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Typing No-Nos and Yes-Yes | Part 2

Here is the 2nd set 4 No-Nos accompanied by the Yes-Yes for that area. When typing ourselves on the enneagram or when assisting others in identifying their type, I’ve learned some important guidelines that can be useful in doing this, both from my own journey in teaching the enneagram, but also from people in my Train-the-Trainer programs and my coaching certificate programs.

No-No # 5 | Using behavior rather than motivation to help someone type themselves
Many people learning the enneagram for the first time may attach their thinking to a particular word or phrase we use to describe a type and think this: I do that so I must be this type! or I feel that way so I must be that type! Of course, we have to describe the thought patterns, feeling habits, and recurring behavior of the types to even describe the types at all. However, it is motivation that helps identify type accurately rather than behavior.

Yes-Yes: Emphasize repeatedly that it is motivation for doing something – or thinking or feeling something – that determines type more than the actual behaviors, feelings or thoughts themselves. Make sure to emphasize that several types do the same things but for different reasons; several types may also have some similar although not identical feeling and thought patterns. Give examples such as this – explain that most types can work extremely hard, but … 8s work hard and drive themselves hard out of an excessive need to take big action and hide vulnerability, whereas 3s may work hard if they perceive failure looming, or 1s can work hard to “get it right” and make no mistakes. Make sure you ask people why they do something; ask what drives their behavior or what is behind their thought or feeling patterns.

No-No # 6| Teaching types in a judgmental way (healthy, unhealthy, good types, bad types)
This happens way quite often, and when I hear it directly from enneagram teachers or from people who have been taught by teachers, I make this assumption: the judgmental language arises from a book that was read, a teacher who explained the system, or from the person him- or herself having a tendency to judge what was read or taught. I have found that using healthy-unhealthy or anything that could be interpreted as good or bad doesn’t serve the system itself or the person learning it. The same can be said for teaching the types in their most “neurotic” versions, although those who have attempted to teach only the positive aspects of each type have generally not been as effective as those who teach both the strengths and the development areas of each type.

Yes-Yes: The best way, in my experience, is to be willing to take a look at how you are teaching the enneagram and get a sense of the judging language you might be using and how this might impact the people you teach or work with on the enneagram. Sometimes it is hard to break habits such as using healthy-unhealthy. I personally use high, moderate and low self-mastery for this kind of differentiation. This also has some judgment to it, but perhaps less so. Another idea that helps is for you to get a sense of whether you actually like some types more than others and to then do some self-reflection and development work for yourself. For example, if you over-like or under-like a certain type, the question is why and what does this say about some growth edges for you? Finally, try to use non-judging language to describe aspects of type. For example, when describing 5s, it works better to describe them as “automatically disconnecting from their emotions in real time, reliving some of these experiences later” than to say “unemotional” or “emotionally cold.” These latter descriptions are not actually true, anyway!

No-No # 7 | Pushing a client who is not very aware into a type too early
In our efforts to be helpful, be correct, fulfill our role and more, we might unintentionally exert pressure on clients who are not very self-aware to get their type accurately before they are ready to do so themselves or before they can integrate what the enneagram has to offer them. This issue becomes accentuated when helping people type themselves in a group or team setting, where everyone else except the less-aware person – who is either not self-reflective or is not yet very aware – seems to be able to understand the system and identify type. The social pressure to identify your type earlier than you are ready to do so can get in the way of what is good for the individual and even the accuracy of the typing.

Yes-Yes: Be aware of this issue and assure people that it can take time to identify type, and it is better to take the time needed than come to a pre-mature conclusion. There is no need to let a person know that you believe they are not self-ware enough yet. When you feel yourself “pushing” anyone for any reason – in other words, you are doing most of the work to help them get to what their type may be – just stop, breathe and reassure yourself that it is OK to go slow. A less self-aware person can be of any type; often they just don’t have answers to questions you may ask, or they may actually say they are not self-reflective.

No-No # 8 | Not factoring in a client’s context into the typing process (gender, culture, current and past experiences…)
This is a big issue where we may make assumptions about a person’s type based on how we experience them right now, but we may not understand the world in which they live or have lived. Some cultures have a strong type overlay – for example, Brazil as a 7 country or France as a 4. People from these cultures may have a strong country type-based overlay to consider. For example, 5s in Brazil tend to be much more outgoing than 5s in other cultures. In some cultures, women or men are expected to be a certain way – most common is women as 2s or 4s and men as 8s or 3s – and people may mistype themselves because of this. Families may also contribute an overlay of a dominant parent’s type. In addition, a person who may be terribly stressed when you meet him or her could appear more like a 6 when the person is not.

Yes-Yes: The important thing is to remember that you are meeting a person at a certain time and place in his or her life. The best approach is to ask, without getting too personal, about how they were as children, adolescents, young adults, and so forth. In addition, get more familiar with country cultures, and ask about dominant parents and their types. But most of all, don’t jump to conclusion too early; be in rapt curiosity! The more we learn, the more we know.

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: The Enneagram in Business.com. ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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