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Do You Resist When Anyone Asks or Tells You to Do Something?

ColumnIt may have been a while since I posted on the Four Tendencies, but have no doubt, I’m still obsessed with this subject.

I came up with the Four Tendencies framework as part of my work on Better Than Before, my book on habit change.

There, I reveal the secret of habit formation.Really. Ready to hear the mystery solved? To change our habits, we first have to figure out ourselves.

Many experts suggest a magical, one-size-fits-all solution, but we all know from experience, that alas, such an answer doesn’t exist. We have to shape our habits to suit ourselves.

And in that quest, a key piece of self-knowledge is “What is your ‘Tendency’?” That is: How do you respond to expectations?

  • outer expectations – such as meeting a deadline, performing a “request” from a sweetheart, following traffic regulations.
  • inner expectations – like writing a novel in your free time, keeping a New Year’s resolution, starting to floss.

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • 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 (my husband is a Questioner), so they make everything an inner expectation.
  • Obligers meet outer expectations but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (they often describe themselves as “people-pleasers”).
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

I gave a talk at LinkedIn about the Four Tendencies, so if you’d like to see me discuss each category in a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here; Obligers, here; and Rebels, here.

I’m always trying to deepen my understanding of how they play out. So this week, I’m going to pose some questions.

Today’s questions relate to the Rebel Tendency. Rebels resist when someone asks or tells them to do something. They want to do their own thing, in their own way.

My question for Rebels and Rebel-observers: Do Rebels feel okay about telling other people what to do?

My sense is that they’re comfortable imposing their own expectations on other people — even beyond the imposition that comes when they refuse to do what others expect.

As Samuel Johnson noted, with his usual dry wit, “It has been observed that they who most loudly clamor for liberty do not most liberally grant it.”

If you’re a Rebel, if you feel like answering, I’d love to know what you think. How do you feel about imposing expectations on others? If you know a Rebel well, what have you observed?

And here’s a follow-up question: How do you feel about meeting expectations from people who work for you? Does it seem different when you’re meeting an expectation from someone who is essentially acting as an extension of yourself?

And what about meeting the expectations of your children? How does that work?

Another question for Rebels — do you enjoy helping other people, or teaching other people? Is this something you often choose to do?

Bonus question: I’d love examples from literature, movies, TV, plays, historical figures, of people who are Rebels. For instance, read how novelist John Gardner described himself:

I hate to obey speed laws. I hate to park where it says you have to park. I hate to have to be someplace on time. And in fact I often don’t do those things I know I should do, which of course fills me with uneasiness and guilt. Every time you break the law you pay, and every time you obey the law you pay. That compulsion not to do what people tell me, to avoid tic repetitions, makes me constantly keep pushing the edges. It makes me change places of living, or change my life in one way or another, which often makes me very unhappy. I wish I could just settle down. I keep promising myself that really soon now I’m going to get this little farm or maybe house and take care of it, never move again. But I’ll probably never do it.

Or any other random observations about Rebels or the Four Tendencies? What have you observed? Does this framework ring true for you? Tomorrow, questions about and for Obligers.

If you want to know when Better Than Before goes on sale — and of course you do — sign up here.

Also…

Do You Resist When Anyone Asks or Tells You to Do Something?


Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. You can also watch the one-minute book video. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.


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APA Reference
Rubin, G. (2018). Do You Resist When Anyone Asks or Tells You to Do Something?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/do-you-resist-when-anyone-asks-or-tells-you-to-do-something/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 21 Sep 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.