How did you get involved in the Enneagram?
It was about 17 years ago. I have always been interested in self-improvement. There was this Enneagram workshop, a few people had mentioned it, and it happened to be a weekend that my son with his dad, so I signed up for it.
How has the Enneagram effected your life?
At first it made me really angry. The people running the workshop did the thing you are not suppose to do, they told me what my personality style was instead of letting me go through the process of inquiry and discovery.
Being rebellious by nature, and in the middle of a divorce, dealing with all the hurt and emotional upset, I pushed back, because the style that I was told I was happened to be style that was not liked and is the hardest personality style for a woman to live with, I was not ready to own that.
It lead to me going through and “trying on” 7 of the 9 styles. Through that process of exploring myself as everything except what I really was, I learned so much about the different styles and “put myself” into the different types until they burnt out and I found myself back where I started. But much smarter for the process.
The effect has been really great insight into others, acceptance of everyone and most importantly of myself.
What stands out about the Enneagram to you?
What stood out to me, is a chance to literally take the information in the system and “put yourself in someone else’s place.”
It also gave me a chance to learn to accept myself, because of the stress and pain of trying to be someone else.
I really like that it accounts for the nuances of personality, for culture, family influences, survival instincts, and spells out the highs and lows of each style. It gives the user a chance assess their own state, and tools to move into a state of thriving and out of surviving.
There are a lot of personality systems out there, what is difference about the Enneagram?
I am actually working on a complex comprehensive integration of the Enneagram with a few other systems, especially the Archetypes and looking at our Strengths. Myers Briggs is already a system built on Jung’s Archetype work, so I am not going to be ingratiating Myers Briggs, it is own system and very value. Like all tools, it depends on how you use the information that is given to you.
To your question: I think the Enneagram is different because it doesn’t define a person, but rather provides an opportunity to measure yourself on the continuum of personality possibilities. It provides numerous nuanced markers for a person to understand themselves, and for a manager or team leader to see where an employee is thriving or struggling.
Why did you decide to write this book?
It my work with various business teams, I found that much of the available writing was heavy with specific psychological language and too often people where left uninspired by inaccessible therapist-oriented language. When I translated it into everyday language people caught on really quickly and saw the value of the Enneagram as a tool.
I feel that everyone who is interested should have access to the Enneagram because it makes us more conscious people. My goal was also to create or suggest a few tools for each type, because we are not one size fits all. For example if tell a head centered personality to open their heart before they have given proper attention to the mind, you are sabotaging that persons success.
In my many decades of working with people, I have found that it is my first job to understand what each person needs, what their perspective is, so that we can move them along their path instead of trying to fit them into model that is not theirs.
You talked about head centered, what does that mean?
One of the ways we understand ourselves through the Enneagram is through understanding where we default to or originate from:
The 9 styles are organized into body, heart, and head styles. The simplest way to understand this, is to consider where you first feel stress or pleasure. For example, if you are in a happy situation do you first relate to it through pleasant thoughts, a warm heart, or a pleasant feeling in your body. If something stressful arises, do you think about how to solve it, feel the pressure in your body to move towards a resolve, or do you feel emotional.
You will have all of these but there is one that is predominant.
What are the 9 Styles?
There are 9 base styles or starting points.
There are many nuances but if you look at your strongest motivation this will usually give you a good idea of your style.
- Perfectionist/Reformer—this is the person who can see the world in it’s ideal state. It is said that Nelson Mandela was a Perfectionist. He could see his people liberated, and the rightness of it was worth risking it all. They are diligent about being perfect, because for them, the precision and accuracy feels like an achievement that brings them closer to their soul. They struggle with the inability to accept good enough, and often work themselves or others too hard trying to achieve the unachievable.
- Helper/Giver—These are the people who are the glue and heart of our teams. I have seen them in all positions, they know what each person needs to succeed. Their wisdom is too often over looked because it’s seen as emotional intelligence. But in reality, these people can be amazing leaders and managers who inspire loyalty and longevity on their teams. Their biggest challenge is they can forget themselves.
- Achiever/Performer— These are people we idolize in America because they are the doers. They know how to get to the goal. It is rumored that Tony Robbins is a type 3. They struggle with staying in touch with their own hearts, their pride drives them to do but they can’t seem to relax into enjoying the present moment.
- Romantic/Individualist—These are our creative, emotional, feeling geniuses. They push our artistic edges and challenge us to feel things most of would rather gloss over. Fours take us into rebellion against the mundane, and hold up the mirror of emotion that challenges us to see ourselves and life with depth. They struggle with rarely being satisfied with themselves or life; and the world is annoyed until the four finds their voice and falls in love with their own depth. Few other types can stand in the storm of life and actually enjoy the buffeting as much as a four.
- Intellectual/Investigator— This leads us into the head category, and the Intellectual/Investigator is the quintessential thinker. The librarian who knows more than most of us. They can appear socially awkward or sometimes anti-social because their energy is much more involved with their thoughts, with acquiring knowledge than with interest in people.
- Loyalist/Skeptic—The 6 is the analyzer, they are not the perfectionist, they are interested in having and analyzing the information. They are dedicated to their findings, and loyal to the ideas and people they deem worthy. They can be excellent managers because they feel strongly about aligning their purpose with the larger mission.
- Enthusiast/Epicure—The Enthusiast lives up to their name. They can be the pied piper, leading the group into fun. As a manager, they look towards everyone taking their own responsibility, and expect that people are going to step up into their role, because the 7 does not want to have to repeatedly correct or over manage. They can be visionary, and are most successful when they put their attention on practical issues that help their visions come to life.
- Powerful Person/Challenger—This person will fill a power void, seek to influence, embrace power, and put themselves in a tough situation to enjoy the challenge of feeling their own strength and stamina. They can also easier become bullies because, if not empathetic, they can quick overpower others and dismiss those who are not with them as enemies or a bother. Like all types interacting with them is very different depending on levels of stress and development.
- Peacemaker/Mediator—Placid and amiable the Peacemaker wants you be happy. Because they really don’t want to have to deal with any disruption your unhappiness might cause. There is a real risk for this person to appease but not really let go. Resentment bottles up when they don’t get the peace they want. There is a hidden power, and strong empathy in these people. When they stop vanishing their impact on the world, as well as, their own development begins.