I recently stumbled upon a podcast by New York Times best selling author, Gretchen Rubin, and have been very interested in her studies. Although I have not gotten my hands on any of her books yet, I have listened to her speak about her studies on a few podcasts (10% Happier and Happier with Gretchen Rubin). Rubin performs experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits. What I was really drawn to was “The Four Rubin Tendencies” that she has created. The tendencies categorize people into different groups depending on how they respond to inner and outer expectations. Inner expectations are goals we set for ourselves and outer expectations are goals and deadlines others set for us. Every person falls into one of the four categories and each category has strengths and weaknesses. Understanding which tendency you fall into can help you analyze your strengths and weaknesses and can help you reach your goals.
According to Rubin, the four categories can be summarized as:
- Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
- Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense
- Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
- Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
I’ll go into a little more depth of my understanding of each category below.
- Upholders – Upholders is the second smallest category out of the four, meaning not many people fall into this tendency. Upholders respond to goals and deadlines set by others just as well as goals and deadlines they set for themselves. If their boss gives them a task and a deadline, they are driven to complete it and hold themselves accountable to that expectation. They also find it easy to stick with goals they set for themselves. If they decide to become a dedicated gym member or to eat healthy, they will stick to those goals without faltering.
- Questioners – When questioners are told to do something, they immediately ask why. They don’t just simply do something because they are asked to do so. In order for them to complete the task, they must be convinced that it is worth their time and they must understand the purpose of the task. Some questioners are more easily convinced than others.
- Rebels – Rebels is the smallest category. This group is made up of people who reject both outer and inner expectations. If they are told to do something, they will refuse to do so. Even if they set goals for themselves, it is very unlikely they will follow through. Rebels go against the norm and offer different perspectives to otherwise accepted ideas.
- Obligers – This is the category that I (as well as most people) fall into. Obligers will accept and tackle tasks given to them by others easily, but when it comes to goals they’ve set for themselves, they often do not follow through. They feel that they have no one to be accountable to, so it is easy to give up on goals that they have set for themselves.
You might be wondering, why is this important? Well, for instance, as an obliger I am now more aware of how I can be successful in reaching my goals. If I want to be successful in the goal I set for myself, I should make myself accountable to someone other than myself. If my goal is to attend more fitness classes, I will be more successful if I make plans to meet someone there. I will have a much harder time breaking my promise to them, than a promise to myself.
Once you understand the categories, it also becomes easier to know how to help others achieve their goals. If your friend, loved one, or family member is a rebel, for instance, you would know that they will not respond well to being told what to do. They need to take it upon themselves and you can offer them support along the way. If someone you know is a questioner who is difficult to convince, you will know to lead by example. Instead of nudging them to do something you think they should, try doing it yourself. If they see you becoming more successful and happy, they will be convinced that the task is worth their time. If someone in your life is an upholder and they have their mind set to something, know that it will be very difficult to persuade them.
I wanted to share this interesting idea because it has actually helped me to understand myself and others. I have a better understanding of the obstacles I face that have the potential of getting in the way of my goals. I also am more aware of how I interact with others in my life, and by knowing which category they fit into, I am better equipped to understand them. I just thought this was a very cool idea and I hope you learned something and can it apply it to your life!
xo, simply jess