Obliger-Spotting in the News? Rex Tillerson on Becoming Secretary of State.

As I may have mentioned, I’m obsessed with my Four Tendencies framework, in which I divide all of humanity into four types: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. (Don’t know your Tendency? Take the short quiz here.)

As I go through my days, I’m always searching for greater understanding of the Four Tendencies; I search for patterns and insight. Am I right that Rebel children are often especially close to their grandparents? Do many Questioners love to share links and articles?

I also constantly search for examples of the Four Tendencies in real life and in memoirs, movies, novels, and TV shows.

It’s crucial to remember that we can’t determine a person’s Tendency from the outside — we need to know why a person talks or behaves a certain way.

But at the same time, it’s true that sometimes people do say things that seem to be a powerful indication of Tendency. I was struck by this fact when I read about an interview with Rex Tillerson.

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp, was named by President Trump to be Secretary of State.

In an interview about his new position, Secretary Tillerson said, “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.”

He explained that his wife “told me I’m supposed to do this.” She also told him, “God’s not through with you.”

Secretary Tillerson added, “I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”

“My wife convinced me…She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”

To me, this sounds like an Obliger. The expectation is coming from the outside. What do you think?

Of course, because Obliger is the largest Tendency, it’s also likely that Tillerson is an Obliger because that’s the Tendency a person is most likely to belong to.

From these comments, Secretary Tillerson doesn’t sound particularly enthusiastic about this responsibility. Obligers have told me, however, that they’ve had the experience of starting a position because they felt obliged by an outer expectation, and then finding a real passion for that position. Sometimes passion follows, rather than leads, as we grapple with a new expectation.

What’s your view?

(Note: These days, any mention of politics can bring out people’s combative sides. Please keep the conversation civil and about the TENDENCIES.)

My book The Four Tendencies will hit the shelves in September. If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order it now. Pre-orders are extremely important for building buzz and support for a book among booksellers, the media, and the publisher.

  • Suzanne Tanner

    I don’t know Tillerson any better than you do, but I heard him speak at a dinner here in Houston last fall before his appointment. He spoke about his successes in life and things that had shaped him in his youth, and just going off that speech I would actually peg him as an Upholder. I think many people who reach his level of success are Upholders. But, because Upholders respond to both outer and inner expectations, I think you’re right to say that in this case, he was motivated by outer expectations.

    • gretchenrubin

      Interesting!