I used to have pat answers for people who say, “I don’t want to be put in a box.”

After spending a week at the International Enneagram Association conference with the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen, I experienced over 400 souls with lines, edges, shapes contours on their faces and bodies telling the story of who they are. They’re so much more. Makes me teary eyed thinking about it. 

How did I miss this? Yes, I got it cognitively before. But something changed there. Maybe it was the presence of the Millenneagram crowd. Maybe I was ready to see it in a different way. 

I’m realizing if people tell me they’re more than a type, it usually means that they have felt reduced by the Enneagram and maybe I was the one who contributed to them feeling that way. 

It is an occupational hazard when you do what I do. I’ve helped hundreds and hundreds of people discover their type. When you do this for a living, you mentally sort for type as you listen. You hear it in patterns of thought and conversation. You hear it in where their attention goes and what they do and don’t talk about. And while you listen for patterns, the essence of who they are starts to slip into the background. Strangely enough, I don’t do this with my Enneagram friends but I do tend do it when I go out into the world.

The other thing that came to me is they have not asked me about the Enneagram. They know what I do for a living and don’t ask. (Now sometimes this has to do with a tendency we have to not ask people questions about themselves. Good conversation and curiosity about another soul is a rare gem). 

But that would be too easy to toss it off like that. I have to hold myself culpable here. If they’ve not asked about what I do for a living, I don’t need to tell them. There may be a reason they didn’t ask. 

I am more than my type.

They may want me to see who they are. “I am more than a type.” Or they may have felt my “go ahead energy” trying to convert them with my Enneagram evangelicalism spreading the good news without permissions. (I am one of the assertive types on the Enneagram. When I get excited about a book, a meal, a movie or the Enneagram, I want to share it). 

I’ve been working with Enneagram for over 20 years and know this: Self knowledge is not easy and not everyone’s jam. It takes courage, readiness and that punch in the gut where you know if you keep doing what you’re doing, things won’t change. It’s hard. 

Typing Without Permission: An Uninvited Guest

Telling people about their type is like barging in as an uninvited guest. Even more, people gain self-knowledge in different ways. Some discover the most about themselves and others through the mirror of relationships. For others, self-knowledge is found in journaling, books, meditation, music…As I listened to Sleeping at Last talk about his music at the conference, I was struck by how music is his lifelong vehicle for self work. 

Here’s to our aliveness. Here’s to the story we tell about ourselves and all the untold stories in us waiting to be told. And here’s to Enneagram detractors. We need you in our lives.

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