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The Four Tendencies summary

The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)

4.4 (259 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin explores a framework for understanding how individuals respond to expectations and provides strategies for self-knowledge and motivation.

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    The Four Tendencies
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    The Four Tendencies tell us about our nature and how we respond to expectations.

    One day, the author Gretchen Rubin was chatting with a friend over lunch and the conversation turned to exercise. Her friend was reflecting on the fact that when she was on the track and field team at school, she had no trouble finding the time to run, but now, forget about it!

    “Not having the time” is a common excuse for why we can’t get something done, but if you really want to get to the bottom of why some tasks are so hard to accomplish, you need to understand The Four Tendencies.

    The Four Tendencies are all about how we respond to the two kinds of expectations we face every day: the outer expectations that come from work and society, and the inner expectations we set for ourselves.

    The first of the Four Tendencies are Upholders. These are people who excel at meeting both inner and outer expectations.

    The second is Questioners, who are people who meet inner expectations but question and struggle with outer expectations.

    The third is Obligers, people who deal well with outside expectations but struggle with their own.

    And the fourth is the Rebels, who push against both inner and outer expectations.

    In the case of Rubin’s friend, who excelled at running when she had a coach and a team, but doesn’t find the time on her own, this is a typical scenario for an Obliger, someone who needs outside accountability.

    As we’ll see in the blinks ahead, none of these categories are inherently bad or meant to make you feel boxed in or doomed to lifelong problems. They’re meant as tools for gaining insight into your nature, and the nature of those you work and live with, so that you can be a more confident and productive individual.

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    What is The Four Tendencies about?

    The Four Tendencies (2017) reveals the four personality types that dictate how people react to the expectations in their daily lives. Expanding on the first chapter to her book on habit Better Than Before, Rubin provides insight and advice to help you understand your own tendencies, as well as those of the people you live and work with.

    The Four Tendencies Review

    The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (2017) explores the different personality types and how they influence our behavior. Here's why this book is a worthwhile read:

    • Through insightful analysis and practical examples, it helps readers understand themselves and others better, leading to improved relationships and personal growth.
    • By identifying the four tendencies - Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel - the book offers valuable tools for self-awareness and achieving goals effectively.
    • With engaging anecdotes and relatable case studies, the book keeps readers captivated, making the exploration of personality types fascinating rather than dull.

    Best quote from The Four Tendencies

    You can find out which of the Four Tendencies you belong to by taking the test at

    —Gretchen Rubin
    example alt text

    Who should read The Four Tendencies?

    • Parents and teachers who want to have better communication skills
    • Managers and supervisors hoping to improve employee relations
    • Anyone who wants to live a more productive, happier life

    About the Author

    Gretchen Rubin is an influential writer whose books have sold millions of copies around the world. Her writing strives to examine human nature in a way that can help anyone understand themselves better and therefore live a happier life. Her best-selling books include The Happiness Project and Better Than Before.

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    The Four Tendencies FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Four Tendencies?

    The main message of The Four Tendencies is understanding and harnessing the power of our personality types to achieve success and fulfillment.

    How long does it take to read The Four Tendencies?

    The estimated reading time for The Four Tendencies is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Four Tendencies a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Four Tendencies is worth reading as it offers invaluable insights into human behavior and provides practical strategies for improving relationships and achieving personal growth.

    Who is the author of The Four Tendencies?

    The author of The Four Tendencies is Gretchen Rubin.

    What to read after The Four Tendencies?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Four Tendencies, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Power of Bad by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister
    • Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
    • Great People Decisions by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    • The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
    • Speed Reading by Kam Knight
    • Leadership Is Language by David Marquet
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
    • The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod