Tag Archives: The book The Four Tendencies

Fun with the Four Tendencies: Is Taylor Swift an Upholder?

I spend a lot of time thinking about my personality framework, the Four Tendencies. It’s an endlessly fascinating thing to study.

If you don’t know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel — and why it matters — you can take the quick quiz here. (More than 640,000 people have taken the quiz.)

I’m always on the watch for Tendencies in the world. Now, we generally can’t judge people’s Tendency by what they do; we need to know how they think.

But sometimes patterns of behaviors are so consistent that they do suggest a Tendency.

My sister Elizabeth told me that she thinks that Taylor Swift is an Upholder. It’s not easy to tell, because of course a mega-star like Swift has a persona that’s carefully crafted for public consumption. However, judging from external factors, I agree, she sure looks like an Upholder.

She seems to meet outer expectations very patiently and professionally—not only those related to her extensive music and business responsibilities, but also involving time-consuming, inefficient tasks like going on press tours, handling paparazzi, and putting up with all the nonsense that super-stars must endure. She meets a very high level of expectations, with no visible sign of resentment or burn-out or frustration at inefficiency.

She has no trouble resisting the advice of her record label, and she also has no trouble following the advice of her record label. She doesn’t seem to feel pushed around by the press, social media, or her own team. In a cover profile in GQ magazine, Chuck Klosterman observed of Swift, “There is a perpetual sense that nothing about her career is accidental and that nothing about her life is unmediated. These are not unusual thoughts to have about young mainstream stars. But what’s different with Swift is her autonomy. There is no Svengali directing her career; there is no stage mother pushing her toward the spotlight. She is in total control of her own constructed reality.”

Plus Swift exhibits an extraordinary level of self-discipline, and she’s often criticized for being “unspontaneous.” Now, what Tendency does that sound like?

 I suspect that Upholders in the entertainment business, and in the arts, sometimes go out of their way to hide their Tendency—to present themselves as more wild and more hedonistic than they actually are.

Upholderness isn’t a very glamorous, edgy, or endearing quality. It doesn’t contribute to a fascinating biography or make good magazine copy. In her mega-hit song “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift sings, “I stay up too late…I go on too many dates…At least that’s what people say.” Does she stay up too late? Hmmm. I wonder. 

What do you think?

In other news about the Four Tendencies, very soon I will be able to reveal the jacket for the book The Four Tendencies — I’m about to be able to take down that dull placeholder cover. Exciting! If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order (pre-orders help build buzz for a book among booksellers, the media, and the public). But only if you want to, of course!

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.