The Rubin Four Tendencies Framework

Author Gretchen Rubin has designed a framework for understanding how people respond to expectations, both internal and external. The framework places a person in one of Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Knowing your (and your clients'/preceptors'/family members'/friends') can provide valuable insight into how to get others - and yourself! - to meet expectations. This information is useful for midwifery students, students in correspondence training programs, midwives working with clients, and just generally in one's personal and professional life. Gretchen Rubin provides the following summary on her website: 

During my multi-book investigation into human nature, I realized that by asking the suspiciously simple question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge.
I discovered that people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding this framework lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively. The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act.
The framework holds practical answers if you’ve ever wondered . . .
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—or one who keeps telling me what to do?
How do I stop my teenager from dropping out of school?
Why can’t I convince my patients to take their prescriptions?
How can my team become more effective, with less wasted time and conflict?
One of the big daily challenges of life is: “How do I get people—including myself—to do what I want?” Knowing the Four Tendencies make this task much, much easier.

Below are some free resources regarding the Four Tendencies for your use. If you want to learn more about how to work with your and others' tendencies, you can also read more in Gretchen's book The Four Tendencies. You can purchase the book at your local bookstore or through Amazon. I have been listening to the audiobook through Audible and enjoying that format. 

A brief overview of the Four Tendencies

Upholder - Upholders are able to meet both outer and inner expectations equally well: they easily meet goals set by others and they are also able to meet the goals they set for themselves, even if nobody else knows about it. 

Questioner - Questioners resist outer expectations but meet inner expectations. They have no trouble following through on goals they set for themselves, but they must know and agree with the reasons behind outer expectations before they will meet them. If the expectation makes sense to the Questioner, they'll do it. If it doesn't, they won't. Questioners must turn outer expectations into inner expectations in order to meet them. 

Rebel - Rebels resist both outer and inner expectations. It is hard to make a rebel do anything - even the rebel themselves is often unable to meet goals they themselves want to meet because any outer or inner suggestion feels imprisoning. Rebels want to be completely free to do what they want when they want to - or to not do anything!

Obliger - Obligers easily meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. They are able to meet goals for everyone else, but their personal goals often fall by the wayside. Obligers need external accountability in order to meet the goals that they set for themselves and that others set for them. 


PDF Resources


Gretchen Rubin's website - The Four Tendencies - a short introduction to the framework by the author and a jumping-off point for this book and her others. It's a little advertisy, be forewarned

Take the Quiz! Find out your Tendency - Gretchen Rubin formatted this quiz in order for you to identify your tendency, and also to gather data for her research into the Tendencies 

The Four Tendencies: Chapter 1 - Chapter 1 of the book, pdf format


The Four Tendencies audiobook - Chapter 1

Written and read by Gretchen Rubin

28:52 minutes



Gretchen Rubin - Interview about the Four Tendencies

Good Life Project



Gretchen Rubin discussing Upholders

Linked in Speaker Series



Gretchen Rubin discussing Questioners

Linked In Speaker Series



Gretchen Rubin discussing Rebels

Linked In Speaker Series



Gretchen Rubin discussing Obligers

Linked In Speaker Series