Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Gretchen Rubin - The Four Tendencies

Podcast Episode #313: Gretchen Rubin – The Four Tendencies

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Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Gretchen Rubin - The Four TendenciesTopics

  1. Introducing our guest, Gretchen Rubin [1:30]
  2. Something new that I'm into: Gretchen Rubin [3:17]
  3. The Four Tendencies [4:42]
  4. Unexpected impacts [8:01]
  5. Letting go of negative connotations [13:41]
  6. Finding your accountability [18:13]
  7. Tendency type changes [22:46]
  8. Obliger rebellion [25:25]
  9. Upholder tendency [35:12]
  10. Upholder tightening [37:58]
  11. Questioner and planning [41:27]
  12. Explaining healthy eating to a Questioner [45:33]
  13. Helping a Rebel [51:16]
  14. Gretchen's new book and a book tour [1:07:32]


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You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 313.

Diane Sanfilippo: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I’m Diane; a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo and The 21-Day Sugar Detox. I live in San Francisco with my husband and fur kids.

I’m the co-creator of the Balanced Bites Master Class with my partner in crime, Liz. We’ve been bringing you this award-winning podcast for over 6 years now. We’re here to share our take on modern paleo living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week’s episode, and submit your questions at http://balancedbites.com or watch over on the podcast Instagram account for our weekly calls for questions. You can always ask us anything in the comments.

Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before we get started, let’s hear from one of our sponsors.

Diane Sanfilippo: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Vital Choice seafood and organics. Purveyor of premium sustainably sourced seafood and a certified B corporation. Vital choice offers a wide range of fish, shellfish, humanely raised meat, protein rich bone broths, and paleo friendly snacks like organic dark chocolate, super antioxidant trail mix, and bison jerky. As the days get longer and the grilling season heats up, www.vitalchoice.com is your source for real food.

1. Introducing our guest, Gretchen Rubin [1:30]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok. So I’m super excited as we have Gretchen Rubin back on the show today. But before we get into my interview with Gretchen, let me give you a little bit of background on her. Just in case you're not familiar with her work.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the blockbuster New York Times’ bestseller’s Better Than Before, The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home. Her new book, The Four Tendencies, comes out September 12. Just a couple of days before this episode airs. And it explores a personality framework she created that divides people into four personality types. She has an enormous readership, both in print and online. And her books have sold almost 3 million copies worldwide in more than 30 languages. She makes frequent TV appearances, and is in much demand as a speaker.

On her weekly podcast, Happier, with Gretchen Rubin, she discusses good habits and happiness with her sister, Elizabeth Craft. Rubin started her career in law and was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner when she realized she wanted to be a writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. You can read more about Gretchen over on her website at GretchenRubin.com.

And if you want more from Gretchen, make sure you listen to episode 217 when we had her on the show a while back when her book, Better Than Before, released. All about healthy, happy habits. And we also have talked a bunch about her four tendencies framework without her on the show. In episode 274 all about resolutions; 223 about resolutions as well; and 292 about nutrition challenges and the mindset around them.

Ok, Gretchen, welcome back to the show! We’re so excited to chat with you today.

Gretchen Rubin: I’m so happy to be talking to you!

Diane Sanfilippo: Our listeners are almost as obsessed with the whole framework and your podcast as I am, maybe.

Gretchen Rubin: Excellent.

2. Something new that I’m into: Gretchen Rubin [3:17]

Diane Sanfilippo: We want to break the ice a little bit. I keep saying we, as if Liz is sitting here with me. Which, we both have podcast partners named Liz. But I want to break the ice and just ask you for a new thing, or a think you're into lately because we think that’s really fun.

Gretchen Rubin: So kind of strangely and unexpectedly, recently I’ve gotten obsessed with the subject of color. On a Happier podcast, Elizabeth and I talk about this idea of choosing a signature color. And ironically, neither she nor I have been able to choose a signature color. It seems like too big a step. But I’ve gotten obsessed with just reading about color, thinking about color, the mysteries of color, the beauties of colors. It’s sort of taken over my free time. And it’s been so much fun. So I really appreciate the beauties of color. It’s all around us. And it’s easy to overlook. I certainly never paid any attention to it until very recently.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s interesting. I was a graphic designer in a former life, so I’m laughing as you talk about the obsession. Because I still kept a relic from my days as a pantone color book. And I still use it.

Gretchen Rubin: But you know, I think they’re just so pleasing just as objects. They’re beautiful. Not even as references, but just something to look at. They’re gorgeous. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s like paint swatches. I can’t help but take as many as I might need, just because I want to see all the colors.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

3. The Four Tendencies [4:42]

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that. That’s awesome. Alright. So before we get into a little bit more, obviously question and answer. Some questions from our listeners. Some self-indulgent questions from me. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of The Four Tendencies, which is your new book that we’re talking about today. We previously had you on the show talking about Better Than Before, which introduced the four tendencies. And this book is just very specifically about them. And gets more into them.

So why don’t you just give our listeners a quick recap of the four tendencies. I’m sure this is just a script that comes right out of your mouth. I think I could repeat it at this point. But why don’t we just start with that foundation.

Gretchen Rubin: Right. So the four tendencies divides the world into four categories; Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. And so the key question, and it’s a very simple question is, how do you respond to expectations?

Now, we all have two kinds of expectations in our lives. We have outer expectations, like a work deadline or a request from a friend. And then inner expectations. So that’s our own desire to keep a New Year’s Resolution; our own desire to get back into meditation.

So Upholders readily meet outer and inner expectations. So they make the work deadline, they keep the New Years’ Resolutions without much fuss. Other’s people’s expectations of them are very important, but their expectations for themselves are just as important.

Then, Questioners. Questioners question all expectations. They’ll do something if they think it makes sense. So they dislike anything arbitrary. Unjustified. Inefficient. So in a sense, they make everything an inner expectation. Because if something meets their standard; they’re like, “Yes. This expectation makes sense.” They’ll do it with no problem. But if they don’t think it meets their standard, then they just won’t follow through.

Then Obligers. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. And I got my insight into this tendency when a friend of mine said, “I know I would be happier if I exercised, and what’s weird is when I was in high school I was on the track team and I never missed track practice. So why can’t I go running now?” Well to me, I’m like, “You're an Obliger. And when you had a team and a coach waiting for you, you had no problem. But now that it’s just your own inner expectation, it’s hard.”

And then finally Rebels. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want to do in their own way, and their own time. And if you ask or tell them to do something, they’re very likely to resist. Typically they don’t even like to tell themselves what to do. Or they have to do it in a very specific way.

Now, there is a quiz online where you can take a quiz that will tell you what you are. It’s at happiercast.com/quiz. And I think I’m closing in on a million people having taken this quiz now. But I think most people can tell what they are just from hearing the description.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: It’s often very easy to identify your tendency. And the tendency of the people around you, too.

Diane Sanfilippo: Which is fascinating. As your describing them, I’m kind of giggling whenever people get to talking about Rebels, because that’s what I am.

Gretchen Rubin: Oooh.

Diane Sanfilippo: And it’s very, very frustrating. But I feel like what you’ve done in the book is give people both the pros and the cons. No tendency is really better than the other. Although, I often wish I were an Upholder. {laughs} You know.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

4. Unexpected impacts [8:01]

Diane Sanfilippo: I wish that I could get things done the way my husband does. It is a really interesting conversation.

So, what I wanted to ask you, just first and foremost. We know there are lots of different ways of dividing people, personality types. Like the Enneagram, which I love and I’m a type 8. So I’m a type 8 and a Rebel. {laughs} And it’s like, a total mess. And five love languages. All these different ways of dividing people.

And I know that you talk about how this works in relationships. How it works at your job. What do you see as sort of the most, or perhaps most unexpected impact that’s coming from what you're discovering with the four tendencies. There are lots of things I’m sure you expected people to say. “Oh yeah, that’s really helping with this.” But what’s something that it’s helping people with that you maybe didn’t expect it to, and it’s been kind of a nice surprise?

Gretchen Rubin: Well, one thing that surprised me somewhat; and it surprised a lot of people. Like, as I was working on the book, it was very surprising. Was how much healthcare professionals are gravitating to it. I’ve heard from so many people from doctors, nurses. They do physical therapy, they’re a nutritionist, they’re coaches. And they are desperate to try to have an easy, simple, effective tool to try to help people do a better job of taking their medication, doing their exercises, following through with treatment, showing up for appointments, not having late night sugar.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: All those kinds of things. And they really are recognizing the patterns. They’re like, “Oh, I get it.” So that’s something; I guess probably because just in my daily life I think about work life, I think about family life, I think about romance, I think about children and teachers. So I was like, that’s interesting and it’s really exciting and encouraging to think that it could be a tool that would really help with adherence. Which is like a really big priority in the health care profession.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. My husband is a chiropractor, and we often have conversations about different examples of patients that have come in. If he’s identifying them as one or the other. So it is really interesting. And you may or may not know, but my background is; well, after graphic designer, nutrition health coach. So I work with a lot of other health coaches. Many of our listeners are health coaches or they coach people in my 21-Day Sugar Detox program. And they are absolutely using the framework to help figure out their clients. Sometimes asking them to take the quiz, but sometimes just using it in the background.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I think that’s a really obvious big one, when they realize that this framework exists now. Because they are so often trying to get people to do something. Right? Whereas, as partners in our romantic lives we sort of tread lightly sometimes on that. But that’s a very obvious place, yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: But I think you're pointing out something that’s absolutely crucial to understand. Which is that a lot of times when you're trying to help somebody do something, or prod somebody to do something. It’s very hard not to expect other people to think about the world that you do. You don’t even think about the fact that you have a certain perspective, or you value certain things. And before I understood this framework, a lot of things that people did just puzzled me. And frustrated me. I just didn’t understand where they were coming from.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} I can imagine, as an Upholder.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, and now I’m just like, oh well that makes perfect sense. Of course this person is going to respond this way. Of course this person is going to respond that way. Because if you don’t know about the tendencies, it’s very easy to think, “Well everybody sees the world the way I do, because I don’t even realize that I’m seeing the world in a particular way.” And also, if something works for me, it should work just as well for you.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

Gretchen Rubin: Well, no. Right? A lot of times that’s not true. And just me telling you more and more and more, you should be able to do this; if it’s important to you, you should be able to do this. It’s like, well that doesn’t work.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: But when you understand the tendencies, you're like, “Ok. I get it. I see the pattern here.” We can figure this out. There are tons of solutions for whatever challenge you're facing in a particular tendency. But if you don’t know what the tendency is, the wrong medicine is as bad as poison.

Diane Sanfilippo: I also have a ton of respect for the fact that you have created a framework. Because, as simple as it sounds, and as simple as it is now in practice, dividing people into four categories. It’s really difficult to get things boiled down to that type of simplicity. And I don’t know; I mean, I constantly, I blame my Rebel tendency. But I constantly struggle to boil things down to the simplest, purest essence of what it really is. So I just have a lot of respect for that. And it’s just so exciting to put words to something that you’re witnessing and experiencing and then to get it down to four. It’s kind of; I don’t know. It’s really groundbreaking. I’m not trying to blow smoke here.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s been amazing. Especially in, like you said, the health care field. So looking at why it is that some people will come to a program, like a 21-Day Sugar Detox for example. And they're like, “Cool. What are the rules? I’m doing it.” And then some people have a million questions. And some of them are cool, you know. I get it that you have questions. But then it hits the point where I’m like, “Really? More questions?” Because I just can’t with your questions. Can you just decide for yourself if you want to do this? And then do it or don’t? That’s my Steve Jobs. Buy it or don’t.

Gretchen Rubin: {laughs} Yeah.

5. Letting go of negative connotations [13:41]

Diane Sanfilippo: So it’s been really fascinating, and I really appreciate that. So, let’s see. We have a lot of listener questions. But before we get to them, I like to indulge my own questions. I’m wondering; the Obliger tendency to me. I mean, they’re all interesting. But I think the Obliger tendency seems to be one where a lot of times people feel like it has a really negative connotation. Like, “I can’t do things that I want to do. I have to oblige somebody else.”

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: So I’m wondering what your thoughts are on kind of how to dismantle that, maybe negative connation that people might have?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. That’s absolutely true, and I have to say it makes me very sad when Obligers talk that way. They’re like, “There’s something wrong with me that I can’t meet my own expectations for myself.” Or, “I don’t want to be dependent on outer accountability. That seems weak to me. Why can’t I just do it for myself the way an Upholder or Questioner could do it.”

To me, it’s sad. Because it’s like, who cares?! First of all, it’s the biggest tendency. So there are tons of people who are exactly like you. So, you're the rock of the world. And it’s very easy to fix, so it’s not going to trip you up. Once you realize that what you need is outer accountability, it’s so simple to plug that in. There are a million things to do. So, why? You are who you are. It’s just a matter; and you can get the life you want. You can reach your aims by just figuring these things out. And it’s like, there’s nothing wrong with that.

And one of the things I like, too. What I’ve found is a lot of times Obligers; and the other tendencies do this, as well. They load a lot of emotional, judgmental things on it. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. So some things I’ve heard Obligers say is, “I’m a people pleaser. I always am sacrificing myself for other people. I can’t make time for myself, I’m always making time for others. For me, the client always comes first. The patient always comes first. The customer always comes first. I would never take time for myself if there’s something to do for them, and there’s always something to do for them.”

So they might heroize it, or they may decry it. But they’re adding a lot of judgement to it. To me, it’s not a matter of sacrifice. Or, “Oh, I’ve got low self-esteem. I can never meet my own priorities for myself.” It’s not self-esteem, it’s not willpower, it’s not self-sacrifice, it’s not people pleasing. It’s the fact that you're meeting outer expectations and you're not able to meet inner expectations. That is just objective. We’re not going to dress it up with any words. We’re not going to distract ourselves by putting it into this framework that makes you feel better about yourself, or worse about yourself. It’s just like; what you need is outer accountability, so fine.

And here’s something that is really important for Obligers to understand why that’s significant. Many Obligers do conceive of the nature of their pattern as being, “I make time for other people but I can’t make time for myself.” Now, the logical consequence of that is to think, “If everybody else’s expectations went away, then I would be able to meet my inner expectations. If I retired from my demanding job, then I will have the time to do the things for myself. If I quit that job, I will have time to do things for myself. I drop out of that school program, I’ll have all this time for myself.” But that doesn’t happen. And over and over Obligers have said to me, “The mere disappearance of outer expectations does not mean that now the Obliger can meet inner expectations. What is always essential is that outer accountability be put into place.

So sometimes Obligers will; I know an Obliger who quit a job thinking, “Now I will really start that independent side hustle I always wanted to do.” But didn’t put in any systems of accountability, so did nothing for a year and had to go back to the old job. This happened many years ago. If I knew then what I know now, I would have been like, “Hey man. You need to get some clients. Or if they’re not going to pay you, they’re going to expect you to deliver something.” Or “You need to work with a business coach. Or have a partner. Or get a debt that you're going to have to pay. Have a group. An entrepreneur’s group, where they’re going to ask you every two weeks, what have you done?”

I have a Better app. If you just search in the app store for Better Gretchen Rubin, there’s all this conversation there about the four tendencies. And one thing a lot of people do is they start accountability groups for whatever it is they want. So once you know that that’s what’s missing, you can strip out all that judgement and just focus on putting into place the structures that are going to allow you to achieve your aims.

6. Finding your accountability [18:13]

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s exactly it. It’s this judgement that comes in. I’m curious if you have a take on who specifically; or why type of person they need to be accountable to? Because it can’t just be anyone, right? There are certain times when maybe they could be accountable to their mom. But other times when mom is not going to cut it, you know? Or certain times when maybe they’re always accountable to their boss; maybe not. So have you seen that, some variation in that, or some kind of pattern there?

Gretchen Rubin: That’s a hugely important question for Obligers to think about. Because you're exactly right. Accountability is something that is very, very idiosyncratic to an individual and also can change depending on context. You're 100% correct.

So, say paying. This is something where there is wide variation among Obligers. If they pay for a class, they’re going to feel very, very obligated to go to that class. The mere fact that they paid is going to make them feel like they had to show up.

For some Obligers, weirdly, they almost feel like they’re off the hook if they paid. I had an Obliger tell me; “We’ll, I realized I was paying my trainer to workout with me. But he charges me even if I cancel. So I realized if I cancel, he gets paid and he gets the time back.” So she was feeling obligated not to go. And I’m like, this is an accountability measure that is not working for you. You know what I mean?

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

Gretchen Rubin: Because she was making her feel off the hook. So you have to be very aware of yourself. So one thing that works for some Obligers incredibly well, and is so simple that for some Obligers it doesn’t work at all, is the future self. I’m going to think about my obligation to my future self. I don’t want to go to the gym, but future Gretchen is going to be really sorry and feel full of regret if Gretchen doesn’t go to the gym now. So I have to go now, because of future Gretchen.

Now, it’s funny to me that the future self can be outer accountability to Obligers, because it’s really just a projection of yourself. But for them, it really does function as outer accountability.

Something that you pointed out, like your mom or whatever. Especially with spouses, this gets trickier. Sweethearts. For many people, the romantic partner is really like part of themselves. So for some people, they don’t make good accountability measures. Because they’re just so easy to avoid. It’s like me telling myself to do something. Now, some Obligers can be responsive to a spouse or a sweetheart, but then some can’t.

And then in some situations, too, the whole family becomes inner. I have a friend who is a very, very ambitious, dedicated, business type guy. And he’s also a very, very dedicated family man. And I’ve seen this happy. In the chain of outer expectations, his wife is outer until she conflicts with a more outer, and then she moves to inner. And she gets the same treatment that he does. His children are one degree out. But if a client needs something, then the whole family moves to inner, and the client will always trump.

So also you want to think about; how am I going to respond to outer and inner in different situations? Sometimes someone’s style of accountability will really be annoying or off-putting to an Obliger. So some Obligers respond much better to positive reinforcement. “That’s so great! You went to the gym again today? How many days in a row is that? Is that like 7 days in a row? Oh my gosh that is amazing! Last night, I saw you did not even go to the dessert table. That was great. I saw you really keep your promise to yourself.” That’s positive reinforcement. Some Obligers really thrive on that. So if somebody is like, they feel like is scolding them or judging them, then they may get resistant to that.

So it comes right back down to, what kind of person are you? And really just start paying attention. One question to ask yourself is, “When have I succeeded in that past?” And if you think, “Every time I went to the gym it was because I was meeting a friend to go to a class. Or it was when I was in college, that I would see a bunch of cute boys in the gymnasium.” Whatever. You're like, for me, I want to see people. I want to feel like I want to go there and see friends and someone is going to notice if I don’t show up, and be disappointed if I let them down.

Or another person could say; “Oh, for me it’s my dog. I don’t want to disappoint my dog. Her favorite part of the day is when we go for our run in the park. She’s going to be so sad. And by the way, she might tear up the furniture if I don’t take her for her run.” So there’s all different kinds of accountability, but it really does differ among individuals.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s a really interesting topic to delve into further for a lot of Obligers. Because I see Obligers around me who, I’m like, “I don’t know how to help them.” I know they need some extra accountability, but I don’t know who the right person or what the right set up is there. But we know that there needs to be something; we just don’t know what it is yet. But it is really interesting.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

7. Tendency type changes [22:46]

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m also curious; I’m curious about a lot of things. {laughs} I’m also curious if you’ve seen any; I know that you say the tendency is kind of like, you're born with it unless there’s a really dramatic shift in your life. Something happens, you go through something really hard, and maybe that changes you in some fundamental way. I just wonder if some women or men as well, when they become parents if they at all push towards more Obliger-ness. Obliger-ness; is that even a word?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: I just feel like a lot of moms. And maybe it’s just because a lot of people are Obligers. I just wonder if that’s a thing. I wonder what I would be like as a mom, and maybe I’m not because I’m a Rebel. Maybe that’s part of it. I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of Rebel moms. But I’m just curious about that. I can’t picture myself having that expectation, because I don’t know how I would respond to it.

Gretchen Rubin: Well, you know. I don’t think it changes you. There were several things that were sort if kicking around; and I so appreciate that you understood how hard it was to come up with a simple framework. Because really it almost burned my brain. Because I had all this stuff that was just floating around, and I couldn’t make sense of it. And I kind of could feel that things mattered, but I didn’t know what.

And something that somebody said to me that felt very full of meaning, and I couldn’t figure out for a long time is, I was talking to a journalist. This was before the four tendencies. And she said to me, “Why is it that busy moms like us can never take time for ourselves?” And I said to her, “Well, I’m a busy mom, but I don’t have any trouble taking time for myself.” And she said, “Neither do I.” And I said, “Then why are we having this conversation?” And she said, “I think that’s how most people feel.” And I was like, maybe not. Maybe this is just what a lot of people feel. And they think, “I feel this way because I’m a busy mom.” And I’m like, “You feel that way because you're an Obliger. I’m a busy mom and I don’t feel that way.”

Now, every parent or anybody who has a lot of obligations can have things when they’re like, “Oh my gosh, there’s all this stuff I don’t want to do, but I have to do it because it’s for somebody else.” But you feel very differently about that, depending on your tendency. And of course, children are so dependent that the expectations that they impose are kind of life threatening. You’ve got to get up in the middle of the night.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. It’s not a work deadline. It can be life or death.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. So I think people look more like Obligers, because yeah, I want to go for my 10-mile run, but I can’t do it because I have to stay home with my baby because there’s nobody else to watch her and I can’t leave her home alone. You know what I mean? But as an Upholder, that would probably bother me a lot more. Because I’d be like, “I have to go for my run!” You know?

So I think it’s more that it’s just that context has its own demands. I don’t think people are fundamentally changing their tendency as a consequence.

8. Obliger rebellion [25:45]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, fair enough. So, we have a question. And I will still pepper in my own questions. But we have a question about Obliger rebellion.

Gretchen Rubin: Ooh, yes!

Diane Sanfilippo: So this one. {laughs} I love the idea of this, because I feel like they’re coming over to the dark side, with me.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: So Mickey was asking, “Can you talk a little about Obliger rebellion? I read how this can happen when Obligers feel exploited, neglected, taken advantage of, overly stretched, or taxed. As someone who battles with saying yes to everyone, I’d like to avoid this reaction. So I’d love to hear if you have any advice on how not to reach that breaking point of rebellion.” I have some thoughts about that too! {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Oh good. I would love to hear that. Because probably as a Rebel, you have good insight into that. Maybe better insight than I would have as an Upholder. And I’m really glad that your listener raised that question. Because it’s a really striking pattern among Obligers. And it can be very helpful and positive, but it can also be destructive.

So, as she said, Obligers rebellion is when an Obliger will meet, meet, meet expectations, and then suddenly the Obliger snaps, and it’s like, “This I won’t do. I’m not going to go through this. I’ve had enough.” And sometimes it’s small, like, “Oh I’m just not going to answer your emails for two weeks.” And then sometimes it’s huge, like, “I’m going to quit this job because everybody here has taken advantage of me for years.”

So she’s exactly right. What you want to do as an Obliger. And if you're around Obligers; which you almost certainly are. Because it’s like 40% of the population. Obliger is the biggest tendency. We all are Obligers or have many Obligers around us. They’re the rock of the world.

You want to be on the lookout for this. So Obligers feel like they’re exploited by other people; and they are, 100%. That is absolutely accurate. Because if an Upholder, or a Questioner, or a Rebel has something that they need somebody to pitch in and help with, who do they go to? They go to the Obliger. Because the Obliger is the one that’s most likely to say yes. So they feel like they’re being taken advantage of; and they are.

So, if you're an Obliger, you want to be very aware of when you start getting those feelings of resentment, burnout, neglect. Being overstretched. Being resentful. This feeling of resentment is something that’s a big issue among Obligers. And it’s puzzling to the other tendencies. And this is a deep area of disconnect. Because the Obliger feels like, “Everybody is asking me to do this. Everybody is pushing me so hard. Nobody appreciates me. Nobody is cutting me any slack. They just keep coming over and over.”

And a Questioner says, “Well if you didn’t want to do it, why did you say you did?” And an Upholder says something like, “You need to learn how to manage yourself better so you don’t get some overwhelmed and attacked.” And a Rebel is like, “Do whatever you want to do! Do it or don’t do it. Why are you complaining about it?” You know? So, we don’t have sympathy for the Obliger. And also, we’re not on the lookout for saying; “Oh, this person is getting over taxed.”

So let’s say you're managing an Obliger. You really want to keep a look out. This work is not being equally distributed. This person is on too many committees. This tiresome travel is not being equally distributed. This person is going to Cincinnati twice as much as everybody else. I want to see this more equal. Or just say to the Obliger; “You haven’t taken a vacation in a year. By the end of the year, I want to see a plan for when you're going to take a week off, because we don’t want you to burn out.”

And when an Obliger is feeling that feeling, they need to try to get in front of it and understand how they can offset it. Now some things that can work is turn to somebody else and say, “Is this reasonable? Am I right to feel angry?” And have somebody else. This is where Rebels are great. Rebels are like, “It’s totally unfair! There’s no way you should do it!” And they really encourage the Obliger to resist, because that’s very natural to the Rebel.

Or, Obligers can often say to themselves, “If I say yes to somebody, I have to say no to someone else.” So if I say yes to my team and do that travel, then I'm saying no to my family. And we had this family conversation about how we’re really going to try to spend more family time together. If I say yes to you, I have to say no to somebody else. So when there’s warring expectations like that, that helps the Obliger to sort of think it through.

Or like I talked to one Obliger who is a professor who is always flying around speaking, and really felt like, “I have to do this.” Because in his vanity, he’s like, “My ideas are so important. I have to get them out into the world.” But then he thought, “If I don’t do those keynotes, then others will have an opportunity to challenge themselves and put their ideas out.” So that allowed him to say no.

You can think of your duty to be a role model. You can say to yourself; “If I stay until 9 p.m. every night, my team is going to feel like they have to stay until 9 every night. And I don’t want a whole team of people who have no personal life. So I have to leave at 6 to be a good role model for other people.”

Or you know, sometimes it’s funny. It’s just hard for Obligers to say something like, “I don’t want to answer email over the weekend. I don’t want to answer work email over the weekend.” And this is where you get in trouble with the tendencies. This happened to me as an Upholder. As an Upholder, I’m thinking, “Answer email, work email, over the weekend or not. I don’t care.”

Diane Sanfilippo: Same as a Rebel. Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: I don’t care. I just want to send it when I send it. Deal with it when you want. I don’t care, it’s up to you. You set your own rules for yourself, do whatever you want. Oh-ho. Well.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

Gretchen Rubin: We talked about it on our podcast, and I realized; no, no, no, no. The Obligers feel like they have to answer that. So I want to be a good citizen to the world. I don’t want to tip anybody into Obliger rebellion or for them to have that feeling of resentment when they work with me. So I have learned how to use delayed delivery in Outlook. So now if it’s on the weekend, my Questioner pals that I work with. I send them emails whenever I want. The Obligers, delayed delivery.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s something I communicated. So, I think this Niki is my assistant. And this is actually something; not to call you out, Niki. But this is everyone. Something I communicated very early on as sort of a preemptive; I tend to shoot off text messages or emails or what have you. And I said; I don’t expect you to answer them immediately. Or if I send it to you on the weekend, or before or after hours. It’s so that you have the information. If I need you to do something with it. I’ve tried to lay that foundation. But I will stay very aware.

But what I was going to say for Obligers. Obviously communication is so key. And I don’t think it’s always easy if they’re dealing with other people who don’t understand this framework for them to make that communication. Because it’s very scary to tell people what you need. But the other piece I wrote down is boundaries. Communicating boundaries, which is so hard for people in general. But I feel like the Obliger needs to do that very, very keenly. My podcast partner, she and I do this all the time. Because you know how hard it is to maintain a show. We’ve been going 6 years now. And we communicate; she’s an Obliger. We communicate very tightly on all of this so we’re not pushing each other or what have you.

Gretchen Rubin: And one of the things that I say in the book is, if you have a Rebel who has a partner either in romance or at work, they’re almost always partnered with an Obliger. So it’s interesting; your assistant and your partner are both Obligers. So that’s interesting.

The thing about boundaries. This is my thing about boundaries. I don’t think Obligers are good at setting boundaries. I don’t think that a helpful thing for them.

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t either. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: I think it’s more about accountability. I think you're like; I want to put an accountability framework into place. So it’s more like, “You know what, you're my office mate. You have my back. And I really trust you. So before I say yes to partner at this law firm, I’m going to be like, ‘I’m going to get back to you in half an hour.’ Then I’m going to talk to my friend and say, ‘Hey I’m going to talk to you and you're going to help me think this through.’” Saying, “I’m going to set boundaries.” It never really works that well. In my experience.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s interesting.

Gretchen Rubin: It’s like, all Obligers totally will talk about it with enthusiasm, and like they’re so excited about the idea and they know they need it. It doesn’t seem to be a helpful framework to action. To me, accountability is something you put into place from the outside. Boundaries are really a form of inner expectation, where they are challenging to Obligers. But if there’s some kind of boundary you want to meet, what’s the outer accountability for that boundary?

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh, so good.

Gretchen Rubin: How does somebody else enforce that boundary, not you?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

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9. Upholder tendency [35:12]

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s interesting. So I want to talk about Upholders for a moment. Which you are an Upholder.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes I am.

Diane Sanfilippo: Classically.

Gretchen Rubin: Very few of us, yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: My husband is actually an Upholder.

Gretchen Rubin: Ooh, interesting combo.

Diane Sanfilippo: It is interesting.

Gretchen Rubin: Unusual.

Diane Sanfilippo: And it’s fine though, because we work really hard to understand each other. And we do understand each other. And he really appreciates the Rebelness of my personality and sees some freeing elements that helps him sometimes chill out on certain things. Because he knows I’m not going to come at him with all these expectations all the time.

But one thing that you said in the chapter about Upholders which I found really interesting is that they don’t have the same leaning towards rebellion and resentment that Obligers do. What I found myself doing really often with my husband was like, I felt like I was checking in too much to make sure that resentment wasn’t building over basically; he almost always does the dishes. He edits this podcast, so he’ll be hearing this. But I was checking in so often to be like, “Are you sure one day you're not just going to snap and freak out about doing dishes?”

Gretchen Rubin: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: But reading that, I was like, oh. If he’s an Upholder, then if he tells me that he’s fine with it, then he’s probably fine with it. He is doing this of his own volition; this is not just based on outer expectations. I found that really interesting.

Gretchen Rubin: You know, I wonder. I’d be curious to know if your husband. I could anticipate, from my own Upholder standpoint. I could imagine thinking something like, “My Rebel wife is not going to do the dishes if I tell her to.”

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} 100%.

Gretchen Rubin: “And I don’t think she’s going to want to do it on her own. If I just decide this is my job, and this is part of what I do.”

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s exactly it.

Gretchen Rubin: “Then I’ll just do it, and it will be done, and it will be done the way I want, and there won’t be any conflict. If I try to somehow make this fair or even or something like that, or get into a big thing, it could end up being a major source of conflict.”

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think he 100% has taken that route. We’re also not score keepers, you know? So I think that really helps. I think the score keeping in this balance, Rebel/Upholder would be super dangerous.

Gretchen Rubin: The one thing I will say is that for me as an Upholder, I sometimes worry. To me it doesn’t seem fair. People will describe the balance of the relationship, and I’m like, “That doesn’t sound like a good deal to me. If it works for you, then it’s fine.” Because nobody knows what the inside of a relationship looks like. If the two people there are happy and feel like they’re both getting out of it what they want from a loving relationship, that’s fine. But sometimes, I’ve seen things where I’m just like, “That doesn’t seem like a good trade off to me, but you guys seem happy with it. So if it works for you.”

10. Upholder tightening [37:58]

Diane Sanfilippo: I could totally see that. I could totally see that. So we had a question about Upholders from SKH Williamson. I don’t know; these are some Instagram handles. “What are some strategies that Upholders can use to prevent tightening.” So Upholder tightening is kind of like the Upholder version of the rebellion, but it’s just that clenching further onto all of the expectations.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. It’s when the rules just get tighter and tighter and tighter. Or where an Upholder can’t let go of something, even though it makes sense.

Diane Sanfilippo: Marry a Rebel. That would help. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: See, and that’s probably; exactly. So, one very simple example as an Upholder was, “I was at a really busy time at work so I started going in at 7, and now I’m sort of always going in at 7. But sometimes I would like to stay at home and have breakfast with my husband, but I feel like I need to be in by 7. Even though I totally don’t need to be in by 7.” It’s like, she started off loose and then got tighter. That happens to Upholders.

So for Upholders, inner expectations always have tremendous weight with Upholders when they are articulated. So if there’s something you're not able to do, or you feel frustrated, or you're not living up to an aim as an Upholder, you want to make sure that both outer and inner expectations are clearly articulated.

So for her, she would say something like, “What I really want to do is get my work done. I sometimes enjoy getting to work early and having that quiet time. There’s value to that. But there’s also value to, I’m really going to think it through and you know what, I really do want to have that lovely morning time with my husband. It’s kind of a quiet, relaxed time that we don’t get at any other time of the day.” Really go through those inner expectations. And to realize the tightening has happened.

A lot of times, it sort of subconsciously happens. You don’t even really quite realize you’ve been taken over by it. Having a word for it and saying, “Oh, I’m feeling some tightening.” A lot of times that will help you say, this is not a helpful pattern, let me loosen this up a bit.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that is really helpful. I think if you're in any kind of partnership or relationship where you both understand this framework, and you're kind of both in it. And it’s a good conversation. Like if I saw this pattern happening at all with my husband, I’d be like, “I think this might be happening.”

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: And then just have a conversation about it, if somebody doesn’t understand. I don’t know about that.

Gretchen Rubin: I think a lot of times just having vocabulary for something, or a word for something just helps you identify it and then talk about it in a more detached way. Because it’s not like; with my husband. My husband is a Questioner, and it used to drive me crazy. And I’d be like, “If you asked me to do something, I would just do it. And then I ask you to do some little thing, and it’s all these questions. I have to justify myself at every turn. Can’t you just be a cooperative marital partner? Why can’t you show me the same consideration that I would show you? If you asked me to go get the mortgage papers, I would just go get them. I don’t have to have a long conversation about that. Why can’t you do the same for me?” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Now I understand he’s a Questioner. I’m like, he’s like this with me. He’s like this with everybody. I just need to say, “I’m filling out a really boring bureaucratic form. What’s your work address?” And he’s like, “Here’s my work address.”

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: You know? Now I know. It’s just what he needs. There’s no reason to get angry about it. It’s nothing to do with me.

Diane Sanfilippo: Not personal.

Gretchen Rubin: And it’s not a big deal. But my reaction to it could become a big deal, if it becomes this festering source of resentment and misunderstanding. But you know how it is with those Questioners. Everything’s a conversation. You know? It’s not that big a deal.

11. Questioner and planning [41:27]

Diane Sanfilippo: So we have another Questioner question from Fretha Myer. “As a Questioner, I would like ideas on going with the flow more often. I always want to plan ahead and know every detail.”

Gretchen Rubin: Well, one question I would have is why do you want to do that? And I say this to somebody who puts no value on spontaneity, so probably this is why I’m saying it. But I think our culture puts a lot of value on spontaneity. But spontaneity is something that some people like and some people don’t. So maybe you just don’t really like spontaneity. Maybe you like to have everything planned out. I certainly do.

Now, sometimes what happens is somebody in your family or somebody around you will be like, “You need to loosen up. You need to learn how to go with the flow.” It’s like, why do I? Why do I have to learn how to go with the flow? Why can’t you learn to be on a schedule? Not to say that you wouldn’t want to, or that you wouldn’t want to accommodate someone else’s needs. But it’s sort of like, who says that one person is wrong and one person is right? These are just different perspectives. So my first question is, why do you want to do this?

Now if you're sort of saying; maybe you decide you don’t. And you don’t care, and you're just going to do what comes naturally. It could be that you're like, “Oh my gosh, I feel like every moment is accounted for. I feel like my life is just a series of boxes and I have no time to myself and I want to have spontaneity.” Maybe what you need to do is schedule time to goof off and put on your calendar “free time.” Put it on the calendar, and just say, “For this 4-hour block, I’m just going to do what I feel like.” But somehow I think; I do this as an Upholder. Holding time to goof off, or holding time to be off the grid can help you sort of have that feeling of freedom, but within your natural desire to schedule.

To me, it’s hard to imagine wanting to be the kind of person where I just wake up Saturday morning and just see where the day takes me.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: It just doesn’t sound like fun for me. I would be curious where this question is coming from.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: But I think scheduling time to goof off can often help.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s an interesting one. I wonder too if planning ahead to know every detail, if that sets you up for more disappointment sometimes. Because there are a lot of things; especially with something like travel. Where I figured this out about myself. That I will let my husband plan things, and then I won’t go into it with a ton of expectation, because I didn’t plan it. Now that I know I’m a Rebel, it’s also different. But I also then am not set up with an expectation to then be disappointed. Because that’s definitely happened to me, so many times. And I’m like, I don’t want to be disappointed.

Gretchen Rubin: Right. That is a great point. And it also reminds me of something that’s important to understand about the tendencies. Which is this is just one very narrow aspect of your personality. How you respond to expectation. So you're a Rebel, and we could line up 50 Rebels. And depending on how ambitious they were, how considerate of other people they were, how smart, how educated, how driven, how adventurous, how neurotic, how extroverted, they would look very different from each other. Like an ambitious, considerate Rebel looks very different from an inconsiderate unambitious Rebel.

Same thing with Questioners. 50 Questioners would look completely different from each other. So it might be that this Questioner isn’t really experiencing a Questioner problem, it’s really anxiety. The desire to plan everything in advance is kind of about anxiety. “Well, I’m going to get to the train station at 8:30, and I’m going to have 15 minutes to buy my newspaper and my coffee. And then at 8:45 when I get on. And then when I get there.” You know. It’s like, this is really about managing anxiety.

So you want to be aware that sometimes when you're experiencing; don’t attribute everything to your tendency. Because it might; well you're just experiencing something else. Same thing with Obligers. Obligers often assume; oh, all Obligers are super considerate. I’m like, no!

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Some Obligers are not considerate at all. They’re only going to do something if they’re actually going to get in trouble if they do it. It’s like, yeah I’ll do it if I know you're going to catch me. But if I think you’ll never notice, I won’t do it. Even if it would be a nice thing to do. So it may be that there’s some other element in play.

12. Explaining healthy eating to a Questioner [45:33]

Diane Sanfilippo: Interesting. Ok. Let’s see if there was something else about the Questioner. Well, so this obviously falls into our healthy eating realm. Eat well, feel well. “I’d love tips to help a Questioner who doesn’t care about food quality or paleo-ish eating understand why I do care.” She says, I’m assuming she thinks. “I think I’m an Upholder, and a little Questioner.” Is what she says.

Gretchen Rubin: Well that’s interesting, because why does it matter? Why does it matter what the other person thinks?

Diane Sanfilippo: Especially if she’s an Upholder, I feel like.

Gretchen Rubin: And this is one of the sad truths of The Happiness Project, which was the other book that I wrote. The only person we can change is ourselves. Sometimes when we change, other people change. And sometimes when we change the relationship changes. But, it’s always good to just start with yourself. And also not to feel like other people have to participate.

People used to say to me all the time with The Happiness Project; “I would love to do a Happiness Project, but my husband won’t go along.” I’m like, “My husband won’t go along.” That is not the guy I married. He is the last person to do something like that. So my question is, if you're convinced that you want to eat this way, why do you want to convince him, about the way you eat?

Now, if you want him to eat that way because you think it would be healthier for him, that is one thing. But did I understand the question right? It almost made it sound like she wanted him to accept her way of eating? And I’m like, why does it matter?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think it matters because it causes tension with how much we spend on our food.

Gretchen Rubin: Oh, true.

Diane Sanfilippo: It causes tension with cooking a meal that the other person doesn’t want to eat. Or they're not supportive, and that’s a tension as well. Where they’re scoffing at what you're doing. And I think that goes deeper into just relationship and communication stuff that’s not dependent on the tendencies. An unlikely pair.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, somebody who is just not… A lot of times, this is like, “I want you to make the food you used to make, because I like that. Now you're making this weird food, I don’t want to eat that. So I want you to do it for me.” That’s just selfishness, basically. Or just wanting to have things your own way.

In my book, Better Than Before, about habit change. I talked a lot about how and why other people affect your habits. But just on a most basic level; didn’t she say she thinks he’s a Questioner? And she’s an Upholder?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yes.

Gretchen Rubin: Ok. So a Questioner is always about justification. So you want to load this person with research and data and information. Say, “Read Gary Taubes book, Why We Get Fat; read The Case Against Sugar; read Good Calories, Bad Calories.” You want some serious data, read Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: It’s a lot of information. Here’s the study; this is what the new thinking is. Yeah, all these professionals have been saying this all along, but this is refuting it. Look at big population studies. Or, here I’m eating this way. Data point one; look what the great health effects have been for me. What could be more compelling than that.

Also Questioners are often very compelled by the idea of customization. Because it goes into their idea of efficiency and things being specifically tailored to them. So you could say something like, “I’m not saying everybody should eat this way maybe. But look at my great results. This is me beating my sweet tooth. When I eat this way, I feel more energetic, and my skin clears up and I’m having less stomach trouble. So this is really engineered for me.” And then also Questioners can sometimes be persuaded by the idea of experiment, because again, it’s more information about themselves.

“Why don’t you try it for a month? Just try it for a month, that’s all I’m saying. And then you’ll know more about yourself. Maybe you’ll learn something, maybe you won’t. Give it a shot, we’ll see. If it doesn’t work, then you can throw that in my face. If it does work, then that will be really interesting information. Or maybe you want to try something different. Something that you feel like appeals to you. I’m doing it my way; what would be the way that would appeal to you? What do you think is the most efficient way? Where do you think the research lies?”

Also, they really need, if they’re going to take anybody’s advice. They really have to trust the expertise of that person. So if you hear the person saying something like, “You’ve just got this crackpot person telling you what to do and you're just doing what they say. You're just following the rules. You don’t even understand why. Who is this person.” Blah, blah. Then you really want to say, “Here’s the research, here’s the data, here’s the justification. I’m going to take you really deep into this.” And again, results are always the most compelling.

My father is a Questioner, and he started eating low-carb after I went low-carb. And this was the thing that was compelling to him. He’s like, “Well, I’ve lost all this weight and my blood work is amazing.” Like, I’m convince. You know?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. That’s the answer to his biggest question.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah; data point of one. I’m like, it’s the only data point I care about, you know. So this is one of the ways that understanding the tendencies can minimize conflict. Because then you can really talk their language. Which is, data. Justification. Efficiency. Customization. Explain why that works for you, and explain how maybe this person would want to think about it for himself.

Diane Sanfilippo: Really helpful. A big way that I presented for folks to reframe the conversation about why they’re eating this way, whatever that way is going to be in my new edition of Practical Paleo, I talk about dealing with unsupportive friends and family. And the biggest thing I like people to focus on is just how they feel doing it. Because who is going to argue with you saying, “I feel better. My acne is cleared up.”

Gretchen Rubin: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s a thread killer, as we call it. It’s an end of conversation.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. It’s irrefutable.

Diane Sanfilippo: Exactly.

Gretchen Rubin: It’s like; I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. And I prefer that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: That’s a very, very good point. That’s always; because people can’t tell you you're wrong.

13. Helping a Rebel [51:16]

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Exactly. And maybe that’s something as a Rebel I learned perhaps early. So, question from Food by Mars, going on to Rebels here as I’m watching the clock and making sure that we give some ample time to each tendency. Food by Mars says, “OMG, love her!” About you.

Gretchen Rubin: Aww. Thank you.

Diane Sanfilippo: And she says, “How can you help a Rebel? I know suggestions are to suggest and not enforce. But it can be very slow moving when you're trying to help them change health habits, it’s extra frustrating.”

Gretchen Rubin: Yes. Ok. So there’s a couple of things. And here you can weigh in in whether you think this is good advice. Ok, so there’s a couple of different sort of frameworks that you can use. The first framework I would say; the first kind of approach is identity. What is the kind of person that you want to be? Because Rebels always want to put their identity onto the world. They want to live up to their idea of themselves.

So you're a healthy active person. Or you're a person who is committed to the environment. Or you're a person who is committed to having an energetic, pain free body without inflammation. You want to cook for yourself, because this pre-packed junk that they try to foist off on the American public. So one thing is, what’s your identity. You're a considerate parent who wants to provide a healthy meal for your family. So that’s one; strategy of identity. Who does the Rebel want to be?

Then the next one is information, consequences, choice. Give the Rebel the information that they need, tell them the consequences of their actions or inactions, and then just allow them to make a choice. So you could say, “Well, you know what we’ve found is that when people are pre-diabetic do this thing, or this thing, or this thing, or this thing, they tend to lose weight. They can manage their blood sugar better. Then they feel healthier. They have less risk of amputation and blindness. A lot of times they don’t have to get onto insulin. And they have more energy.” On and on and on.

And it’s like, “If you would like to talk to me about some things. I’ve seen good success. People have good success with different things. If you want to go over what some of those are, let me know.” Information, consequences, choice.

Here’s the thing. And this is where it gets very, very tricky for Rebels. They don’t want to do what other people tell them to do. And it is very easy to ignite this spirit of resistance. So you want to make sure that you always are careful not to say, “You should. You have to. You said you would. The rule is. It’s on the calendar.” Because this is going to ignite their spirit. “Doctor’s orders.” All these things are going to ignite their spirit of resistance.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Yeah.

Gretchen Rubin: You choose, you want. Now, Rebels hate being controlled. And this can often be used as a message. “You don’t want to be addicted to cigarettes. You don’t want to be controlled by smoking. You're too tough. I’ve seen the changes that you can make. As soon as you make up your mind, you can kick this thing. I’m sure you can as soon as you want to. But right now, the big tobacco companies have you right where they want you. You're pouring money into their pockets. You're falling for their advertising campaigns. You’ve got to walk out 15 feet away from every door to smoke your cigarettes. They’re telling you where to go. But when you want to be free, you can be free.”

Also somebody said that; she was asking about her husband. And it turned out the thing that worked for them was when their 18-year-old son said, “An old guy like you could never quit smoking.” And the guy was like, “I totally can.”

Oh, but here’s the key thing about the Rebels. Because they have this spirit of resistance, which can be used to help them at times. Your nagging. Your reminders. Your helpful hints. Your calendars on the fridge, or stickers. All those things may be slowing them down. And there’s nothing more poignant to me than getting a long plaintive email from somebody explaining how despite all their best efforts, and all their helpful reminders, the Rebel is refusing to act. And I’m like, “If you would just back away, that Rebel might decide perfectly well that they want to achieve that aim. But they’re resisting you. You are the one that’s slowing this down.”

Literally, today I got an email from a mom who said about her Rebel son. He’s a 12-year-old Rebel boy, and she was looking into his bedroom as they were leaving for the house and she saw him making his bed, but sort of simultaneously out of her mouth, she was like, “Ok boys, make your beds.” And she said she literally saw him pull back the covers, and unmake the bed. He was making the bed because he wanted to, but the minute she told him to make his bed; ok, now he’s not going to do that because she’s not the boss of him. So be very careful, because if you are dealing with a Rebel, you need to have a completely different approach than what might work with an Upholder, or Questioner, or Obliger.

What do you think? Speaking as a Rebel, what do you think?

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that I can identify back very, very far. My mother constantly asking me to clean my room. And me kind of realizing there were not actual consequences to not doing it.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I was such a good kid, that I was like, alright. I remember one time they said I was grounded. And I was like, “I don’t know what that means to you, but I’m still going to leave the house.” {Laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Right, right.

Diane Sanfilippo: Because I was like, are you physically going to stop me? Because I’m going to leave and I’ll be spending time with the same 5 girls I always spend time with. So your arbitrary consequence. Which is a little Questioner-y, I guess. But it was just this, mm, I don’t really think that that sounds like a consequence. And this really gets under my husband’s skin. Because what he sees happen often is I don’t suffer consequences that I even should sometimes. For example, not filing my taxes on time. Not even not on time; but we needed to file an extension for something last year. And then we were buying a house, and it turned out not having the paperwork filed actually worked in our favor for this random reason. And he’s like, of course it did. Of course that happens for you. Because it wasn’t done. This is not helping his case, you know; where he’s such an Upholder about things.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: But absolutely, consequences. And they have to be real. If I have deadlines that aren’t real, I’m hard pressed to really hold to them. I’m like, this arbitrary deadline. So I definitely think I’m a Rebel tipping a little towards Questioner, where it’s like, “Does that make sense? Do I believe that?” I don’t know.

Gretchen Rubin: But what you said about consequences is absolutely essential. Again, speaking of people dealing with Rebels. It’s absolutely crucial that negative consequences be allowed to fall. If you step in at the last minute and save or rescue, then it’s like, “Why am I going to do it? Why would I?” Because somebody else is going to handle it. And that works for the Rebel. Because they’re like; well I really don’t feel like doing that. You're doing it in the end. It might be less convenient for you, because you're up against a deadline doesn’t bother me.

But one of the things that comes up in marriage is; I know an Upholder who is married to a Rebel. And maybe you and your husband experience this. He said, “The problem is, that negative consequences that fall on my wife also often fall on me. If she doesn’t pay the cable bill, my cable gets cut off.”

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Gretchen Rubin: If she decides at the last minute she doesn’t feel like going to that concert, because Rebels often want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. And they don’t feel like being boxed in because they agreed to do something three weeks ago. He’s like, “That’s my money that gets wasted. Because I bought the ticket, and I didn’t have time even to bring another friend with me, because she decided at the last minute.” And I was like, “That’s the gal you married!” You know what I mean?

Diane Sanfilippo: Right. This is what you signed up for.

Gretchen Rubin: It just, that’s the way. And it’s like, you can use autopay whenever you can. So many Rebels have set autopay.

Diane Sanfilippo: I hired a bookkeeper as soon as I had more than one person to pay. I was like, “Oh no. This is not happening.”

Gretchen Rubin: This is something Rebels say over and over again. Delegate jobs. Put things on automatic. Whatever you can. Because it’s just very difficult to go through those repetitive things. But Rebels can do anything they want to do. So it’s like; and I’m a person who eats very, very, very low-carb. And that really suits my Upholder self because it’s like a set of rules, and I follow it, and I find an enormous satisfaction.

I have a friend who is a Rebel who eats exactly the same way I do, and he’s like, “I’m not sucked in by the conventional stupid, the Food and Drug Administration and that dumb pyramid. I’m not sucked in by that.” A lot of times Rebels like to do things in an unconventional way.

Diane Sanfilippo: Part of the resistance.

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah. So he’s like, “I’m part of this small group of people. We do it completely different. People think it’s crazy what I eat for breakfast. But I’ve figured it out. I’m eating my own way.” He also runs barefoot. He does a lot of things in a very unconventional way. But he exercises all the time. But he’s running barefoot. And I’m like, so Rebel.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I think to your point about the identity. I mean, 100%. When I show up to workout, it’s because I in my own mind, I am an athlete. It’s part of who I am.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: but somebody else can’t. My husband cannot do anything about that except support from afar. So we were just building our home gym. And that’s something he can do to encourage that.

Gretchen Rubin: Right. Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: If he wants something to change, then perhaps helping to change my environment without actually telling me what to do. It’s like, if you want the chameleon to change colors, change the color of the ecosystem, you know?

Gretchen Rubin: Right. Well also, I don’t know if you experience this, but Rebels often like to do things spontaneously.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yes.

Gretchen Rubin: So instead of saying, “I run every morning at 8 a.m.” They’re like, “Hey, it’s a beautiful day outside. I feel like going for a run. Oh, I’m feeling a little stiff. I think I’m going to do yoga today.” Because that’s what I feel like doing today. So it’s right there. You’re like, “Oh, it’s 8 o’clock at night, but I feel like watching Game of Thrones while I’m on the treadmill.” It’s like, it’s right there.

Yeah, that’s really interesting to think about. About how you can play into that. But here’s a funny thing somebody told me about a Rebel. Rebels, you don’t want to say to a Rebel. Something that would not work with a Rebel is to be like, “Don’t you want to go to the gym today?” Because they’re going to be like, “No I don’t.” But if you said something like, “Oh, I see you’ve decided not to go to the gym.” They’d be like, “I’m totally going to the gym.” And they go.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. {laughing}

Gretchen Rubin: Once you get that; now, sometimes people feel uncomfortable because they feel like they’re manipulating a Rebel. And I’m like, it’s a fine line between accommodating a tendency and being manipulative. And everybody has to decide where that line is themselves.

I do sometimes think that Rebels can be manipulated, because the spirit of resistance is so strong for them that sometimes they caught on to it. Sometimes it seems like they don’t. So it’s just something to be aware of.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I did; after reading that chapter, I did say to my husband. “You know, when I’ve got the energy and the motivation to do whatever the thing is. Unless you really don’t want to do it at that moment, we have to just do whatever it is.”

Gretchen Rubin: Yes. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: Like, I want to paint this wall right now? We’re going to do it right now. {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: Absolutely. That’s great advice.

Diane Sanfilippo: He’s figuring that out. And unless there’s some crazy reason why he can’t, he’s like, “I’ll just go with it.” And it’s not about not arguing. It’s like, we both want to do this thing. Maybe it wouldn’t have been when he would have chosen. But that it gets done is still beneficial for both of us.

Gretchen Rubin: Why do you think he’s an Upholder and not an Obliger? Because he’s sounding to me like an Obliger.

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh. Because he will create his own schedule for himself. And do his own thing.

Gretchen Rubin: Oh. Ok.

Diane Sanfilippo: He is self-appointed Upholder. He doesn’t need.

Gretchen Rubin: Gotcha. Gotcha.

Diane Sanfilippo: Unless him creating those schedules and doing all of that is being an Obliger to his future self, possibly.

Gretchen Rubin: Right, right.

Diane Sanfilippo: But he definitely. Oh, here’s a perfect. We’re coming up on an hour but you have to hear this. This is a perfect example. We’re approach two doors in a Casino exit, somewhere in New Jersey I think. I don’t remember where we were. We’re approaching this exit, and one door is closer to us. But it says “Do not enter.” Or it says “exit”. But I previously saw people coming through it the wrong way. I knew the door would open that way. So I wasn’t worried about that. The other door is out of the day, and is obviously the way they want you to go. So he goes out of his way to go through that door, and I was like, honey where are you going?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: We’re walking straight through. We are not. And look at you, upholding all the Upholder-ness. Following the rules. Here we go. Maybe that’s Obliging. I don’t know.

Gretchen Rubin: I don’t know. It’s interesting. I would have to probe his reasons to know. Because he could be an Obliger who just finds it very easy to find systems of outer accountability, or it could be that he’s an Upholder that has a very high tolerance. Or a very high appreciation for your rebel spirit of kind of spontaneity and self-directedness. So interesting.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I think, to wrap on that point. I think your point about different kinds of Rebels. I consider myself very considerate and aware. Very caring person. So it’s not dismissive. There was one woman who commented on a picture I posted about dealing with a Rebel. Where she was like, “That person obviously needed some parenting and a good spanking.” And I was like…

Gretchen Rubin: Oh my god, no.

Diane Sanfilippo: I wish you knew. And I hope her kid is not a Rebel, because that is going to be tough. {laughs} Really interesting.

Gretchen Rubin: I mean, the thing I have learned from Rebels as an Upholder. And I feel like this is so incredibly valuable to me. We’re more free than we think. If you don’t want to do something, it’s very, very unusual that someone can actually make you do it. You are choosing. And you can always examine those choices. And there’s a lot more freedom in the world than people think. And I have really learned to appreciate.

Because if you look at Upholders and Rebels, they’re the opposite. So I think they do have important lessons for each other. You can go through the door marked “Do not enter.” And usually, nothing bad happens.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} It’s so funny.

Gretchen Rubin: You can use the men’s bathroom.

Diane Sanfilippo: I’ve done it. Yep. Of course I have! {laughs}

Gretchen Rubin: I mean, I use the unisex bathroom on a plane no problem. But if it says men, I’m not going in there. It could be a single little tiny bathroom in a restaurant, clearly identical to the women’s one. I am not going in there even if there are 15 women long-line outside the women’s room. I just am not going to cross that door.

Diane Sanfilippo: Saying nothing of the fact that it’s probably kind of gross in there. But I hear you.

Gretchen Rubin: Well yeah, that’s a factor. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: So; oh. There was one other thing I was going to. Oh. This has really helped me. This framework has also really helped me just interacting with people who come to the blog, listen to the podcast, come to my Instagram or social media in understanding why it’s so hard for other people to recognize their free will. Because now that I know that I’m a Rebel and it is the smallest group. And I’m like, why don’t people see that they get to make these choices?

Gretchen Rubin: Yes!

Diane Sanfilippo: Everything we all do is a choice. And I think there’s part of human nature that everyone can learn that we all make choices, and our lives are the product of our choices. But I think that it’s just so hammered, and it hits home so hard for a Rebel. Because it’s like, that’s the core of who I am.

Gretchen Rubin: That is the core.

Diane Sanfilippo: Everything I do is somehow in my power, if only how I think about it.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: So it’s very interesting.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I’m an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s ability to heal. Nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants learn a wide range of tools and techniques to assess and correct nutritional imbalances. To learn lots more about the nutritional therapy program, go to http://www.NutritionalTherapy.com. There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia, so chances are you’ll be able to find a venue that works for you.

14. Gretchen’s new book and a book tour [1:07:32]

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright. So you're about to be on a tour. You have book tour information at gretchenrubin.com. Correct? Folks can find out about the tour.

Gretchen Rubin: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think as soon as this show airs, the book will have just released, maybe a couple of days ahead of when this show airs. So you guys can grab the book anywhere books are sold. Independent bookshops are a great place to get them, but anywhere is fantastic. Definitely support Gretchen on her tour if you're near a city she will be. Because I know what that’s like. And seeing all of your faces just makes all of that travel totally worthwhile. What else do you want to tell folks about where they can find you or anything else about the book?

Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, I have a site, as you mentioned. GretchenRubin.com. And there’s all kinds of resources there. I post just about every day, kind of my adventures, and happiness, and good habits, and the four tendencies. There’s the quiz at Happiercast.com/quiz. Or you can just go to my website and poke around; you’ll see it before long.

I do have a podcast called Happier with Gretchen Rubin, where I talk to my sister, who is an Obliger. And we talk about how to be happier, as you can guess from the title. So that’s really fun. And I do have this app, the Better app. If you just search Better Gretchen Rubin. Or if you're on your desktop, you can go to betterapp.us. And this all about the four tendencies. So if you want to talk to other parents, or you want to talk to other Questioners, or you want to form an accountability group for eating more healthfully, you can do all of that very easily on the app.

And the book is coming out. I’m very excited to go on the road and talk to people about it. The book is crammed with examples from real life. Because I realize, I do not have the imagination to come up with all the rich detailed ways that this stuff comes up.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Yeah. You can’t make this stuff up.

Gretchen Rubin: The way Obligers come up with accountability! It was like, I had a list of like 100 hilarious brilliant ways. And I’m like; ugh, how do I cut it down to like 7. I can’t have the whole book in there. Or mottos of the tendencies. I ask people; what is the motto of your tendency. And they’re so imaginative and so great. So yeah. I’m excited to go out and be talking about it. Because I love, love talking about the four tendencies.

Diane Sanfilippo: Well we love it. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much for spending time with me today. I’m really excited about it. So thanks for writing it. And good luck with it. I think it’s going to be; I think it’s going to be one of those things that really anchors into just our own awareness of understanding ourselves and being able to improve our lives as we understand ourselves better. Much like the five love languages has and these other frameworks that have come before. This just so relevant today. Thank you; I’m really appreciative.

Gretchen Rubin: Thank you! It was so much fun to talk to you.

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright you guys, that’s it for this week. I absolutely loved this interview. So awesome to be able to chat with Gretchen. Don’t forget, you can find me at http://dianesanfilippo.com. And Gretchen at www.gretchenrubin.com. Don’t forget to join our email lists for free goodies and updates you don’t find anywhere else on our websites or on the podcast. And hey, while you’re on the internet, please leave us an iTunes review. It helps new listeners find the show. And we really, really appreciate reading about what you love on the podcast. We’ll see you next week.

Comments 1

  1. This was so interesting. My husband I both took the quiz and we are both questioners. I think he has a bit of rebel as well and I have a bit of upholder.

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