Do You Love Personality Quizzes? These 10 Books Will Help You Understand Yourself.

They say there are two kinds of people in the world: people who want to divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind of people who don’t.

Well, I’m the kind who does. I love personality frameworks. I believe they can be a great tool for self-knowledge — they help shine a spotlight on patterns of behavior and thinking.

That said, it’s important not to let categories become stifling; they’re not meant to box us in or limit our sense of possibility, but to point the way to helpful understanding or change.

Of course, my favorite personality framework is the one I created, which divides people into Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. Learn more and take the Quiz here.

Since Better Than Before hit the shelves, I’ve been thrilled to hear from readers and podcast listeners how much the Four Tendencies has helped them.

If you love a good personality framework as much as I do, you may be interested in reading other systems:

1. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman.

Argues that people speak different “love languages”: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. I love this book. I’m “Words of Affirmation,” by the way. I still can’t figure out what my husband is! He is a man of mystery.

2. Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm by Beth Grossman and Janet Burton.

Argues that in families with an imbalance of family power, parents fall into four categories: Pleasers, Pushovers, Forcers, and Outliers.

3. The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Ross Hudson.

Divides people into nine categories: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker. I’ve heard that Hollywood writers use the Enneagram to help them create rich, believable characters.

4. Why Him, Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love by Helen Fisher.

Argues that people fall into four relationship types: Explorer, Building, Director, and Negotiator.

5. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabella Briggs Meyers.

Based on the theories of Carl Jung, argues that people fall into sixteen types, in different combinations of four pairs: Extroversion or Introversion; Sensing or Intuition; Thinking or Feeling; Judgment or Perception. This super-popular framework is controversial, but many people swear by it.

6. Please Understand Me by David Keirsey.

Divides people into four temperament groups, with four sub-types per groups: Artisan (Promoter, Crafter, Performer, Composer), Guardian (Supervisor, Inspector, Provider, Protector), Rational (Fieldmarshal, Mastermind, Inventor, Architect), and Idealist (Teacher, Counselor, Champion, Healer).

7. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.

Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage of their own strengths.

8. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage their individual own strengths.

9. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

Of course, I have to add my own book to the list! Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, and how you can put that knowledge to use as you work on your habits. Or, even more fun, how you can help other people work on their habits. The Four Tendencies are useful to understand in the context of habits — but also, in many other contexts as well. Right now, in fact, I’m working on a book that explores the Four Tendencies at length. If you want to be notified when it’s available, sign up here.

People often ask me how the Four Tendencies framework correspond to other frameworks — for instance, how it matches up with Myers-Briggs. In my view, all these frameworks have their own nuances, which are lost if we try to map one framework onto another. So I don’t try to do that.

10.The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Many people have also told me that my book, The Happiness Project was also a meaningful tool for self-knowledge as they embarked on their own Happiness Project. Especially the “Be Gretchen” idea from my personal commandments.

Has one of these frameworks been very helpful to you? What frameworks have I overlooked?

  • Abby Hatch

    What a fun post! I love personality theories too.

    Have you ever read How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead? It’s a theory centered around your “fascination advantage” and I found the insight really helpful.

  • Bethany Johnson

    Thanks for the additional reading material! Luckily, I’ve read three of these books: 1) The Five Love Languages – all of the languages are reflected by members of my family; my language is Acts of Service.
    9) Better Than Before – I’m an Obliger (no Upholders in my family, but there is another Obliger, a Questioner, and 2 rebels)!
    10) The Happiness Project

  • SallyVee

    Love these! Done most of them! I’m with you on how categorizing ourselves in these ways as a tool for self-knowledge can be quite liberating. Finding out where I fall in any of these categories has given me such a lightning bolt of confidence, ESPECIALLY Myers-Briggs and your Four Tendencies!

    My results:
    1. Acts of Service and Quality Time
    3. Individualist
    5. INFP (I have scored ISFP in the past – I tread in the middle of sensing and intuitive)
    6. Healer
    7 & 8. Adaptability, Empathy, Intellection, Developer, Input
    9. Obliger/Rebel

    I’ve had my husband do these as well… Physical Touch; Peacemaker; INFJ; Counselor; Empathy, Harmony, Restorative, Achiever, Intellection; Questioner. I was just thinking the other day about how similar we are, but the differences that we have are so nuanced! Our tendencies are actually where we are most different, and it explains why I want to keep an accountability chart next to the cat’s litter box indicating when it’s been scooped, and why he refuses to use it (well, sort of, I mean, the chart makes sense to me! Why does he have to question it?) I had him take Strengths Finder when he was down on himself a long time ago, and it helped him see that he can live life with purpose.

    I’m not a parent, so we wouldn’t be able to figure out #2. I’ve never heard of #4 before, so I may have to find that one out, for both of us!

    Another personality quiz that I’ve enjoyed is The Four Temperaments. Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, and Phlegmatic. Most people have a primary and secondary temperament (for example, I’m Phlegmatic-Sanguine). Gretchen, you strike me as being primarily Choleric. 🙂 I’m not sure if there is a book about The Four Temperaments, but there are lots of online quizzes and information.

    Anyways, thanks for the post! Love it!

    • SallyVee

      I just read the description to Helen Fisher’s book and one of the reviews compared her four types to The Four Temperaments… so I guess that one has been covered on this list after all?

    • michaelmelcher

      The four temperaments are basically the same as the four that David Keirsey tracks in “Please Understand Me.” He draws a through line between those (which I believe are Greek in origin) all the way to “Type,” the underlying Jungian-based theory that MBTI assesses. The four translate to SF, SP, NF and NT (although I’m not sure which maps to which).

  • Sarah

    I just finished The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica and it was terrific (not to mention very funny — just be careful in certain parts if you have company while listening to the audio version!).

  • michaelmelcher

    I’ve been an amateur student and ponderer of the Enneagram for a couple of decades and, while at first I thought it was a bit too out-there for most people, I have to say it’s given me the most insight into both myself and my most important relationships. Not easy to get into but it is super illuminating.

    • michaelmelcher

      For people interested in learning more, you might try Elizabeth Wagele’s books (including “The Ennegram Made Easy”) which have fun cartoons and lists.

      • Kate Ostrem

        Another good intro to the Enneagram is David Daniel’s The Essential Enneagram. It makes it very accessible. I did just get Wagele’s book about the Enneagram and Teens and it’s really interesting.

  • Molly

    I have long been interested in the enneagram and the myers briggs. I once read that the people who experience the most inner cognitive (or emotional??) dissonance are those whose myers briggs type doesn’t match up well with their enneagram type. For example, estp meets up naturally with type 7 or 8 on the enneagram, but not so much with type 4 or 2. If someone has a “natural” correlation, they are easier with themselves and less questioning of themselves. If their types on these don’t correlate so easily, they are more likely to be pulled in different directions and experience more inner dissonance. I always thought that would be interesting to take up, but after reading about the author who held this view, I could never find the book/author again. Maybe I imagined it. Haha.

    BEST BOOK EVER for the more serious student of myers briggs, by the way (and I’ve read all):

    Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual by Lenore Thomson

    It really takes the view in Gifts Differing (8 types that each have 2 subtypes) and to a whole different level. Very interesting for understanding the psyche, focus, inner orientation of different types. What matters to them, what do they notice in a situation, how does introverted intuition dominance differ from extroverted intuition dominance (for example). What makes types tick?!!!?

    • Kate Ostrem

      That Enneagram/MBTI connection is interesting – I haven’t heard that one before, Molly, and am curious to learn more. My understanding is that there’s not a strong correlation between the two typing systems because MBTI reflects your behavior and preferences and the Enneagram looks at what’s behind those things: your motivation. But it does seem that some of them line up nicely together. So interesting!

      • michaelmelcher

        I see the Enneagram as our core operating system, filter or compulsion. More about our core needs and drivers as opposed to our preferences in thinking about and experiencing the world, although there is a lot of overlap.

    • michaelmelcher

      Thanks for the the recommendation, Molly, I can never get enough of this stuff.

      • Molly

        I’m the same way! If you are really interested in the myers briggs, I definitely think you will like this book and you can probably get a used copy on Amazon.

  • Blair424

    Gretchen, have you taken the Strengths Finder quiz, and if so, what are your top five strengths?

  • Jenya

    Despite being a skeptic, understanding the 4 types in Carol Tuttle’s system has helped me a lot in work situations:
    http://myenergyprofile.com/energy-profiling/what-is-energy-profiling/

    She puts out a ton of (free) Youtube videos as well. Everyone supposedly has all four types of energy, so the groups aren’t discrete, but it still helps to understand someone’s dominant energy.

    Interesting for the elections as well. Type 2s like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton often get overshadowed by the flashier Type 3s (Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump).

  • Kate Ostrem

    I am officially Enneagram obsessed, but want to read all the other books on this list (have already read yours, Gretchen!). While the Enneagram can take some more time and thought, that process of self-discovery is incredibly rewarding – possibly more so because of the work involved to get there? Anything we can do to learn more about ourselves and nurture the compassion we feel for others is so valuable. Thanks for this fun post!

  • jason throop

    Good writing i still see you have good stuff