See this and more inside the April issue of Military Spouse Magazine!
I love a good photo filter. After all, if I wanted to see real life, I’d wipe the vaseline off my mirror and get an accurate scale. But who needs that? What I see may not necessarily be correct, but I’m a whole lot happier with the reflection I perceive.
We all look at the world around us through our own distinct lenses. Our core character traits shape these perceptions – kind of like built-in Instagram filters. Wondering how you look at the world? Meet the Enneagram.
In case you’re curious, the Enneagram is not the giant X-ray machine that smashes your boobs. The Enneagram of Personality is a model of human behavior that categorizes us into nine interconnected personality types defined by how emotions and motivations affect how we view ourselves and relate to others.
As military spouses, we don’t lead sheltered lives. Moving an average of every 24 months means being thrown into new environments often and being exposed to different personality types from all walks of life. We have to adapt to new surroundings and figure out how to thrive very quickly – and we often must do it without our spouses to lean on. Our emotions tend to drive us because we are in a near-constant state of flux. We have to learn how to control – or at least understand – them or this crazy ride will be even more difficult.
Sad and frustrated that your spouse just got extended on an already unbearably long deployment? You don’t get to wallow. You still have to mow the lawn, unclog the toilet, write a five-page paper, clean up the dog barf, remove the toddler from the washing machine and figure out where that smell is coming from. Or all of the other possibilities that we learn to laugh (or stress-eat) about as we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and carry on.
And the Enneagram can be especially useful in education, particularly in regards to how our personality traits affect learning. Getting a glimpse of the personality types around you can help you learn to communicate more effectively.
Below is a rudimentary explanation of the Enneagram personality types in learning. There is a ton of further information to learn about each one, including strengths, weaknesses, motivations, action patterns and many other aspects. Dig in!
The Nine Enneagram Types
ONE: THE PERFECTIONIST
These folks are Yoda’s dream – there is no trying with them, they either do or… well, yeah, that’s pretty much it because failure is not an option. Principled, bookish, purposeful and earnest, they are strict and self-disciplined. They are rule-followers and enjoy order and organization. They take every undertaking in life seriously and school is no different. While certainly likable enough, other students secretly resent them because they ruin the curve. It annoys them when classes get off track or other students don’t take their work seriously. They are the leader of each group assignment and have high standards and a strict moral code. There is right and there is wrong – there is no in-between.
TWO: THE NURTURER
These types are most likely to recognize when you need a hug, or bring you a latte on a bad day and are very in tune with other people and their needs. Agreeable, caring, charming, likable and collaborative, people bask in the glow of their compassionate heart. They have an intense need to be needed, though, so should be careful that others in a collaborative learning environment don’t take advantage of them. They need to feel emotionally invested in the subject matter, and connect best with really passionate teachers. They love working in a group and will strive to make a personal connection with their fellow students.
These types are totally focused on success – and the recognition that goes with it. They love to win and want the trophy. It is important to them that others know about their achievements – they’re the ones most likely to have the most pieces of “flair” (think bumper stickers and social media posts about themselves and their family). They adapt well to new situations and to them the finish line is more important than the journey. They love to be challenged and feel the need to be constantly productive. They don’t take criticism well, and will find ways to spin failures into success stories.
FOUR: THE LONER
Loners march to the beat of their own drum. They are creative, sensitive, expressive, dramatic and often see themselves as misunderstood. They need to feel an emotional connection to the subject to truly understand it. They can be self-absorbed and temperamental, and might be more likely to espouse the “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” philosophy. They want to stand out in the crowd, don’t want to be considered a follower and enjoy expressing their own unique creativity.
FIVE: THE SEEKER
A deep thinker, these types truly value knowledge. They tend to take in information and process it carefully, which can come off as a little secretive. They have to work things out in their heads before they contribute. They would rather be an expert in one field than a jack of all trades. They’re typically intense, quiet and reserved, unless you ask them about a subject they know about – then they’ll yak your ear off.
SIX: THE STEADY HELM
These people are the rocks in your life – the ones that might stop you from doing something stupid. They are fiercely protective and want safety and security and thrive in environments with structure and rules. They are naturally suspicious and likely to ask questions from every angle. Wary of easy answers, they may be distrustful of teachers or fellow students until they’ve had enough time to observe and interact with them. They tend to question everything, to the point where it may hinder their progress.
SEVEN: THE BRIGHT LIGHT
These people have a generally encouraging and sunny disposition and just want to be happy. Fun-loving and adaptable, they look at learning as an adventure and an opportunity for excitement. They’re the first ones to volunteer for participation. They love to brainstorm. They are free spirited and fast. They’re upbeat and spontaneous and don’t see the need for lists and plans. These are the type to give in to whims and can sometimes be hard to keep on track. Quick learners, they like to jump right in to whatever challenge is set before them.
EIGHT: THE DEBATER
The Debater needs to be in control. Self-confident and decisive, they feel protective of themselves and those around them that they think need protecting. They’ll be the first ones to step up and defend someone from a bully. They aren’t mean, but can come off as abrasive with their brutal honesty and love for healthy debates. They are never afraid to speak up and let you know what’s on their mind, and can be domineering and confrontational. They thrive in an intense environment. They often want proof to back up new ideas, and don’t just accept information – they’ll be the ones looking up the sources of online news reports. They love hands-on learning environments.
NINE: THE DIPLOMAT
These are the people who make lemonade when life hands them lemons (or maybe a good Tom Collins). They roll with the punches and accept that life is messy sometimes. Generally agreeable, easygoing and well-behaved, they can be easily distracted and sometimes find it hard to prioritize work and deadlines. They avoid confrontation, which can sometimes mean that they go along with the ideas of others even when they really don’t agree on the course of action. They want a harmonious environment, often putting the needs or wants of others above their own to achieve peace. They thrive on routine and predictable structure. Their peacemaking tendencies can help groups pool their collective talents and work together more amicably.
The Enneagram also explains how these types work with each other, and how we tend to have a dominant type supported by secondary types.
Knowing your own perspective, and learning how to use it to approach someone from theirs is a key to collaborative success – in the classroom and in everyday life. Check out more information about the Enneagram – enlightenment awaits! Η
Becky Hilliker is the co-author of Sisters of Shiloh (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) and a freelance writer. She has contributed articles to Ancestry.com, USA Today, Huffington Post, Military Spouse Magazine and the Military Spouse Fine Artists Network. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a member of the National History Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta. Becky lives in Ridgecrest, Calif., with her husband, Jesse (assigned to VX-9 at NAWS China Lake), and their four children.