They say there are two kinds of people in the world: people who want to divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind of people who don’t.
Well, I’m the kind who does. I love personality frameworks. I believe they can be a great tool for self-knowledge — they help shine a spotlight on patterns of behavior and thinking.
That said, it’s important not to let categories 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.
Of course, my favorite personality framework is the one I created, which divides people into Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. Learn more and take the Quiz here.
If you love a good personality framework as much as I do, you may be interested in reading other systems:
1. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman.
Argues that people speak different “love languages”: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. I love this book. I’m “Words of Affirmation,” by the way. I still can’t figure out what my husband is! He is a man of mystery.
2. Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm by Beth Grossman and Janet Burton.
Argues that in families with an imbalance of family power, parents fall into four categories: Pleasers, Pushovers, Forcers, and Outliers.
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. I’ve heard that Hollywood writers use the Enneagram to help them create rich, believable characters.
4. Why Him, Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love by Helen Fisher.
Argues that people fall into four relationship types: Explorer, Building, Director, and Negotiator.
5. 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. This super-popular framework is controversial, but many people swear by it.
6. Please Understand Me by David Keirsey.
Divides people into four temperament groups, with four sub-types per groups: Artisan (Promoter, Crafter, Performer, Composer), Guardian (Supervisor, Inspector, Provider, Protector), Rational (Fieldmarshal, Mastermind, Inventor, Architect), and Idealist (Teacher, Counselor, Champion, Healer).
7. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.
Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage of their own strengths.
8. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.
Discusses the thirty-four “strengths” and helps readers identify and take advantage their individual own strengths.
9. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.
Of course, I have to add my own book to the list! Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, and how you can put that knowledge to use as you work on your habits. Or, even more fun, how you can help other people work on their habits. The Four Tendencies are useful to understand in the context of habits — but also, in many other contexts as well. Right now, in fact, I’m working on a book that explores the Four Tendencies at length. If you want to be notified when it’s available, sign up here.
People often ask me how the Four Tendencies framework correspond to other frameworks — for instance, how it matches up with Myers-Briggs. In my view, all these frameworks have their own nuances, which are lost if we try to map one framework onto another. So I don’t try to do that.
10.The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
Many people have also told me that my book, The Happiness Project, was also a meaningful tool for self-knowledge as they embarked on their own Happiness Project. Especially the “Be Gretchen” idea from my personal commandments.