Linda Schuett never knew quite what to make of what she perceived as her husband’s reticence in domestic matters. To Schuett, it always seemed as though he were “hiding something.”
That was, until she learned he was an Enneagram Personality Type 5 – or, in other words, “The Observer”.
For Schuett, a partner at Linowes & Blocher LLP who studies personality types using the Enneagram system, the revelation led to greater understanding on the home front. A tougher pill to swallow was her own classification: Type 3, otherwise known as “The Achiever”.
“My life is dominated by achieving – ‘How much can I get done in as little time as possible?’” she admits, adding that Achievers often define themselves personally by who they are professionally. “It’s very difficult for an Achiever to sit and be…to just feel.”
The term Enneagram refers to the nine-point geometric figure that provides a visual representation of the nine personality types (or “Enneatypes”) and their correlations to each other, including: Type 1 – “The Perfectionist”; Type 2 – “The Giver” (or “Helper”); Type 3 – “The Achiever” (or “Performer”); Type 4 – “The Romantic”; Type 5 – “The Observer”; Type 6 – “The Loyal Skeptic” (or “Questioner”); Type 7 – “The Epicure” (or “Adventurer”); Type 8 – “The Protector” (or “Asserter”) and Type 9 – “The Mediator” (or “Peacemaker”). An individual’s personality type can be determined through self-assessment, taking tests, consulting with an Enneagram instructor or reading related materials.
“I use [the Enneagram] to help see that not everyone views the world as I do, and to better understand others’ points of view,” she explains.
Enneagram, in the modern sense, largely took form in the 20th century as the work of people like the mystic George Gurdjieff and Oscar Ichazo, founder of the Arica School, which emphasizes the development of “human potential”, was popularized in the West, though certain elements, including the Enneagram figure itself, surely trace their roots back to the ancient world. Schuett’s involvement, however, began when her friend (and Certified Enneagram Instructor) Donna Edgins invited her to sit on a panel comprised of other “Threes.” Her curiosity piqued, Schuett took to reading The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life by Helen Palmer, an internationally-renowned authority on the subject and co-founder of Enneagram Worldwide.
“I was almost moved to tears,” Schuett says of the self-realizations that came from her studies. “There were things I had never thought about – about our core way of being – but once I read them, [I] realized that they were true.”
Schuett has since put her knowledge of personality types to work at home and office alike. And while ultimately recognizing a colleague who would argue with anyone of differing views “almost to the point of anger” as a Type 1 did not change that colleague’s behavior, it did help Schuett to better understand the motivations behind it, and adjust how she dealt with it accordingly.
“I understood it wasn’t personal,” she says, acknowledging that the colleague “would have argued with anyone.” However, she stresses, Enneagram generally addresses relationships in “affirmative rather than negative terms.” So proved to be case with the fairly common, and encouraged, pairing of Threes and Fives – Achievers and Observers – Schuett and her husband, respectively.
For those with serious interest in the Enneagram, Schuett strongly recommends reading one of Palmer’s numerous tomes on the subject, or taking a class like the one given by Edgins. “The way to be the most astounded,” she asserts, “is to take one of these courses.”
But Schuett knows full well from her years of studying the Enneagram that we all don’t necessarily take the same path to a common destination. “Reading the Helen Palmer books is not easy,” she admits. “You need to want to read them to get through them.” For those taking a more casual approach, Schuett suggests The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People, by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele.