Understanding Yourself with “The Four Tendencies”

In January, I reviewed the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. You can check it out on my blog here. In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin discusses 21 strategies to help you form healthy habits. In her follow up book The Four Tendencies, she takes a deep dive into the four tendencies that determine how we respond to our inner and outer expectations. The tendencies are Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel. Gretchen Rubin states that these are the “indispensable personality profiles that reveal how to make your life better (and other people’s lives better, too)”. Read on to learn more about this book, how you can determine your tendency, and how this information has impacted my life for the better!

Determining Your Tendency with The Four Tendencies Quiz: Before you read this post, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to complete the quiz and determine your tendency! You can find the quiz here.

book cover

The Four Tendencies

By Gretchen Rubin

Throughout her studies of human nature, Gretchen Rubin has learned that “There’s no magic, one-size-fits-all answer for building a happier, healthier, more productive life. Different strategies work for different people”. When it comes to how people respond to inner and outer expectations, she has noticed a clear pattern that divides people into four categories, A.K.A “The Four Tendencies”. Gretchen Rubin explains that understanding your tendency can not only help you determine the strategies for habit formation that will be most successful for you but will also help you live a happier and healthier life.

The Four Tendencies

I will offer you a quick summary of the four tendencies below. However, to get a thorough understanding of each tendency, I highly recommend that you read the book 🙂


  • Meets outer expectations and inner expectations
  • “Discipline is my freedom”
  • 19% of the population



  • Resists outer expectations and meets inner expectations
  • “I’ll comply – if you convince me why”
  • 24% of the population



  • Meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations
  • “I’ll do anything you ask. Until I won’t”
  • 41% of the population



  • Resists outer expectations and resists inner expectations
  • “You can’t make me, and neither can I”
  • 17% of the population


Have you figured out your tendency?? Even after taking the quiz and reading the book, it is possible to feel unsure about your tendency. If this is the case for you, consider that you might have an overlap between your dominant tendency and one of the other three tendencies. Gretchen Rubin makes it clear in her depiction of the four tendencies that this overlap does exist. For example, you can be a Questioner who readily meets inner expectations but has Rebel tendencies in certain situations.

four tendencies framework

Understanding Your Tendency

When reading this book and learning about your tendency, it’s helpful to remember that Gretchen Rubin explains, “There’s no best or worst tendency”. She recommends understanding your tendency and figuring out how to harness your strengths and counteract your weaknesses. In The Four Tendencies, she goes through each tendency in detail and offers great information about the strengths and weaknesses of each tendency. She also includes information about “dealing with” each tendency at work, as a spouse, as a parent, and even as a health care client or patient.

Understanding your tendency, and the tendencies of those around you, will help you create more positive relationships in your life and work. It will help you relate to people in a new way and have discussions about how to ensure expectations are being met in an efficient and productive manner. Luckily, Gretchen Rubin includes an entire chapter about speaking effectively to each tendency! Can you imagine working in a team environment where the leaders understand the four tendencies and can communicate to their team members in a way that harnesses the strengths of all the tendencies? I truly believe it could make a significant positive impact.

Can you guess my tendency?? I’m sure you’re curious so let me tell you what I learned about myself from reading this book!

My Tendency: Upholder

Before I read The Four Tendencies, I was unsure about my dominant tendency. I knew I was either Obliger or Upholder but I couldn’t decide which one. Even when I took the quiz, it showed that I was pretty close to 50/50 between Obliger/Upholder. After reading the book, I’m confident that my dominant tendency is Upholder.

Why Upholder?

I can meet both inner and outer expectations and “Discipline is my freedom” is the perfect description of me. When I make goals for myself, I am generally able to follow through and meet them. I respond well to rules, guidelines and schedules, and I can work in a self-directed way. I respond poorly when I make mistakes, when I have to follow unclear guidelines or when there are last-minute changes in plans. However, I do have some Obliger tendencies too. I would describe myself as a “people pleaser” and often put other’s expectations and requests ahead of meeting my own inner expectations.

my tendency upholder

My Final Thoughts

If you can’t already tell, I’m a huge fan of this book! I highly recommend it to anybody who is interested in better understanding themselves in an effort to make their lives happier, healthier, and more productive. I am  honestly surprised by how much this book has had an impact on my life. It has helped me better understand myself and those around me. It is also a framework that I plan to use to help my patient’s implement their treatment plans and health goals. I see a lot of people in my office who know which lifestyle habits are going to bring them more health and happiness but struggle to follow through. I believe that by understanding the four tendencies, I’ll be able to offer more individualized ideas to help you form healthy habits!

Have you read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin? Which tendency are you? I’d love to hear from you! If you’re interested in how to apply this framework in your life, let’s talk about it! Check out my clinics page for more information about my practice locations and hours or email me at questions@emilymartinnd.com.

Emily Martin