One of the first things I talk about with prospective clients is my use of the enneagram as a tool to help the coaching process. It is so useful to be able to tailor my coaching towards who you are as an individual, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. And something I notice with everyone going through transition or trying to make some sort of change is that identity is key. Understanding ourselves helps us to make the changes we need and want to make.
To some people the enneagram is just one amongst a plethora of personality tests. But it is much more than that.
So what is the enneagram and why is it so useful?
A very brief history of the enneagram
Whilst the exact origins of the enneagram are unknown, it has left its mark throughout history in many different communities. Some say it goes back to the desert fathers a couple of thousand years ago. Others connect it with Evagrius’ definition of the 7 deadly sins. What we do know is that it has emerged amongst many different faith communities.
The model we have today is based on a number of people’s work: Gurdjieff (Europe 1930s), Ichazo (South America 1950s) and Naranjo, who took it to the US in the 1970s. Since then the psychological / spiritual model has been used across the world.
Why the enneagram?
Our enneagram type patterns come from a mixture of our inherited nature and experiences we encounter during childhood. This combination gives us a limited view of the world but helps us to survive and cope, and then becomes our personality.
Emotional Intelligence is increasingly important in our world. It combines intrapersonal intelligence (the ability to understand, manage and accept ourselves) and interpersonal intelligence (the ability to work effectively with others). The enneagram helps us with both of these aspects and to grow and develop as people.
It has applications which are far-ranging: from work relationships to how we parent; from effective teams to how we interact with our partner.
The Nine Types
To give you some idea, here is a very basic overview of the nine type patterns that the enneagram recognises. For further information on each of these I recommend looking at the Narrative Enneagram’s website.
Type 1 – the Improver
Improvers basically believes that the world punishes bad behaviour and spontaneous impulses. They focus on what is wrong, what needs improvement and being responsible. They are good at identifying errors, making things better and are incredibly hard-working.
Type 2 – the Helper
Helpers believe that the world requires them to give in order to receive. They focus on others’ needs, developing relationships and being indispensible.They are good at anticipating the needs of others, making things happen behind the scenes, giving support and help.
Type 3 – the Achiever
Achievers believe the world rewards doing, not being. They focus on opportunities for recognition, achievement and reward, and adapt their image to look successful to those around them. They are good at tasks and goals, solution-finding, efficiency and multi-tasking.
Type 4 – the Individualist
Individualists believe that the world abandons them and that something important is missing. They focus on the search for the ideal, intensifying their experiences, and deficiencies in themselves. They are good at making the world aesthetically pleasing to look at, emotional depth and being different.
Type 5 – the Observer
Observers believe the world is invasive and demands too much of them. They focus on what might deplete their energy, intrusion from others, maintaining boundaries, and knowing when they can get time alone. The are good at seeing the big picture, theories and models, emotional detachment and finding clarity.
Type 6 – the Questioner
Questioners believe the world is an unpredictable place and potentially untrustworthy. They focus on worst case scenarios, worthy causes, and the trustworthiness of others. They are good at checking things out (like a detective), scanning for danger and making things safe for themselves and others.
Type 7 – the Adventurer
Adventurers believe that the world frustrates, limits and causes them pain. They have a focus on excitement and fascination, imagining good things, and neutralising authority. They are good at planning, having positive experiences and adventure, synthesising ideas and keeping life upbeat.
Type 8 – the Protector
Protectors believe the world is hard and unjust, and that the weak will be walked all over. They focus on power and not being controlled, on who is strong or weak, and on the truth. They are good at protecting the weak, direct action, challenging others and honesty. With this type, what you see is what you get.
Type 9 – the Mediator
Mediators believe the world is more important than they are and requires them to blend in. They focus on other people’s agendas, blending in and avoiding disharmony. They are good at acknowledging and understanding others’ points of view, maintaining harmony and managing conflict.
So that’s the enneagram in a nutshell. What’s the way forward for working with it?
Working with the Enneagram
Often when we’re in transition, we focus on the outside, the things which are changing, rather than the inside – who we are, how we’re made. But actually the inner side of transition is just as important, if not more so. I would encourage you to look more deeply inside. Don’t be limited to the surface of what is going on for you.
Using the enneagram gives you the possibility to change the way you respond to people and situations as well as understanding them better. It makes a massive difference in relationships, work teams, parenting and our own personal awareness.
Know your type
To be coached using the enneagram, the first step is to know your type. If you don’t already know which type you have, there are many ways to find out. Read about the enneagram using the Narrative Enneagram website. Do one of the free online enneagram tests, and follow it up with some reading to ascertain whether they have assessed you correctly. I have never found these particularly accurate, so my other suggestion is to do a typing interview – a conversation with me to work out which type patterns you have. I charge £50 for a typing interview, which generally lasts about 1 hr 15 minutes. If that seems a lot, I have a small number of lower price interviews each year to cater for those who can’t afford as much – please enquire.
Focus on your individual issues
Once we know which type you lead with, it enables you to start to bring awareness to what you are doing. and for us to work together knowing where your issues are likely to be.
I also offer enneagram workshops for groups of people or teams. I have a monthly enneagram meeting on zoom for those who know their type. These cover a range of enneagram topics. Just get in touch if any of these are of interest to you.