So I just finished reading The Four Tendencies, and all I have to say is that I wish I’d known about this book years ago.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Image (c)

have been on a journey of intense personal/professional development for a little over a year, and with reading this book I’ve managed to find the answer to a question that has been eluding me for over a decade—“why I work better with some people than others and why I never figured it out sooner”. This book goes over “Four Tendencies” or broad personality types (and if you’ve taken other personality quizzes you can work those results in and fine tune your tendency even more).

The Four Tendencies. Image (c) The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

With this book I’ve realized that I’m a questioner (someone who can honor personal expectations/obligations but resists outside [external] expectations/obligations) that leans more towards a rebel (someone who has the tendency to resist both internal and external expectations/obligations) tendency at times. I’m in a science discipline, and other than my undergraduate years I’ve ended up working under upholders and by the end of the job period—ending up clashing with them. I would find the work in the lab to be fascinating (or at least somewhat challenging), and that would be the main reason for me joining the lab. Then problems would start creeping up—my hours, my writing, my interpretations of my results, and so forth. With reading The Four Tendencies, I can see now that most of my former supervisors fell within the Upholder tendency (with some leaning towards the Obliger and maybe one leaning towards the questioner). Now I don’t have a problem with rules—if they make sense, but being told that basically that I have to change my writing voice because it doesn’t sound like “a scientist” has always propelled me towards not caring (or as I see it now the rebel tendency). After awhile I never cared if a proposal was turned down (because they weren’t critiquing “my writing voice” but someone else’s voice).

I’ve also realized that my tendency has the tendency of getting me into a little bit of trouble as well. This is due mainly to the fact that after awhile of not getting either a clear answer to a question, being overly questioned for how I do things, or how I respond to things—I quit asking questions and tend to do things as I think they should be done.

One thing I wish is that somehow this book becomes required reading for high school and college students, and that once someone gets into a manager type position (no matter the industry or field) they have to read this book at least every other year. I think that if more people read this book, it would help mediate a lot of the problems that we currently have within both school systems (students not doing work, so forth) and as adults (different tendencies tend to work better with one or two tendencies but not all). I know that if I had read this book years ago, I might not have accepted my first postdoctoral position (as I can clearly see know that the professor was an upholder, probably leaning toward the obliger; and at least this particular questioner doesn’t seem to work very well with upholders (at least those who don’t take the time to try to explain things).


Highly recommended book for anyone on personal/professional development journey or anyone who just wants to learn a little more about the subject.