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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mountains and Molehills (Introduction to the Enneagram)

Are you familiar with the Enneagram?  I was introduced to it recently, and I've found it quite helpful in understanding why something may seem perfectly obvious to me but the person I'm talking to just doesn't get it.  

Basically, the idea is that there are nine different filters or lenses through which we perceive the world.  So, for example, if my filter is blue and your filter is red, and we both look at something yellow, I'm going to see green where you see orange.

I like to think of it this way, starting from the expression "Making a mountain out of a molehill."  (You can click on the links for the more official, detailed type descriptions at

Type 1:  It's my responsibility to make a mountain out of this mole hill, and I'd better do it perfectly.

Type 2:  I feel your pain.  Let me help you see that mountain as a mole hill, and while we're at it, is there anything else you need me to do for you?

Type 3:  My molehill's bigger than your molehill.

Type 4:  I think I'll sit down on this molehill for a while and imagine what it would be like to climb a mountain.

Type 5: I've done precise measurements of the dimensions of the molehill, so I can determine whether it's really a mountain.

Type 6:  Oh, dear!  Look at that huge mountain I have to climb.  I'm not sure I can do it on my own. 

Type 7:  Cool, a molehill!  I'll climb on top and jump off.  That would be fun.  Or maybe I'll trap a mole and keep it as a pet.  Or I could make a movie about moles.  Or maybe...

Type 8: All right, everyone.  It's time to climb that mountain, and we're going to make it to the top no matter what.

Type 9:  Molehill?  What molehill?  I don't see a molehill anywhere.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?  How about your students, colleagues, boss, family members or friends?  

As with introverts and extroverts and teacher archetypes, the point isn't to decide which type is "better" but to acknowledge that we might have very different reactions to the same situation.  

When I keep in mind that someone might be perceiving a situation very differently than I am, I'm much more patient when they say or do something that I find stressful... and I hope they're willing to do the same for me.

Photo by Archie Binamira from Pexels

related posts:

I Wish You Peace: A Simple Lovingkindness Meditation

Quiet: The Power of Introverts (recommended book)

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics (recommended book)

What (Arche)Type of Teacher Am I? (quiz)