Gretchen Rubin

Are You a Fan of Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, the “Big Five,” Enneagram, the Five Love Languages, or Other Personality Frameworks?

Are You a Fan of Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, the “Big Five,” Enneagram, the Five Love Languages, or Other Personality Frameworks?

Do you love a great personality framework? I sure do.

I believe they can be a great tool for self-knowledge — they help to shine a spotlight on hidden patterns of behavior and thinking.

If, like me, you're fascinated by these kinds of frameworks, I think you’ll be intrigued by my Four Tendencies model -- it  divides the world into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. (Learn more and take the Quiz here.)

People often ask me how my Four Tendencies framework corresponds to other frameworks — for instance, how it matches up with Myers-Briggs or the Big Five. I've even had several people suggest that the Four Tendencies correspond to the Four Houses of Hogwarts. (By the way, they don't!)

In my view, each framework has its own nuances and strengths, which are lost if we try to map one framework onto another. So I don’t try to say that "this" equals "that."

At the same time, it's true that the Four Tendencies can be used alongside other frameworks, to provide deeper insights.

For instance, perhaps you've found the StrengthsFinder model to be very illuminating. Thinking about your "strengths" alongside your "Tendency" can give you deeper insight into yourself.

Or perhaps you're reflecting on the results of the quiz you took to learn your score on the "Big Five." Thinking about those results, in context of the Four Tendencies, can help you better to understand those findings.

I have to say, one thing I like about my Four Tendencies framework is that it's narrow. I think that some frameworks try to be too universal in their descriptions; they try to draw a picture of people's entire personalities, and in my observation, people are too complicated for that exercise to work well.

The Four Tendencies model explains just one narrow aspect of your personality. If we lined up fifty Obligers, they would look very different from each other -- depending on how ambitious, considerate, intellectual, adventurous, aggressive, neurotic, introverted or extroverted, etc. they were -- but as to how they respond to outer and inner expectations, they'd all respond the same way.

Your "response to expectations" is a narrow aspect of your nature, true, but it turns out to be hugely significant in how the rest of your personality plays out in the world.

At the same time, when using these frameworks, it’s important not to let these categories to 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.

My own favorite personality framework is (no surprise) the one I created, but I love reading and thinking about all of them. If you'd like to learn more about other personality frameworks, I list some of my favorite books in the post, "Do You Love Personality Frameworks? These 10 Books Will Help You Understand Yourself."

Some of the most popular include:

1. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment  by Gary Chapman. Argues that people speak different “love languages”: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

2. Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are by Daniel Nettle. Discusses the "Big Five" personality model (extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness) and includes a quiz for self-evaluation.

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.

4. 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.

4. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham; Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage their individual own strengths.

5. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Of course, I have to add my own book to the list!

One question that often arises is: How "scientific" is a particular framework? -- what research supports it, has it been validated?

This is a very important question, and I'm thrilled by the work that researchers have begun to provide a scientific examination of my own framework.

At the same time, though, it seems to me that if a particular way of looking at the world illuminates something for you, that clarity has its own validity.

Research in a lab is one way to understand human nature, but it's not the only way.

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

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Find out if you’re an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or a Rebel.

The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t actOur Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.

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