Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mutually Supportive Development in Relationships

Understanding your Enneagram personality patterns will certainly enhance your personal effectiveness and spiritual development. This work is even more powerful when explored in the context of your relationships with others.

Changes you make may confuse, or even alarm, your friends and intimates. But when you commit to actions of benefit to both of you, the partnership becomes mutually supportive--which reinforces desired changes and builds greater intimacy.

Exploring your Enneagram subtypes will be an added and important element in illuminating the dynamics of a relationship, as illustrated below with an interaction between two style Nines.

Sally and Oona, both Enneagram style Nines, had been good friends and colleagues for more than a decade. Sally's instinctual subtype preference, however, is social and Oona's is one-to-one. They have similar values of honesty and integrity in relationship and share growing concerns about social and environmental problems. Yet Oona made two criticisms of Sally at a dinner party where several other friends were present. It was New Year's Eve, and Barack Obama had just been elected U.S. President.
When their mutual friend, Betty, expressed concern about possibly losing her government-supported job, Sally responded with a passionate discourse about state politicians and their poor allotment of financial resources. Oona listened for a while, then said, "What does that have to do with Betty's concern about losing her job?"
A while later, Sally said she thought Obama's choices of cabinet members would lead to more of the same problems experienced with the Bush administration but she was, however, happy the U.S. had progressed enough to elect a black president. Oona said, "I find it interesting that even though Obama had both a white and a black parent, people refer to him as "black." Sally said she meant her comment as a celebration of liberalism, but Oona--in what she consciously considered to be a statement of philosophy, not a personal criticism of Sally--looked toward the ceiling and said, "Well, I find it offensive."
Oona promptly forgot about both of her comments. But Sally agonized over them for two days, worried that she seemed insensitive to Betty's job situation and that she'd expressed her political views in ways that turned people off. She called Oona and explained how terrible she felt. Oona, upon being reminded of what she'd said, worried she'd been unfairly harsh. They agreed to meet for lunch and talk things through.

Each took time to think about and take responsibility for her own behavior, and both were committed to work out their differences. Notice how the changes they envisioned were mutually developmental:
Oona admitted she'd been missing one-to-one time with Sally, because they now usually met with a group of friends. She also said she'd been overwhelmed by all the social and political problems Sally raised because she felt powerless to change anything, but had tamped down her feelings instead of talking about them openly.
Sally knew she sometimes talked overlong when impassioned about global concerns, but said this was in part because she didn't always feel heard, because her friends didn't respond with interest or take the kinds of actions she felt were vital. She asked how she might talk about her concerns in ways that invited responsiveness and action.
Sally agreed to stop periodically, give Oona time to assimilate and ask questions, and help her think through what actions she could take so she didn't feel so powerless. She also agreed to more one-on-one time with Oona.
Oona committed to speak up when she felt overwhelmed and, instead of tamping down her panic, to ask for specific actions she could take where they shared mutual concerns.
Notice how, even though both are Enneagram style Nines, the focus of attention for each was quite different, explained in part by the difference in their instinctual subtype focus--social for Sally, one-to-one for Oona.

Note, also, how their agreements to change were mutually developmental and reinforcing:
By speaking up more directly when overwhelmed, Oona could act against her habitual tendency to tamp things down, while also helping Sally break her pattern of talking so long and so intensely that Oona (and probably others) would screen her out.

Sally could feel appreciated that her passionate social concerns were important to Oona, while giving Oona one-to-one attention by discussing specific actions in Oona's areas of interest.
They practiced this mutually reinforcing approach right away. Oona said she was interested in leadership attributes that could lead to new perspectives on world problems. Sally told Oona about a book that spoke to this interest, and brought the book to Oona's house later that afternoon. This became a shared, passionate topic for both of them in their future encounters.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wonderful insight into the significance of Subtype in interactions, even between people of the same type. I've heard many experienced Enneagram people say that having matching Subtypes is often a more accurate predictor of success in romantic relationships (as well as close friendships) than matching Types. I've experienced this myself, being a one-to-one Subtype and having a partner of a different Type but the same Subtype. —Judith Searle