Book: The Four Tendencies

four-tendenciesThe Four Tendencies framework was one of the most helpful things I got from Better than Before, so I was happy it got it’s own book (Amazon). Having read Better than Before, and following Gretchen Rubin’s blog for years I did wonder if there was more I could get out of it, but once again reminded myself that there’s value in the curated long form version even if a lot of the ideas have already been blogged.

The framework is all about how people respond to expectations. It’s helpful in how narrow it is.

Obliger: meet outer expectations, struggle to meet inner expectations.

Upholder: meet outer and inner expectations readily.

Questioner: meet only the expectations that make sense.

Rebel: resist all expectations.

(I’m a questioner)

The most useful thing I got from the book is understanding how the tendencies interact with one another. And particularly, as a manager, how the ways in which I think about expectations might interact with how others respond to the expectations I set – explicitly or implicitly. I realised, for example, I’m liable to inadvertently stress out obligers for two main reasons. One, I tend to ask questions rather than set expectations – which can leave them wondering what my expectations are. Two, because I’m not naturally sympathetic to “obliger burnout” – if someone is doing a bunch of stuff for other people that’s making them miserable, my natural reaction is to ask them why they’re doing it (rather than, you know, thank them).

One tidbit about questioners – they (we?) hate being questioned. I didn’t want to believe this about myself but it’s true, I often react like “I have thought this through, you know” even if I try very hard for that to be a private reaction and not a public one. Perhaps that’s part of why I find unsolicited advice so annoying!



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