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Compassion and the Enneagram in Business

In this Insight Activity, Catherine Bell, Senior Member of the EIBN (Enneagram in Business Network), brings our attention to the importance of compassion everywhere and especially to the organizational setting.

When you read business texts, how often do the words “feelings,” “compassion,” and “love” come up? Not very often. Yet they are key ingredients for human beings, so why are these words cut off so often in business? This blog is about compassion.

One definition of compassion is this: “…sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

How do you experience compassion in the workforce? How can organizations unfold to be more compassionate?
What are the benefits to being more compassionate in business?
What are the real risks to being compassionate at work?
If I want to alleviate distress, and want results that may be challenging and distress inducing, how do I reconcile the dualities allowing for a higher state of consciousness to emerge?
How do we see the other as part of ourselves, even when the other may be a competitor?
How are we compassionate with the environment?

To get an insider’s perspective on compassion in the workplace, I asked the CEO of Laricina Energy, someone who has built multiple companies successfully, how he defines compassion:

“I describe compassion as care, which could be best witnessed in the energy industry by looking after those in need through charitable activities and with a helpful hand extended readily and easily. An example in our company, Laricina, was after the Slave Lake fires in 2011, when our operations team acted immediately with supplying a food trailer fully stocked and available for several weeks to meet the needs of those who had been dislocated by the fire. In a busy, competitive world it is easy to rush about your work and forget the needs of others. However, true compassion in business comes in advance of tragedies, in advance of hurting someone or in retaliation. It comes with an effort to understand differing points of view, education, position or status, and approaches to solutions which is supportive of looking after others needs to be heard, participate and add value, and if done well really enhances the contribution to an organization. In Laricina, we extend care for others in how we speak, act and support each other. I look for these lessons to help me remember and act with more heart, and to show understanding and compassion when a person is in a tough spot. All teams have contributors both on and off the field, but in our office those that express compassion best are the glue that hold us together and shapes us into to the community we need to succeed.”  – Glen Schmidt

For me, I consider compassion in myself, in my relationships, and in teams. It has been shown time and time again that a caring culture, like Glen speaks of, breeds results. One good reason to be compassionate in business, a far greater reason, is it feels good.

“Real compassion extends to each and every sentient being, not just to friends, or family or those in terrible situations. True love and compassion extend even to those who wish to harm you. Try to imagine your enemies are purposefully making trouble in order to help you accumulate positive forces for shaping the future, what Buddhists call ‘merit’ by facing them with patience. If your life goes along too easily, you become soft. Trying circumstances help you develop inner strength, and the courage to face difficulty without emotional breakdown. Who teaches this? Not your friend, but your enemy.” – Dalai Lama, How to be Compassionate, 2011

Ginger’s Blog | Compassion and Enneagram Styles

What struck me most deeply in Catherine’s Insight Activity was the notion from the Dalai Lama about how our “enemies” are the ones who can teach us the most, if we only can understand situations in this way and then work with the information in a way that helps us grow. I am not one to suggest that compassion of this nature is easy or fast. I am suggesting that we can ultimately arrive at compassion, true compassion, in a way that enriches us human beings. This is not the same as making excuses for the their behavior. It is, however, connected to a much deeper understanding of humanity and the foibles of being human. And I think one of the ways to do this is to lessen our emotional reactivity to these events so we can experience them with a more pure heart. Here are some ideas for how to do this, structured by Center of Intelligence and the enneatypes formed within each Center.

Head Center | Working with Fear and Strategy
In response to a perceived “enemy,” the three Head Center styles – Five, Six, and Seven – usually react with fear, the emotion that underlies the enneatypes from this Center, and the development of a strategic, planned response to counteract the threat. Of course, Fives, Sixes, and Sevens behave different in response to threat – Fives withdraw, Sixes engage in contingency planning and/or acts of defiant bravery, and Sevens think of pleasure and or reframe. But when the threat feels like an “enemy” who can’t or won’t go away, Fives, Sixes, and Sevens move to strategy designed to keep the “enemy” away, to disarm and even dismantle the “enemy” or, in other words, to harm the  “enemy” so that the “enemy” can no longer harm you (or so it is thought).

Although this strategy does make sense, it is a strategy that removes compassion from the equation and disables the pure heart. Here is an alternative. Before strategy ignites and becomes self-perpetuating, explore your fear, going way beyond and far deeper than simply what you are afraid this “enemy” might do to harm you. Ask yourself these questions and reflect deeply on your answers: What am I really and deeply afraid of? How does my deep fear benefit me or serve me? How does my fear actually harm me more than my “enemy?” Ask yourself this: What could I do instead of reacting in fear and then strategizing to protect myself? What are some viable alternatives, ones that would enable my growth and enhance my capacity for compassion

Heart Center | Working with Sorrow and Image
In response to a perceived “enemy,” the three Heart Center styles – Two, Three, and Four – usually react with sadness or sorrow, often mixed with anxiety and anger. In Twos, sadness and anxiety may be stronger; with Threes, anxiety and anger may be more obvious, but the sadness or sorrow is right underneath; and Fours may respond with intertwined sadness, anger, and anxiety. But at the core, sorrow is there – either right at surface level or not far beneath – driving every response. A very simple way to understand this is the rarely expressed, but oft felt sentiment: Why are they doing this to me? Although this may sound like a victim rather than proactive response, it comes more from a sense of feeling hurt. And related to hurt is the experience of having one’s image (and sense of self-worth) challenged. I am such a nice person, says the Two, so why would someone want to hurt me? I am just trying to do such a good job, says the Three, so why would someone be so aggressive with me? I just go around doing my own thing and not trying to harm others, says the Four, so why would someone want to hurt me

Although these hurt feelings and the need to preserve the image (really, sense of self related to self-worth) makes sense psychologically, this response removes compassion for others from the equation and disables the pure heart. Here’s an alternative: Before hurt becomes rampant and the protection of self-image and self-worth is at stake, you have to go deep into your sorrow and the protection of your self-image in order to move beyond it into compassion. Here are some questions to ask yourself: What am I feeling that is most apparent? What am I feeling that goes deeper than this? What are my feelings that go even deeper still? How are my feelings intertwined and how can I unravel them? What insights can I draw from this? What aspects of my self-image (sense of self) do I need to engage and explore to really move beyond the hurt, anger, and anxiety into greater capacity for compassion?

Body Center | Working with Anger and Control
In response to a perceived “enemy,” the three Head Center styles – Eight, Nine, and One – usually react with anger and a need to regain control, although this is less apparent in Nines, given they are the style of the sleeping giant, the “anger that went to sleep.” In a way, Nines have the biggest challenge moving to real compassion because they must first explore the anger-arena, territory they would prefer to keep at bay. Often, Nines are more comfortable withdrawing from the threat of an “enemy” attack, so they must choose engagement (with themselves) instead. Eights and Ones, by contrast, are more familiar with their anger and control issues, yet they still face challenges. Eights, for example, must face the challenge of anger energy-management, neither expressing it so it is expelled externally nor repressing it so they become sick. Ones must face how deeply angry they really feel (combined with hurt and anxiety) instead of using labels such as “frustrated” or “upset,” which don’t really describe the depth of the One’s feelings.

The task of staying with and fully acknowledging/experiencing their anger is only the first step, and a big one. The second step is to explore the feelings that lie underneath the anger. The third is to understand how their need for control manifests, particularly when they are angry. Anger and control; control and anger. These are the biggest barriers to pure-hearted compassion. Here are some questions to ask yourself: What am I so angry about, and how deep do these feelings go in me? What other inner experience am I having that this much anger is likely covering up (for Eights, think vulnerability; for Nines; think feeling insignificant; and for Ones, think feeling wrong or bad)? How is holding onto my anger and desperately trying to maintain control serving me, and how is it hindering me from gaining a much broader and deeper perspective on what is occurring in this situation, both with me, the other person(s), and the context of it all? What do I instinctively know I must think, feel and do to move to a greater capacity for compassion?

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