Gretchen Rubin

Smart Signage Aimed at All Four Tendencies–Brilliant and Fun!

Smart Signage Aimed at All Four Tendencies–Brilliant and Fun!

I continue to be obsessed with my Four Tendencies framework — lucky for me, given that I’m writing a book on the subject! (To hear when that book goes on sale, sign up here.)

As I've mentioned before, I'm on the prowl for signs aimed at a particular Tendency, or that do a good job of appealing to all Four Tendencies.

Before I get to the signs, if you need a quick overview of the Four Tendencies:

In a nutshell, it distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike


To take the online Quiz to determine your Tendency, go here.

Last week, I posted about signs that seemed aimed at a particular Tendency. So fascinating.

This week, I want to highlight two signs that, I believe, do a good job of appealing to all Four Tendencies. See if you agree.

1. Food Attracts Ants

I spotted this sign at my beloved New York Society Library, where I  go when I'm doing serious writing, or of course when I want to check out books.

This sign does a great job of appealing to all Four Tendencies.

It appeals to Upholders: here are the rules, follow them.

It appeals to Questioners: the reason for the rule “No food or drink” is that food and drink attract bugs, and indeed we have bugs, and bugs damage books, and so we need to keep food and drink out of the library.

It appeals to Obligers: because we have ants, the librarians know that people have been breaking the rules,  so stop!

It appeals to Rebels: the people using the Reading Room have bookish identities and value the library, so they’d choose to act in a way that protects the collection and acknowledges the request of respected librarians—plus, who wants to work in a place that’s crawling with ants?

2. Help Conserve Water

I found this notice in my room at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. I think it does a good job of appealing to Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Here's what we'd like you to do; here are the facts about why we're asking you to do it; you can lighten people's work load and conserve valuable resources; but hey, go ahead, do whatever you want. Smart last line -- and it's even in big type!

I get such a kick out of looking for these signs. If you see any, please send them my way.

Also, have you ever seen a sign that made you so nuts, that you deliberately ignored it or did the opposite of what it was asking?

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