My Experience With the Enneagram Model

If you listened to my podcast with Robert Delamontagne (RJ 012 Feb 2016), you heard us mention something called the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a way of looking at personality types and their interactions. It is applied in various contexts such as relationships and business.

I first came across the Enneagram model at the last company I worked for. The Chief Information Officer was a huge fan and had his entire organization undergo Enneagram training. The training included taking an assessment to determine our personality type. It also included how different personality types interact – positively and negatively.

My job title at this company was Sr. IT Project Manager. One of the biggest challenges facing project managers is motivating a diverse team to do what you want them to. IT (Information Technology) teams often include members from different countries/cultures, physical locations, functions (software engineers, support and database administrators to name a few), outside vendors and customers.

For a project to succeed the Project Manager has to develop a team that works well together, is committed to the project objectives and can resolve conflicts in a constructive manner. One problem that I encountered repeatedly was getting technical team members (such as software engineers) to complete their tasks on time. This not only proved frustrating but also led to delays which I had to answer for.

Enneagram training helped me become a better Project Manager. I learned that many engineers according to Dr. Robert Delamontagne are E-Type 1 “The Master”[1]. Here is how he characterizes this personality type: perfectionist, detailed, problem solver, tense, prideful and like to do things your own way. I realized that these team members were not intentionally being difficult. They simply were wired to deliver superb results. There was no point in being frustrated. I just had to find a better way to work with them. I accomplished this by involving them more in the planning, adding contingency into the project plan, ensuring that there was an overall technical leader/decision maker and setting realistic expectations.

Recently, after becoming reacquainted with the Enneagram, I wanted to see what E-Type my wife is. Her test results indicate that she, like me, is an E-Type 5. Like all Enneagram personality type pairings, there is good news and bad news. Here’s how Dr. Delamontagne describes the relationship between 2 E-Type 5s in his book Honey I’m Home.

“General Nature of Relationship[2]

Two independent thinkers who require little social interaction living under one roof may characterize this relationship. Both partners need their own space and sufficient solitude to pursue their projects without interruption. Rooms may actually allocated as “his” and “hers” to permit sufficient life space. <True for us!> Even though this couple can function independently, each needs the affection and support provided by the other to remain in equilibrium. Because this couple does not create undo pressure on one another to socialize or become outwardly focused, it can provide both partners with a great deal of compatibility and satisfaction. Because the heart of this relationship is primarily mental, this couple can experience a strong love connection that is primarily nonverbal.

Primary Sources of Conflict

Under stress both partners process the same instinct: to withdraw. This can be a major problem when one partner is moving toward the other to resolve a conflict and the other psychologically exits the relationship. Both partners may simply try to ignore or subvert negative emotions, which leaves them unresolved. This can become a very painful experience and can lead to intense suffering by both partners. It is not until both partners fully process the conflict in all of its dimensions that resolution is possible.

Recommended Courses of Action

It would be beneficial for both partners to work on becoming more comfortable expressing their emotions without fear of being exposed or invaded in some way. This would enable resolution to occur without an extended period of withdrawal and pain. In addition, it would be beneficial if this couple became engaged in an outside cause or project that would release them from their social isolation and enable them to share their knowledge with others.”

I find the analysis of two 5s to be remarkably accurate. I feel that learning this helps in several ways: provides personal insight; knowledge about what makes your spouse tick; and ideas for how to manage inherent conflict. All of these are essential for ensuring that a relationship will withstand the changes that occur over time and provide the foundation for the relationship to thrive. I view the Enneagram as one tool that can help in this process. And it’s kind of fun!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Enneagram you can visit the Enneagram Institute. You can also take this online quiz to discover your Enneagram type.

[1] Enneagram personality type descriptions vary according to source. I am using Dr. Delamontagne’s definitions from his book “Honey I’m Home”.

[2] Published with author’s permission

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1 Response

  1. Dot says:

    Hi Ted, took the Ennegram quiz… came out a very healthy 9. Its mostly right… at least the best fit. Interesting. I do see you both as a 5.

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