Saturday, December 3, 2016

All Things Innocent: Enneagram Eights and Twos

The most interpersonally oriented of all the Enneagram styles, healthy style Twos in organizations are unconditionally caring leaders who derive great satisfaction from the development of others; they're typically great supporters of customer service. On the down side, they can be indirect and even manipulative. And they like to be in the middle of things, whether others want their help or not!

Style Eights who've paid attention to their own development are able to shoulder huge responsibilities without having to control everything. Otherwise they, too, intervene too much, but they're more direct and aggressive than their style Two counterparts: they typically impose their will.

The steps below demonstrate how mutual development could work for partners with Enneagram Eight/Two personality patterns:

1. Talk about your implicit beliefs and explicit behaviors; become aware of mutually self-defeating patterns:

Assuming that each has a stake in the relationship, then each needs to show some vulnerability and own up to a piece of it. Even between two people who start out lacking trust, the willingness of each to listen and learn can build trust.

If you're style Eight, for example, and puzzled by your co-workers' view of you as "vindictive," ask for a description of the behavior they're labeling so you can really see it. If you're style Two and your partner sees you as "manipulative," make sure you've understood exactly what that means.

Face the fact that you don't always look to others the way you look to yourself. Also recognize that the feedback stems from others' perceptions, and those perceptions (right or wrong) affect the quality of your relationship.

2. Create a clear vision for the transformed relationship and commit yourselves to learning as you go:

Having agreed in Step 1 which interaction patterns are self-defeating, pick one or two patterns to address that could make the most improvement in your relationship. Agree to continue observing your own behavior, but also to solicit and accept feedback from each other.

If you're a Two/Eight partnership, you could agree to a commitment from the Eight to seek information about the Two's needs, and a commitment from the Two to be clear and specific with the Eight about what you want.

This will be mutually developmental, because: (a) sensitivity to others' needs helps Eights develop listening skills and compassion; (b) influencing someone directly requires the Two to ask, "What do I need?"

As in Step 1 above, observe your own behavior and solicit feedback from each other. When you're successful in attaining any part of your vision, determine what you did to make that happen and do more of it.

3. Be alert to how you get in the way of your own progress and stay committed to the transformation: 

Note the situations where you slip into habitual, self-defeating routines. Appreciate the fact, for example, that an Enneagram Eight's tendency to come right out with what he or she wants may invite a vicious circle where the Two becomes indirect, further inviting the Eight to take over, reinforcing the Two's indirectness, and so on.

Try to remain nonjudgmental and explore together what triggered this return to an old dynamic. Ask what either one of you could have done to break the cycle. Then make a commitment to try again the next time.

Make sure you let go of negative expectations based on superficial understanding of an Enneagram "number," such as, "Don't expect her to give you any slack when you're sick. She's an Eight, after all, and they don't have any tolerance for weakness!" or "We can't have him on the Steering Committee, he's a Two and you know he'll try to hold us emotional hostage!"

Eights and Twos at their best are caring friends, co-workers, and advocates for teammates or families. Through the learning available in a trusting relationship, style Eights develop innocence, style Twos develop humility. Both of these qualities are reflected in Theodore Roethke's poem, "The Meadow Mouse" (excerpt below):

In a shoe box stuffed in an old nylon stocking
Sleeps the baby mouse I found in the meadow
Where he trembled and shook beneath a stick
Till I caught him up by the tail and brought him in
Cradled in my hand...
Do I imagine he no longer trembles when I come close to him?
...I think of the nestling fallen into the deep grass
The turtle gasping in the dusty rubble of the highway
The paralytic stunned in the tub and the water rising
All things innocent, hapless, forsaken.

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