What is The Enneagram? Suzanne Stabile Gives Us a Primer

Episode 01

Good people of the internet and faithful For the Love listeners—you’ve asked, we’ve listened, and we are *thrilled* to invite you to our brand-new series on one of our favorite topics: The Enneagram personality assessment! Whether you’re a seasoned Ennea-thusiast or a complete newbie, you’re going to want to plug into this deep dive with Enneagram expert (and a Type 2 herself), Suzanne Stabile! Suzanne and Jen walk through the ins and outs of each of the nine Enneagram numbers, while Suzanne gives piercingly accurate insight on the motivations behind each personality type. Plus, Suzanne shares how we can learn to use the Enneagram as the ultimate empathy tool, as it helps us listen to and treat others in the way that they need, not in the way that we need. Suzanne and Jen agree that knowing yourself and others through identifying your type can revolutionize our relationships with our spouses, parents, kids, friends, coworkers—everyone. And be sure to check out the whole series featuring a deep dive into every number type over 9 episodes!

Episode Transcript

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Suzanne:
So the Enneagram names for you what is your weakest point, and at the very same time potentially teaches you how to overcome that weakness. And it’s a different kind of wisdom in that. While it takes a negative approach for you to figure out who you are, it does that because we don’t know ourselves based on what we get right. We know ourselves based on what we get wrong.

Jen: Welcome to the For the Love Podcast with me, Jen Hatmaker. Guys, today we’ll explore the ins and outs of the Enneagram personality assessment with Enneagram expert, Suzanne Stabile

Everybody, Jen Hatmaker here, your host for the For the Love Podcast. Oh, welcome to the show. Oh my gosh. I’ve been waiting for this day. I’m always happy to be here with you. I am always happy to be here inside of every series and with every guest. But guys, today we’re kicking off a series that me and the team have been wanting to do forever. We’ve actually been talking about this for like a year and a half, and we decided that this year, this summer, was the time.

Now, if you’ve been with our little fold here for long, you have 100% heard me mention a billion times the personality tests called the Enneagram. It comes up so often on this podcast that I just can’t. I’m not even sorry. We host this community, or this conversation a lot in our community, about what type you are and your spouses are. We love all things Enneagram. Okay? This community loves the Enneagram.

Now, if you’re not familiar with it, it isn’t like the Buzzfeed quizzes that you take. It’s not like, “Which condiment describes my spouse,” or like, “Which Tiger King character am I?” That’s not what this is. This is the real deal, and it dates back to ancient times. The Enneagram is real and true and lasting. And so it’s the personality assessment that identifies basically nine types of people according to what motivates them and then how each type relates to others in the world, how they end up showing up in the world out of those motivations.

And so ever since I discovered it a few years ago when somebody put the Enneagram in my hands—I think I heard it  first  from my friend Shauna Niequist who would just never ever stop talking about it. So I was just finally like, “Okay, I like her and I trust her and if she’s this obsessed, then I’m finally going to mind her.” And I fell hard, like so, so hard. I’m a Three, which you’ll hear a lot over the next course of next few weeks, which is an achiever in some circles of thought, a performer in others. There’s a lot of nuance here. But it has been so powerful to understand who I am and how I move in the world and it has absolutely been impactful to Brandon, my husband, and to our marriage, the way I think about God. I mean, it is just so much. It’s so interesting.

And so this is the beginning of a ten part series where we are going to devote a full episode to each of the nine types. Now listen, you won’t want to miss any type. Definitely don’t miss yours. Definitely don’t miss your spouse’s type, your kid’s types, your parents, siblings, and friends. You’ve got all these numbers in your life, okay? And so I mean to tell you, you are going to love this series. You are going to love what you learn about yourself and the people that you love and the people that you work with and the people that you are raising. We’re going to talk about every single member and do a super deep dive onto that particular type. Absolutely fascinating. This is all so, so, so interesting.

And so for episode one to guide us through, today, we have the absolutely wonderful Enneagram teacher and writer and podcaster Suzanne Stabile on the show. Now, tons of you Enneagram-mateurs know Suzanne, of course. She is going to walk us through a sort of a high level overview of what the Enneagram is, and then she’s going to tell you where she suggests you begin your own Enneagram journey online if you’re new to it, and how to take first steps into this assessment in your own life.

I mean, first of all guys, Suzanne is an internationally recognized Enneagram master. That’s a thing. She’s conducted over 500 Enneagram workshops over the past thirty years, so she is truly, truly a master. She has taught at Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation. By the way, Richard Rohr is in this series also. He’s an absolute favorite of the For the Love Podcast, so he’ll be back and he is an Enneagram master.

And so Suzanne lives in Dallas with her husband Joe, who’s a minister, and they have founded Trinity Ministry and The Micah Center. Suzanne has four kids, she has nine grandchildren, and she is so good today, you guys. You’ll hear me say this in the interview, but I just had a piece of paper and I was just scribbling notes as fast as I could. This whole interview is going to come back to me in transcript form and I just couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait to take notes about some really fascinating, interesting things she was saying. She gave me more today on each number than I was expecting. And so whether you are way, way, way new to the Enneagram—you’ve never heard of it, this is your first touch—or you’ve been around a long time, you are going to love this conversation. This is such a wonderful place to begin, a wonderful launching pad for this entire season. I loved it. I hope you do, too. So please enjoy my interview with Enneagram grand master, Suzanne Stabile.

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Jen: I was just telling you before we started recording, but I have so admired your work from afar for so long and it has meant so much to me. And so it is just my honor and delight, Suzanne, to welcome you to the For the Love Podcast today. Thank you so much for coming on.

Suzanne: Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s an honor for me, too.

Jen: So I’ve filled in our listeners with a little bit of the high level stuff about who you are, your nine grandkids. If you just keep going, you’ll end up at least getting probably one of every type. If you just keep the numbers up, it’s a numbers game.

Suzanne: It is a numbers game. My children, though, have told me that we’re finished.

Jen: Oh, that’s it. Okay.

Suzanne: But we’ll see.

Jen: Yes, yes, I’m sure. Well, we’ll just see. Brandon and I also said we were going to have two kids and we have five. So you just never know how these things go.

Suzanne: Well, you don’t. I’m adopted, and we’ve got an adoption desire in some of our children, so we’ll see what happens.

Jen: That’s great. Well, I’m telling you the For the Love Podcast team could not be more thrilled to have you kick off our Enneagram series, because obviously you are a master. And this is kind of our introductory episode, setting the stage, explaining the Enneagram, all of it. And so I wonder if you would mind, before we do a little bit of digging, could you give us a bit of a rundown? A ton of my listeners are going to be very well versed in the Enneagram. This is a conversation that we have and host and all that, but a lot of them aren’t. So some of them, they’re listening to this first episode like, I’m going to see what this is, and if I’m interested in nine more episodes about this.

Suzanne: Sure.

Jen: For those listeners, could you give a little bit of a rundown on what the Enneagram is, how you came to study it, why you think it’s a great tool for us to have, and all of it? When did you first learn about the Enneagram? What drew you to it, particularly your story with this incredible tool?

Suzanne: Okay. In the 1980s, my husband, who is a former Catholic priest—that’s a whole podcast. We should do that sometime.

Jen: Sure is.

Suzanne: But my husband and I had worked together, and we’d had some significant spiritual experiences. And when he left the priesthood, we didn’t know exactly what to do with all of that. So one day my husband was with the Vincentian Fathers, and that’s an order of priests that has a different charism, but that is very like the Franciscan Fathers. And one day, Joe just decided to call Richard Rohr and ask him if we could come visit with him. And Richard said, “Of course.”

So we live in Dallas, we went to Albuquerque and spent most of the day unpacking who we were, our lives, and talking with him. And then we all agreed that we were going to do that again. And he handed me an Enneagram manuscript and said, “I don’t know you very well yet, but you might find this interesting.” 

So I brought it home with me, and it was like a home base, every word. I knew exactly where I fit in that system and I just wanted more. So I got my hands on what I could, and then we met with him again, and he said—after we had talked for a couple of hours, actually, about the Enneagram and the wisdom of the Enneagram—”You know…” And by this time, we had agreed to be in an ongoing relationship of going to see Richard probably four times a year to discern our journey and what we were doing and whether or not we were responding properly to what’s ours to do and all that. And so we knew we had a future with Richard, too. And he said, “I would suggest— because you take to this in a way that you do—that you study it for five years without talking about it.”

Jen: Oh, geesh. Wow, wow.

Suzanne: He’s quite something.

Jen: He sure is.

Suzanne: And I said, “Okay.” And I did it.

Jen: Wow.

Suzanne: So in those five years, I read everything that had been published, but by the early 1990s, that wasn’t much. Nothing was published about the Enneagram until the mid-1970s. So there is a trail back, and notes and journals all the way back to the desert mothers and fathers. It goes way back and across faith beliefs, so there are tidbits everywhere of people who were working with the Enneagram. But until Gurdjieff kind of revitalized it in the 1970s, we weren’t really using it.

Jen: Totally. And by the way, I appreciate you saying that, because for so many new users of the Enneagram, I’ve heard people say, “Well, this is just kind of the newest, trendy personality assessment.” And actually the opposite is true. It’s actually ancient. So thank you for giving it its credit for its longevity.

Suzanne: Yeah. It’s been around for so long that I figure it has to be true. So I don’t ever argue Enneagram wisdom with people. They say, “Can you prove this?” And I say, “Yes, it’s true. It’s just true. And if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay.” It isn’t, “You must know this,” and frankly I think it’s one of the best spiritual practices that’s available. But it’s certainly not the only one. And it’s usually better if you put it with something else.

Jen: Oh yeah. Great point. And listen, let me commend your personal restraint at reading for five years without discussing. I don’t think I read for five minutes without instantly discussing, typing everybody. I did all the wrong things. It’s because it’s so endlessly fascinating. I wonder if we could get granular for just a moment again, for people that are new to the Enneagram. Is it possible for you to explain in terms that we can understand how the Enneagram works? How is it that it so accurately pinpoints what makes us tick? Because it sure, sure, sure does. And then if you could also talk about why it is different from tests like Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder or some other sort of personality inventory?

Suzanne: Sure. So I think first of all, you need to know that I’m hesitant about tests. And the reason for that is that your Enneagram number is determined by motivation and not by behavior. So I’m thankful for people to enter into the Enneagram world any way they want to, or have availability, or choose to. And I’ve been teaching for a long, long time. I taught in years, in times, when it wasn’t popular, and I’ll probably still be standing and talking when it isn’t again. But I want to say that there is a depth to the Enneagram that an indicator or a test cannot represent.

So for numbers like yours and mine—and yours, if you’ve done some work on yourself prior to learning about the Enneagram—they show themselves readily in a few sentences or a paragraph. For other numbers, it’s trickier than that. And until the mid-1970s, it was an oral tradition, and people learned by hearing it taught orally. And something happens when you hear somebody else’s story, which is my way of teaching. Something happens where you think, I would never do that, or, That’s exactly what I would do.

So I want people to enter into whatever door is open for them. And then my dream for folks for whom this speaks would be that they would do deeper work, because what distinguishes the Enneagram from every other system—which also has value, back in the day when what we had was Myers-Briggs to try to understand ourselves as different from others, it was very helpful. It’s a good thing as are all the others, but the difference in those systems and the Enneagram is that you can do something with the Enneagram. One of the gifts of the Enneagram is that the best part of you is also the worst part of you. So there is no, I’m going to get rid of this part of me, which many spiritual practices suggest.

Jen: Oh that’s right.

Suzanne: Right. And a lot of self help things suggest that you get rid of part of yourself, and the Enneagram teaches that you have to put your arm around all of who you are, because if you were to get rid of the worst part of you, that would mean you were also getting rid of the best part of you.

Jen: Wow. I wonder—and I realized this is a lot. This is a loaded question and it’s a lot to answer, but just from a very high level, would you mind quickly listing the nine types for us? And of course, this is just like the teeniest little touchdown on the broadest category, but just so new listeners can begin to get a little feel of how the Enneagram shakes out in terms of its nine types.

Suzanne: Okay, great. So Ones on the Enneagram, I call perfectionists, and they don’t want me to call them that. But I’m going to continue to do it, because it defines how they see, and you have to remember when you’re doing Enneagram work that we’re talking about how you see and how that defines your number. And you can never change how you see; all you can do is change what you do with how you see.

Jen: Okay, that’s good.

Suzanne: So because Ones are perfectionists, the way they see is by walking into any situation and assessing it for improvement. As it turns out, that’s not everybody’s love language to be assessed for improvement. Right?

Jen: That’s right.

Suzanne: And one of the reasons that Ones do that is because they immediately see what’s wrong, out of place, doesn’t fit, and they want to fix it. Because unlike any other number, Ones have a constant internal critic that never says anything good to them, always criticizes, and they have it for all of their lives. And so when they can find and fix fault somewhere else, then the voice stands down, and they feel good about themselves.

The best part of Ones is that they see what’s wrong or out of place in people, in themselves, in the world, and they want to fix it. And that’s also the worst part of Ones.

Twos, that’s my number. So there’s only good parts.

Jen: Of course. So for me, sure.

Suzanne: Yeah, yeah. So for Twos, we’re called the helper or the giver, and isn’t that lovely?

Jen: It is.

Suzanne: So when I walk into a room, what I pick up on is feelings. Unfortunately, even though I’m in the feeling triad, I feel other people’s feelings and not my own. So I walk into a room, I see who is uncomfortable, who needs something, who wishes they had something else, who’s not happy. And then it becomes my desire to help them be happy and be whole and give them whatever they need and all of that.

The problem is that if I was always doing that giving from a place of altruism, then that would be holy and lovely. But I’m not. Sometimes, unconsciously,  I’m giving to get, and it’s  to get a place to stand, it’s to get appreciation, it’s to get belonging, it is looking for those kinds of things that are all relational. And a Two can gather more people in a week relationally, then they would be able to be faithful to friendship in a year.

Jen: Oh, that’s interesting.

Suzanne: So the best part of me is that I see and sense the needs of other people and I want to be helpful. And that’s also the worst part of me.

Jen: Great. I’m married to a Two, and I am a Three, so let’s move into that.

Suzanne: Okay. Some Enneagram teachers have assigned numbers to countries, and Threes is the number that’s been assigned to the United States.

Jen: Damn. I don’t feel like that’s good news.

Suzanne: Austin is not a Three city, but Dallas is.

Jen: That makes sense. I’m following, I’m tracking.

Suzanne: You with me?

Jen: Yep.

Suzanne: And so for you as a Three—and I’ll come back and talk about why in a minute—to do good work on yourself, you’re trapped in a country. And if you lived in Dallas, in a city, in a country that supports and calls forth all of the things that you need to work on letting go of in order to know who you really are. In my book The Path Between Us, the chapter title for Threes is, “Being Everyone But Myself.” And the very best part of you is that you can adapt immediately and instantly to any group of people that you’re with. So it’s a huge part of your success, along with all your talent and all that. I’m not taking away from any of that. But a huge part of you being successful is that as a Three, you can be whatever an audience wants you to be. Right? And that’s such a gift. Like, that’s a really great gift for leadership, especially if it’s leadership in the content you’re putting out into the world. But it can also be the worst part of you.

Jen: That’s right.

Suzanne: And for you personally, the reason it’s the worst part of you is you lose touch with what’s inside, because you achieve so much with externals.

Jen: That’s right.

Suzanne: And so you have to do a lot of work to know who you are behind all of that. And the fear is that there’s not much there, because so much energy has gone into this gift that you have of being whatever people want you to be. Joel works with us, and I also have another young woman, Laura, who works with us, and Laura is a Three. And when we walk into a room where I’m about to speak, Laura reads the whole room at one time, and if they’re 97% good, then we’re a go. And I walk in and I immediately notice the people who are the other 3%.

Jen: Oh, interesting. Yeah. That’s such a good diagnosis, right there.

Suzanne: And what you focus on, according to Brian McLaren, what you focus on determines what you miss. So that would mean that if we were speaking, you would miss the 3%. And I would miss the 97%. So we should do that together sometime, and then we’ll have the whole room.

Jen: Well, together we make one whole person.

Suzanne: That’s right. Together, we will know how everybody’s feeling about what we’re teaching. So it’s a journey for Threes in our culture, because the parts that you would like to allow to fall away, to get to the deeper parts of who you are, are really the parts of you that are greatly appreciated by the culture.

Jen: Yeah. Very rewarded.

Suzanne: So you have an extra journey. An extra journey.

Jen: And how about our amazing Fours?

Suzanne: Well, before I go there, I want to say one more thing about Threes, because I want to thank you and commend you, because it’s very difficult for Threes to identify as Threes.

Jen: I wanted to be a Seven. When I first took the test, I’m like, “Oh, it would just be so great for me to be one of these fun, happy-go-lucky Sevens. I love the Sevens in my life,” and I am just not. I am just so a Three.

Suzanne: And you have done enough work that you’re so good at being healthy most of the time, which is all any of us could be. You don’t travel anywhere with Enneagram, you just stay on the journey. It’s just all a big long journey.

Jen: That’s good. That’s good. That relieves some of the pressure.

Suzanne: Yeah, well, it just keeps going and going and going and going.

Okay. Fours. I think there are fewer Fours than any other number, and they are literally fewer. I think there are people who don’t personally know a Four. And I think they’re the most complex number.

Jen: Do you?

Suzanne: It’s very difficult when you’re raising children, if you have a Seven and a Four, because you can’t tell them apart. And the reason you can’t tell those two numbers apart in childhood is because they both are always dissatisfied, they always want more, they don’t want things to end. They don’t want one thing to end without a plan for the next thing. And they are representative, usually, of both ends of the emotional continuum, meaning that Sevens operate in life with a half range of feelings and it’s the happy half.

Jen: Oh, interesting.

Suzanne: But the thing that’s the most important to know about being in a relationship with a Four is that they are on an emotional roller coaster all the time.

Jen: Man, that’s what my Fours tell me.

Suzanne: And so it’s difficult for them to know in a moment what they feel, much less for them to be able to tell you. So one of the ways I teach that is—my life is good. My children all live in the metroplex here in Dallas, and I didn’t expect that. And I’m crazy in love with my husband, and I get to do meaningful work. And most of the time I’m just happy. But sometimes I’m really sad, and I don’t know why. For Three or Four days I’m just sad. And other times I’m over the top happy for three or four days. And I don’t know why. If you take that, that happens to me in a two to three month time period. That happens to Fours eight to ten times an hour.

Jen: That’s a lot to carry.

Suzanne: It’s a lot to carry. And more importantly, it’s a lot to explain, because what Fours really want is to be seen and understood in their uniqueness. And it takes time to do that, and everybody’s moving quick, and people often don’t give them that. And so Fours, in relationship, pull you in and then they get afraid they’re going to lose you and they push you away.

Jen: Oh, I see.

Suzanne: And then they’re afraid that you don’t know how much they love you, so they pull you back in.

Jen: Did you say what title you give a Four, what’s the category that you call it?

Suzanne: Well, I do different things, but I’m generally working from the romantic.

Jen: Okay. Yeah. I like that, too.

Suzanne: And the reason I am is because Fours live with a lot of fantasy, and it’s always about relationships.

Jen: Wow. Interesting. Okay.

Suzanne: Older Fours who’ve done any ground work with me for twenty years tell me that even after twenty years, every day when they wake up in the morning, the first thing they think about is relationships.

Jen: Which is why we see so many artists and creatives who are Fours. Yeah.

Suzanne: I also think we see so many creatives who are Fours because of how they see, and they see in terms of texture. So a city like Austin is very interesting to a Four. A city like Dallas is very interesting to a Three.

Jen: Oh, I see. Uh-huh. Okay. Yeah.

Suzanne: The Threes are all about efficiency, and effectiveness, and that’s Dallas. Fours are all about texture and difference and depth and neatness, and that’s Austin. And the best part of Fours, honestly one of the best parts—I don’t have time to really talk through this fairly to them—is that they’re the only number on the Enneagram that can bear witness to pain without having to fix it.

Jen: Oh, I love that. That’s such a gift to the world.

Suzanne: It is, but it’s also one of the worst things, because Fours can bear witness to pain, even their own, and not do anything to fix it.

Jen: And just stay in it. I see what you mean.

Suzanne: Yes, which creates part of their melancholy. And the other thing I would say—so people can hear this—is fours are accused of being depressed, and they’re not depressed. They’re melancholy, and they’re very comfortable with it.

Jen: Which is what you mean by that. It’s just because that’s the way, as you say, they see.

Suzanne: That’s right. That’s right. And they are always a little into melancholy intuitively, because they are longing for what they don’t have, and it doesn’t matter what they have. They’re the people on the Enneagram who say, “If only I had blank, then everything would be great.” And you’re not quite old enough to have walked through that, but the sixties were all about people walking around saying, “If only, then.” “If only this was different, if only this was different,” right? So Fours are very complex, very, very complex, and every number needs to learn the Enneagram with more than a test. Fours will find themselves in all of that.

Jen: I see. Okay.

Suzanne: Okay. Fives. Fives are very interesting in that they’re the only number on the Enneagram that is capable of true neutrality. They are in the head triad, but the head triad is also the fear triad, and they work out everything pretty much in their heads, but they have to because they’re the number on the Enneagram that has a measured amount of energy. So every day they get up with the same amount of energy, and no matter what they have to do that day, they can’t save up any for the next day. It’s like manna. You just get your allotment for the day, and every encounter they have with anybody, a phone call, going to work, stopping at Starbucks, doing their job, going home, talking to a friend, all of it costs them, energy-wise. And so they intuitively are trying to get home before they run out of energy, which means we see them as aloof, and cold, and distant. And none of those things are accurate. They are thoughtful and measured and protective. And that makes them the bravest people who show up for a relationship.

Jen: What a nice thing to say.

Suzanne: It costs them more than it costs anybody else. And they have a lot of feelings about what they think. And so, ultimately if it costs you a lot to show up for something, then that means that’s a pure place for you.

Jen: That you did it, that you showed up.

Suzanne: Yep. Yep. And I would say one of the best gifts of Fives, is also the worst. Their desire is to perceive, but that means to fully understand. And by the time they fully understand something, they either don’t want to do it anymore, or they don’t know that there’s more to uncover. So they go deep, fast. My mom was a Five, and I would say that she was very thoughtful about what she gave to us, because she had a limited amount of energy every day. Yeah. Very unique folks.

Jen: I don’t have as many Fives in my life, either. I know you said Fours you think are probably the fewest, what do you think about Fives?

Suzanne: I think they’re there, but they don’t want you to see them, so you don’t.

Jen: That makes sense.

Suzanne: My oldest friend—I’m sixty-nine, we’ve been friends since I was eighteen—she is a Five and she told me one time,  “I have a shield that I can pull up, and if I don’t want people to see me, they don’t.”

Golly, that is so true. I said, “I don’t believe you.” So she said, “Okay, I’ll come to the fellowship supper tonight at church, I’ll bring a dish, I’ll sit, visit and eat with people, and go home and you can work the room after I leave and nobody will have seen me.”

Jen: Wow. Gosh.

Suzanne: So I got there early to make sure she didn’t tell people to say that. She showed up. She went home, and I worked the room and nobody had seen her.

Jen: So interesting. Did you say what you call the label that you put over Five?

Suzanne: I like the observer, because they are always observing, but the best part of them is that they observe, and the worst part of them is they observe other people too much and not themselves enough.

Jen: So that’s a trait we share, the inner mirror is harder to access.

Suzanne: Yes. Yeah.

Jen: Okay. All right. That’s good. To me, the Fours and the Fives are the numbers I always feel like I need a teacher to help me dial in the closest to. So they’re such nuanced people. Okay. Are we ready for Sixes?

Suzanne: All right, I think there are more Sixes than other numbers, and they’re the fabric that holds together every community that we’re a part of.

Jen: My Sixes would absolutely go down with my ship.

Suzanne: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Now, that’s the best part of them in some ways, but it’s also the worst part of them, because if they are for you, and you end up not being who they thought you were, it’s very difficult for them to not stay with you. I think they’re the people who make cookies for Vacation Bible School. They’re the people who raise their hand for the jobs that nobody else wants, and they often want to do the jobs where they’re not seen. 

Sixes problematically overthink things, and so they don’t ask questions in real time. It’s in their head, but they don’t say it, because they haven’t thought about whether or not it’s a good question, whether it’s good for everybody else, whether it’s appropriate to ask. So if you really want Sixes to be on board with anything, they have to have an agenda ahead of time that they have a chance to think about, or they have to have an opportunity to come back and ask their questions later.

Jen: Got it.

Suzanne: And that’s also true in relationships. And then what happens in relationships is it comes across as if they doubt you, and they ask more questions. They’re not questioning you, they’re trying to make sure they know what you’re saying, and they know what their part is and what they’re supposed to do. So they are a kind of a silent group of folks who are everywhere, holding us all up, and holding together our organization. That’s what they’re doing.

Jen: That’s great. And then we get to those happy clappy Sevens.

Suzanne: Yeah. So I think female Eights are the most misunderstood number on the Enneagram, but I think Sevens are often misunderstood. And at the same time, I think their gift is their problem. So Sevens are the number on the Enneagram that re-frames everything in real time. So when you are able to reframe something, as it happens, to be what you want it to be and when, now Sevens won’t hear this as true about themselves, the line I’m about to say. They’re not going to go, “Oh, that’s me.” They’re going to say, “Oh, that’s not me.”

 So, Sevens live with a half range of feelings most of the time. And it’s the happy half. And the reason they get away with that is because they can reframe everything instantly, and so if it’s not what they want it to be, they just change it in their heads. 

Jen: That is so interesting.

Suzanne: So Sevens have to be taught and then encouraged to have a full range of feelings, and once they do…

Jen: Including the not happy ones.

Suzanne: That’s exactly right. Including grieving and sadness that they can’t name. And that’s just really difficult if you can reframe everything. They are the people who bring life and light and laughter to all of us. And unfortunately, we focus just on that, when they start to want to share the deeper part of themselves, which is always there, it’s like people don’t want to hear that from them.

Jen: I get this. I can identify with that as a Three, that those parts of my personality are just rewarded. And then it’s what everybody wants from me, and what they expect from me. And so any of the shadow sides or whatever are a real struggle to present, so that makes me feel very connected to a Seven who struggles to do that, too.

Suzanne: Yeah. So good. That’s such good insight, because Threes and Sevens are a lot alike, but also because here’s a good example: Sevens need you to call them every once in a while and say, “Hey, are you doing all right?” But it never occurs to us to call Sevens because the assumption is that they’re all right.

Jen: Oh yeah. They’re the ones that call us. They’re the ones who throw the parties.

Suzanne: Right. Right.

Jen: Yeah. That’s great. Did you say what label you put over Sevens?

Suzanne: I struggle with that one a good bit, and I think the enthusiast is maybe best, but I hate for them to have the label that they have to be the enthusiast.

Jen: Right.

Suzanne: Right?

Jen: Totally. This is why I don’t like the word achiever.

Suzanne: Exactly.

Jen: Yes, so aspirational.

Suzanne: It’s especially bad for you, because then you think if you’re not achieving, then you’re not valuable.

Jen: Failing. That’s right, 100%.

Suzanne: You know, you think that people love you for what you do and not for who you are.

Jen: That’s right.

Suzanne: That’s not true, and it’s a hard place to be, and I understand the Enneagram well enough to understand that in you. Sevens think that nobody wants anything but the all-is-good party Seven.

Jen: I see.

Suzanne: Luke Norsworthy says it best, and I won’t quote this perfectly, but he essentially says, “I lead with that, but I have a lot of followup if people want it.”

Jen: That’s great. I like that.

Suzanne: Anyway, there are a lot of things that are the same in Threes and Eights, but, gosh, Eights turn every emotion into passion, and Eights are not in touch with feelings. You are the core number in the feeling triad, meaning that you take in information with feelings first and then you set feelings aside and that’s a valuable and a problematic difference in you and me. I take in things with feelings and then I stick with the feelings. Right? When I was younger, for example, if I showed up to give a talk and I picked up that the man in the middle of the room didn’t like what I was saying, then I would change it. And you would never do that.

Jen: I see.

Suzanne: Right? It’s problematic both ways. There is no pure number that doesn’t have both sides or doesn’t have problems. Maybe now would be a good time for me to say that at all times you’re either in healthy, average, unhealthy or excess in your number. Nobody hangs out in healthy all the time.

The place you have to watch for, where your number’s shadow shows itself, is when you’re in excess in your number because that’s when you’re behaving really badly in your personality. That’s when you need somebody to walk alongside you and say, “You know, your personality is not you. It’s not who you are. Who you are is beneath your personality. We need to let go of this so we can get to that.” It works. Then it’s great for everybody to know that there’s not like, “These are the preferred numbers, these are the very medium ones and these are the ones we hate.” There’s something so incredible about every single person and the way that they’re created and all the numbers have beauty and so much good and so much to offer, and they all have some shadow sides. It’s not a contest, or there’s not a grade here that we assigned to preferred types, because really they all matter and they all have such potential for good.

Jen: Thank you for saying that, that every single person has the capacity for a healthy medium, and not all of us no matter what.

Suzanne: Yes. Beyond that, every number has a special gift to bring to the table that no other number can bring. 

 Jen: What about those Eights? What about those misunderstood female Eights?

Suzanne: I think the males are misunderstood too, but I think the most misunderstood place on the Enneagram is female Eights.

Jen: Wow.

Suzanne: See, it is because of exactly what we were talking about in terms of the difference in you and an Eight. You both have the same desire for achievement and the same desire for success, but you take in information with feelings, and Eights bring in information through their senses in their gut.

Jen: I see.

Suzanne: Then they convert. Eights don’t do anything they don’t feel passionate about, but the problem is they label passion as having feelings.

Jen: Interesting. I’ve never heard it said like that.

Suzanne: No, it’s a feeling, but there are all these other feelings besides passion, too. It’s difficult for them to believe then that they’re not using feelings all the time, because they have all of this passion for parenting or what they’re doing or grocery shopping. They got it.

Eights are very tender, male and female. And Eights, I call them the boss, and they’re bossy and they’ve been called bossy since they were children. They know what that means, and because they’d been called bossy all their lives, they know that it has an upside and a downside.

Jen: Sure.

Suzanne: If somebody says, “Yes, boss,” then you know that you’re coming across as bigger than, and that doesn’t work very well anymore. Female Eights are misunderstood because females are expected to lead with feelings, and it’s kind of masked in every other number except Eights.

Jen: Interesting.

Suzanne: Eights are smart, and they think quick and they’ve solved problems before they happen and they always have a plan and they think faster than the rest of us. They want to lead and they want you to follow and it’s not personal.

Jen: Wow.

Suzanne: You put all those gifts in a man, and—it’s 2020—we still think that it’s the greatest thing that ever happened. Put all those gifts in a female and people started calling her a bitch when she was in elementary school.

Jen: Oh my gosh.

Suzanne: Then the question gets to be, if you’re put together in a way that you’re meant to lead and create and do the things that they’re capable of doing with groups of people, why do people get angry with you for that? And so, I think for Eights across the board, it’s like we want them to be Eight except when we don’t.

Jen: Great. Yeah.

Suzanne: If somebody wanted me to be a Two, except when they didn’t, then I couldn’t deliver.

Jen: Sure. Of course.

Suzanne: You can’t do it. You can’t give that, right? Female Eights work all the time. Once they understand the effect they have on other people, they work all the time on taking the edges off.

Now I would also say that male Eights who aren’t careful can’t be heard. It doesn’t matter what you have to say if every number can’t hear you. 

After working with that for a few years, I’ve come away saying, “If you know the Enneagram, you have a responsibility to treat people the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to be treated.

Jen: That’s good. Okay. Okay. Our responsibility to one another in relationship and in community is to love that person and listen to that person in the way they need, not the way that I would prefer.

Suzanne: Right.

Jen: My verbal processing is so short.

Suzanne: Your husband is not an efficient talker, right?

Jen: I can’t handle it.

Suzanne: You would love bullet points.

Jen: Oh my gosh. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. We both work on it for the other. I work on expanding and he works on shrinking. Yes. 

So let’s wrap it up with those Nines. The Nines, what would we do without them?

Suzanne: I don’t know.

Jen: I don’t either.

Suzanne: It’s called the mediator. This is a number where it’s really easy for people to see the best part of them and the worst part of them. The best part of them is that they see at least two sides to everything, and the worst part of them is that they see at least two sides to everything.

Nines also have a very difficult time prioritizing because of how they see. It’s a little bit deeper dive. I’m just going to say one sentence and it would require unending explanation, but Nines in terms of Enneagram stance work—which is really great fun, good work to do—they’re both doing dominant and doing repressed. That means that everything in a day is about all that has to be done.

My husband is head of congregational care at a 16,000 member church, and his administrative assistant, if she put everything that he had to do on index cards and laid them out on a table, when Joe walks up to the table, nothing looks more important than anything else. It just all has to be done.

Jen: Okay.

Suzanne: Nines are always doing something, but often it’s not the thing that needs to be done at that time.

Jen: I see. Interesting.

Suzanne: The reality is that their gift is they can bring everybody at the table to a place of harmony without talking until the very end.

Jen: Totally. They’re so good at that.

Suzanne: It’s because it’s how they see. You can’t teach people to do that. You can’t teach people to walk into the room like I do and sense who needs something. You can’t teach people like you to cut the appropriate corners to get from point A to point B. Other people just cut corners and often it’s the wrong ones.

With Nines, they’re comfortable to be with and they are laid back and easy going. If they’re not careful, they spend their entire life merging with what other people want to do. Nines have to be given the opportunity and the time to figure out what they think and what they want, and then somebody to hold their feet to the fire while they proceed. The one thing I would say about Nines as a walkaway is that they will do anything to avoid conflict unless it involves their integrity. If it involves their integrity, they won’t. They’re not prone to peer pressure.

Jen: Interesting.

Suzanne: They’re just not attached to their own agendas.

Jen: It’s very nuanced.

Suzanne: Yeah. I think they’re the least controlling of all the numbers.

Jen: Okay.

Suzanne: Which means they’re the easiest number to take advantage of.

Jen: Right. You’re right on that. There’s one last quick thing I want to talk about, and then we’ll wrap it up because, again, I’m thinking about my listeners who are just taking this as a first touch. Could you just briefly explain how we approach the Enneagram when we are talking about the wings of our personality? That’s going to be a term that we’re going to talk about a lot in this series and that matters. It matters to how we use this tool and how much it can serve us. I wonder if you could just discuss what that means and what it looks like?

Suzanne: Sure. Wings are the number on either side of your number. There’s importance in the numbers that you’re connected to on the Enneagram by any line. Any line that you share with another number has value and is important to you. When you’re first learning the Enneagram, with a couple of exceptions, is the most important time for wings. It’s a really important time to step up and look up and know what’s happening.

In the teaching tradition that I come from, you have one wing in the first half of life and you add the other wing in the second half of life. Until midlife, you operate with just one wing. If you’re a Nine with a One wing or a One with a Nine wing, that’s tricky.

Jen: Those energies are so different.

Suzanne: They are very different, and Ones have a deal breaker. Not every number does. What’s a deal breaker for Ones is that they hear that terrible critical voice in their heads all the time, and Nines don’t hear that. They don’t have that going on at all. We all have self-talk, right, like, We’ve done a bad thing, but that’s not what this One critic sounds like. And Ones know the difference.

So wings are the place of your secondary fears and your secondary desires, so they don’t represent your primary fear, but they represent your secondary fear. So let’s stick with the Nine/One thing for a minute.

Jen: Okay.

Suzanne: So if you’re a Nine with a big One wing, your primary fear is that you’re going to have conflict. If you have a big One wing, then your primary fear is that you’re going to do something wrong. So then a Nine with a big One wing tries to manage their fear by doing things right so there is no conflict.

Jen: Yep. Yep. I get it.

Suzanne: I think wings can be confusing unless you always use the word secondary.

Jen: That’s good.

Suzanne: Secondary desire, secondary behavior, secondary fear. It will only be secondary and it will not have to do with your motivation.

Jen: Oh, interesting. That’s also interesting. I’m taking so many notes, Suzanne.

Suzanne: Good. That makes me happy. The One’s motivation is to be right or correct.

Jen: Yes.

Suzanne: The Two’s motivation is to be wanted. So if you go back to One, we would say it is the One’s desire, motivation, to be good. They want to be seen as good. Twos want to be wanted. Threes want to be loved for who they are and not for what they do. Right?

Jen: Yeah.

Suzanne: Four’s motivation is to be seen and understood.

A Five’s motivation is to perceive, they want to understand everything. A Six’s motivation is to be safe. A Seven’s motivation is to believe that their needs are going to be taken care of and that they will be taken care of in their need by somebody. An Eight’s motivation is to hear and believe that they’re not going to be betrayed.

Jen: Oh wow. Okay.

Suzanne: And a Nine’s motivation is to believe that their presence matters. Now, there are other motivations, but that’s a good list that helps me kind of get started.

Jen: So let me ask you this, with that really great bullet point list. So when we take the motivation from each number, does that also sort of help us dial in to—as you said earlier— this is how every number sees? Because I found that a really interesting tool. And of course, that’s not something that can be changed. That’s just how it is and you can’t adjust that. So for example, if a One has a motivation just to be good, to be right, what does that mean in terms of how a One sees?

Suzanne: So remember, a One is being criticized constantly by an inner voice, and they think other people are too, or they think nobody else has an inner voice but them. I had a young woman in my cohort last year who thought that voice was the Holy Spirit telling her that she was wrong all the time.

So motivation for a One to be good means it comes from the fact that they believe that they are flawed in some significant way, and that their only value is going to be if they’re good. And the only way they know to be good is to be right or to be correct.

Jen: I see.

Suzanne: So their motivation is to be seen as right and correct. So that’s why they try to make everything or something perfect in their lives and that’s why they assess themselves and everything else for improvement.

Jen: I see. What is your wing, by the way? Did you say?

Suzanne: Well, I’m old enough that I have both now.

Jen: Oh yeah, that’s right. When do you think that started for you? Because I’m forty-five, and I have a pretty strong Two wing, which I identify with and a lot of that shows up for me, but I’m just beginning to have some real connection points with a few of the Four traits. Not all of them, but just a few of them are starting to feel a little resonant and I’m interested if it’s time for that.

Suzanne: I don’t think there’s an age. So you’ve done a lot.

Jen: Yeah.

Suzanne: You’ve done a lot of work. You’ve had a lot of life experience. You’ve done a lot, and not every Three has had those opportunities or has those gifts, and so their other wing could come in the second half of life, which for them is later. Right?

Jen: Okay. Yeah.

Suzanne: You’re genetically predisposed to be that number. It’s well honed by the time you’re five. A lot of people when they learn the Enneagram say, “I used to be this number, but now I’m this number.”

Jen: And that’s not how it works.

Suzanne: No, it doesn’t work. So that’s not happening.

Jen: I want to ask you this one question.

Suzanne: Okay.

Jen: I’m not even sure if you have an answer for this, but let’s just say somebody is taking this in for the first time and this is new to them. Now, as you mentioned earlier—and I agree with you—a test is just only going to take us so far. It’s imperfect. We’re not the best at self-reporting correctly. Sometimes I’ve taken the Enneagram test before and gotten a result that was obviously aspirational because it was not right.

Suzanne: I like that.

Jen: I’m like, “I tried to Three my own test.”

Suzanne: And don’t you know a Three would?

Jen: If not a Three, who is? So I realize as I say this, as I ask this question, it’s a beginning point. It’s a starting point. It’s definitely not an ending point. But do you have a particular test or assessment that you recommend for someone who is interested and new to beginning this journey? One that’s online, one that they have access to? Where do you send people to get started?

Suzanne: The only one is the Enneagram Institute, Rizzo and Hudson, 140 question long, long form. It’s online, but you have to pay for it. That’s the only thing.

Jen: So just to dial into that one click further, so that’s for people who are going to go online for a starting point, thank you for that suggestion. But where do you suggest that people start?

Suzanne: The things that I have to share that are newly available from us would be very helpful, because you can pick a number and look at that one, or if you think you’re one of two or three numbers, you can look at those, or you can look at all nine. But I will add to that hearing somebody teach it orally, I’m certainly not the only person who does that and I’m not the only person who does it well. I have apprentices who are teaching all over the country who did a three year program with me who do a really good job. There are ways to learn it without relying on a test.

Jen: That’s great.

Suzanne: We also have the Enneagram Journey Curriculum and you can get all of this, all of my stuff, you can get it suzannestabile.com. And the curriculum is a whole series of unpacking the Enneagram from understanding your triad, to understanding the stance that you’re in, to understanding stress and security moves. There’s a lot there. It comes with a workbook. There’s a lot of good things to do. 

Jen:  I’ve not come across a better tool when you are really serious about self discovery and growth and health and in so many ways just personally as an individual, but 100% relationally. It’s just an incredible tool to begin understanding what it looks like when your type marries the type that you married, and then parenting of course. And then for me, it also deeply served my relationship with God because as a Three, it might not surprise you to know that for the majority of my life, I just was trying to please God and felt His chronic disappointment. It was just my performance that ever kept me in good spiritual standing. So it’s just the work of my adult life to undo that terrible thinking, that I’m just loved just because. I still don’t really believe it. I’m working on it, but it’s so hard to believe.

Suzanne: Sometime we’re going to have dinner together as couples and I’m going to have Joel Stabile look you in the eye and say, “You are God’s beloved daughter and there is nothing you can do to get God to love you more and there is nothing you can do to get God to love you less.”

Jen: I love that so much. I am. That’s a north star for me that I am just climbing toward.

Okay, these are three final questions. They’re rapid fire, so just top of your head. We’re asking everybody in this series, all of our amazing guests in the Enneagram Series, these same three questions, and so just whatever comes up for you first. Here’s the first one. As a Two, is there any other trait from another number that you have ever wished you had?

Suzanne: Yes. I wish that I had the piece of a Nine.

Jen: Oh yeah. I say this all the time. One of my best friends is Sarah Bessey, and she’s a Nine, and this is all just so timely because I just had a book come out, which is just a terrible set of circumstances for a Three. So I’ve just been wound tighter than you can ever imagine. I’ve tied everybody’s delight in me to how it does and the whole team, and I’m carrying the weight of the world and I’m worried all the time. I told her, I’m like, “Sarah, I am walking into this season. I’m trying to channel you. I am at peace. I am grateful for every moment. I’m present.” I also wish I could have the Nine’s peace. It’s such a gift. I love Nines.

Suzanne: Me too.

Jen: Second. If you have one, which part of your personality do you enjoy most about yourself, about being a Two?

Suzanne: I love well.

Jen: Oh yeah. So true.

Suzanne: I’m really good at loving my people. There are nineteen of us right here.

Jen: It’s a big crew.

Suzanne: I do a pretty good job of loving them in a healthy way. So that would be it.

Jen: That is so wonderful. So is the Two in my life. He loves us so well and so completely, sees everything, always paying attention. Always just maximizing what it could be for anybody in the room. The Twos are really a gift to all of us. This is the last question, and it comes from Barbara Brown Taylor, and we ask everybody this in every single series, and you can answer it literally however you want. What is saving your life right now?

Suzanne: Joel, but that would be my answer any day at any time. So I would say that the next thing is that—we’re sixty-nine and seventy-three, and I think what is saving me is my big question that people who know my work associate with me, and that is, “What is mine to do?” But in times when I’m constantly in the vulnerable group and I have to be protected and all of that, I know that what is mine to do isn’t done yet. So it provides some safety for me.

Jen: Well, I just wish you could see the notepad that I had next to my microphone that I’ve just been scribble scratching on the entire time we’re talking. I even have this. This is my own podcast. I can re-listen to it and read the transcript, but you just said some really wonderful things today that mean something to me personally at this exact moment in my life that I really heard and received today that was so useful. You are such just an important teacher to us right now. So I want to thank you for the decades that you have logged on this particular work, because it’s so meaningful and it serves us so well.

It’s just my joy to get to put such a profound teacher in view of my community and I’m excited for them to know your work more. I’m excited for them to start this path and for what it might mean for them and for their relationships and for their healing and health. It’s just fantastic. So your time means everything to me and I’m grateful for it. Thank you so much for coming on. Will you just tell—you kind of touched on this just a second ago, but just as a reminder, will you tell—my listeners where to find you? So when they’re like, “I got to get off this podcast and go to Suzanne’s spaces.”

Suzanne: Sure, suzannestabile.com, and if you go there, then milestone four of my curriculum is where I kind of talk about each number for a bit. And also, by the time this podcast is released, my Know Your Number videos that were filmed in Austin at Westover Hills will be available individually on Vimeo. That’s just a chance to hear forty or fifty minutes on each number and to hear narrative style and see if it fits you.

Jen: Awesome. Fantastic. Everybody, run, don’t walk to those incredible resources. Now you know, this is the stuff we’re going to spend the next nine weeks on and doing deep dives into each number with incredible teachers and experts like Suzanne. So, it was my pleasure to finally meet you today. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. So all of our gratitude for your expertise and being who you are and your time today.

Suzanne: Thanks so much. It was just a lot of fun. I’m glad to get to know you, too. I feel like I do, but it’s better now.

Jen: Yeah, me too. Me too, and we’re just practically neighbors. I’m down here in weird Austin. You’re up there in fancy Dallas, and so it just feels like it’s going to happen that we end up over dinner together. I’m just going to…

Suzanne: I think so.

Jen: …speak it into existence.

Suzanne: Good.

Jen: Thank you, Suzanne.

Suzanne: You bet.

Jen: Well, I hope your brain is churning, churning, churning. I’ve been around the Enneagram for years now, and I still heard new things today. I just can’t even wait for the rest of this series. One thing I want you to be paying attention to, you will see Ryan O’Neal‘s appearance throughout every episode of this series, who is an incredible artist who has turned his gifts toward the Enneagram. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’m just going to say watch for Ryan, and you will be so moved and delighted to get to experience his particular offering to Enneagram work. We are going to have those spliced through every episode in the series. Guys, so much to come. Oh my gosh. So many good teachers in this series. I can’t stand it and it’s going to be so good and I want you to listen and I want your husbands and wives to listen and I want your kids to listen and your best friends, your parents.

The Enneagram is in such service to healthy people and healthy relationships. So guys, just buckle up, because we’re bringing it to you hot and I want to give huge credit to my podcast team, to Laura and her team, and to Amanda,  my assistant and partner in all this work. Amanda has been driving the Enneagram series. It was her big, huge idea a year and a half ago, and she’s just absolutely the conductor on the train. So she has done a ton of work on this series, too. So anyway, it’s going to be fantastic. We’re going all in here. 

So do not miss a single episode. I can’t wait as we dive into beautiful Enneagram Ones next week, cannot wait to understand one energy and how to love them and how to live with them and how to be them. So come back. Come back. See you then, guys.

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