Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin on her new book and what makes her happy.
In your book, you identify four personality profiles or “Tendencies”: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. Which one are you?
A: Upholder, no question!
What are the benefits of knowing your Tendency to create better habits?
A: If you know your Tendency, you can set your circumstances to take advantage of its strengths and to offset its limitations. What works for a Questioner won’t necessarily work for a Rebel.
Your research showed that the Obliger — who meets outer expectations, yet resists inner expectations — was the largest group. What does this discovery say about people?
A: It means that many people will do best in a system that provides outer accountability. Say you’re an Obliger who wants to exercise. Knowing that you’re an Obliger tells you that you shouldn’t just try to “get motivated” — you should sign up for a class, exercise with a friend who gets annoyed if you ditch, think of your duty to be a role model for your children, work out with a trainer, join an accountability group on the Better app. There are hundreds of ways to build accountability, once you know that’s what you need.
How can your system be used to build empathy?
A: When we understand the Four Tendencies, we understand better how other people see the world. For instance, Questioners ask lots of questions, and sometimes teachers, bosses, colleagues, and parents think that Questioners are being disrespectful and obstructionist, or aren’t “team players.” Once you realize that Questioners always ask lots of questions, and that this behavior isn’t meant to be undermining, it’s easier to be patient and to give a Questioner the needed answers.
Researching the keys to happiness has been central to your work. What makes you happy?
A: So many things! Friends, family. My dog. My four book groups. The library. New York City, especially Central Park and public transportation. Books. Working on my podcast, Happier. My laptop. Lately I’ve been obsessed with the beauties of scent and of color. And, of course, it makes me happy to talk about the Four Tendencies—it’s fascinating to hear people’s experiences and insights.
Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin designs a compelling framework for self-knowledge in her latest book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too).