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Enneagram typing | the power of patience

“People need to type themselves!”
“Don’t tell people their type.”
“It’s not your job to type other people.”

These are all things we hear, I say, and I believe! Or do I? As an Enneagram teacher, I try to give people space to find their own type, but not always. Sometimes I get frustrated when people have, in my opinion, their type wrong, especially when they come to my Train-the-Trainer programs and plan to teach the Enneagram to others. There are, of course, people who have complications in their identification of type. In particular, when someone has had serious childhood trauma, even with the trauma worked and released, their true type may be hiding underneath another type, an unconscious strategic choice that was a matter of survival. Often this is a wing or arrow.

Lately I’ve been saying that a teacher who doesn’t have his or her type right will train or teach at least two types incorrectly: the type they think they are and the type they actually are. So in my Trainer programs, I have been feeling an additional urgency to help participants get it right. Or that is until I had two TTTs back-to-back where something amazing happened and it happened twice in both 6-day programs.

I gave up the concerned energy about participants – current and future Enneagram-business trainers – being accurately typed during the 6-days of the programs. As a note, almost all participants arrive “knowing” their type, but then usually about 5-10% find it isn’t accurate. Here’s what happened:

Week 1 | Singapore
Two men, one in his 50s (I’ll call him Larry) and another in his early 20s (I’ll call him Tom) came to the program not being certain of their type and both earnestly wanting to know. Everyone, including me, tried to help them both in the discovery, but Larry decided that he enjoyed thinking through the questions we were asking him so much that he didn’t actually want to know his type at this point. According to Larry, “I’ve never spent the time to think about questions such as these and am getting so much value from this process, I don’t feel such an urgent need to know my type.”

Tom, the younger man had been desperate to find his type for over a year. He was analyzing himself with such nuance, no stone was unturned, no question unasked. After four days of inquiry from almost everyone in the 35-person group, no real answer emerged. Finally, I said something so obvious I hadn’t thought it before: “Maybe you’re not supposed to know yet. With all the time and introspection spent, your type is likely hiding in plain sight. So when you are supposed to know you will!”

Larry turned out to be a One, and a very happy One to have discovered so much about himself. Tom turned out to be a Nine, and what a multi-year journey to get there. His level of self-awareness from so much exploration was so high, especially since he was so young, he couldn’t (and we couldn’t) see what was, in retrospect, so clear. Tom had explored every type, but especially Four and Five, and kept saying he could see himself in so many. In the end (or was it the beginning), everything pointed to type Nine.

Week 2 | San Francisco
More subtle but no less dramatic were two people in the second Train-the-Trainer program, one a man (I’ll call him Wayne) and the other a woman (I’ll call her Naomi). Wayne thought he was a 1-1 Four; Naomi, thought she was a Seven, but wasn’t sure. Optimistic and pleasing, Two might have also fit. But as the 6-day program rolled out, Wayne, totally through his own self-work in real time, realized he was not a 1-1 Four at all. He was, in fact, a 1-1 Eight (a look alike for the 1-1 Four). And beyond finding his type, Wayne found his voice. As soon as he landed deeply in Eight, his whole posture became more upright and confident and his voice changed from medium pitched with little resonance to a deep, rich and authoritative voice that could suddenly be heard across the room. By the week’s end, Naomi realized that it was Nine that deeply described her. It shook her deeply, for reasons not appropriate to write in a blog, and it was a great awakening.

Why were Wayne and Naomi able to discover themselves under the radar of the program? No one was asking them questions or offering feedback about their types. Neither was asking type-oriented questions in the large or small groups. They were simply doing their own inner work without any pressure whatsoever to find their real type. And their types simply popped out and did so to them first.

So this is the power of patience – patience in the Enneagram teacher, patience within the participant exploring type, and patience and space among all participants to let everyone be who they are.

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