Saturday, December 3, 2016

Head to Head: Two Enneagram Eights

I'd like to know more about how Enneagram Eights respond, react, and live together in a marriage and business partnership.
As many style Eights as I've found running things in the business world, I've never seen a reporting relationship of two Eights. They don't typically hire others of the same Enneagram style to work closely with them, but are more likely to surround themselves with styles Nine and Six, and maybe a few assorted Ones, Twos, or Threes. Nines can accept an Eight's directions and see the teddy bear behind the teeth; they also tend to act as a buffer with others, especially when a one-to-one subtype. Sixes may challenge at first but those who stay are often social subtype Sixes who are willing to follow the system and rules set up by the Eight. 

An Enneagram Eight told me a true story about two puppies from the same litter, put out to play in the back yard. Their owner kept coming home at the end of the day and finding them all muddy and slimy with saliva. As time went by he'd find them full of bite marks and a little blood, especially the male, who was the runt of the litter. The owner finally had to find another home for the little one, because he was afraid the puppies' play would do the runt in. This is an Eight story, so notice he didn't try to stop the fighting until one of the puppies needed protecting.

People with this Enneagram style tend to be territorial, and wouldn't typically share with another Eight in a work setting. Michael Goldberg (The Nine Ways of Working) sees the Eight/Eight pairing as one where "worlds collide." I've coached a style Eight (let's call him Harry) who provided services to an organization where he received his primary support from another Eight, Bill. That worked very well because they recognized each other as kindred spirits; both "what you see is what you get" kind of guys who knew no games were being played as long as they were in interaction. Bill was not the one with whom Harry negotiated his contract, so the two of them could kick back and not get into who was in charge. In contrast, one of Harry's suppliers was a style Eight who didn't meet a deadline and tried to charge more than they'd agreed on: Harry hated his guts. They were both out to win (and Harry did).

In personal relationships, Eights can attract each other. They don't like weak partners, so they're naturally respectful of another strong person, and they have mutual respect for their shared value of fairness. When two Eights clash in a personal relationship it's "the battle of the Titans," though not always in obvious ways. I worked with one Eight/Eight couple who were both introverts and both so reluctant to show weakness they tended to avoid having a true conversation. Instead, they made petty, vindictive remarks to each other.  

If you're in an Eight/Eight relationship you need to negotiate your roles carefully so each of you has a sense of control over your own territory. Then it can be, according to an Eight friend married to an Eight, "the agony and the ecstasy."

One of the best strategies for Enneagram Eights is Ethical Persuasion. The Power of Ethical Persuasion was recommended to me by an Eight (we created a team workshop using these principles as a centerpiece). Rusk writes about the importance of treating each other with "respect, understanding, caring, and fairness." Where there's conflict, both parties agree one will start the discussion and be fully heard. The receiver simply plays back what he or she has heard until the sender can say, "I believe you've really heard what I have to say." Then you switch roles so the receiver is now the sender. Only when both partners have been fully heard do you seek a solution.

This method needs to be coupled with the skill of active listening, which can help Eights build empathy; otherwise, they can find it difficult to put themselves in others' shoes.

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The Three Phases of Ethical Persuasion
From The Power of Ethical Persuasion, Tom Rusk, M.D., with D. Patrick Miller

The persuasion of this method means treating each other with respect, understanding, caring, and fairness. It does not mean convincing someone of the "correct" viewpoint. 

PHASE 1: Exploring the other Person's Viewpoint
  1. Establish that your immediate goal is mutual understanding, not problem solving.
  2. Elicit the other person's thoughts, feelings, and desires about the subject at hand.
  3. Ask for their help in understanding them. Try not to defend or disagree.
  4. Repeat their position in your own words to show you understand.
  5. Ask them to correct your understanding and keep restating their position.
  6. Refer back to your position only to keep things going.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 until they unreservedly agree that you understand their position.
PHASE 2: Explaining Your Viewpoint 
  1. Ask for a fair hearing in return.
  2. Explain how their thoughts and feelings affect you -- avoid blaming and self-defense as much as possible.
  3. Carefully explain your thoughts, desires, and feelings as your truth, not the truth.
  4. Ask for restatement of your position -- and corrections of any inaccuracies -- as necessary.
  5. Review your respective positions.    
PHASE 3: Creating Resolutions (this varies somewhat from Rusk's Phase 3, "Brainstorm Multiple Options")
  1. Affirm your mutual understanding and confirm that you're both ready to consider options for resolution.
  2. Search for creative (win-win or collaborative) solutions  
  3. If a mutually agreeable solution is not yet obvious, try one or more of the following options: 
  • Compromise between alternate solutions ("O.K., I'll leave the decision up to you when it only has to do with equipment, otherwise, you need to get my approval").
  • Take turns between alternate solutions ("Let's agree on decisions together when we're in staff meetings, but when we meet one-on-one you come to me with a summary of decisions you've made").
  • Bargain with alternate solutions ("I'll leave those decisions up to you if you'll give me weekly updates that demonstrate how we'll meet the deadline").
  • Take time out to reconsider, consult, exchange proposals, and reconvene.
  • Yield (for now) once your position is thoroughly and respectfully considered (works especially well when they clearly want their option more than you want yours).
  • Agree to disagree and still respect each other; then, if you can, go your separate ways on the particular issue.
  • Agree to neutral arbitration, mediation, or counseling.
  • Assert your positional power after thoroughly and respectfully considering their position.

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