By Adam Jusko, ProudMoney.com, adam@proudmoney.com

Note: While ProudMoney.com focuses chiefly on personal finance information, we believe that being successful financially almost always follows from a life built on a solid foundation. For that reason, we often discuss topics that go beyond dollars and cents. This review supports our mission to take a “never settle” approach to life.

My family went out to dinner last weekend, right after I’d finished reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book, The Four Tendencies. I was explaining to them that the four tendencies relate to how you deal with expectations. Not just the expectations others have of you, but also the expectations you have for yourself. Rubin gives a name to each type of person/personality based on their tendency:

  • Upholder: Meets outside expectations and also meets inner expectations
  • Questioner: Meets inner expectations but resists outside expectations
  • Obliger: Meets outside expectations but has trouble meeting internal expectations
  • Rebel: Resists meeting any expectation whatsoever


My wife (Upholder) and I (Questioner) quickly sized each other up based on this framework, but it was interesting to hear our teenage son and daughter consider their tendencies. Both of them decided that their tendency was different than what we as parents would have said about them. This gave us some new insights into what goes on in their brains, since they are not exactly oversharing with us in general. And they came to some new understanding as well. Our daughter said, “I feel like I know myself better now.”

And that’s the point of The Four Tendencies: to know yourself better and to understand others better. Not just for kicks, but so you can devise strategies to be more successful in meeting your goals and finding harmony with people who might otherwise drive you crazy.

For example, say you want to improve your fitness and lose weight:

  • An Upholder is likely to set the goal, make a plan, and get to work without needing outside motivation.
  • A Questioner is likely to do a good amount of research on which exercises give the best “bang for your buck” and question which bits of conventional wisdom on fitness can be disregarded.
  • An Obliger is likely to make his or her fitness intentions known to others and hire a personal trainer, because the Obliger needs the pressure of the external expectations to follow through on a plan.
  • A Rebel is unlikely to follow through with a fitness plan unless he or she finds it fun, or something the Rebel would choose to do regardless of its benefits. (The Rebel might also get fit just to prove the naysayers wrong; they might be motivated more by someone saying they can’t do it.)

Remember these are tendencies, not absolutes, and there is overlap between some of them. I would say there is even more overlap between them than Rubin describes, but she would probably say I think that because I’m a born Questioner.

If you love personality tests like the Myers-Briggs (or even random Internet quizzes like which Harry Potter character you would be), The Four Tendencies is for you. In fact, Upholders should definitely read it, preferably by Tuesday of next week. Questioners should probably read some other reviews first before getting it. Obligers would really be letting Rubin down if they don’t read it. And Rebels — hey, it’s up to you.