I continue to be obsessed with my Four Tendencies framework — lucky for me, given that I’m writing a book on the subject! (To hear when that book goes on sale, sign up here.)

One fun thing I’ve been doing? Searching for signs that are aimed at a particular Tendency, or that do a good job of appealing to all Four Tendencies.

Before I get to the signs, if you need a quick overview of the Four Tendencies:

In a nutshell, it distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectationsouter expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

To take the online Quiz to determine your Tendency, go here.

Here are some signs that have definite special appeal to one particular Tendency. See if you can guess which Tendency — answers at the bottom.

1. Bathroom Etiquette sign

What do you think? Does this appeal most to Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel?


2. Anti-smoking campaign video

How about this video of one of the Food and Drug Administration anti-smoking campaigns? Watch the video here.


3. Wet boots sign

This sign about wet boots would likely appeal to several Tendencies but to me, it seems mostly aimed at one. Which one?



“Bathroom Etiquette” is for Obligers, by Obligers! That line, “Keep the place nice for others, if not for yourself” — that’s Obliger.

The anti-smoking ad campaign is aimed squarely at Rebels. If you smoke, you’re controlled, you’re trapped, you’re someone else’s puppet, you’re pouring your money into someone else’s pocket. Terrific!

“Wet boots” seems aimed at Questioners. I suspect that the locker-room attendant had spent many a weary minute explaining to Questioner gym-goers why the boots should indeed stay on the floor.

I was inspired to look for these signs by a brilliant series that Dan Pink did on his blog, called Emotionally Intelligent Signage. He posts photos of…you guessed it, emotionally intelligent signs. It’s so much fun to look at these clever signs. He’s got a bunch listed here.

A few readers have sent me good examples of Tendency-focused signs, and I’d love more! Send them my way. I get the biggest kick out of them.

Stay tuned for a post of my favorite signs that target all the Tendencies in one message.

Have you seen signs that seem effectively designed to push the buttons of one Tendency?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than BeforeOn her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Sonja Guina.