Enneagram Series by Mark McGuinness
Unlike working on yourself, in relating to other people it is important to work with, not against, their Enneagram type. The aim is to recognise and respect – even celebrate – the differences between their ways of being, thinking and feeling and your own. If you can do this, it will not only make them feel valued and understood, it will make the relationship easier, more fulfilling and (in a work context) more productive for all concerned.
Supposing you are a Two (Helper) with responsibility for managing an Eight (Leader) and a Four (Romantic). As you yourself are typically eager to help others, it would be easy for you to fall into the trap of assuming others have the same motivation. So when allocating a task to one of your staff, it might seem natural to tell them how helpful it will be if they complete it quickly, and how much they will be appreciated by others. Unfortunately â€˜appreciationâ€™ is not a key motivator for either Eights or Fours, so you could well become frustrated by their apparent lack of enthusiasm for the task. Yet the real problem is that you have not spoken to each of them â€˜in their own languageâ€™ and you have failed to appeal to their core values – power and justice (Eight) or authenticity and originality (Four).
So supposing you were to approach the Eight slightly differently – instead of talking about helpfulness and appreciation, tell her that you have selected her for the task as it is a tough assignment and will require strength of character to overcome entrenched opposition. Emphasise the essential justness of the outcome and that success will represent a victory for right over wrong; the Eight will feel valued for her strength and eager to exercise it in the service of a just cause. (If this seems slightly melodramatic and overly â€˜confrontationalâ€™, remember that is your perspective as a conciliatory Two, and that some tasks do require a firmer hand.)
Similarly, supposing you were to take the Four aside and let him know that you have selected him for this task because it requires someone with an original perspective, who will not be overly influenced by received ideas within the organisation, and who can be relied upon to stay true to himself even when others are challenging him. Tell him that considerable creativity will be needed to find a solution that sidesteps othersâ€™ objections and results in a memorable and distinctive outcome. (If this sounds as though you are pushing him â€˜out on a limbâ€™, remember that is your perspective as a Two with a strong need for connection with others, and that Fours often relish their â€˜outsiderâ€™ status.)
A few years ago there were posters all over London for a play called I Love You, Youâ€™re Perfect – Now Change (http://www.loveperfectchange.co.uk/ ). I never saw the play, but couldnâ€™t help smiling every time I saw the posters – they summed up so much about the expectations we place on partners and others who get close to us. When we first meet someone, we are struck by how new and exciting they are – we are entranced by their personality and the aura that surrounds them, and we find ourselves idolising them, including all the ways they are different to us.
Fast forward a few years (or even months) and the aura often fades, so that differences that were once charming can become confusing or even irritating. We start to notice their â€˜faultsâ€™ and canâ€™t help offering gentle hints and constructive criticism to help them overcome them – and get back to being the wonderful person we first met.
According to conventional wisdom, this is because we were intoxicated by love and placing them on a pedestal – the more time we spend with them, the more their true nature is revealed and we see their flaws. But the poet W.H. Auden argued that conventional wisdom has got things the wrong way round – it is when we first meet someone that we see them as they truly are, and later on, it is our own faults projected onto them that spoils the picture – and if we are not careful, the relationship.
As far as I know Auden was not familiar with the Enneagram but his attitude is very close to the way the Enneagram encourages us to relate to others – by looking for the source of conflict in our own skewed perceptions and assumptions, rather than seeing it as a fault in the other person.
So for example, a Three (Performer) and a Five (Observer) might fall in love – the Three entranced by the â€˜mysteryâ€™ of the unfathomable Five, and the Five bowled over by the â€˜glamourâ€™ of the confident, successful Three. But conflict will arise whenever the Three fails to understand why the Five doesnâ€™t â€˜push herself forward moreâ€™ and gain more rewards and recognition for her knowledge and insights. Equally, the Five needs to watch out for her tendency to judge the Three as â€˜shallow and materialisticâ€™ in his pursuit of worldly success.
Having spent a fair amount of time working as a couples therapist, Iâ€™ve noticed it represents a significant turning point when two partners learn to let go of their expectations that the other should change, and learn to respect their differences – however irritating or strange they might appear! In terms of the Enneagram, this means accepting the otherâ€™s type and dropping the unspoken demand that they become more like our type. In the above example, this will happen when the Three learns to respect the Fiveâ€™s need for privacy and autonomy, and when the Five learns to take the Threeâ€™s public success at face value and celebrate it.
Using the Enneagram to relate to others
When dealing with others, especially in pressured situations or when conflict arises, ask yourself the following questions:
- What expectations am I placing on the other person as a result of my own Enneagram type?
- Where would I place the other person on the Enneagram? What core values does this type have?
- How can I appeal to those values and â€˜speak their languageâ€™?
- Has there ever been a time when someone has made life easier for you by speaking the language of your type and appealing to your core values rather than theirs?
- Have you ever succeeded in doing this for someone else? How?
If you enjoyed this series as much as I have, download the eBook version.
Mark studied the Enneagram as part of his training as a psychotherapist. He has used it for his own personal development and in his work with individuals, families, and organizations. Mark McGuinness’ business Wishful Thinking, is a specialist coaching and training service for creative businesses such as design studios, ad agencies, film and TV production companies, computer games developers, architectâ€™s practices and fashion designers.
Thank you, Mark, this was incredible.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
See the complete series listing at Series: The Enneagram â€“ a Brief Introduction