In my last blog I mentioned that conflicts are not so much about content, but merely about the relationship (also in business relations). For example, people experience not being seen, heard, recognized, appreciated or even being offended by the other. The nine types each have their own specific ways of hearing and seeing the other person. Our perception of things is coloured by our enneagram type.
The added value of the enneagram in mediation is that it helps expose selective perceptions which prevent effective communication with each other in a swift and easy manor.
This is why more and more mediators embrace the enneagram. Obviously, this is an interesting tool for anyone who deals with (preventing) conflicts regularly. For example, managers.
While schooling mediators I use the application of the enneagram on four levels:
- The other(s)
- Me and the other
- Between the others
The First level: Me
On the ‘Me’ level it is about using the enneagram for the personal and professional development of the mediator. Practicing the enneagram method provides more and deeper insights in the self as a result of training skills in self-observation and -reflection in a methodical manor. You learn to recognize how your personality type influences both your qualities and limitations as mediator and, with that, the course of the mediation sessions. That is what we call our ‘type bias’; the type-based prejudice everyone has and on which every person handles.
Insight alone does not change much. However, it is a necessary first step to more self-management. This makes it possible to react less in an impulse way – an action that is directed by your type – and will create more room for alternative actions. An unorthodox approach for you can sometimes be more fitting and more effective. Thus, on the level of ‘me’ personal development with the enneagram offers you more freedom of choice, self-management, room for alternative actions and with that more room to manoeuvre. An advanced form of professionalizing.
The second level: The Other(s)
On this level you will find the most obvious use of the enneagram: for a mediator to gain more insight in the client’s nature, quicker and on a deeper level. Knowledge of and insight in the nine personality types helps to understand how people are different from each other. You do not only know and see that they differ, but also in what way and what for. On this level the enneagram contributes to your emotional intelligence. If you understand how people operate, this will automatically lead to a decrease (or absence) of judgement during the observation process.
The ‘noise’ made by your own personality type can be ignored more easily.
Knowledge of every type’s attention area (there were the attention is drawn to) and fixations, are of use for you as mediator to quickly notice and address the client’s motives and pain. There will even come a point that you know how the different personality types can act and present themselves at the table during a conflict situation. This can help in two different ways: on the one hand you will less likely get caught in the ideas of one of the parties, and on the other hand you are better equipped to address their pain in the right way. Clients who feel heard and understood will heal their pain caused by the conflict earlier, which creates room to discuss the content.
Third Level: Me and the other
On the level of ‘me and the other’ you learn to see and understand more clearly in what kind of interaction patterns you tend to be drawn to yourself. Some of them you will find effective and constructive, others not so much. Knowledge of the nine enneagram types makes it possible to see in what way you effect the other personality types (and with that clients). And vice-versa, how the other types (and with that clients) effect you. By using your understanding of the enneagram you can intervene more consciously, improve your fine-tuning on the other person and with that become more effective in your job.
Fourth level: Between the others
The level of ‘between the others’ is about interaction patterns between the parties at your mediation table. From the enneagram perspective there exist ‘classic’ patterns between every personality type couple. On this level the model offers guidance on how to expose and unravel the interaction pattern mix between the battling parties. This often is a difficult but very revealing experience for both parties. It creates room for another, more constructive conversation. Something which is experienced as a relief for most people in a conflict situation. Afterwards most of them look back on this stage as being hard and unpleasant, but also as a useful part which taught them very valuable lessons (for life).
Applying the enneagram in conflict mediation keeps a prominent place on my personal priority list. This is because conflicts are among the most important causes why people suffer in relations, both private and at the workplace. They become unbalanced, dysfunctional or even sick. Regard for the human aspect of a conflict can speed up and facilitate the mediation process.
The enneagram offers a clear client-oriented, compassionate, development-centred and even healing approach of working with people. Is it not wonderful if you do not only help solve your clients’ conflict situation, but also make them wiser?