For years, I’ve been reading, writing, and talking to people about their happiness and good habits. My preoccupation is: How can we make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative?
And as I’ve talked to people, certain challenges keep coming up, over and over.
For years, I was so puzzled by them, I couldn’t stop thinking about them and trying to figure out the answers. Perhaps some sound familiar to you:
- People can rely on me, so why can’t I rely on myself?
- Why do people tell me that I ask too many questions?
- How do I work with someone who refuses to do what I ask?
- Why do people just do whatever they’re told to do, like lemmings, without demanding good reasons?
- Why can’t I make myself do anything?
- Why won’t you change what you’re doing, after I’ve explained the serious consequences of failing to change?
- Why do people keep telling me I’m uptight?
- Why do I have writer’s block?
- How can I deal with someone who keeps telling me what to do?
- How can I stop my teenager from dropping out of school?
- How can my team become more effective, with less wasted time and conflict?
- Why is everything an argument with my child?
- I’m deeply committed to doing this thing (working on a novel, exercising regularly), so why can’t I do it?
- Why can’t other people just get their own s!$* done?
- Why can’t I convince my patients to take their prescriptions?
- Why does my mother keep emailing me articles?
- My child is so smart and does well on tests, so why does he refuse to do his homework?
- How can I help my spouse to lose weight? To exercise?
- Why can’t I start my side hustle?
- Why am I always the one asked to pick up the extra work around here?
- Why is it taking me so long to make this decision?
- Why can’t my sweetheart be more spontaneous?
- Why does this person refuse to answer my questions?
- Why do my co-workers refuse to act with common courtesy — how hard is it to put your mug in the office dishwasher?
- Why can’t I keep my promises to myself?
- Why does this employee keep challenging every decision I make?
- My spouse will do anything to help a client, so why can’t I get any help?
Why You Act, Why You Don’t
Perhaps it seems unlikely, but it’s true — the Four Tendencies framework sheds light on all these questions.
With every single one of these questions, I have an answer that I think can help, using the Four Tendencies.
To take just one example, I received this email about a teacher who used her knowledge of the Four Tendencies to change her way of working with a Rebel — in a way that allowed that Rebel to succeed:
I’m a teacher at our local county jail, mostly GED and high school diploma courses. Recently I had a student who was getting in her own way—arguing with the guards and not completing assignments. I believed her when she said that she really wanted to get her GED—yet she wasn’t making progress.
It dawned on me that she is a Rebel. I shared your theory with her, and it really helped her see herself in a new, more positive way. I stopped asking her to do homework and let her decide each day how she wanted to study: computer software, group lesson, independently, or not at all. As I write this, she has passed five of the five tests, and thus completed her high school equivalency.
When you know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, you understand yourself much better — why you act, why you don’t act, why you feel the way you do.
And as the example above demonstrates, when you understand other people’s Tendencies, you gain great perspective on why they act, why they don’t act, and why they feel the way they do.
To a degree that astonishes me, simple tweaks in language and circumstances can allow people to do a much better job in dealing with themselves and others.
I certainly use the Tendencies myself.
I’m married to a Questioner, and I’ve learned that I always need to explain the reason if I want him to do something. Even just yesterday. I was filling out a tiresome form that asked for his work address. I called him and asked, “What’s your work address?” He answered, “Why?”
Now, if he’d asked me a similar question, I would’ve just answered. I wouldn’t ask why. But my husband wasn’t going to meet even the smallest expectation — tell me your work address — without knowing why.
That used to bug me. Why wouldn’t he just do what I asked? Why did he slow down the process? Now I don’t get annoyed with him because I understand his nature.
Managing yourself, and others, is much easier when you know what to do — and why.
Want to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the quick Quiz here.
Want to learn more about the framework? Order my book The Four Tendencies. All is revealed!
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 Before. On 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 Jill Wellington.