Today Is the Big Day! My Book “The Four Tendencies” Hits the Shelves.

the four tendencies books

I’m excited! My new book, The Four Tendencies, has hit the shelves at last. What a joy it was to write this book — thank you, readers and listeners, for everything you contributed to it.

For years, I’ve been writing, blogging, and podcasting about happiness, habits, and human nature, and this long reflection gave me an insight: by asking the seemingly dry question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge.

I realized that people fall into four “Tendencies”: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burn-out, get healthier, and engage more effectively in work and in life.

The Four Tendencies framework holds practical answers if you have ever wondered…

  • People can rely on me, so why can’t I rely on myself?
  • Why do people keep telling me that I ask too many questions?
  • How do I work with someone who refuses to do what I ask—or who keeps telling me what to do?
  • How do I stop my teenager from dropping out of high school?
  • Why can’t I convince my patients to take their prescriptions?
  • How can I make my team more effective, with less wasted time and procrastination?
  • Why can’t I make time for myself?

I’ve been astonished and thrilled by people’s curiosity about the Four Tendencies. From the moment I introduced this framework to my audience, as part of the discussion of habit change in my book Better Than Before, I’ve been deluged with questions – from doctors, teachers, managers, spouses, and parents who are trying to deal with others more effectively, and from people who are trying to manage themselves better.

I can’t possibly express my gratitude to you — readers, listeners of my “Happier” podcast, for your contributions to my understanding of the framework. The examples! The questions!

Your responses took my understanding far beyond what I could’ve conceived of myself. Henry James himself wouldn’t be able to think of the imaginative, idiosyncratic ways in which people applied the framework. It was fascinating to read the reflections of the person who used the Four Tendencies to help a prisoner graduate from high school, or to understand why it was easy to keep good habits during a church mission but hard back at home, or to figure out how to talk to a patient in a way to help that person stave off diabetes, or to understand how to nudge a spouse to look for a job. Riveting.

Curious to know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Ta­­ke the short quiz.

More than 800,000 people have taken this online quiz, and managers, doctors, teachers, spouses, and parents already use the framework to help people make significant, lasting change.

Before you take the quiz, however, perhaps you can identify your Tendency just by glancing at these one-line descriptions of each Tendency. Does one ring true for you?

Upholder: It’s important to me to meet other people’s expectations, but my expectations for myself are just as important.

Questioner: I’ll comply only if you convince me why.

Obliger: Promises to other people can’t be broken, but promises to myself can be broken.

Rebel: No one can tell me what to do.

More fun, here’s a “lightbulb” joke about the Four Tendencies:

How do you get an Upholder to change a lightbulb?

Answer: He’s already changed it.

How do you get a Questioner to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Why do we need that lightbulb anyway?

How do you get an Obliger to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Ask him to change it.

How do you get a Rebel to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Do it yourself.

Once you learn about the Four Tendencies and identify your own Tendency, you begin to spot them all around you, in well-known figures—Hermione Granger, Steve Jobs, Andre Agassi, Taylor Swift, Pablo Picasso, Jane Eyre—and among the people you know at work, at home, and in life.

As a thank-you to people who pre-ordered, I offered for free a five-part videos series that I made with a top production team, in which I discuss the Four Tendencies: overview, at work, in a relationship, with children, and in health-care. In a week, I plan to charge for this video series, but to celebrate the on-sale date, I’m making it free for seven more days. Warning: after that, it’s going to be pretty pricey.

You’ll see that that book is crammed with examples of how people have used the Four Tendencies to solve stubborn problems in their lives. It turns out that it’s not that hard to change, or to help other people change, when you know what to do.

I’m so grateful for your interest in my books, and I look forward to seeing your insights, experiences, and questions about The Four Tendencies. Onward!



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