It seems like everywhere you look nowadays, the Enneagram is there lurking. My Instagram feed is filled with number tic-tac-toe, this-or-that quizzes, and overall Enneagram tips. Frankly, I don’t hate it. I think the Enneagram is fascinating, and so much of what I read about my number (three) is relatable and explains why I do things that I do and interact with people in certain ways. And then learning about other numbers informs my interactions with those people. It’s an intertwined and fascinating system that I really enjoy learning about.
However, I’ve found that many times when I’m talking about the Enneagram with people, we fall into a pattern of chalking up everything that a person does to their Enneagram number.
Quickly, everything that even I do can be attributed to my “three-ness.” But that is dangerous because when that happens, I just become a number. I become a “three” no different than any other three in the world. Everything I do is just “who I am,” and I can never get better, healthier, or anything else that trends towards improvement.
I think it’s easy for us to all do this, though. Life is easier when we have order, structure, and simplicity. When there are rules and structures to why we do what we do and why others do what they do, life is a little more digestible. However, that’s not how life is. That’s not how our days go. Twists and turns come at us every day. So why is that everyone acts in line with their “number”? Because at the end of the day, we’re still human beings. We’re each uniquely wired by a creative God who knows our intricacies and delights in how each one of us is different. The Enneagram is amazingly insightful, but we have to remember what the Enneagram is at the end of the day: a tool.
So when we look at the Enneagram as a tool, how does that change the way we interact with it?
First off, we don’t run away from it. When we swing back and forth between either being all in or being all out, we miss out on the best parts of why the Enneagram is such a useful tool. We have to strike a middle ground of learning about people as individuals as well as learning some of their “whys” when interacting with them.
Which leads me to the most important thing to remember about using the Enneagram as a tool: no matter the number, each person is at their core, a unique person.
Before learning their “number,” learn who a person is.
As the Next Gen Creative Director at Cross Point Church, I’ve been learning a lot about how to engage kids and students and make church a place that they want to be. The number one thing that our team has been learning is that everyone wants to be known by someone. Every kid and student wants to be known by someone. The same is true for adults, too. Every adult wants someone to know who they are at their core and not just be classified as a number on a 9-pointed star. Every adult wants to be known as an individual.
As you’re getting to know people, though, the Enneagram can help you know the kind of questions to ask and lead you to knowing the things that will stress people out, what they care most about to feel safe, and how to get them to open up.
As I’ve been writing through this reminder for myself and for all of you, I feel like I keep swinging back and forth between Enneagram and no Enneagram. But I think that might be the sweet spot. Asking the question of how we can use the Enneagram to deepen our relationships with individuals is the key. If we decide we know people based on their number, we’ll miss out on the joy that comes with digging into a new relationship and getting to know a person as the unique, intricate individual that God created them to be.