Organized Treasure: Blog
Katie McAllister, Professional Organizer
Gretchen Rubin's book, The Four Tendencies provides insight into the way different people react to expectations and motivations. It considers weaknesses of each tendency and ideas to overcome the weaknesses. It also explores how each tendency reacts with others and how to "get along" with the mindset of each!
As you can see above, Upholders respond positively to expectations, both from themselves and others. They enjoy rules, routines, and structure. They thrive with goals and to-do lists. They are the people who find keeping their New Year's Resolutions an achievable plan, and also friends you can count on to come through for you.
Their weakness can be rigidity and inflexibility. They can get stuck in a routine because it is "what I said I would do", sometimes blind to the fact that it is not working for them anymore or no longer a priority. They can benefit from regularly analyzing whether the way they are spending their time is still in line with their priorities.
Because they HATE to make mistakes, they can take it very personally when someone calls them out on an error, especially publicly. As rule followers, they flourish in environments with fair and clear guidelines. They can frustrate others at times with their need to strictly adhere to expectations, but can sometimes be refocused on priorities with a question like, "Is this really important to you?", as it forces them to weigh their strongest internal expectations against a myriad of external expectations that would be impossible to juggle.
The Questioner cannot tolerate rules they deem arbitrary or pointless. They use logic to determine whether any expectations is one they personally find worthy, and if so, it becomes an internal expectation they are willing to fulfill. They like to improve processes, increase efficiency, and share their knowledge with others. They are likely to consider January 1 an arbitrary date to make a new goal, so they reject "New Years" Resolutions, but are fairly willing to make and stick to goals on other dates not set randomly by others.
Their questions can cause others to label them as "bad team players" when they seem to question authority, or group consensus. While internally motivated, they can have trouble completing tasks they see as "pointless". (And let's face it, sometimes in life items ARE silly in and of themselves - school assignments, paperwork in the government or a large business, etc.) It can help a questioner to look at the bigger picture and find motivation in the fact that this item propels him toward a greater goal - his degree or a promotion.
A questioner can dislike being questioned! In the mind of a questioner, the assumption is that of course he did his research and made a careful decision with all due diligence. Questioning such a carefully considered choice is offensive, while carefully asking them to share their process and explain how they came to their decision (to teach you) is more easily accepted. It helps to accept that a questioner needs to ask (and understand) WHY? This might come into play with deadlines - if you tell a group you need an RSVP by Friday, most people will accept that, but the questioner, if he thinks it is arbitrary, will NOT be motivated to comply. If you explain that Friday is the last day to purchase tickets, though, and he understands the reason for deadline, he is much more likely to respond!
An Obliger is dependable, meets deadlines, and keeps promises... to others. But those personal goals that are just for him? He tends to let himself down and just can't find the motivation to get them done. They are flexible, easy-going, willing to do their share, and great team players.
The first major weakness is taking care of personal goals that don't have external deadlines and expectations automatically attached to them. The solution is to find ways to attach that external accountability - the chapter on Obligers is FULL of tricks that might apply, and if you are an obliger who can do a huge project for a group but can't ever make time for self-improvement items, I would HIGHLY recommend for the specific anecdotes. Sometimes just making the to do list is enough to create an external expectation (I MUST check it off the list). For a health goal, working out on a schedule where others are expecting you, rather than alone, might help (same idea for a study group). You are probably the mindset that most needs to guard against the inability to say NO. Practice it!!
Because obligers say yes to others and NOT themselves, they can easily burnout. When they do, they can become resentful. Don't be another person taking advantage of the generosity of obligers! Help them set boundaries and protect themselves - rather than asking them to do it for THEMSELVES, though, ask them to do it FOR YOU!! (Ah, External motivation!!)
Rebels resist all expectations, and value freedom. They don't like to be controlled or told what to do - they will tend to dig in their heels. They even dislike being trapped by commitments of their own choosing. Usually they do the things THEY want to do, enjoy making their own choices, and stay true to their natures. They are driven, and great outside-the-box thinkers.
But, sometimes their desire to defy rules means they will stubbornly refuse to do what they have been asked, even if it is to their detriment, and EVEN if it is the thing they WANT to do! (Picture the child who has decided on the sweet surprise to secretly clean the kitchen the minute his mom leaves for the grocery store. But just as she is about to walk out the door, she turns and says, "Please clean the kitchen while I'm gone." This is the difficult plight of the rebel.) It was harder to get a read on solutions for this mindset. It seems helpful for the rebel to step back and ask what he really WANTS, identify it and avoid the self-sabotage of letting someone's expectations force him to take the opposite stand - which is really very limiting. They can remind themselves they have the power to choose what they want to do, and to be the kind of person they want to be (which like any of us considering our best selves involves many positive character traits.) Rebels need to work to intentionally have that mental picture and make choices to reflect that best self.
If you interact with a rebel, there was a bit more information - and most tips involved a bit of reverse psychology. For example, rather than issuing a deadline as a demand, try a challenge - "I don't think you could possibly get all of this done by Friday, do you?" It may help to clearly present the options and consequences and leave it as a choice, and allow the consequences to happen. I am not clear on how that plays out if your spouse is the rebel and the thing they don't do has consequences for BOTH of you, but it might be worth reading and thinking these things through if you identify this in someone close to you.
Thinking about our personalities and tendencies, and those of the people we are close to is very revealing. The insight into the strengths and weaknesses we each possess, and cultivating the wisdom to accept, embrace, and work with and around them, stretch and grow us! Best of luck as you identify your tendencies and learn to make them work for you!
Embracing my love for organizing and the joy of encouraging others as we journey through the ups and downs together!
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