Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enneagram Errors Part Deux

In the last blog entry we examined some Enneagrammatical errors that commonly affect or afflict us. Here are a few more errors that are natural and easy to fall into. With naming, a little vigilance, and some focused attention, they won’t catch us unaware.

Enneagram Evangelism. Being Too Enthused About the Enneagram

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me how they were turned off completely to the Enneagram by some well meaning friend/spouse/coworker bombarding them with enneagram enthusiasm, well, I’d have a roomful of nickels. And I hate rolling those things in wrappers so I’d just have to live with them. (Yes, I live rurally and my bank’s coin sorter is rarely working.)

Seriously though, this is a real Enneagrammatical error. The horror on someone’s face when I tell them that I teach and consult with the Enneagram of personality is not feigned. Generally, I listen to their tale of Ennea trauma, offer some empathy (because they’re right, it sucks to have anything pushed on you), and hopefully get them to separate the map from the messenger.

We Enneagram enthusiasts need to be gentle in our excitement. The one best way I’ve found to open someone else to the Enneagram is this: give them an introductory book, mine, David Daniels’, Helen Palmer’s, or Baron and Wagele’s. Tell them your type: “I’m a Seven (or Eight or One or whatever your type is.) This book might help you understand me better. It’s helped me understand myself more.”

We need to restrain ourselves from commenting on their type, even if they ask. They will read the book and begin the discovery process on their own. Let them get back to you. After all, one of the best parts of the Enneagram is having a common language in which to examine our differences and similarities on our path to understanding.

Being a Not Type

One of my friends who is a successful Enneagram teacher and consultant worked so very hard interrupting her passion, her Enneagram drive, that she became what she now refers to as a Not Four. Which is not the same as an evolved or self-actualizing Four.

Sure, the Enneagram gives us a choice to run our habit or passion rather than having it run us. But we need to remember that the passion IS energy. We want to avail ouselves of that energy for growth and transformation, to become our best selves.

My friend was working so hard going against her type, that she underused her type, her gifts. She realized that it’s not doing the opposite of what type first presents, but doing whatever we do with consciousness. Sometimes, Fourness is exactly what is needed. We can’t jettison our gifts; we merely need to be awake and choose right action. With practice and awareness, we can choose the gifts of all nine types, ultimately.


Sevens are not committed. Eights don’t get their feelings hurt. Ones hold grudges. Not true. These are potential manifestations of the worldviews informing Sevens, Eights, and Ones. But don’t believe everything you read.

Yes, Sevens are visionary optimists, and most enjoy beginnings more than grunt work middles. Still, I’ve known myriad Sevens who are very committed to relationships, causes, and projects. They get things done, they complete, they are monogamous.

Eights may project invulnerability coming from a worldview where “only the strong survive”. But let me tell you that I know many a tenderhearted Eight of both genders whose feelings have been bruised because of the assumption that they are touch and don’t feel pain.

Ones can certainly see things in black and white terms and become irritated when others don’t come through, aren’t honest, or don’t pull their weight. But remember that the hallmark of Oneishness is the desire to correct, to make better. I know several Ones who don’t hold grudges - because they feel that it is wrong to do so. It’s not correct.

These are just a few examples, but it is all too easy to fall into stereotyping, even when we know better. Better to ask each individual “How is this situation (feelling etc) for you?” And it works even better when you both have that common Enneagram language.

Confusing The Map With The Territory

Just because we know the Enneagram type of another person does not mean we know him or her. The Enneagram is a rich and compelling map. But it is only a map. In a sense, it can be likened to our GPS devices in our cars or on our phones. It does a good job in certain known areas but it can lose its way or declare you off-road when it is unknown territory.

Each of us IS unknown territory. Our Enneagram type makes us more comprehensible to ourselves and others. It offers a map for growth both psychologically and spiritually. Still, much of our inner terrain is “off-road” even to ourselves. We are a learning in progress. We are growing ourselves.

One day, probably far in the future, it is my profound desire that we will no longer need the Enneagram map. I pray that we will connect intuitively, deeply with ourselves and others. Understanding will be like breathing and we will apprehend the true and holy territory of spiritual beings in human form. And then we might attend to other work, what I do not know.

I know, I know, it sounds like science fiction or utopia. But I can dream. In the meantime, I’ll try to use the map with delicacy and discretion, always reminding myself that there is so much more that is not known.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Enneagrammatical Errors: Common Enneagram Mistakes

Once we learn the Enneagram of personality, a whole world opens up to us
. We discover that our perception of reality, well.. isn’t reality. It’s a mere facet, reflecting a limited worldview. We realize that we have been like the blind guys groping that elephant. The part we perceive is real enough, but we only apprehend a small part of the whole. As my teacher Helen Palmer says, each of the Enneagram types has one ninth of the truth.

The Enneagram map helps to be vigilant as to when we are falling back into what Tom Condon calls the ‘trance” of our type. We question the reality before us and try on perceptions of the other eight types in an endeavor to sense the whole Elephant, as it were.

Certainly, new worlds offered by the eight types we do not inhabit have much to teach us. Our own type illuminates much as well. Yet, we may slip into “knowing” by virtue of our Enneagram knowledge too soon. We may fall prey to Enneagrammatical Errors.

Here are a couple of common ones that most of us (including me) have fallen prey to.

Point Envy
I’m not sure, but I”m guessing that Sevens get this one a tad more often than the other types. Thankfully, I can’t remember how many times I heard from a well meaning Enneagram enthusiast that they wished they were a type Seven. All I can say to that is “Oh no you don’t! You don’t wish you had my inside.”
Each type comes with its own set of problems and heartache, gifts notwithstanding. Speaking from the Seven perspective, I can truthfully say that what looks like happiness and optimism from the outside (even felt at first from the inside) often is the manhole cover over a huge, dark sewer of pain.

And until we travel below ground through that muck, all the twists and turns through the shadow, true joy eludes us. Believe me when I say that I would not wish that horrifying journey on anyone. Except maybe a fellow Seven who’s ready to become “real.”

My friends who inhabit the other eight types of the Enneagram have their own dragons to slay on their journeys. Point Envy is natural, perhaps, but misguided. (And for more on how Envy plays out read the previous Blog Entry: An Inquiry Into Envy For All Enneagram Types) So the next time you find yourself wishing you were a different type, count your blessings. The devil you know and all that....

Instant Typing
People I’ve known for a couple hours when they discover I am an Enneagram teacher invariably ask “What type am I?” Well, I don’t know. and anyone who says they do is cantilevered out there a little too far.

Because the Enneagram map describes an internally held worldview and beliefs about reality, there is really no way TO know. I just give my stock (and true) answer: “No one knows how you feel inside except you. Anyone can have any trait or characteristic that we notice externally given the right situation. It’s why we exhibit that trait that illuminates the internal landscape and narrows the search for type.” It works. They get it, dare I say, instantly. Feel free to use it next time someone asks you.

The Enneagrammatical error of instant typing occurs when people actually believe that they can type others after a few hours, minutes, days. Or even, gasp, by looking at a photo. I don’t care how talented, enlightened, or how many years you’ve spent studying/teaching the enneagram, you cannot tell someone’s internal terrain just by looking at them. And if someone types you, even if they know you well? Take it with a boulder sized grain of salt and do the work yourself.

The Enneagram is a map of internal terrain and an inner worldview, best learned by self- inquiry and self-observation. True, books, classes, websites, and trained professionals can offer tools to the seeker to help them narrow down their type to break its hold. But the discovery process is an individual one, exploring oneself with the map as a instruction guide for growing oneself.

We’ll look at more enneagrammatical errors in subsequent blog posts. Some of the mistakes we’ll address will include:

Enneagram Evangelism. Being Too Enthused About the Enneagram

Being a Not Type


Confusing The Map With The Territory

Have you noticed, fallen prey to, or been the unlucky recipient of other Enneagrammatical Errors? Or have a tale to tell about one of these? Leave your wisdom here in the comments; we learn by sharing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Inquiry into Envy for All Enneagram Types

It’s an issue, indeed it is the passion or drive, for Enneagram type Four. So the rest of us don’t need to concern ourselves much with it. Or do we?

Barbara Arney, MA, presented an intriguing look into envy as a human drive that affects all the types at the recent International Enneagram Association meeting in San Francisco.

Through lecture and dyad exercises, we were able to discover how envy plays out in our lives, generally and vis a vis our Enneagram types. We learned about envying, but we explored what it is like to be envied and how disempowering that can be.

And surprisingly, we found that envy can offer us a gift. Opening to envy consciously can open us to what we thirst for in ourselves rather than looking outside for it in others.

Barbara posits that a major underlying force of envy involves a “fierce attraction to an external good while resisting the internal good.” We project (and we do not have to be Sixes to do this) our own good or desire for good onto others. When we take our inherent goodness and put it on others, we diminish ourselves.

Concurrently, when we envy someone we also diminish them by seeing only an idealized part of them rather than the complex, multifaceted being in front of us.

There’s hope, however. Whether experiencing the victimization of envy or being envied, Barbara tells us, we can avail ourselves of practices to develop a durable relationship with the Good.

Some of these practices include:
Grounding in the body - dropping into sensation and relaxation.

Centering exercises to steady the mind.

Recognizing your own reactivity of envy/envied: gossip, sarcasm, withdrawal, judgment, hatred, independence.

Keep an ongoing list of all the little fulfillments in your life.

Perhaps most important is to acknowledge your desire for good that is underneath your feelings of envy.

These practices seem simple. And they are. But they are not easy and we must be vigilant and diligent to change the patterns of envy in our lives. Only then may we be able to recognize and nurture the good in ourselves.

Of course, our first step is to notice when we are envying or being envied and our reactions. Self observation will enable us to notice its effects and allow us to embody the above practices to break envy’s insidious hold.

How, when, whom do you envy? How does envy manifest for you or your type? What are your reactions when others envy you? Let’s explore these questions together here in the comments.

More about Barbara Arney: She is a certified Enneagram instructor and corporate trainer/coach with the Rapid Change Group teaching brain-based tools to business. She is offering a virtual course/community called Women’s Ways: The Power of your Passions...A September Inquiry with the Enneagram. It includes conference calls each Wed. that are recorded, a centering CD, and two 30 minute coaching sessions, and more. For info, please contact Barbara directly at BarbaraA@comcast.net or on her Central time cell phone at 612-387-3399.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Enneagram Practice: Sometimes It’s Better To Receive

My husband, Dewitt, and I recently traveled to Europe for a combination of work and pleasure. Our first stop was France, so I dutifully brushed up on my traveler’s French, so that I could at least attempt to honor the language and culture that I was visiting.

And as my husband so aptly pointed out, one needs to be careful about speaking her piece well. Because when a French person answers you, it will be in rapid, colloquial language. And you will understand only a fraction of what you are receiving.
What has happened is that with quickie learning CD’s and the like, we’ve learned how to send a message but not necessarily how to receive it. This happens oh so frequently even when speaking our own language. In our own culture. We are gifted at sending but oftentimes, we fail at receiving.

And it happens when we interact with someone who inhabits a different Enneagram type than our own. Learning about the Enneagram types gives us a quickie course in culture, language, and worldview. But just because we might be conversant in the guidebook that the Enneagram offers, does not mean that we understand this other type, this other person.

The Enneagram, when used to its fullest, is about receiving. And receiving and receiving and receiving. We may be very good at sending, but sending messages does not enhance our understanding. Receiving does. Listening does. Asking for assistance in navigating and understanding another’s world does.

Receiving requires a passive, accepting stance. Culturally, in the U.S. at least, we are not educated in or applauded for taking such a stance. Ask any Nine who has had to “ramp up” to fit in to our Threeish milieu.

Here’s a practice we can all try. When next we are in communication with another whether we knew their Enneagram predilection or not, let’s just listen. Let’s experiment by trying to receive without sending. Sure, ask questions to help clarify the receiving when appropriate, but let’s just open a receptive space to experience another culture.

Let’s report back here and share how this felt. For us. The Enneagram is not about collecting knowledge or esoterica. It IS about understanding, empathy, and experiencing another as they experience themselves. I for one, look forward to the day when we no longer need the Enneagram guidebook to develop compassion and understanding, when empathy with one another will be as natural as breathing. Maybe not in my lifetime. Then again, maybe......................

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Enneagram Eight For A Day...Or a Nine Or a One...

"Can you ever switch types?" I’m frequently asked. "No" is the short answer. Our Enneagram personality home base is home base - which seems to be hardwired into us.

Still, as we grow and change, we can avail ourselves of attributes and strengths beyond the intrinsic ones of our own type. Heck, we can do it whether we know the Enneagram or not, although the map helps.

The Enneagram describes nine distinct world views. We might also envision the types as nine personality gifts, each of which illuminates a part of human potential.

Can we purposefully embody the positive traits of another type; a gift of human potential not innately our own? Can we access the appropriate attribute for a given situation, even if it is not natural or unconscious for us? Surely it is worth a try as we attempt to grow and actualize ourselves.

I remember one time when I was embarking on a business trip to teach the Enneagram to a group of women business leaders on the East Coast. My West coast flight was to leave in the early am, so I needed to catch an airport shuttle bus for the 1.5 hour ride to SFO.

Ordinarily, the bus drivers were ruthless about not waiting for latecomers or holding up departure for any reason. On this day, for unknown reasons, the driver waited for late folks he knew were coming for 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes.

This Seven slammed into One. I felt myself tighten up in my body, my teeth clenched, and I became anxious and outraged. I stopped myself and took a long hard look at my own reaction. What type might possibly have an attribute that could help me in my current situation.

I thought about my son, a go-with-the-flow Nine. How would he handle this? Well, I mused to myself, he would kick back in his comfortable, warm seat on the bus and either doze or open a book to read.

And if he missed the flight? Well, there were other flights to the East Coast, and the class wasn’t till the next day. Things just have a way of working out.

So I pretended. I acted like my Niney son. I stopped looking at my watch and started reading my book. My jaw muscles unclenched and I relaxed.

I had a most pleasant ride to the airport, got off at my stop (lateish), walked into the terminal, got my boarding pass, and walked right onto the plane since they were boarding already. (yes, it was pre 9-11.) It remains one of my favorite trip experiences.

One of my Enneagram students (a One) told me that she wanted to be more free and lusty with her husband during sexual closeness So she pretended that she was an Eight the next time they were intimate and claimed that it was the best time they’d ever had in bed.

While we can never truly “know” what it is to be another type or even to manifest the gifts in the specific flavor in which they experience themselves, we can try to expand out of our own limited Enneagram box. We may be surprised at the range we have available to us.

Have you always wanted to be a Four? A Three? A One? Try it for an afternoon or a day or in a situation where those gifts seem called for. Let us know how it works!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is Simon Cowell An Eight? Typing Famous People

I read recently that Simon Cowell on American Idol is an Eight. Because he’s blunt and brutally honest. While that indeed is a characteristic attributed to Eights, any of us can exhibit that same trait given the right set of circumstances. I acted that way myself when I was head nurse in an Intensive Care Unit. And I’m a Seven with a Six wing.

My own best guess about Simon Cowell is that he is a Four. (I have my reasons but they don't matter.) When confronted by the host of the show, Ryan Seacrest, a few weeks ago, Simon shrunk back from the conflict, muttering that it was “uncomfortable.” Most Eights will rise to such an occasion, ready for a good battle. For the same reason, some other Enneagram aficionados believe he’s a Six.

Really, though, I don’t know Simon Cowell. I have no idea what his Enneagram type is. I like his bluntness, wherever it comes from.

I’ll admit it. Attempting to type famous people is fun. Think of it as an ennea exercise, practicing our understanding of the hallmarks of type. But that’s all it is.

I am always amazed (and a little chagrined) when Enneagram enthusiasts, authors, and others claim to know definitively the type of some famous person. I know that I’ve fallen into the same trap myself in the past.

The truth is that unless we personally know said famous person AND that they have confirmed for us their type, we have no idea of their Enneagram proclivity.

Sure, we can see traits and characteristics. We can even feel energy, an individual’s force field, which supplies more clues as to type. But as any good Enneagram observer will tell you, we don’t know diddly about how a person truly feels inside unless s/he tells us.

The Enneagram describes nine very different ways of perceiving, acting, and being in the world. Each of these unique viewpoints stems from an internal worldview based on a set of assumptions and beliefs about what it takes to survive and thrive. For example, the Eight worldview can be rather simplistically described as “The World is A Jungle and Only The Strong Survive.” The Nines believe the world is at its best when we are One with everything and harmony rules. And so on.

From the outside, it is difficult if not impossible to tell another’s type. Time and again, I’ve worked with families who were conversant with the Enneagram (even Enneagram teachers) and did not realize the inner landscape of the members of their own close nuclear family. This underscores for me the best use of the Enneagram as an invitation to understanding through inquiry. “How is it for you?” we might ask, creating an open space for learning about another.

My teachers, Helen Palmer and David Daniels, conducted panels of type (as do all of us certified in the Narrative Tradition of the Enneagram). Their greatest skill (and gift) was approaching each person on a panel with the curiosity and openness of a child. Although they were “experts”, they questioned as if they had no idea what a given person of a known type might say. Hence, we continually learned more about type and individuals. By genuinely wishing to understand another’s internal terrain, they avoided typing or stereotyping vis a vis a given set of external traits.

My son is a Nine. He knows his own internal landscape well, having learned the Enneagram at a very early age. Still, looking at him from the outside when he is working at his high pressure, high profile job, it would be tempting to see him as a Three. He exhibits the adaptability, productivity, and selling charm of a Three. But when he goes home at night, it’s back to Nine land. When he is anxious about something, he looks like the archetype of Six as he scans for danger and worst case scenario. And then he returns to home base: Nine.

So whether we are looking at famous people or our own best friend, it’s important to remember that traits don’t make the man. Or the woman. Any of us might exhibit any trait in a given situation. WHY we do it is much more telling. And the only way we’ll know...... is to ask.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Career Within You - Finding The Perfect Job for Your Personality

The Career Within You - Finding The Perfect Job for Your Personality

I’ve always loved Elizabeth Wagele’s cartoons for their insightful humor and for making the Enneagram accessible. Many of my students who were initially daunted by lengthy Enneagram tomes started their journeys with “The Enneagram Made Easy”. And as we all know, once you venture into the richness of the Enneagram personality map, you’re hooked.

Elizabeth now has a brand new book co-authored with Ingrid Stabb called “The Career Within You.” I expected to read a sort of “What Color Is Your Parachute” with an Enneagram twist. And I expected the humor and heart of Liz’s cartoons. I found all this and more.

All nine types are described succinctly with pluses and minuses and overarching motivation with particular attention to strengths brought to the workplace and needs. Wagele and Stabb break new ground with the best part of this book - their Career Finder for each of the types.

Each type starts his/her search by rating a list of 5 strengths. Personal preference is taken into account next when the reader peruses a long list of careers and lists 4 that interest him.

A chart next to each career weights each of the five strengths of the type - ideally you’d find something that resonates with your highest strengths that excites you.

Last step, Step 3, shows practical considerations in these same tables. Additional ratings are given for jobs with high pay, predicted future growth area for jobs, recession proof occupations, and those with a large number of present openings. This is invaluable information, especially in our present economy.

I decided that if the Wagele- Stabb Career Finder works that it should be able to work in reverse. I have what I consider to be the world’s best job(s) as writer, artist, health activist and enneagram blogger. I wanted to see if the Career Finder might agree. So I ranked my type Seven strengths in this order: Idealism, Seek challenge, Enthusiasm, Social networking, and Synthesizing info. I then checked for matches in the extensive jobs list. And the Career Finder.... nailed it!

Writer (but not travel writer), Artist photographer (not wedding photographer or photojournalist), Human potential seminar leader (yep still doing that), Journalist human interest or opinion (e.g. blogger). Journalist hard news did not line up and indeed, I have a hard time sometimes writing my articles for Examiner.com as they want more newsy, middle of the road pieces than I tend to write as a health activist.

The point here is that the Career Finder is complex and varied enough to be of real value and help to anyone who is job hunting whether it is her first venture into the workplace or a midlife change in career.

The book finishes up with a chapter entitled Fundamentals to Look for in Your Work Situation and a wonderfully laid out Job Hunting Guide. Interspersed throughout this terrific book are real life stories that illustrate the nuances of career and job seeking that are so critical to finding satisfying work.

This book is a must read for anyone contemplating a job search as well as for those of us who sometimes get lost in asking the question “Is this the right career for me? Why do I do what I do, again?” Just the practice of looking backward has invigorated me and validated my choices. Turned out The Career Within You was an inspirational text as well! Who knew?

To order your copy from Amazon.com, click here or visit your local bookstore.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Enneagram Speaking Styles: Get Your Message Across

According to a famous study, people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. Whether we have to speak to a work group or a professional association or a large crowd, many of us are anxious about speaking. And as we know, when we are stressed, we may “stomp on” or exaggerate our point (type.). And in the process, lose the point... of our talk. Knowing our Enneagram speaking style can help us avoid the trouble areas of our own type and get out of the way of the message we want to deliver.

Each Enneagram type has a “default” style of communicating, particularly when speaking to a group or audience. We certainly have the ability to access styles other than our default when we are conscious and aware. However, when we go on auto, when our personality runs us rather than we run our personality, we fall into our default method of communicating with its strengths and its pitfalls. We naturally would like to maximize our strengths and minimize the pitfalls that will cause our message to be misinterpreted or not heard at all.

It is also helpful if we can expand our communication talents to include those of the other Enneagram types. When we can avail ourselves of different ways of communicating, we have the option of matching the style to the appropriate situation or group. All nine styles work well in given situations. We don’t want to be limited to our personality’s “default” mode, when another style may work better. Let’s examine the speaking styles of each of the nine Enneagram types.

Speaking Styles: Pitfalls and Strengths

Type One - The Perfectionist

Speaking Style: Sermonizing

Strengths - honesty, integrity, doing it well, getting it right, detail oriented. Want to be good.

Pitfalls - can preach or sermonize (because its right!), can get so lost in the details that lose your listeners or don’t ever do a speech because it isn’t right yet. Can be inadaptable so never change your message for fear it will be wrong.

Be in service of the message rather than in being right. Know when it is good enough. Don’t preach or sermonize, there really is more than one right answer; they’ll turn you off if you preach, anyway.

Type Two - the Giver

Speaking Style: Warmth

Strengths - empathy, a caring compassionate bent, orientation toward relationship and service. Ability to connect quickly.

Pitfalls - pride in all of the above, I am giving you so much so be grateful. Over-emoting. Get lost in the emotional stories and lose the audience. Shape shifting to be liked - can seem wishy washy.

Humility - these folks were doing ok before you got here. Give the best you have to offer without attachment. Use stories in service of the message. True empathy involves knowing when to back off. Just because you believe you know what they need doesn’t mean they want it.

Type Three - the Performer
Speaking Style: Convincing

Strengths - ability to sense what the audience wants and shift/change message so it will be heard. Can sell anything. Charming and facile. Quick. Inspirational. Usually very good on stage.

Pitfalls - may not have own message. May be strong on style and low on content or actual message. May seem too slick, too polished. Audience doesn’t trust. Can cut corners and slide through. Pretend to know more than do.

Be clear on your message, don’t cut corners but learn your topic well. Figure out where you stand so don’t lose self in trying to be successful at speaking. Give credit to others.

Type Four - the Romantic
Speaking Style: Lamenting

Strengths - Unique point of view, dramatic, often very skilled on platform in delivery, sensitive and creative. emotional.

Pitfalls - can be overly dramatic, can be so attached to uniqueness that audience doesn’t relate, speaking style of lamenting. Can be lost in emotion and lose audience like the Two.

Use drama to accentuate your points; if it doesn’t enhance the message, get rid of it. Ask others you trust if too much drama, emotionality that are not in service of the message. Be wary of separating yourself from the audience - unique so they could never hope to be like you.

Type Five - the Observer

Speaking Style: Dissertation

Strengths - depth of knowledge about a topic, often are the expert in what they speak on, ability to observe acutely and describe well, superb humor - often dry, well read - will probably know what all others have said/written on the subject. Can systematize information well.

Pitfalls - Can have speaking style of dissertation. Can quote everybody and not reference self, can seem detached or not present, may withhold information. May give too much information and wander the labyrinths of the mind.

Watch for quoting too many, too much: as Plato said, as Clinton once said. Quote yourself - put yourself in it. Pare down information to what really serves the message; not everyone wants to explore it in the depth that you do. Be present while speaking. Use observing and humor skills. Simplify.

Type Six - the Loyal Skeptic
Speaking Style: “Shotgun” or Apologetic

Strengths - loyalty, duty to people or a cause, especially underdogs; healthy skepticism, can sense hidden agendas, prefers group to spotlight often. Antiauthoritarian.

Pitfalls - doubt own message so unclear, push cause down others throat, can be overly pessimistic: doom and gloom if you don’t change, senses hidden motives and danger where there are none. Can use shock techniques due to ambivalence toward authority. Talking in short shotgun blasts.

See yourself in service to the underdog cause of the message. That means clearly defining what the message is. Don’t try to shock or bring out listener’s true feelings. Slow down speech,. Highlight an optimistic feature. Don’t push causes - illuminate them.

Type Seven - the Optimist

Speaking Style: Enthusiastic storyteller

Strengths - Storytelling, humor, optimism. Great reframers - of everything. Upbeat high energy people who emphasize work etc. as fun. Can draw parallels and similarities between very unlike things. Adventurous, enjoy life to the fullest.

Pitfalls - Can become too attached to own stories, can make a story out of a mundane trip to the post office which may not be relevant. May seem pollyannaish to audience, so won’t trust you. Overemphasis on fun may lose audience. Can be dilettantish - know a little about everything, but not a lot about any one thing. Can use too much humor.

learn topic really well - don’t get distracted by other things. Use humor and stories in service of the message. Don’t reframe everything - take a beat first. Insert a little downside, then the plan to deal with it. Be sure the parallels and connections you make are relevant and helpful.

Type Eight - the Boss
Speaking Style: Commanding

Strengths - clear direct, straightforward. Forceful. Able to communicate message by sheer will. Honest and just. What you see is what you get. Good at direction - inspires by sheer will. Large energy and presence. Instinctual knowing - from the gut. Clarity.

Pitfalls - Too in your face - pushy, bull in the china shop. Too attached to my truth is the Truth and there is no room for any argument. Too little backup information. I know from my gut.

Filter speech through heart and mind. Consider impacts of speaking, recommendations, etc. Recognize dissenting points of view - and allow them. Do homework to back up instinctual knowledge and flesh it out.

Type Nine - the Mediator

Speaking Style: Epic, Conciliatory

Strengths - Able to see all points of view and hold them equally. Merges with audience energetically - we are all one. Non-threatening, comfortable. Easygoing charm.

Pitfalls - Epic nine way of speaking where extraneous details and unimportant info cloud the message. The speech has no point, holds all points of view without a conclusion. Can have laconic way of speaking that puts people to sleep. Passive verbage may lose people - e.g. “ how leadership happens to you”. Won’t compute to rest of us.

Define the point of the message and be clear about it. Be careful of the tendency toward passive verbage. Don’t fall asleep on stage - go on automatic. Beware of epics - keep coming back to the point. We don’t need the whole story.

Remember, no matter which of the nine types is your Enneagram type or dominant speaking style, if you get lost in your own story (personality), you’ll lose 9/10’s of your listeners. If you speak from your strengths or gifts and allow these to serve the message, they’ll hear you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

U.S.A.: Has a Three Culture Moved to Six?

Most Enneagram experts have identified the United States as a Threeish culture. We as a nation believe in success, productivity, and the power of image. Our cosmology could be summed up in two of our more successful ad campaigns: Nike’s “Just Do It” and Canon’s “Image is Everything.” As a whole, we ‘ve traditionally been an upbeat, can-do country, if a little too self-absorbed and self-congratulatory.

These days, however, the USA looks much more Sixish, boomeranging between counterphobic and phobic, fearful of just about everything. We could blame the press (which has always been counterphobic) or the 24-7 “entertain-news” on television.

We could foist responsibility on eight years of a counterphobic Sixish administration advocating certainty as an admirable leadership trait or a distinct “us vs them” philosophy in dealing with other nations, cultures, or religions.

We could point to the shock of 9-11 as the beginning of our move from Three to Six. All of these may indeed be factors. However, it is likely that there is more to it.

Six is not the stress point for Three; that would be Nine. Still we can access the high or low side of any of the points available to us: heart, stress, and wings. And right now the U.S. seems solidly in the low side of Six.

We citizens have become cynical and pessimistic. We don’t believe our government officials are trustworthy. And we look for every opportunity to debunk them as authority. We are similarly disillusioned with our free market and private enterprise given the recent meltdown of our economy.

The government itself suffers from analysis paralysis and very little seems to get done. (Although we may actually get health care reform......)

When I talk with friends and acquaintances of any political leanings, they profess fear of change and fear of the status quo in the same breath. When I ask what we as a nation should do in any given situation, they blink like deer in the headlights or reiterate what is wrong with any idea put forth by government, private enterprise, or pundits.

We are lost in an “us vs them” mentality, both abroad and here at home. It’s the U.S. against jihadists and those who won’t stand with us. It’s naturalized citizens vs illegal (and sometimes legal) immigrants. It’s Republican vs Democrat and liberal vs conservative. And we are not even civil in our debate or certainty.

Does the U.S. need to return to its former Threeness to recover? Perhaps not. We might be able to avail ourselves of the high side of Six for starters. The ability to unite and work tirelessly for a cause, loyalty to a higher purpose, trouble shooting to avoid pitfalls while moving ahead toward an ideal worth manifesting, egalitarian acceptance of others, and a deep understanding of the strength in numbers that can bring us all together.

Has America lost its Three overlay? Are we solidly in the Six worldview? Is there a prescription for what ails us and what might it be? I’d love to hear your thoughts.