Upholder, Obliger, Questioner or Rebel – how do you respond to expectations?

19 Jul

This article is part of the series “31 blogs in 31 days” during July 2017 on howtofab.com.

As mentioned before, I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin – author of all things happiness, habits and human nature.

Her most recent study project is around the question “how do you respond to outer and inner expectations?” and to that effect she has developed a framework and free quiz for anybody to check which category they fall into. The framework only deals with this particular question and while the answer to this question usually has wider implications, it’s not meant to capture somebody’s entire personality. It’s not meant to be as broad as, for example, the Myers-Briggs test. But it can be very helpful in understand yourself, and others, better.

Rubin’s 4 tendencies are:

Four Tendencies Gretchen Rubin

The interesting part starts once you find out which tendency you (or somebody else) have/has and what to do with it. Here are some examples:

For Obligers (the biggest category), who struggle with meeting inner expectations, the aspect of External Accountability is an important one as they respond very well to that. External accountability externalises an inner expectation to the point where it becomes easier to meet. They hate letting people down, and by that, they are putting a lot of pressure onto themselves. They will prioritise other peoples’ needs over their own. It’s more “what do I have to do today” rather than “what do I want to do today”.

With Upholders, who meet both inner and outer expectations (gold star!), it’s important to understand that they can be quite inflexible and impatient with others, especially with those who don’t easily meet deadlines etc. They can be quite risk-averse or too driven to meet a goal. This can cause quite a bit of stress. Although they might not need them as a means for motivation, they love following rules and they will look for rules everywhere. If you want to get something done, ask an Upholder to do it!

To get a Rebel to do something, it’s best to not insist. Once they are told to do something, they resist or they often then want to do the exact opposite. They do what they want to do at all times and are hence motivated by their inner desire in a particular moment. They love disruption and they are usually well in touch with what they want. So it’s best to tap into that and let them find their own motivation to do something – or suggest to them to do the opposite of what you want them to do!

Questioners (my category) need to find an inner motivation, they need to be convinced something makes sense to them, before doing anything. Whether or not other people expect something from them is a lot less important than their own inner drive. If they feel there is a reason behind something, they will consider and do it. Questioners can find it hard letting go of something once it’s become routine. They may ask more questions than other people, but as a way to understand, not as hidden criticism.

This is just s short insight into this fascinating topic. Her book on that subject (“The Four Tendencies”) is coming out soon.

Picture: Stokpic via Pexels / CC0

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