Book Review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

I can’t believe I’ve been doing videos for nearly 3 weeks and this is the first book review! Video below, scroll for the written version. Click the links to buy the books.


  • Overview of each of the tendencies
  • My tendency – along with my “crackpot potential”
  • How this can help you be a better manager, coach, wellness practitioner, parent…or person!

This is a review of The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin – author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before.

Understanding yourself so that you can leverage your strengths is a big piece of creating a YOU-Shaped business.

This insight can help with marketing, developing a personal brand, choosing your ideal clients and providing stellar service for your clients.

The 4 tendencies outlined in this book are simple, but powerful.

They go a long way towards explaining things like why some people (maybe you?) struggle to develop new habits or keep resolutions. They can also help you understand why some of the people you are working or living with resist or question everything.

The information in this book has the potential to make you a better leader, manager, coach, partner or parent.

It all start with the answer to this simple question:

How do you meet expectations?

The Four Tendencies: how do you meet expectations?

Expectations are either Outer or Inner.

Outer expectations are imposed upon us by the outside world: other people, laws, systems, policies, rules.

Inner expectations are self-directed: your own goals, habits, what you expect of yourself.

From this the author derives 4 tendencies:

  • Upholders: meet both inner and outer expectations
  • Questioners: meet inner expectations, resist outer expectations
  • Obligers: meet outside expectations, resist inner expectations
  • Rebels: resist both inner and outer expectations

You can take the quiz to find out which you are here: Four Tendencies Quiz


Upholders are the most obnoxious of the bunch. Fortunately for us, they’re a relatively small part of the population. ūüôā

Upholders can be spotted in the wild by their organized closets.

I can get away with saying that…because the chances that an Upholder will be reading this is about zilch. Unless “read Patty K’s blog” is on their task list, they’re busy checking off their to-do lists and making the rest of us look bad.

Upholders respond well to both outer and inner expectations.

That small percentage of people who KEEP their new years resolutions? Upholders.

Upholders file their taxes on time, turn in their TPS reports early – and actually go to the gym when they commit to doing so.

They make new habits easily and they follow the rules.

What was really cool about this book is that Gretchen herself admits to being an upholder.

While Upholders can be a bit uptight (I live with one!) – she manages to poke a little fun at herself.

I found it amusing to read her experience of discovering that most of the world did NOT think or act like she did!

She spent a lot of time researching other types to truly understand them, so she mostly avoids coming across as judgmental – which is probably really hard for an upholder to do!


I question the validity of these categorizations!

Questioners are¬†awesome! (You’d never guess that I am one.)

I was a bit surprised to discover that we’re the second-most popular tendency. I’m accustomed to being on the fringes with personality tests.

As the name implies, we ask questions.

Questioners only respond well to their own inner expectations.

If we AGREE with outer expectations, if it makes sense to us….we’ll do it. But we’ll rebel against those stupid TPS reports!

Questioners get stuck when they lack clarity.

Learning that I’m a questioner explained my mixed results when getting coaching.

Questioners don’t need or respond to outside accountability. I have no qualms telling a coach that I didn’t do the thing that I committed to. When I worked with coaches (or in a mastermind group) with a focus on accountability – I didn’t find the support helpful.

I also didn’t like being pushed to make commitments at the end of the session when I didn’t have enough clarity about what I was committing to.¬†(I still had questions!)

The coaches that rocked my world were the ones who helped me get clarity.¬† They gave me insight and perspective I didn’t have – or asked just the right question to illuminate things for me.

(If you’re a coach – this book can help you do better work with different types of clients. If you’re looking for a coach, read the book to find out what kind of coach you need.)

She also said I had crackpot tendencies – which made me laugh out loud. It also made a lot of sense – if¬†you want to know more about that, you’ll have to get the book!


I’ll get right on those TPS reports!

Most of the population has this tendency.

Obligers only respond to OUTSIDE expectations, so they NEED accountability.

One of my clients put it really well: “If I promise YOU I’ll do it, I will. If I promise myself? I won’t.”

Obligers will do the TPS reports (because you asked), but they won’t go to the gym unless someone else is checking in on them.

If you are an obliger – and you have big plans for yourself that you never get around to: get a coach or an accountability partner.

I’m a big fan of taking the easiest route to success – and getting outside accountability is a “easy button” for obligers.

There is ZERO shame in getting what you need to thrive – don’t let the questioners, rebels or upholders tell you otherwise.


I don’t do what anyone tells me!

Her quote for this chapter was: “you can’t make me – and I can’t make me either.”

Rebels don’t respond to expectations. Inner or outer, they resist.

Rebels are the ones who, when asked to take out the trash, respond: “I was going to. Now that you asked, I won’t.”

They’re the rarest group – and often responsible for breakthrough thinking because they don’t go along with the crowd.

Rebels need choices and to know the consequences of those choices. Then they need to decide for themselves, in the moment – so keeping their plans loose can be helpful.

The advice for rebels was a bit sparse compared to the other types, likely due to a combination of the type being the author’s opposite – and their rarity in the population. (And possibly because they rebel against personality typing!)

A must-read for coaches or wellness practitioners

If you’re into self-growth and self-awareness, this book is worth checking out for personal insights alone.

For coaches and wellness practitioners, I’d put this into the “must read” category. As a professional who assists with personal change, knowing your clients’ tendencies will help you get better results with them. And happy clients lead to more referrals.

The author makes lots of specific suggestions for exactly how to approach and manage each type. She also provides relevant examples from her work with medical professionals to help them increase compliance with treatment plans.

You can buy the book here: Four Tendencies