Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

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Using the Instincts as an Accelerator for Growth

photo-mar-30-11-39-08-amThe Enneagram’s three Instincts describe unconscious drives that shape our behavior. Knowing about them is helpful for many reasons, from maintaining healthy relationships to getting your needs met in the workplace. Most importantly, working on the Instincts, even more than working on our type, can act as an accelerator for personal growth.

All of us have three Instincts – Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social. The Instincts influence how we interact with the world to get our unconscious needs met. We all have a preferred order in which we use the Instincts, called an Instinctual Stacking; we have one Instinct we obsess over and tend to overuse (our Dominant Instinct), one secondary Instinct, and a tertiary Instinct we tend to underuse (our Blind Spot Instinct). When we bring our Instincts closer into balance, our lives follow suit.

“Great,” you might be thinking, “I’ll just stop obsessing over my Dominant Instinct.” That’s a challenging proposition, though, because our Instincts operate unconsciously. We tend to rely on our Dominant, assuming it will provide the solution to our problems. What works better is to work with our Blind Spot Instinct. It’s scary to work on the Blind Spot, because we feel inexperienced and incompetent in that area. However, it’s a game changer. By consciously focusing on Blind Spot activities we normally neglect, we develop new strategies and resources. Our lives become fuller as we realize that our potential is much broader than we’d imagined.    

Below, we describe how each Instinct works as a Blind Spot, and offer growth practices for bringing that Instinct into balance. We also share composite case studies of students we’ve worked with and strategies they’ve found to cultivate the Blind Spot Instinct’s strengths within.

The Self-Preservation Instinct: If the Self-Preservation Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have difficulty focusing on the day-to-day practicalities of life. You may not have a strong inclination toward activities such as establishing a home, taking care of your diet, or saving for retirement. You may frequently feel immature and like you need others to support you through even basic tasks. To balance this Blind Spot, take the time to explore and write down ways you neglect your comfort, well-being, and health, and make time to do one thing every day focused on maintaining your stability. Try to do this independently, without the help of other people!

Consider the case of Becky, who’s 50 and recently divorced. She had relied on her husband to manage household tasks and organization. Now on her own, she’s nervous about being self-reliant, and admits that she feels like “a kid rather than a grown-up.” She’s let her new apartment become cluttered and chaotic. With the help of a group of Enneagram brainstormers, she recognizes that she finds upbeat music to be a good motivator. She decides to set a weekly date for a solo “cleanup party” with rock music in the background. She feels more confident with her favorite songs on, and her cleaning parties become a fun, productive ritual.  

The Sexual Instinct: If the Sexual Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have a difficult time doing things that stimulate and energize you. You may tend to put off doing activities that are exciting to you, displaying your strengths to others, and pursuing your “selfish, impractical” passions. You may frequently feel like you’re stuck in a rut and caught in a boring, humdrum routine that you are unable to get out of. To balance this Blind Spot, take some time to explore and write down what things fuel and inspire you. Make time to do one thing every day that brings the energy back into your life and makes you feel your vibrant and colorful self.

DeMarcus is a 35-year-old accountant who has worked hard to establish a secure career and provide for his young family. Between working long hours, contributing to household chores, and caring for his toddler, DeMarcus feels tired and listless. His Enneagram group suggests reconnecting with an activity that inspires and energizes him. As a student, DeMarcus had enjoyed painting with splashy, colorful acrylics, but he’s let his hobby fall by the wayside in his efforts to be responsible. He decides to fit weekly “painting dates” into his schedule. He begins involving his wife and daughter, and their home is filled with new creativity.  

The Social Instinct: If the Social Instinct is your blind spot, you probably have a difficult time interacting with the world around you. You may tend to put off activities that involve connecting with others, participating in communities, and having fun for its own sake. You may frequently feel like you’re overly serious and can’t talk to others unless you need something from them. To balance this Blind Spot, take some time to write down ways you’d like to contribute to the world around you and support other people. Make time to have a fun interaction with no agenda every day or to do something that makes you feel part of the larger social fabric.

Sonia considered herself an introvert, but the truth went beyond that label. While the 43-year-old freelance writer had a job and home she was comfortable with, she also had a very narrow social circle. She described herself as “not knowing how to make small talk.” Her Enneagram group suggested she connect with other writers, so Sonia found a group that looked interesting. She started reading the books they talked about, and had fun discussing them with like-minded, intelligent peers. Soon she was getting invited to events and meeting more people. Her life was infused with a new sense of fun and freedom.

We all have an Instinctual Blind Spot, and moving toward rather than away from it can bring us a renewed sense of balance. What small, regular strategies can you apply to bring your Blind Spot Instinct’s joys and gifts into your life?


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Network Well by Using Your Instincts

IMG_0521Most of us know the famous saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Whether you’re employed, looking for work, an entrepreneur, or some combination of the above, there’s no doubt that networking and relationship building are instrumental in professional success. The research shows that strong networking skills not only help us find the right position, but also correlate with higher salary, more promotions, and increased satisfaction in the workplace.

There are many ways to build your network, from keeping in touch with new contacts to connecting with people you’d like to get to know through professional contacts on LinkedIn. One common and useful way of meeting new people is to attend or host networking events focused on common goals or interests.  

The three Instincts, Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social, all bring unconscious needs and biases to in-person and online networking. We tend to overdo the needs of our dominant Instinct and underdo, or minimize, our blind spot Instinct’s needs. In order to develop strong networking skills, all of us must bring attention to all three Instincts, to meet the needs of others and ourselves. Below are some suggestions on how to plan and successfully navigate networking events in a way that addresses the desires of all three Instincts.

Self-Preservation: The Self-Preservation Instinct is the part of us that cares about our physical environment and space. If you’re planning a networking event, make sure the venue has comfortable spaces for guests to unwind, and food and drink for a wide range of dietary needs. Let people know in advance if the temperature tends to run hot or cold. At the event, make sure you talk to people in locations where they’re physically comfortable – move to a table if your contact is precariously balancing food and drink during the conversation.

If Self-Preservation is your dominant Instinct, it can be easy to get caught up in sensitivity to the environment, at the expense of getting to know others. Make an effort to spend some time moving around the room, introducing yourself to other people, and letting them know how you can be of value to them.

Sexual: The Sexual Instinct is the part of us that cares about the excitement and stimulation the event provides. Include something about the event, whether it’s an edgy venue or exotic food, that pushes the envelope and gets your guests fired up to be there. Make the event open to allowing all guests to express creativity and discuss their passions. At the event, engage participants by getting them to discuss topics that excite them. Don’t be afraid to break from “working the room” and spend more time with a participant with whom you feel a particularly strong mutual connection.

If Sexual is your dominant Instinct, you may have a tendency to focus on people you find exciting, rather than building networking relationships that support your professional growth. Take the time to explore meeting a wide variety of people, focusing on mutual reciprocity over immediate chemistry.

Social: The Social Instinct is the part of us that cares about finding connection and common ground with others. To bring out the Social Instinct in guests, make sure the venue has plenty of open spaces for ample conversation, and plan icebreakers to get attendees to start talking. Engage the Social Instinct of participants at networking events by not just getting “down to business” – spend time getting to know each other first. Pay attention to the needs of contacts and build relationships by making sure you can offer ways to help and support them, too.

If Social is your dominant Instinct, you likely excel at meeting others at networking events, but sometimes you can work the room a little too quickly and smoothly. Spend enough time getting to know other participants and finding shared interests and values, and help others by introducing them to people you think they’d connect with.

Keeping the three Instincts in mind as you navigate networking events will add to your own and others’ enjoyment, and enhance the quality of the connections you make.


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Meeting the Instinctual Needs of Different Organizations

IMG_20150619_213544Working with different organizations is a fascinating study in contrasts. Moving from one group to another, we’ve witnessed focuses and needs that required vastly different approaches.

The Enneagram’s Instincts are a useful model for understanding the priorities and needs of organizations as well as individuals. The Instincts represent unconscious drives, or groups of related behaviors, that seek to get our core needs met. They are a more fundamental part of the way we work than personality type, and can be viewed as an independent mini-typology. People of each personality type can be driven by each of the three Instincts. We share all three, but they are present in individuals and groups to varying degrees, with one running the show and shaping core values.

Different dominant Instincts in organizations call for different approaches. Here are three case studies from our teaching to demonstrate what each Instinct looks like as a dominant focus in organizations, and to share ideas about how to meet the needs of these different types of groups.

Social

A group we worked with recently was dominated by the concerns and energy of the Social Instinct, which is focused on navigating community dynamics. A non-profit that exists to serve the needs of a marginalized community, its team members are a good mix of members of that community and external advocates. When we walked through the door, we saw people milling around, checking in with each other. The room buzzed with talk. It was clear from the way people interacted, before and during our workshop, that inclusion was a priority.

Unsurprisingly for this organization, the workshop we’d been invited to teach focused on communication; it became clear that this group had brought us in to meet Social Instinct needs. We took our cues from the group and focused on creating avenues for engagement. We prioritized group activities that facilitated understanding between members, and left the floor open for lots of questions and discussion.

Self-Preservation

After working with that lively group, the next one came as a bit of a surprise. This organization was focused on holistic health and wellness, and the physical space reflected that philosophy. Soft colors abounded, and rooms were spacious. Our point person was ready to attend to any physical needs our presentation involved, from tweaking the air conditioning to making sure we had writing supplies. We’d arrived in a headquarters dominated by the Self-Preservation Instinct, which is focused on preserving stability, well-being, and resources.

The people at our workshop seemed as mellow as the space. They were quiet, composed, and moved with deliberation. It soon became clear that they wanted a workshop that matched the organization’s stabilizing values. They prioritized comfort in their space, so we moderated things like temperature and seating, striving to make sure the group was comfortable. In our activities, we focused on mindfulness, giving participants time to relax and ground themselves.

Transmitting / Sexual

Another organization was interested in a growth-oriented workshop. As with the previous group, the environment was beautiful, but in a more attention-grabbing way. Both the space and the people shone with rich colors and decorations, and the group actively sought a non-traditional approach. This organization’s dominant influence is often called the Sexual Instinct in relationships or personal work, as it’s the drive behind reproduction. Transmitting is a more accurate description of this Instinct’s role in organizations, since it drives them to bring information, services, products, or messages into the world.

The group was enthusiastic and honed in on us as speakers. They wanted a workshop that would push them to see themselves more clearly and make changes. Picking up on this Transmitting group’s driven energy, we worked on making our material and delivery fresh and exciting to keep their attention. We brought in innovative approaches and engaged with the group’s focused follow-up questions as they sought to know more.

Think about the groups or teams that you’re a part of. Which Instinct runs the show for each one? What needs and strengths do these dominant Instincts present in the groups you know best?


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Getting Your Needs Met in Relationships

tangoWe all know wonderful relationships where opposites attract. For example, one person might tend to the home and hearth, while the other cultivates the couple’s circle of friends. When both people appreciate each other’s contributions, their connection thrives! The whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. But sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand their partner’s priorities. When that happens, it helps to take a look at both people’s needs.

Learning the Enneagram Instincts teaches us the unconscious drives behind our relationship behavior. Instincts are biological and work to ensure our survival, individually and as a species. The Enneagram describes three that we share with much of the animal kingdom: the Self-Preservation, Sexual, and Social Instincts. These drives shape our behavior in both subtle and obvious ways. We all use all three of these Instincts, but one of them, our dominant Instinct, shapes our focus in life and relationships. It’s helpful to learn which Instinct is dominant for both ourselves and our partners.

The Self-Preservation Instinct is focused on survival, physical well-being, and maintaining a foundation in the world. This can show up as a focus on health, work and practical know-how, or domesticity. People with a dominant Self-Preservation Instinct value conserving energy, so tend to be more low-key in their activities. If your partner has a dominant Self-Preservation Instinct, they’re looking for someone to come home to and relax with–a source of solace. They appreciate having a partner they can build and savor a life with.

The Sexual Instinct is focused on stimulation, exploration, and having a person or passion to focus on intensely. People with a dominant Sexual Instinct are natural risk-takers, seeking to display, attract, and have their energy met. They’re compelled to “burn fuel” for the sake of creating something or reaching that next frontier. If your partner has a dominant Sexual Instinct, they’re looking for a relationship that provides an energetic connection. They appreciate having a partner who maintains excitement and novelty.

The Social Instinct is focused on cooperation, contribution, and maintaining awareness of the people around us. People with a dominant Social Instinct value bonding and shared play. They are adaptable and attentive to interdependence, but deliberate about which communities to participate in. If your partner has a dominant Social Instinct, they’re looking for a relationship built on reciprocity, shared interests, and mutual support. They appreciate having a partner who’s a teammate as well as a playmate.

In all relationships, it takes consideration and good communication to meet each others’ needs. When each person has a different dominant Instinct, conscious effort is important to understand what the other person values. What qualities do you each bring to the table, and how can you work together to ensure you both get your needs met? When both people share the same dominant Instinct, it’s important to understand how your views of that Instinct’s priorities are similar or different. What strengths do you share, and how can you work together to bring the other two Instincts into your relationship? Putting in this effort leads to rich relationships, with each partner bringing different, vital contributions.