Three Little Words

panel (2)

For the past three years, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to gather together panels of all nine Enneagram types. A total of 21 people have answered questions about their type and described how they would respond to a series of hypothetical scenarios.

I previously posted some of the responses from the first panel, which took place in 2015. But I thought it would be interesting to share and compare those answers to the question what three words best describe your type? with the answers from the 2016 and 2017 panels.

What three words would you use to describe your type?

(It should be noted that the 2016 and 2017 panels consisted of six first-time and three repeat panelists. No one has been on a panel more than twice.)

Type 1
(two different people)

2015: True to type, I don’t know which words to choose. Even though you said it didn’t have to be “right,” I still couldn’t choose.

2016: obedient, fair, and persistent

2017: responsible, competent, and rule-bound

Type 2
(three different people)

2015: helpful, sentimental, and people-pleasing

2016: sociable, diplomatic, and thoughtful

2017: helpful, kind, and loving

Type 3
(two different people)

2015: organized, efficient, and productive

2016/2017: driven (with a capital D), adaptable, and confident

Type 4
(two different people)

2015: sensitive, curious, and open-minded

2016: sensitive, introverted, and open-minded

2017: I couldn’t think of only 3 words to describe myself, so I came up with a few more: “desperately seeking connections that I’m not really sure I want.”

Type 5
(two different people)

2015/2016: observant, reflective, and isolated

2017: scattered, creative, and introverted

Type 6
(three different people)

2015: concerned, aware, and loyal

2016: loyal, highly aware, and intuitive

2017: committed, reliable, and questioning

Type 7
(two different people)

2015: spontaneous, accomplished, and multi-talented

2016: a little bit of stubbornness, a leader, and a bit of a control-freak

2017: adventurous, social, and visionary

Type 8
(three different people)

2015: independent, competent, and untrusting

2016: driven, independent, and practical

2017: agenda-driven, demanding (of self and others), and innovative

Type 9
(two different people)

2015: compassion, time alone, and resistance

2016: empathic, receptive, and nurturing (being a mediator, too)

2017: insightful, creative, and empathetic

In Their (and YOUR) Own Words

voices2During the past two years, treatment of several heart-related health issues has significantly impeded my progress. For an 8w7 such as myself, the situation is annoying at best and excruciating at worst. But I have taken charge of the treatment, to the extent that I can, and am taking steps to get back on track.

That means getting back to disseminating the responses from the past two Annual Enneagram Panels, preparing for this year’s panel in June, and completing the book I’ve been wanting to write for two and a half years.

So this month, I will be posting responses from the 2016 panel. Look for the first such post by the end of the week. (You can find links to responses from the 2015 panel by entering “panel” in the search box.)

The Annual Enneagram Panels are the most popular topic of my Monthly Meeting of the Mind (& Brain) series. The 2015 panel was kind of a lark. I had scheduled the topic in advance but didn’t plan on having a panel until I realized I actually knew enough people who knew their types that I could have a panel.

Fingers crossed, I hastily invited 9 individuals, and all of them accepted my invitation. I sent them a list of questions to prepare answers for, along with four situations to respond to. I didn’t ask them to tell me in advance what they were going to say, which meant things could have turned out poorly. But it was a huge success. Everyone did extremely well. And a tradition was born.

I change up the participants and add new situations each year. As a result I’m accumulating quite a bit of information from people about their experience of being their type. And audience members really respond to the people on the panels, no matter how much or how little they know about the Enneagram or about their type.

That’s the focus of the book. In Their Own Words will be (primarily) a compilation of voices of different people expressing their differing experiences, thoughts, and feelings about their type, along with their reactions to a series of vignettes.

The responses won’t be limited to people on the panels. I’m expanding the invitation to include people who know their type and would like to contribute to helping others learn about the Enneagram. If you are interested in being part of the project, please email me at with “in their own words” in the subject line, and I will email a list of 12 questions. For Part 2, which I’ll be focusing on later, I will send you several vignettes to respond to. (Note: Names or other personal identifiers will not be included in the book.)

Thank you for your interest in the Enneagram and in Nine Paths. I look forward to a much more engaged year!

In Their Own Words (Part 5)

friends in a carThis is the fifth in the series of responses to the questions and situations posed to last year’s panel of all nine Enneagram types. (Read the four previous posts for more of their responses.)

SITUATION: You and a group of friends are in a car on your way to attend a concert you’ve all been looking forward to for several weeks. About halfway there, one of your friends, who’s been unusually quiet all evening, says she’s decided she doesn’t want to go after all and asks to be taken home. How do you feel? What do you think? And what do you do and say?

Type 2: I interpreted this to mean now we’re going to miss part of the concert. At first I would feel annoyed, but then I would almost immediately think, “What’s wrong?” Something is dramatically wrong for this to happen. At which point I would try to figure that out, try to work with that person, what is wrong, see if there’s anything we can do to help. And, PS, I would also try to convince her to go to the concert. If she said, “I think my husband’s dying because he got a fatal diagnosis yesterday,” that would pretty much tear it for the concert for me. You know, never mind. If it was, “My dog threw up this morning,” I’d be a little bit pissed about the concert.

Type 5: First of all, I can’t believe I would be going to a concert. This is not likely to happen. Although some 5s might be passionate just about music and they would be an expert on it. That’s not the case with me. If she wants to go home, so do I. So I would probably try to find someone to take her there.

Type 8: I think I’d probably fly off the handle internally if not externally. Presumably we’ve made these plans. It’s something we’re all looking forward to, and I guess I hadn’t really thought about well, maybe she’s sick. It was more I just don’t want to go. I think I’d ask if there was a bus station or a train or something. It would just really be annoying.

Type 1: I probably wouldn’t be in the car going to the concert, and if I were that might be me deciding that I didn’t want to go. I would happily offer to go home with her. We could have a nice quiet evening, listen to some music, drink some tea. Getting to know each other better one-to-one would be great rather than a big arena with loud music and lots of stimulation.

Type 4: It would depend on who the person is and what the reason is for her wanting to go home. Is she sick? Has she had bad news today? Also if we take her home, will we still have time to go to the concert? Is halfway there five miles or 20 miles? I would be sympathetic if she has a good reason, like sickness. If she doesn’t have a good reason, I would feel annoyed. I would think it was thoughtless of her to want to go home at the last minute and spoil the evening for the rest of us. I would consider the opinions of the rest of the people in the car when deciding whether to take home. I hadn’t thought about sending her on a bus. I would try to convince her that she might feel better as the evening goes on. If it wasn’t a major inconvenience to take her home, I would take her home. And if she’s about to throw up in my car, I would definitely take her home.

Type 7: OK, well my friends wouldn’t do this. So this is kind of a strange thing. I would really be furious. If they were sick, they shouldn’t have come in the first place, but chances are if she’s been acting weird all day long she doesn’t feel good and she probably should have called and said, “I’m not going to go.” It would depend really about taking her home. Chances are, in reality, I probably would do it. But I really wouldn’t want to take her home. I’d probably call a cab. If I could turn around, get her home, and get back and not miss the concert, I would probably consider doing that. Otherwise I would call a cab. And I would never invite her again. Now there’s a caveat to that. I do have a very good close friend who sometimes develops a migraine at the drop of a hat, and I’ve occasionally have had to stop at the side of the road while she throws up, and then I turn around and take her home. There are some exceptions to this rule, OK?

Type 3: This time it’s finally going to be “it depends.” Depends on the concert and how close I am to this friend in the group. If I’m close to her, I might turn around, but really I’d be thinking about how I could talk her into possibly changing her mind. Or what I can do to make it happen. But overall, I’m still annoyed. I’d be wondering why the friend didn’t speak up earlier. Why is she waiting till now? I don’t know what the situation is. And again I’d probably try to talk her into some other options. And then I’d probably talk to the others: let’s pitch in and get her a cab. We can keep going and get her back home.

Type 6: I would feel angry. I’d wonder, “What is her problem? Why is she being so inconsiderate?” And I’d ask her why she changed her mind and what’s going on. And then act based on her answer.

Type 9: Being a 9 I probably would already have been aware that there’s something up because of our focus on other people. I’m a life coach by profession, so really what I would do is drop into coach mode. “What’s going on? What do you need?” And if what they need is to go home or be taken care of, I would work that out so that they get taken care of. And if there was a way for me to still get where I originally wanted, if I still wanted that, I would work for that, too. But that pattern, there’s something not OK.

How do you think YOU would respond to this situation? Would you feel more annoyed or more concerned? What considerations would you have about turning around and taking your friend home?

In Their Own Words (Part 4)

change of plansHere are the responses from the nine people on last year’s Enneagram Panel to the third of the four situations they were presented with. (Read the previous three posts for more of their responses.)

SITUATION: You’re getting ready to leave the office late on Friday afternoon when the supervisor of your department discovers several errors in a report a client is expecting to have in hand the following Monday morning. Everyone else has gone home. So your supervisor expects you to work late even though you didn’t make those errors and you have plans yourself for that evening. How would you feel? What would you think? And what would you do and say?

Type 1: I would be put out. I’d be annoyed. But I’d likely comply, and I would make arrangements to get to my plans late feeling like those people would be more forgiving than the person who really wants the job done. Oh, and then the other thing I thought is that I might not do a perfect job. Someone else made the mistakes. I might not do as good a job as I would if it would be my piece of work. I don’t really feel like I have a buy-in, so I might not be perfect. And I would try to get out as soon as possible, so I’d do it as efficiently as I could so I could get on with the other plans.

Type 2: I’m not as nice as some 2s, I bet. I would feel annoyed. That would be my first reaction. What would I think? Well, basically that it’s somewhat unfair but I would have the expectations the supervisor would also be staying and we would work on it together. And if that was not happening, then I would truly be annoyed. What do you say and do? Depends on how I was asked. “Oh, gee, it would be such a big help if you would stay. I would really appreciate it.” That I’d get sucked right into. A lot of praise. If I were asked to do this, I would definitely want credit and recognition that I had done this for other people. That’s the selfish part of being a 2.

Type 3: I’d be extremely put out. And I’d be critical of the incompetent work. Why does someone do incompetent work in the first place? And now why am I stuck dealing with it? I’m trying to think how I can get out of this. So I’d be planning what I can do to get out of this. What do you do and say? I try to explain my situation. I already have commitments. I’m unable to change them. And try to think of what are some other options there.

Type 4: I think this would depend on my relationship with the supervisor. Does she often do this kind of thing? Has she supported me in the past? Is there a good alternative for someone making the corrections over the weekend—preferably the person who made the errors. Or even the supervisor herself? If not, I would tell her that I had plans for the evening, but I would be willing to make the corrections over the weekend if no one else could do it, if I didn’t have plans for the weekend. If getting it done over the weekend doesn’t work, whether I would stay late would depend upon why I couldn’t have done it over the weekend and my relationship with the supervisor. Do I value my job enough to cancel my plans and stay at work? I would think it was unfair, but if I valued my job and liked the supervisor, and if I could cancel my plans for the evening without too much trouble and too many repercussions, I would probably stay.

Type 5: I’d just do it. It would be no big deal. I like to work. I like to think. And the bonus would be that this is after hours and everyone would be gone.

Type 6: So how would I feel? Trapped, frustrated. So then, I’m hardworking and loyal. I would say, “OK, let’s see; how long is this going to take me?” I would reschedule my plans.

Type 7: First I’d be the supervisor, and I’d deal with it. But I would be really, really, really irritated and really pissed off. If it’s a rare occurrence, and I had plans for Friday night, I would come in over the weekend, and I would do it. But if it was a regular issue, I wouldn’t do it. I’d tell the supervisor, “No, I can’t, I’m leaving”—whatever. I would come up with some reason why I absolutely could not do it, and that he or she would have to call the person back in to correct the work.

Type 8: I think this was a tough one partly because you want to keep your job. So I would definitely be vocal about it, and tell them, “Look I already have plans.” But I think when it came down to it, I would do it. I want the job; whatever recognition came with it is fine. But it’s the business world; it needs to get done.

Type 9: I would be really, really pissed off but they would probably never know that. I think I would think, “Wow, does anybody do their job?” And then I would just get it done, and get out of there. And I would walk out thinking, “You so owe me—and you will pay.” That applies both to the person who made the mistakes and to the supervisor—big time!

How do you think YOU would respond to this situation? Would you change your plans and stay late to fix someone else’s mistake? Would you be resentful of your supervisor or the person who made the mistakes—or both of them?

In Their Own Words (Part 3)

vacation soloThis is the second hypothetical situation posed to the members of last year’s Enneagram panel.

(See the two previous posts for more of their responses.)

SITUATION: You and a friend have arranged to meet in a city you’ve never visited before for several days of vacation. You arrive on time, but your friend’s flight has been delayed until the next day, which leaves you with 24 hours on your own. How do you feel, what do you think, and what would you do and say?

Type 1: I would be perfectly happy and delighted to have a day to myself. I would choose to do things I knew she wouldn’t be interested in doing so she wouldn’t miss out. I wouldn’t be at the airport. I wouldn’t even think about how she was feeling. I would get a really good night’s rest which I would really need after the traveling. I don’t know if I would go out and do something; maybe I would stay in and read a book that came with me on the trip. But I wouldn’t think about her, and I would be perfectly happy to have a day to myself.

Type 2: Maybe I feel a little bit disappointed because I was looking forward to my friend. On the other hand, I personally travel all the time by myself, cross country and so forth. So what do I think? It’s not a big problem. Start thinking about what to do with the 24 hours I have. And also thinking about what’s happening to my friend. Is she sleeping in an airport? You know, how is this going to affect how she is when she gets off the plane tomorrow. So what would I do? I would probably plan to do something that she’s not real interested in, so she wouldn’t have missed anything. I would probably try to meet her at the airport just to grease the wheels so it’s an easy arrival since she’s been through a little stress.

Type 3: I guess I, too, am not very feeling. My reaction is I’m frustrated because my plans have changed. I had a plan, now it’s all changed. So I’m going to be in a little upset at first. And I realize it’s not her fault but that’s just my first reaction. What do I think? OK, so now what can I do to fill my time? Think of something different to do. How can I enjoy this? And what do you end up doing? Well, just go off and have an adventure. That’s how I would see it.

Type 4: I would feel disappointed, but I’d understand that kind of thing happens sometimes. I would see it as an opportunity to explore on my own. I would think about whether it was possible to go and do whatever plans we had for those 24 hours and maybe do something else that my friend might not have been interested in. Or if that didn’t work out, I would just stay in the hotel, have a nice dinner in a restaurant, order room service, maybe, read a book or watch TV. I would not think about her at all.

Type 5: Anyone here who’s my friend, do not take this personally. I’d probably be a little bit happy that I have the space. I have no doubt that there’s something I want to do that this friend does not want to do. So I would go do that. And I would definitely take myself out for a delicious dinner, and it would never occur to me what’s going on with my friend. When she shows up then I know she’ll tell me. I don’t have to think about it until she’s right in front of me.

Type 6: I would feel abandoned. But then I would think, let’s go find some food, find a hotel, buy a map, and then start asking questions.

Type 7: Well since 7s do not feel, I wouldn’t have any feeling for her. I’m sorry my friend would miss out on the special day, but I’d go do whatever I wanted to do. I might see the sights, I might go shopping, I might do whatever—I wouldn’t even worry about what she’s doing. I would not go pick her up at the airport. The next day when she arrived—or maybe it’s a he, you know—I might, if there was something really cool I did that day, I might take my friend with me and say, hey, I found this really cool thing. Do you want to go take a look at it or see it, or maybe not. Or we could just do what we had planned initially. But that would be it. It’s like OK, that’s one of those things that happens. See you tomorrow.

Type 8: My first thought would be absolute elation. I’ve got free time. We would have discussed ahead of time what she wants to do, what I want to do, what we want to do. So I would just decide what my time constraints are and decide what I want to do and then go do it. You know, when I read this, I didn’t think about her at all. I figured she’d be fine.

Type 9: True to my ambivalent nature, I would be both disappointed and elated at the same time. I would probably indulge myself in something I knew wasn’t of interest to my friend during the day, and you know, if they’ve got cable, I would watch TV.

How do you think YOU would respond in this situation? Would you be relieved or disappointed? Would you think about your friend? Would you meet him or her at the airport?

In Their Own Words (Part 2)

role switchThis is the second in a series of posts based on answers from the nine different types on last year’s Enneagram panel. In the previous post, we learned three words each person would use to describe their type and what they liked and didn’t like about being their type. This time, we’ll find out how they would react to one of four hypothetical situations posed to them.

In all four of the situations something unexpected happens. It’s when things don’t go according to (our) plan that our responses are likely to reveal our type-based automatic reactions.

SITUATION: You arrive at an event involving several dozen people expecting to participate as a guest. Suddenly the hostess rushes over to you exclaiming she has to leave due to an emergency and insists you take over for her. Tell us how you would feel, what you would think, and what you would do and say.

Type 1: I would be mortified. I would be absolutely mortified. I would be put out. I would have a hard time changing my hat from being a participant to being the person in charge, especially because I wasn’t expecting to be in charge. And I would probably call on my Type 7 friend. It’s so nice to know that these people would be the right people to call on. But I would take it over and hand it over to her because she’s out there and extraverted and stands up. Basically I would give it to somebody else to do.

Type 2: First off, I felt flattered that she asked me. And then because it’s me, a little bit of a relief because now I have a role to play. I know exactly what I need to do and what my role is in this matter. I would ask for any information for how she wants it to be done unless she’s on her way out the door already because something horrible has happened. And then I’d just take over and organize everything and do it. So it’s not a big deal for me.

Type 3: I’m so relieved after hearing other people say they would just embrace it, and I finally heard, oh, my god, I’d be pissed. My first reaction is oh, gosh, I would be upset. I’m not prepared. I don’t like to do things I’m not prepared for, and this is that type of situation. I was coming planning on relaxing not having to get involved with it. That would be my first feeling. What I think, if I had no choice then I’d start thinking about OK, what are my options, what can I do, how can I get some help, do some quick planning to make something happen. Realizing there may not be any option, then I’ll tell her OK I’m going to try, with no guarantees, I’m just going to do the best I can because I don’t feel prepared, I don’t feel comfortable, but in the end, I’ll just do a good job.

Type 4: For me, it depends. Do I know the hostess? Do I think it’s really an emergency? Do I know the topic? Do I know what she had planned for the event? Do I know the other people who are coming? If yes to all or most of these questions, I would feel nervous about taking it over, but I would do it. If no, I would feel angry about being put in an uncomfortable position. I would think how thoughtless of her to insist I take over. I would tell the group what has happened and ask for their support and maybe their input if I don’t know the topic well. If I don’t know enough about the topic to carry on and can’t find anyone in the group who knows it, either, I might change the topic to something else. Or I might just cancel the event and reschedule it for another time.

Type 5: This scenario has happened to me many times. I really do like the back row instead of standing up and having to talk. As a 5, I probably did some background research on whatever was going on, so I’ll kind of feel prepared. I would also ask what the hostess wanted to have happen. I’d be fine. I’m mature enough in my “five-ness” to not feel imposed upon.

Type 6: How would I feel? Scared. I’m out. Don’t ask me.

Type 7: Yes, I’ll take it over. Personally, I think this is a normal thing to happen to a 7. We like being in control and we handle last-minute changes really well. It’s no big deal, we do it, and we just move on. End of story.

Type 8: I think my first reaction would be resistance. She’s insisting I take over; she’s not asking. So I’m annoyed. I think the thing I would think about would be could I handle it? Do I know enough about this topic in order to do it. If I felt that I could, I would go ahead and do it and just tell the audience, you know, this a pot luck. It’s not what you came for, but what the heck. And if I didn’t feel competent, I would simply tell her that I wouldn’t do it.

Type 9: I think my first response would be shock and that probably actually translates as the automatic resistance of the 9. I would also feel flattered, I think. And then I would enroll the crowd that something’s happened none of us thought would happen, so we’ll work together and it’ll be fun. That’s what you do. Get them on your side.

How do you think YOU would respond in this situation? Would you be relieved or terrified or would you take it in stride?

In Their Own Words (Part 1)

people talking

This is the second year I’ve gathered people together to hear from a panel of all nine Enneagram types. I asked the participants on both panels to give us three words to describe their type (from their perspective) and to tell us what they like and don’t like about being their type.

In both cases, I had no idea what any of them would say. And in both cases, they all did a bang-up job of giving us a glimpse into how they perceive themselves and their type. These are the answers from last year’s panel.

Give us three words to describe your type.

Type 1: True to type, I don’t know which words to choose. Even though you said it didn’t have to be “right,” I still couldn’t choose.

Type 2: helpful, sentimental, and people-pleasing

Type 3: organized, efficient, and productive

Type 4: sensitive, curious, and open-minded

Type 5: observant, reflective, and isolated

Type 6: concerned, aware, and loyal

Type 7: spontaneous, accomplished, and multi-talented

Type 8: independent, competent, and untrusting

Type 9: compassion, time alone, resistance

Tell us what you like and don’t like about being your type.

Type 1: I like that I’m not a pure 1. I have a 9 wing. That also means that my closet isn’t perfectly organized. Nor is my house perfectly organized. I don’t like the highly critical nature because I think everyone should do things perfectly. I think they should plan better. They should execute better. They should speak with proper grammar.

Type 2: One of the things I like is 2s are often friendly. My husband used to say I could start a conversation with a stone. The grocery store clerk does not need to know your life history. So I go on vacation by myself and have a lovely time and meet lots of people and come home with addresses and phone numbers. Something I don’t like is when helping slips into martyrdom. I catch myself sliding into that on occasion, so this has helped me not to slide.

Type 3: I like being competent and getting things done. I thrive on being organized. It’s just what I am and what I do. It comes very naturally. Something I don’t particularly like is that the busyness and the productivity don’t always serve me. I’ve always had this analogy about life being like spinning plates. Spinning plates have absolutely no purpose; they just keep you busy to keep from crashing.

Type 4: I like having a strong 5 wing, and I think that makes a big difference. I’m open to new ideas and different kinds of people. What I don’t like is being overly sensitive to things people say and do, taking them personally, and then brooding about them.

Type 5: I love research! I could do it endlessly. I love being curious and exploring and always learning something new. What I don’t like is that it’s very easy for me to detach from what’s going on around me. However, I’m a great crisis manager because 5s are very good at detaching and dealing with whatever is driving everyone else crazy.

Type 6: I like that I’m responsible and hardworking. What I don’t like is that I overthink everything. That’s why I’m overwhelmed all the time. And when I make a decision, I doubt myself. Then I go out and ask everybody else. What do you think? Should I do this? Should I go there?

Type 7: I like that 7s are fun-loving, controlling—we can be bossy—but we’re very dependable and responsible. We can also be self-deprecating and have a great sense of humor. What I don’t like about being a 7 is I have an 8 wing, which means I can anger quickly and become confrontational and threatening. I also don’t like being somewhat scattered and trying to do too many things at once—but only sometimes.

Type 8: I like being capable and self-sufficient. I really feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. I don’t like the knee-jerk reactions. Being opinionated. And I think the more I get to know myself as I get older, it’s nice to know where that comes from and to be able to soften it a little bit so people don’t always think we bite.

Type 9: I like the compassion. I like the ability I’ve always had since I was little to be connected with almost anybody in any set of circumstances. I like being able to recognize something in them and feel connected. I don’t like the automatic resistance. It’s not just resistance to you but it’s resistance from within as well. It’s still there, but I see it now. Oh, that’s just me resisting.

The highlight of both Enneagram panels was the responses of the different types to a series of hypothetical situations I presented them with. I’ll be featuring the situations and responses of last year’s panel in upcoming posts.

Creating True-to-Life Characters with the Enneagram

fictional charactersWhether or not you write fiction, you may be interested in this recent post from my creativity blog about using the Enneagram for character development.

It includes some basic type descriptions along with characterizations of nine different types of knitters. (And in case you didn’t know, there is actually a genre of writing called “knit lit.”)

Can the Enneagram Make You a Better Writer?

At a SouthWest Writers meeting several years ago, a fiction writer at my table mentioned she didn’t always know what choice her character would make when faced with a decision, an obstacle, or a fork in the road. I had no opportunity to pursue the conversation with her, but I wanted to tell her about the Enneagram and how it could help her solve that problem.

I admire her for being honest about an issue many writers struggle with. Anyone who writes character-driven stories, real or fictional, must have a basic understanding of human nature. While some aspects of being human are common to all of us, we do differ from each other, sometimes in significant ways. The ways we’re different aren’t random, however. A writer can’t just throw together a hodgepodge of attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics and hope to come up with a believable character. Discerning readers recognize poorly drawn characters, whether they are two-dimensional or too multi-dimensional. Continue reading…

Mom, Me, and the Enneagram

no-one-wayI’ve written about my relationship with my mother on Nine Paths before. And yesterday I posted a portrait of her on Facebook, along with these comments:

This is a portrait of my mother as a young woman. It was taken before she married my father, so late 1930s or early 1940s. She was born 12/19/17 and died 11/05/99. We were about as opposite, temperamentally, as a mother and daughter could be. But she had a great sense of humor, so although we argued–a lot!–we also laughed a lot, which is probably what carried us through.

Temperamentally speaking, my mother and I were kind of a match made in hell. She was a 9 with a very strong 1 wing, which we both learned when she agreed to explore the Enneagram a couple of years before she died. I’m an 8 with a very strong 7 wing. To top it off, on the Riso-Hudson (RHETI) test, her lowest score was for 8 and my lowest score was for 9.

This is typically how things went between us:

Mom: Follow the rules.
Me: Well, I will if I agree with them.

Mom: What will the neighbors think?
Me: Who cares what the freaking neighbors think?

Mom: Do what I tell you to do.
Me: Why?

Mom: Why can’t you kids stop fighting? (I have two younger brothers.)
Me: Because we don’t get along–obviously!

Mom: You need to do (fill in the blank) exactly this way.
Me: Well, that makes no sense. If you want me to do it, I’ll do it my way. Otherwise, feel free to do it your way.

To say the least, I was a challenge for my mother to raise–much more so than either of my brothers. And my mother was a challenge for me to deal with. I knew nothing about the Enneagram when I was growing up, but I did pretty much figure out how to get around her. Although I didn’t know she was a 9, I was aware that she really didn’t want to know about all the stuff I was doing that I wasn’t supposed to be doing, so I just told her what she wanted to hear. When anything questionable came to her attention, her 1 wing compelled her to take action, which she did–or tried to do. But as an 8, I was willing to accept the consequences, and I knew she would eventually get over it.

I learned a lot about the upside of type 9 many years later from my friend, Donna, when we co-facilitated groups at the substance clinic where we both worked. I like to think that growing up I would have been more sympathetic to my mother and less of a pain in the ass if I’d known then what I know now.

The practical benefits of learning the basics of the Enneagram can be enormous. For one thing, they can give us a fighting chance of understanding each other, which is something the world could really use right now. That’s one reason why I support making the Enneagram accessible to a much bigger and broader audience.

Reset Your Mindset

I wrote about mindsets on my website Farther to Go! last month, but as with many of the topics I write about there, this seems relevant in terms of Enneagram types. I suspect it is easier for some types to develop–or to already have–a Get Better mindset, while other types find it more difficult to break out of the Be Good mindset. Full article here.

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