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......................