, I was doing that in that situation.Ē So, Gretchen where can people find out more about the Four Tendencies and about your work?
John Jantsch: Let me ask you something. How do you handle expectations? Whatís your tendency when expectations arise, when you set goals, when you have objectives, when people ask you to do things? For this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I speak with Gretchen Rubin, author of the Four Tendencies, Surprising Truth About the Hidden Personality Types That Drive Everything We Do.
Very fascinating quiz that you can take to understand your tendency. Again, not a whole personality test, but your tendency when it comes to expectations. Check it out, take the quiz, and learn something about yourself.
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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Gretchen Rubin. She writes on habits and happiness. She is the author of a number of New York Times Bestselling books including the Happiness Project and a new book weíre going to talk about today called The Four Tendencies, Surprising Truth About the Hidden Personality Types That Drive Everything We Do.
Gretchen, thanks for joining me.
Gretchen Rubin: Iím so happy to be talking to you.
John Jantsch: There have been a lot of books on personality types and trying to understand who we are and how we interact. What do you hope the Four Tendencies is going to add to that body of work?
Gretchen Rubin: Well, I love personality frameworks. I think they all, kind of, have their own special vocabulary and the way that they shine a spotlight thatís helpful on human nature. The thing that I like about the four tendencies, my own framework, is it has to do with a very narrow aspect of your personality, but something thatís very, very important and significant, which is how you respond to expectations. But it doesnít try to explain anything else about you, so you could have a lot of Ö Depending on how intellectual you were or ambitious you were or considerate of other people or extroverted or introverted or adventurous or analytical, all these things could be different, but as to one thing, how you respond to inner and outer expectations people fall into these big four categories and that ends up making a very big difference in how we can help ourselves change and help other people to change.
John Jantsch: Thatís interesting. I have for years talked about most of success or failure in life is about meeting or exceeding expectations. Iíve spent a lot of time trying to lower peopleís expectations.
Gretchen Rubin: Interesting.
John Jantsch: Thatís the first clue because I am going to ask you which personality type I am.
Gretchen Rubin: Oh, yeah. Okay.
John Jantsch: Did you just sit on a bench in Bryant Park and observe people to come up with your conclusions? Or what was your methodology?
Gretchen Rubin: I mean, it was basically, it was not far away from that. I really just studied what the people around me were doing and saying and what their frustrations were and there were certain comments that people would make over and over again, almost eerily, like they were reading from the same script. And was like, ďWhat is up with all these people who say verbatim, ĎOh, I would keep a resolution if it was important, but I would never do a New Yearís resolution because January 1st is an arbitrary date.’Ē
Person after person said that exact thing to me and Iím like, ďI donít know. The arbitrariness never really bothered me. Whatís going on with these people?Ē
And so on and I would see these patterns and so I was trying to make sense of things that I kept seeing in the way people behaved and the way that people talked, just as you said, just around me. I wasnít looking up Ö It wasnít undergraduates eating marshmallows in a laboratory. This was like, ďHow do I make sense of what I see everyday all around me?Ē
John Jantsch: Like all good frameworks, you have a quiz-
Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.
John Jantsch: -so people can test themselves. Again, there are other Ö Youíve, kind of, already hinted at this, but how is this quiz different, say than some of the more traditional like Myers Briggs, or something like that?
Gretchen Rubin: Well, this really looks at how you respond to outer and inner expectations. So, outer expectations like a work deadline or a request from a friend or inner expectations like the desire to keep a New Yearís resolution or to get back into meditation. That turns out to be a really important thing and other frameworks donít really hone in on this as a crucial thing. They have their own thing that theyíre looking at and theyíre trying to pick out and identify, but this is something thatís very useful to see how people are different from each other.
John Jantsch: All right. So, letís end the suspense. What are the four tendencies?
Gretchen Rubin: There are upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels. And so, as I said, this has to do with outer and inner expectations.
Upholders readily meet outer and inner expectations. They meet the work deadline. They keep the New Yearís resolution without much fuss. They want to know whatís expected of them, but their expectations for themselves are just as important.
Questioners question all expectations. They make everything an inner expectation because if it meets their standard, if they think that it makes sense, they will meet an expectation and if they donít think it makes their expectation, they will reject it. They donít like anything arbitrary or unjustified or irrational or inefficient. Their question always is, ďWhy should I? Why should I do it? If I think it makes sense, Iíll do it. If not, I wonít.Ē
Next you have obligers. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. And I had this insight when a friend of mine said to me, ďWhen I was at high school I was on the track team and I never missed track practice, so why I canít go running now?Ē
Well, when she had a team and a coach waiting for her she had no trouble showing up, but when she was just trying to go running on her own it was a struggle.
And then finally, rebels. Rebels resist all expectations. Outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want to do in their own way, in their own time. If you ask or tell them to do something, theyíre very likely to resist and typically they donít even like to tell themselves what to do.
Those are the four tendencies and once you know your tendency and the tendency of the people around you, you have a much better sense of why they do or donít do something.
John Jantsch: How, in your view, do we develop these tendencies? Is this like a nature, nurture thing or are we just born with these?
Gretchen Rubin: I think we are just born with these.
John Jantsch: Wow.
Gretchen Rubin: I do.
John Jantsch: Tell me this. Do you think people adopt or act out a different tendency in different environments?
Gretchen Rubin: No. I donít. I think that itís very consistent. Now, itís true that with time and experience people learn how to harness the strengths of their tendencies and how to counterbalance the weaknesses and limitations of their tendencies and so you might Ö Obligers need outer accountability even to meet inner expectations and some obligers figured this out even instinctively and they know, ďI need deadlines. I need to be accountable, so if Iím going to work out, Iím going to work out with a friend and if Iím at work Iím going to make sure that I have a lot of accountability for my boss and my coworkers. And I want to read, Iím going to be in a book group. If I want to go and have regular exercise, Iím going to have a dog that I feel like I have to take my dog out because she loves being outside so much.Ē
They can build it in. Itís definitely true that you can work with your tendency and get a better result from your tendency, but I do think that whether youíre at work or at home, whether youíre 20 years old or 40 years old, your tendency is something that is just part of you.
John Jantsch: Letís say that we take the test and we learn what our tendency is. What can we do with that in the workplace or as we go through the day?
Gretchen Rubin: Well, it depends on your tendency and if itís causing you problems or not. One thing that questioners often find Ö And if you work with a questioner, you may have experienced this or if you have one in your life. Questioners, sometimes, but not always, fall into analysis paralysis where they want more and more and more information, they want perfect information before they make a decision or before they act. And this can cause them to seem obstructionist or like theyíre causing a log jam because theyíre not moving forward and so you want to be aware of this as a questioner if this is something that can happen. If youíre aware of this pattern, then you can say, ďWell, I need to give myself a deadline or Iím going to limit how much research Iím going to do or Iím going to remind myself that itís inefficient to keep researching.Ē
Questioners often drain and overwhelm others with all their questions. And this is something like, if somebodyís driving you crazy like, ďOh my gosh. You ask too many questions.Ē
Itís helpful to be like, ďOh, this is a questioner. Itís not aimed at me. They donít mean to undermine my authority. Theyíre not rejecting my judgment. They just want to have their questions answered.Ē
With obligers, itís like they need that outer accountability and so if they ask for it, you want to help them get it. For instance, one thing that I see a lot in writers because Iím a writer and I know a lot of writers is thereíll be a writer who is very, very productive when theyíre working on a newspaper where they have an editor and deadlines and all these colleagues and all this pressure of getting out the newspaper. But then they go on book leave and theyíre supposed to write a book and they have all this time to write a book and theyíre like, ďOh. I have writerís block.Ē
And Iím like, ďI donít think you have writerís block. I think you need accountability, so you need your agent or your editor to be like, I want to see a chapter once a month and Iím going to be looking for it. And if youíre not writing it I want you to explain to me why. And we need to keep this moving forward. And Iím checking on you.Ē
Or they join a writerís group where everybody keeps each other going or they hire a coach or whatever or take a class where you have to turn in material. Whatever it might be.
John Jantsch: Thatís like when people sign up for a 10K, thatís the thing thatís going to make them start running or something.
Gretchen Rubin: Thatís something important to know about yourself. That isnít true for everybody.
John Jantsch: Right. Right.
Gretchen Rubin: Some people donít need to sign up for a 10K, but if you need to sign up for a 10K, just say to yourself, ďWell, Iím the kind of person that needs to sign up for a…