Monday, July 23, 2012

Top 7 Reasons People Don’t Use The Enneagram

My friend Steve (he and his lovely life partner provided the photo for this post) asked me “Why doesn’t everyone use the Enneagram? It’s so useful.”

So I’ve been musing on that question for awhile. And here are the top 7 reasons that I’ve found over my years of teaching and consulting. I don’t doubt that there are quite a few more.

Reason Number One
They never heard of it.  This is not as prevalent a reason as it once was. Years ago (years and years), when I’d board a plane my seatmate would inevitably ask “What do you do?” When I’d say I was an Enneagram teacher, they’d look confused. “Any - uh-what?” I distilled my work to a one sentence explanation:  that I taught a personality map that helps us understand ourselves and others.

Things changed about 15 years ago and suddenly people would answer “Oh I’ve heard of that.” These days, half the time my seatmate will tell me his/her type and what they’ve learned. Many of them have learned it in the workplace and that is gratifying.

Reason Number Two
The diagram looks weird to them or they think it has to do with the occult. Once they realize that the diagram is not a pentagram, that Enneagram is just Greek for “picture of nine”, this one falls away pretty quickly. Luckily.

Reason Number Three
Some one bludgeoned them with the Enneagram or “told them” their type. Another dear friend of mine was frightened away from the Enneagram when his ex wife continually used it to tell him what was “wrong” with him. Sadly, those kinds of scars run deep. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident but I’ve heard this tale of woe all too often. Some people just don’t get the point of the Enneagram. (That would be compassion - hello!)

“Telling” someone their type or pushing the Enneagram on them can cause them to run, not walk, away from anything or anyone associated with it. I have to agree that excess enthusiasm can be a total turnoff. Also, believe me when I tell you that even if you believe that you know someone very well, you may not really know their type. The journey of self discovery is important to the work - why would we want to deprive anyone of that?  Want to share the Enneagram with friends and family? Offer them a book, tell them your type and that it may help them understand you better. Believe me, they will be interested in finding their own type - on their own.

Reason Number Four
Some one trivialized it and made it a parlor game. That can happen with anything. Counter it by offering resources and information. Self disclosure on how it helped you might also be valid.

Reason Number Five

The Enneagram is complicated. That is actually true. It’s not a quick hit, but a deep, rich system of understanding and growth. As such, it may not be for everybody. It takes attention and real Work. Ah but the rewards are so worth it. To me. And you. But maybe not everyone.

Reason Number Six
“I’m not sure I want to know that much about myself.” Over the years, I’ve met people who quite clearly were anxious about what might be unearthed should they begin to delve more deeply into their drives and motivations. You and I might think it the most worthy of excavations, but I respect the honesty of those who weren’t ready to go there. Yet.

Reason Number Seven
There are many paths to the top of the mountain. And many maps to personal and spiritual growth. The Enneagram is only one. This may be the most important reason of all. The Enneagram is not necessarily for everyone. Offering the Enneagram without attachment as to whether or not it is received may be some of the best work we do as Enneagram enthusiasts. Just sayin’...

What reasons have you encountered for people not knowing or wishing to know the Enneagram?


Anonymous said...

Agree w/ all of the above, but I found #5 to be true for me: hard to learn from the books and difficult to incorporate it w/ out work/study/classes. I did read two books that you & Theresa shared, and I found it to be pretty darned accurate.

Tom said...

I agree with the reasons you mentioned. When I started to get interested in the enneagram I was still quite skeptical about it. Luckily I had some support and guidance from a great teacher who helped me in my understanding, letting me see things more clearly. Reason 5 is very true and for me it was important to talk to someone with experience and understanding of this wonderful, complex system. Thanks for sharing your insight.

Anonymous said...

People didn't want to be 'put into a box' of personality. It can be limiting for them.