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.


Elan said...

"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." -- Agreed!, its so tempting to think we know everyones types. I often type friends, coworkers and families, but in the end, who knows what they are.

I wish everyone I knew was intensely into finding out their type so they could tell me what it was!

Lynette Sheppard said...

Hi Elan,
Thanks for your comment! I've found that when I want friends or family to get into the Enneagram, I give them a book (mine: The Everyday Enneagram or the Enneagram made easy) and tell them that I am a Seven on the Enneagram and that reading the book will help them understand how to deal with me better. I don't say a word about wanting them to know about their type (because you'll often get resistance). Guaranteed, once they start reading, they'll be trying to figure themselves out too! Sort of a back door approach, but it works!

David Daniels said...

Thanks Lynette. I fully concur with typing is an inside job. That is what makes our teaching the Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition is so important. People speak for themselves, discover them selves. It is very respectful.

So this typing celebrities and people playing roles in movies is to me a parlor game and no more. So my guess by the way for Simon is type One with connection to type Four. But this is just a Parlor Game. David Daniels,

Cathie Haynes said...

Great points, Lynette! & I couldn't agrre more that Enneagram typing is an inside job for each of us. And like Elan said, it'd be great if everyone was an Enneagram expert . . . then we'd have a "perfect" world. & I'd like to add to David's comment about Simon . . . a self pres. One who often "look" like a Six. Many years ago when I began my Enneagram path, I thought I was a Six until I watched videos of Sixes & realized, "that's not me." I have come to reallize that self pres. any type often mistakes self for a Six as do others obseving self pres.

Lynette Sheppard said...

David and Cathie,
Thanks for your insights! And as long as we are playing this parlor game of typing, I can see a case for Simon as a Self Pres One with connect to Four.

Since I am too old (and not very talented at singing) to try out for American Idol, I don't think I'll get to ask Simon about his worldview anytime soon. I'll just enjoy watching.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, speaking of Mr Cowell… I joined a site recently called, I work in the media & its a social networking site for the art & entertainment industry. Anyway i joined because I heard that Simon Cowell had started the site, which made sense at the time because of the type of site it is. However since signing up I have heard several other rumour saying that Quentin Tarantino launched the set & then another one today saying it was started by Universal?? Does anybody have a real answer? Its a cool site so I am happy, just a bit curious… Have a look & let me know please!

Anonymous said...

Interesting that so many people seem to think that Simon Cowell is an Eight. The whole "entrepeneur" thing really confuses people it seems. "Anyone who owns a thriving business must be an Eight.."

I have to say I disagree about only a person themselves knowing their definite type. For a person who has a strong understanding of the fundamentals of the Enneagram (rather than a surface-level understanding of "traits") combined with a well-cultivated self-awareness, then yes I'll agree they are likely to accurately know their type. But someone who does a slap-dash read of an Enneagram book or who hasn't with integrity questioned their innermost motivations and observed themselves under a range of different circumstances is unlikely to be able to type themselves accurately. Unless you define someone's "type" as a closest match correlation to a list of traits. Which it isn't.

A person who understands the fundamentals of the Enneagram and who observes a partner that they live with, for example, over a long period of time is likely to be able to type them more accurately than the partner could type themselves if they haven't engaged in much introspection. Very often a person will focus more on what they want to be, or how they would like to be seen, and type themselves accordingly. So while giving a person the ability to essentially "choose their type" is indeed very respectful, it perhaps isn't terribly helpful for anyone involved.

A person's type exists as an objective entity. Unfortunately yes, it's source does exist only in the deepest recesses of their mind, which itself can only be accessed by an individual themselves with varying degrees of prying. However a person's type does give clues which are visible externally. Apart from body language and other such micro-cues given off when a person isn't consciously regulating their behaviour, their type is literally embodied in the muscles themselves. Patterns of tension are different for each type.

A person's type is their style of attention, and their attention is mapped to their muscular system. Every shift in attention has a muscular component, in a one-to-one relationship. Repeated attentional shifts will result in repeated muscular activity, literally conditioning the muscles over time. Where a person experiences their greatest compulsion is where their muscles will have chronic patterns of tension, literally poised to take action at a moment's notice, in whatever form this action (or repression of action) may take - different for each type.

So while each individual, even within the same type, will hold a different pattern of muscular activity, there will be significant common elements to those of the same type, and those common elements can be used to indicate type.

This is a fact that has the potential to be exploited to remove all doubt over the otherwise often elusive notion of a person's "type". Quite literally a way to see into a person's mind and identify their repeated thoughts from an external vantage point, irrespective of self-knowledge of the person involved, and therefore not corrupted by subjective desires or misinterpretations.

As for Simon Cowell... for me anyway, he appears to be a classic 3w4.