How the Enneagram Has Changed My Interactions With Others

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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rest, rose, urgency, advocacy, No Good Excuse

There will always be more to learn in this life. No matter how many years I live or how many experiences I have, I can’t possibly know it all. This is surprising to some degree, because when I was younger, I thought all almost-40-year-olds had everything figured out.

If that were ever true, I’ve missed some important memos along the way.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Enneagram personality test and exploring the theories behind the different ways our brains are wired. Although my mind is blown with just about every other page or article I read, there is one thing that seems to be on repeat in my head: “The purpose of the Enneagram is to develop self-knowledge and learn how to recognize and dis-identify with the parts of our personalities that limit us.”

This comes from the book “The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, which launched my interest in the Enneagram.

We are all wired differently, and the Enneagram is helping me to identify some of the differences that exist in me and the people around me. I have found this journey to be eye-opening because simply knowing what makes me tick better equips me before I say or do something that might be offensive or ill-received by someone else. 

Although so much of this sounded warm and fuzzy as I was reading about my Enneagram number for the first time (Type 1), it was a passing comment by a co-worker recently that brought it to the surface in an undeniable way.

I’ve always been detail-oriented. I’m not the best at envisioning the future or coming up with grand ideas. However, if I know what the ultimate goal or vision is, I’m usually pretty good at helping create the map that can lead us there.

As a bit of a perfectionist, and described as someone that values excellence, the details that often grab my attention are the things that are out of place, messy, or lacking in excellence. At work, this translates into me easily catching punctuation errors, spelling errors, forgotten tasks, and many more “mistakes.”

Though mistakes are often surrounded by growth and progress, my attention tends to be captured by the shortcomings.

I can’t recall what I was working on, or exactly what the issue was, but I had pointed out something minor to a co-worker and they jokingly responded with something like, “Thanks for always pointing out my mistakes.” This caught my attention in such a way that almost stopped me in my tracks.

My pointing out of the “thing” and the manner of their response was a comical moment for both of us. It was nothing mean, cynical, or sarcastic. However, the collision of my recent readings with this real-time moment caused me to take a mental pause and ask myself, “How often do I do this when it’s not comical and perhaps has hurt someone or caused them to avoid me?”

We all have a personality, and that is certainly a part of what makes each of us different and unique. Personalities aren’t wrong, but our personality certainly doesn’t make us right, or more right than another “type.” Additionally, the way I’m wired can’t be an excuse for being offended myself.

A year ago, I would’ve argued that it isn’t my responsibility to help make others comfortable with my disability. I still believe that. However, I’m realizing that I can take responsibility by helping people realize I’m not drunk when they see me walking across a parking lot. Just because I think everyone should know that drunkenness is not the only cause for balance impairments doesn’t mean they are wrong when they assume otherwise.

We’re all wired differently. I am finding that understanding how I am wired is helping me to become a better person. In a sense, this is reminding me that there is no good excuse for not pursuing growth, no matter how old I am.

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