Podcast 120: Very Special Episode of Listener Questions about the Four Tendencies.

Update: Congratulations to our beloved producer, Kristen Meinzer — her hilarious, addictive podcast By the Book got picked up! She and her co-host comedian Jolenta Greenberg choose a different popular self-help book and report what it’s like to live “by the book” — for their pilot, they lived by The Secret, next up, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Check it out, subscribe!

Every tenth episode, we do a “Very Special Episode” that’s different from our usual structure. For this VSE, we discuss listener questions about the Four Tendencies.

Want to take the Quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? It’s here.

Want to listen to the episodes dedicated to each Tendency?

Upholder is episode 35 — “Are you like Gretchen and Hermione?”

Questioner is episode 36 — “Do you always ask why?”

Obliger is episode 37 — “Can you meet a work deadline, but can’t go running on your own?

Rebel is episode 38 — “Do you hate being told what to do?” Note: we weren’t able to interview a Rebel as part of that episode; if you want to hear from a Rebel, check out this interview with the brilliant Chris Guillebeau (bestselling author and host of the podcast Side Hustle School) about his perspective as a Rebel. Start listening at 25:15.

My book The Four Tendencies hits the shelves in September. As I mention (often!), if you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order it. Pre-orders build buzz among booksellers, the media, and other readers; it makes a very big difference to the fate of a book.

Questions we discuss in this episode:

“How can a doctor quickly figure out someone’s Tendency?”

“How can I as an Upholder parent better understand my Rebel child?”

“I’m an Obliger who works for a Questioner. How can I feel less frustration?”

“As a Rebel, how can I tell myself to eat healthfully and exercise?”

“I’m an Obliger, and I’m resisting the new office policy that we show a badge. Is this Obliger-rebellion?”

“An Obliger friend keeps busting through her budget — because she owes it to other people to spend. What’s up?”

“I’ve realized that my Obliger Tendency is affecting my dating life, for instance, by being too accommodating. How do I create a balance?”

If you’re intrigued by the Four Tendencies, and want to join the lively discussion on the Better app, sign up! It’s free. You can start or join an accountability group (Obligers, I know many of you want to do that), ask questions, have discussions about your own Tendency or dealing with someone else’s Tendency.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth wanted to start hiking on the weekends with friends; it hasn’t happened.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Gold star to everyone who has provided me with their perspectives, examples, and questions about the Four Tendencies. I have a lot more insight into other people — and myself.


Resources related to the FourTendencies:

  1.  Try the Better app — it’s free, fun, and informative.
  2.  Take the Quiz to learn your Tendency.
  3. Buy a Tendency mug — complete with the Tendency’s motto! So fun. (Scroll down.)

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #120

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  • Battereddaisy

    Your advice on determining tendency by asking “How do you feel about New Year’s resolutions?” made me laugh out loud and I wanted to share this curiosity because I often think that rebels don’t get enough practical advice as there are so few of us. I am a rebel and I am famous among my friends for a certain New Year’s tradition that most of them find very appealing but also counter-intuitive and sometimes even rather destructive but that I have enjoyed since I was 15 . Every year , instead of making a good New Year’s resolution I make a bad New Year’s resolution like “I will drink Red Bull every day this year.” or “I shall start smoking again this year.” , “I will gain 5 pounds this year”, “I won’t actively keep in touch with my oldest friends and will just see how those friendship goes from there” etc. These have to be things that at least a part of me longs to do and that are realistic, so at the end of the year looking back, I ensure I will feel rather good about myself. If I have actually followed these destructive tendencies, I don’t feel really guilty or disappointed because I planned it all along or rather counted on my thirst to get me there. If I don’t manage to fulfill my resolution, all the better for me and the people around me!
    The strange thing is – there was never a bad New Year’s resolution that I have actually kept and stayed through to and I’m quite proud to say that … as a rebel you just have to trick yourself sometimes, hehe.

    • Nis

      I’m so happy for you! I too am a Rebel, and I struggle hardest with not being able to fulfill my own expectations (among them the expectation not to let down friends). Sadly, I really can’t trick myself. I wouldn’t say that I’m completely immune to reverse psychology, but it tends to backfire on me.
      I just found this site yesterday, and two big takeaways for me so far are: Don’t try to use Obliger strategies; it won’t work! and: the strategy of convenience might be most useful for me.
      One approach I have is: I don’t have to. I don’t *have* to practice good self-care. But I also really don’t have to live the joyless life of depriving myself.

      Another observation I have is that many ‘bad habits’ are really coping strategies. They might help cope with anxiety or stress, etc. and they might be maladaptive, but they are there for a reason. My approach would be to identify and honour that reason and then see if there are better things I can do to take care of myself and/or if there are ways to mitigate the effects of a ‘bad’ habit. I think this is helpful regardless of what Tendency someone has (though the specific solutions would look different, of course)

  • 2003

    Hi Gretchen! I meant to submit questions for this! Definitely interested in the Four Tendencies.

    My main question: I’m sure you’ve encountered the Enneagram, which talks about how there are “healthy” and “unhealthy” levels of various types. For instance, someone who is by nature a peacemaker/ type 9 might act more like an investigator / type 7 when they’re in an unhealthy state (that example’s not quite right).

    Do you think there’s any version of this for the four tendencies? For instance, I think I may be an obliger and when I’m well can easily meet expectations, internal and external – but when I am more depressed or anxious I think I am more like a rebel. (Ie., trouble meeting anyone’s expectations.) I think “Obliger Rebellion” is one way you’ve addressed this… but do you think there’s some phenomenon like this for other types too? Have you thought about how mental health plays into the tendencies?

  • Alicia

    I often felt like I should be an obliger as I have a lot of trouble doing anything for any measurable amount of time. However I realize I am the absolute questioner (the fact that I questioned this for so long should have been a good indication.) With regard to the new years resolutions: I like to have new goals and I like to start new projects and new plans and learn new things. But I typically lose interest in things pretty quickly and change direction into a new interest. Last year, I did an exercise program pretty religiously daily for almost 3 months. I had never done any real regular exercise like this in my life. I am pretty active and healthy but no real regular program. But for some reason I stuck to it like magic…until I didn’t anymore. No idea why but I lost interest. Same with eating healthy. I know I should. I’ve read all the reasons I should. I have no motivation. Even with outer accountability I wouldn’t. I think it comes down to I’m healthy despite it all so why change?

  • Eileen

    For Pauline, who asked about obliger dating habits. I am also an obliger who spent many relationships setting aside my own needs and wants in order to try to make everything great. Over and over again, I ended the relationship because I was unhappy. In hindsight, it must have been obliger rebellion. Here’s how the conversation usually went:
    Me: “This isn’t working”
    Him: (completely shocked) “What?! I thought everything was great!”
    Me: “Of course you did. Everything is great, for you. I made it that way. But I’m not happy. So bye.”
    Him: “But I love you!”
    Me: “Sorry. Have a nice life.”

    Now mind you, none of these guys were jerks. I suppose the big risk you run is dating jerks who will take advantage, but almost every guy I dated was a good guy, and eventually I felt like a monster for repeatedly breaking their hearts.

    So one day, I decided to stop. I decided the key to a successful relationship for me was asking for what I want, even if that makes him uncomfortable. I started by refusing to give guys my phone number after meeting them; I would accept contact info, but not give it. That might be harder in the technological age, but wow was it empowering. Then when I did start dating someone, I forced myself (and it was really hard) to ask for what I want. It was small things like eating on the patio or getting the large popcorn, but I saw a difference in how I felt in the relationship immediately.

    I didn’t marry the first guy I tried this with, but it didn’t take long and I’ve been happily married for almost 10 years now.

    I still struggle with asking for what I want in relationships, and I lost a friendship over it in dramatic fashion. But I’m working on it and I’m so glad I was able to do it when I met my husband!

  • Zachary Yee-Hicks

    This makes so much sense, thank you. I’m an obliger, and my mom is a questioner

  • Meechel Munger

    This episode really is timely as I have someone in my life who is a rebel and just hearing your definitions and how they act make total sense now! Definitely Obliger here. I got Better Than Before but maybe Four Tendencies should be next! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d2a5347c8a0c6f3e167c8649771cddcf26656222dc164caa6b1febde282a1002.jpg

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