Heather Bien

writing and designing a colorful life

Book Club: Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies

This past Wednesday, thanks to the initiative of a future blogger friend, the first meeting of the #BossBabe book club was held and our book of choice for the month was Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too).

I've been in many a book club in my years, and more often than not, nobody reads the book, some don't even know what the book is that month, and everyone just shows up to drink wine. I have no problem with gathering on a weeknight to chat and drink wine – but I call that wine club, and I'm already in one. If I'm going to be in a book club, I'm going to read the book, and I intend to discuss it...and I'm so grateful to finally find a group of women looking to do the same.


If you know me or read this blog, you probably know that I've always been into the personal growth and development genre. I'm not much of a fiction reader at all, I prefer to stick to non-fiction – books I can learn something from – so I'm psyched that our book club is focusing on books that encourage growth, thinking, and bettering ourselves, our careers, and our side hustles (because who doesn't have one these days?!) I also think a book club that focus on personal growth leads to more interesting and sustainable conversation – it's easy to get off topic when you're analyzing fictional characters because we're human and humans often like to talk about ourselves, our struggles, our goals, and our triumphs. If that's the whole point of the book club, we can chat all evening and bring it back to the book!


I actually hadn't even heard of The Four Tendencies when it was selected as our book for this past month. But, I own both of Gretchen Rubin's previous books, Better Than Before, and, of course, The Happiness Project, so I was totally on board to dive in. The book discusses the four personality buckets that Rubin believes you can fit almost everyone into. The tendencies are sorted by how we respond to inner and outer expectations and I guarantee within pages you'll start to see where those in your own life fit in.

  • Upholder: someone who responds readily to inner and outer expectations
  • Obliger: someone who responds to outer expectations, but cannot hold themselves accountable to their own inner expectations 
  • Questioner: someone who questions the validity of outer expectations, but will meet those expectations by turning them into inner expectations
  • Rebel: someone who rejects both inner and outer expectations 
For me, it started to become clear why I have some friends – obligers – who need someone to hold them accountable to making it to a workout class. I used to get frustrated, "why can't you just go on your own?" but now it makes sense. The rebels among us – they're the ones who avoid making any commitments of any kind to themselves or others. Questioners keep us all on our toes, but also get their shit done. 


No surprise to anyone, I, like Rubin, am solidly an Upholder. Inner expectations are a breeze, as are outer expectations and commitments– assuming we have clarity and justification. I'm assuming most of the upholders among us won't find much they'd want to change about their tendency. We don't burn out, we can over schedule ourselves, and we're super productive, tackling to-do lists with ease

Case in point on sticking to expectations: after a few too many drinks on Saturday night, Adam wanted us to skip the 10:30 AM boot camp class we'd signed up for – there was no way I was letting that happen, we'd already signed up and committed – and then I felt terrible the rest of the day, but we went!

I'd take a guess that many of us with side hustles and freelance projects are upholders. Meeting inner expectations is essential when you're the only holding yourself truly responsible for getting your work done and keeping your life balanced.

So, when can being an upholder be a negative? Others can view upholders as rigid, too concerned with schedules and to do lists, too willing to bend their expectations of others. I can think of my parents often getting on me, even now as an adult, for being overly busy, but it all comes down to us just understanding each other's tendencies. 


Once you figure out your tendency, and the tendency of those around you, it'll totally change your interpersonal relationships, both at home and in the office. All of a sudden, the colleague that's constantly questioning your work is a questioner, not someone trying to undermine your validity in the office. The friend that needs you to meet them 10 minutes before a workout class is just an obliger figuring out the best way to get themselves to the gym. 

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