Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Enneagram as a Form of Listening

When I first learned the nine Enneagram types a couple decades ago, I was enthralled with trying to figure out who others were vis a vis the Enneagram map. (Thanks to my teachers, Helen Palmer and David Daniels, I was smart enough not to share my observations when they were not requested.) I listened raptly for clues in people’s speech and mannerisms that would illuminate their type for me. And a funny thing happened.

I REALLY listened. I actually HEARD what another was saying without formulating my reply or jumping ahead to guess what they might say. Did I have a hidden agenda? Well, yeah, I wanted to know what made them tick. Or at least the little bit of information about an individual that the Enneagram type provides. I wanted to understand from the best of intentions: so that I could honor him/her. And as is so often the case, I was generally unable to figure out anyone’s Enneagram type that quickly.

But here’s the truly great news. People began to say to me, “Wow, you really understand me,” or “I’ve never felt so heard.” And I realized that it didn’t matter a whit if I figured out someone’s type or not. What mattered was fully-present-in-the-moment listening. Genuinely caring about another’s story is a true gift. If we never get anything else from learning the Enneagram, this capacity to listen would be so much more than enough. Learning type is overrated - caring enough to hear another’s words is a profound lesson that will enrich our lives.

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