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Why We Teach the Enneagram

IMG_20141011_184042Whenever we stand in front of a class and introduce the basics of personality types or communication styles, people’s expressions shift. We catch knowing looks and whispers. Someone might identify a type Eight boss, and express relief at learning how to get along with her. Another participant might connect with the Soloist communication style, and find the value in his way of thinking acknowledged for the first time in his professional life. With the Enneagram, we’ve discovered that a little understanding goes a long way.

Enneagram workshops act as a contained study space for the complexity of human beings. Participants learn ways to understand and communicate with important people in their lives without having those people singled out. They also have the opportunity to investigate their habits, desires, and defenses in the context of a time-limited workshop. Often they get a glimpse of their reactions in action. Many such glimpses build our capacity to notice when we’re getting in our own way and allow ourselves more flexibility to make different choices next time.

We teach the Enneagram because we’ve seen the power of this flexibility. Discovering our motivations has made it easier to catch ourselves acting out bad habits and think, “Wait a minute…” Knowing our loved ones’ and colleagues’ personality types has allowed us to understand where they are coming from and strengthen our relationships. When used wisely, for growth and understanding rather than self-limitation or stereotyping, the Enneagram’s psychological acuity allows for improved – and sometimes transformed – interactions.

What could our world look like if it was full of such interactions? What would it be like if people went the extra mile to understand each other? Whenever someone acted out, the people around them would look beyond the behavior to the underlying motive, which is always a deep human need, and think about how this need might be met. Imagine how job satisfaction would increase if this became a workplace policy!

Difference would be valued and commonality recognized, in both businesses and communities. Instinct, emotion, and intellect would be valued and cultivated equally; multiple intelligences, personality patterns, and cognitive profiles would be nurtured. All manifestations of the human spirit would be welcomed to take their place.

In their personal and professional lives, people would approach conflict strategically, transparently, and seeking a win-win. Time with others would be engaged, inclusive, and joyful, and time with yourself would be respected and cherished. Everyone would be supported in caring for their well-being, striving toward new frontiers, and contributing to the larger community.

The Enneagram points to these possibilities. It illuminates dynamics that usually remain hidden, and uncovers things that are lacking and needed in any given place and time. The knowledge that there’s something more going on under every action makes us think. It calls us to be just a little more open and dig just a little bit deeper every time.