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Dreaded questions | blog 1

More and more, I am creating customized Train-the-Trainer (TTT) programs for companies that want to deliver the Enneagram and its organizational applications in-house. These, of course, are in addition to my public TTT programs offered in various parts of the world, one based on Bringing Out the Best in Yourself at Work and the other based on What Type of Leader Are You?

These in-house programs are not only highly customized to cover the exact applications the company most needs, but the TTT participants are rarely trained Enneagram professionals. They are more often managers, physicians, IT professionals, and people from the human resources ranks. As a result, they are most anxious about teaching the Enneagram and least worried about the Enneagram’s applications to areas such as communication, feedback, leadership, and more. The reverse is more true in my public programs, where participants fret more about the Enneagram’s applications than they do about teaching the Enneagram itself.

For my in-house programs, I have created a “game,” to help with this anxiety about teaching the Enneagram (along with a number of other approaches), a “game” called “dreaded questions.” This “game” is actually something that is also useful for those of us who consider ourselves more Enneagram savvy because, whether you think you know the Enneagram or think you don’t know it well enough, “dreaded questions” always come up in training, coaching, and consulting engagements.

“Dreaded questions” are those which you dread being asked in front of a group, so to get beyond the dread, we play a game that works like this: On an index card, each person writes down the question they most dread being asked, with no names attached. These get handed to the facilitator, shuffled, and then it is time for the game of “dreaded questions.” These get asked at intervals – for example, breaks between other activities – and the rules are simple: each person must volunteer only once to receive his or her randomly selected dreaded question; they must answer it to the best of their ability; and when they are done, we may add some ideas, comment, clap, or whatever.

In addition, participants are taught to think of this as a “pivot.” In other words, address the question with a quick pivot toward the question and then, after answering the question in a sincere and not very long way, pivot back to the topic at hand. The reason for the shortness of response is that addressing almost any question at length takes the program away from the central agenda, may not be that interesting to other participants, and can have the effect of causing the facilitator to lose control of the group in subtle ways.

Here are a few of the easier “dreaded questions” that arise, along with a suggested way to answer each one – there are many viable ways to respond, so this blog merely suggests one way – with some additional related thoughts at the end of each question.

Dreaded question # 1 | Where does the Enneagram really come from?
Answer | Here’s what we know and what we don’t know. We do know that it is an ancient system, 2500 to 4000 years old or even older with roots traced to Asia and the Middle East. But precisely how old and where it comes from exactly we don’t know for sure because it began as an oral tradition without a written trail.
Note to you if you get asked this | Most people in organizational training programs just want to know that it has a history and are far less interested in the exact history than we are. In addition, no one really knows the Enneagram’s roots with real certainty. We have guesses, and some are better guesses than others, but no real certainty.

Dreaded question # 2 | What if I can’t find my type?
Answer | You will be able to find your Enneagram type from among the 9; for some people this comes very quickly and others need more time for reflecting about their patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving as well as their worldview. So even if it takes a little longer for some than for others, it doesn’t really matter because the self-discovery and learning can be even greater this way.
Note to you if you get asked this | This question can mean several different things, but it is best to just answer the question asked rather than an interpretation of the question. For example, it might mean that the person is doubting that there are types at all or there are only 9 types, but take the question at face value. If there is another meaning to the question, the person can ask it as a follow on.

Dreaded question # 3 | Why is the Enneagram better than the other personality systems available?
Answer | The Enneagram can be used in conjunction with the other available systems and it is different than any of them. The Enneagram focuses on something deeper than personality; it is like 9 versions of human architecture, each with a distinct worldview, motivational structure, and patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It is remarkably profound and extraordinarily helpful in providing specific personal and professional development paths depending on your type.
Note to you if you get asked this | Be careful not to criticize another system because you never know what the group has already been exposed to or what they think about it. Even if you think the Enneagram is better, and you might since you are teaching it, criticizing any other approach serves no purpose. You can go to my website to see how the Enneagram can be integrated with other systems by clicking on Other Systems.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of four best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com. ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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