Episode 28 – Going Together with Enneagram Master Suzanne Stabile

Have you ever wondered what this Enneagram craze is all about? Well this is your week! Get ready to go on a journey of self-exploration with Jessica and her guest, Suzanne Stabile. Suzanne is an Enneagram Master (for real, that’s her title) and the author of a number of groundbreaking books including the recently released, The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships. Also, this week continues a special series of shows where Jessica takes us through the themes of her brand new book, Imperfect Courage.

suzanne stabile going scared podcast


Jessica: Hi, it’s Jessica Honegger, Founder of the socially conscious fashion brand Noonday Collection. And this is The Going Scared Podcast, where we cover all things impact, entrepreneurship, and courage. I have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for today’s episode. We finally are going to cover together all things Enneagram. Now let me give you a heads-up that this is definitely an Enneagram deep dive. So if you’re really just wanting a basic Enneagram 101, then there are so many people out there who have provided that.

My guest on today’s show is Suzanne Stabile, and Suzanne, actually has her own podcast. So go check that out to get the Enneagram 101 because we go a little bit deeper here, and get into some of the complexities, especially how it relates to vulnerability. Suzanne is a sought-after speaker and teacher, she’s an internationally-recognized Enneagram master, and she’s written some of the most transformational books that I’ve read on Enneagram. The Road Back to You with Ian Morgan Cron. And most recently The Path Between Us, which is all about the Enneagram in relationships, which is some of what we get into today. 

My conversation with Suzanne is impactful for me because it launches us into the second section of my new book, Imperfect Courage, which honestly, you guys, this is my favorite section, if I’m allowed to have a favorite section for my book because it really is about going together. We are better together and that’s a challenging message sometime. And that’s why I wanted to have Suzanne on because I think when we understand the Enneagram not just in relation to ourselves, and what number we are, and all of that, but really in relation to others, that’s when we’re able to deepen our connection with other people, which to me, is what life is all about. So here’s Suzanne Stabile, get ready to move from inner reckoning to celebrating our differences.

I have to tell you I am an Enneagram addict, I guess you could say, but I haven’t gone super public about it because I was waiting to do a podcast so that my people could… I could say now, go listen to this podcast if you don’t know what I’m talking about. So you get to be the one to guide us there, but I want you to know I already did let listeners know where to really go for the 101. So this is not gonna be the most basic Enneagram episode, I know that there are so many resources for that, including your own, you have a podcast.

Suzanne: I do, The Enneagram Journey. It’s actually a lot of listening on my part. I’m convinced that I’ll never be able… even after 25 years of teaching, I’ll never be able to speak for numbers other than mine, the way people who, or that number can. So my hope with my podcast is that people will get to hear their number spoken by their number.

Enneagram: The Cliff Notes

Jessica: OK, so numbers, some of you are like, "What on earth are you talking about?" Numbers, why don’t we just start off and you can give us the Cliff Notes version of what the Enneagram is, and then for deeper dives people go listen to your podcast. But I at least wanna set at the ground for what we’re gonna talk about today. 

Suzanne: OK. Well, I teach an ancient spiritual wisdom, and it’s called the Enneagram, but Enneagram is Greek for nine points and it really means nine points. So the diagram for the Enneagram is a nine-pointed figure in a circle. And my shorthand version of trying to explain what it is, is that it’s nine ways of seeing. I think we all kind of assume that if we are in the same room at the same time, I think we’ve gotten to a point where we kinda know we’re not having exactly the same experience. But I think the illusion we have is that we’re all seeing the same thing, and that’s not true. 

“But I think the illusion we have is that we’re all seeing the same thing, and that’s not true.” Suzanne Stabile on the Enneagram measuring different perspectives

And for probably 3,000 years, maybe longer, the Enneagram has been taught by spiritual leaders and spiritual masters, and Enneagram masters, to their devotees, or their disciples, or the people who go to them for what I would now call spiritual direction. And until 30 years ago… I’m sorry that’s wrong, it used to be 30 years ago, but 20 years have gone by. Until 50 years ago, the Enneagram masters would only teach you your number. They didn’t really think you needed to know any of the other numbers because you can’t do anything about anybody but yourself. 

But in the mid-1970s, a guy who had studied with the modern grandfather of the Enneagram, who is a guy whose name is George Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo learned the Enneagram from him in Europe and returned to South America and did some work and then came to California to teach the Enneagram to a group of spiritual directors who were Jesuit priests, and some therapists. And that was really the beginning of Enneagram information and wisdom being published. And so we’re only living with published information since the late 1970s early 1980s. And in that time, there’s some really good work that’s been written and some works that’s not so great I think. 

And I would say only that the work that I label as not so great is kind of trivialized in terms of the depth, and potential, and wisdom that the Enneagram holds. It’s not dogma, and it’s not doctrine, so there’s really nothing to push against. And I always say to people, if you like it and if it’s helpful to you, that’s just great, and if you don’t, it’s OK. And I don’t have many people who push back from the table and say, "You know, I don’t think this is for me."

I would add that some people in the beginning say that the Enneagram is reductive, and how could we all fit into one of only nine ways of seeing. But people who have been looking at the Enneagram and studying it for a long time pretty soon discover that there are other layers to the Enneagram that help differentiate people within one of the nine numbers. So I land on it’s just true. And then I always like to say that, particularly in promoting the book, I’m promoting my second book right now and doing lots of interviews. And when people talk to me about The Path Between Us, I often say to them that the Enneagram is so great if you also have other wisdom, and other practices, and other tools, that you use. By itself, I think it’s lacking, and I think the only danger is that you take it to be more than it is.

The Spirituality of Enneagrams

Jessica: I think that’s a great point, and yeah, I feel like I meet three types of people these days, either haven’t heard the Enneagram, you’ve heard of Enneagram and it’s been so extremely enlightening, I fall in that camp. Or you’ve heard of the Enneagram and you’re so sick and tired of hearing other people talk about it, or you’re afraid it is reductive, and so you just push back against it. But usually, those people eventually take it and then they come to the other side. I think I was one of those in the third category until I actually sat down and did some work on it.

It’s interesting because you really framed it up in terms of this spiritual sort of typology. And interestingly enough, my business partner and I have started going through executive coaching in the last few months, and she actually studied under some of those original people that you named. And is like an expert in the Enneagram among many other things, and yet she’s an executive coach, and it’s really brought that into our executive leadership. Tell me a little bit more about why you frame it as this spiritual journey? Because I think that’s really interesting in terms of understanding or limiting beliefs and our blocks.

Suzanne: I’m a Christian and I’m married to a pastor, and our ministry together is Life In The Trinity Ministries, we have our own center in Dallas. And I am unapologetic about being Christian, but I’m also careful to say that there are more than nine types of Christians. You know, there are lots of ways of defining being a follower of Jesus, I think. And I am the all-inclusive type person who believes that God is all-loving, and all-benevolent, and all-forgiving, and offers grace, upon grace, upon grace. 

And in that space, the reason I think the Enneagram can well be considered spiritual wisdom is because it is a way of understanding yourself so that you might better understand who God is, and who you are in relationship to God. And in a world where a spiritual journey and spiritual transformation is a big topic, and it’s language that people often use as trendy language, who really are not on a journey toward spiritual transformation, and I think the reason for that is that when people start to get really serious about wanting to live the best life they can, in Christianity. And the Enneagram, by the way, has been found in all faith beliefs.

“The reason I think the Enneagram can well be considered spiritual wisdom is because it is a way of understanding yourself so that you might better understand who God is, and who you are in relationship to God.” Suzanne Stabile

Jessica: My executive coach is definitely not from the Christianity stream, so yeah.

Suzanne: All faith beliefs. I’m just speaking from my perspective. And what I believe is that we are put on the planet to understand, accept, and love ourselves, so that we might love other people. And I find that whatever I find to be unlovable in other people is usually something that represents a struggle of my own. So in the context where I find myself a lot of the time, people who are on a spiritual journey run into, first, the fact that they don’t like themselves, and that they don’t believe in themselves, and that they don’t believe in their own ability to change and experience transformation. And the Enneagram helps people get over that hurdle. And then the second hurdle that seems to present to most people is problems and conflict with family and family of origin. And the Enneagram helps get over that hurdle as well.

“And I find that whatever I find to be unlovable in other people is usually something that represents a struggle of my own…And the Enneagram helps people get over that hurdle.” Suzanne Stabile

Jessica: OK, so I love that. I love how you describe this journey, which we go on. It’s very similar to the hero’s journey of, "OK, I’ve got something to give," and then you start giving it, and then you encounter these obstacles. And you have that choice, "Do I sit back down or do I keep standing and going forward?" So this Enneagram journey can really help this hero’s journey that we go on because it helps you to understand yourself, but it helps you understand yourself in relation to other people.

And it can also be really disorienting, and this is my last 101 question. But for those people that are listening who maybe they’ve just barely scratched the surface, or maybe they came here wanting to even understand what it is. What wisdom do you give as our listeners begin to have their grand awakenings or revelations, like that very beginning process? 

Suzanne: Well, let me, I guess offer, I hope I’m offering and not advertising, two books that are mine, that I’m particularly familiar with in terms of being able to answer your question. So with Ian Cron, I wrote the book The Road Back to You, and it’s an Enneagram primer, and I think it’s a really good one. So for people who want… who really want…

Jessica: It is a great primer, it is.

A Crash Course in Enneagram Personalities

Suzanne: Thank you, thank you. For people who really wanna know their number, you can’t get it by taking the test. And the reason the tests don’t work, the indicators, whatever they’re called, in my estimation, they don’t work because of their inability to accurately measure motivation. Because your Enneagram number is determined not by what you do, but by why you do what you do.

So, you know, I’ve been teaching for more than 25 years, so you can imagine my excitement at 68, which I will be in October, that the Enneagram is so hot right now. It’s like that’s fun, but there are two sides to everything and the downside to the popularity of the Enneagram—particularly in 2018—is, there’s really not a good shortcut to finding out what your number is.

Jessica: True, that’s so true. When I tell people that they just kind of look at me perplexed and then they don’t even want to… they’re like, "Well, what if you can’t take a test and I don’t even understand what you’re talking about."

Suzanne: Yeah, exactly, but if you read a good primer then you find yourself, and in the reading, you find other people. And my work is recorded too, so if you just hate to read there’s another way to get it. The thing that I would say about those two books, the second is The Path Between Us which is my book about relationships and the Enneagram. And what I would say is I think we have to know ourselves, understand ourselves, and offer ourselves enormous amounts of grace in order to be in right relation with anybody else.

And I think once we’ve done our work, and we’re ready to be in relationship with others, then it helps to know if they’re sitting right beside us in a room, what they’re seeing and why what they’re seeing is so different from what we see. So I don’t think the Enneagram is a quick easy fix for anything. And I think it gives back tenfold whatever investment you make in learning it.

Jessica: It certainly has for me. We did our first 360 feedback, or I did mine, first 360 feedback, a few months ago, and it was really brutal, you know, understanding how people experience me. Of course, it wasn’t all brutal, some of it was really awesome and amazing, but it’s the brutal stuff that stuck out. But what was so interesting is how the hard parts of how others described how they experience me, I immediately said, "That is where I go in my basement of my Enneagram." Like I am a seven, and I go to the worst version of a one, and that’s how I was described. 

And so it was so enlightening because I was able to look and go, "Yeah, critical? Uh-huh. Perfectionistic? Uh-huh. Like nitpicky." Like all of these things and I thought I must be operating in a lot of stress at work, because that is the best description of myself was describing where I go to when I’m alive and doing well. So I’m a seven which means I’m the enthusiast, and I’m an activator of people, and I’m passionate. And I’m still on a search for my wings, to be honest with you, some days I really feel like I’m an eight especially at work, and then I feel like relationally I can be a six as far as sort of the loyalty in me and really driving a lot of value from security in my relationships.

So I kind of draw equally from both of those. Of course, I didn’t relate to a six at all until my executive coach was like, "No one’s gonna have a podcast called ‘Going Scared’ unless they’ve got a little six in them."

Suzanne: Yeah, exactly. Just so you know when I first got the email, I thought, "Oh, my assistant misspelled sacred so…"

Jessica: "You guys are Sacred podcast?" "No, ‘Going Scared.’" 

Suzanne: Yeah, you know, well, I’m really excited that it’s "Going Scared" because I certainly probably have more to say to that than going sacred.

Jessica: OK, good. Well, that’s so much of what we’re gonna get into because, you know, I am on the fear triad end of the Enneagram, so it does make sense we teach what we need to learn. Obviously, I’m speaking towards fear because I’ve overcome fear myself, but I know that fear is in everyone’s number, it’s not certainly just in the fear triad. But knowing now what you know, read my mail, tell the listeners what this says about me being a seven with the possible little six and eight wing thrown in there.

Suzanne: First, let me just say that I think wings are really important when you’re first learning the Enneagram. And then I think they are important if you are a nine with a big eight wing, or if you are three with a big four wing. In terms of how we do life every day, I don’t know that it has an extraordinary amount of influence, so I would rather talk about other parts of your number with the time that I have.

Jessica: Great.

Suzanne: And what I would say is that… so you’re in the thinking dominant triad with fives and sixes, and that’s also called the fear triad, but everybody in that triad deals with their fear in a different way. Fives manage their fear with gathering knowledge and information, and the more information they have the more secure they feel. Sevens manage fear with a smokescreen of activity. And fives are mostly concerned about what’s going on outside of themselves, that’s where most of their fear comes from. Sevens are more concerned about what’s going on inside of themselves. And what’s happening inside is what they are more afraid of.

Sixes kind of carries a fear for both. It’s real important for you to know that most people… I don’t know about most. A lot of Enneagram teachers believe that the world is kind of divided into equal parts of the nine numbers. I don’t believe that. I think, and I was taught, that probably about half of the world is made up of sixes. And so fear is a defining piece for sixes, it’s not as defining for fives and sevens. I would also say that you manage with the smokescreen of activity which gives you the interest of being involved in lots of things, you have lots of ideas, you’re very creative.

You sometimes have to practice limiting yourself, and boundary-ing yourself for what you really can do and can manage, and can get done. You’re optimistic up to the point where the way you dream things doesn’t exactly work out. And then disappointment is something that you learn to manage with maturity. Earlier, you talked about going to the bottom of one when you’re in stress, but actually you can learn to go to the high side of one when you’re in stress instead of the low side. And I think that’s one of the most important pieces about the Enneagram that isn’t often taught because the high side of one is how you take care of yourself. And I teach that you can’t take care of yourself without the number that you go to in stress.

Jessica: OK, this is new for me.

Suzanne: Yeah, so think about that though, you’re…

Jessica: Well, my husband is a one.

Suzanne: There you go.

Jessica: We have a thriving marriage, like I’m extremely thankful for him because he… and he is a very healthy one. So he does create boundaries and even though sometimes, you know, my inner turmoil is like our models like, "This is so boring." In fact, what I feel is taken care of, and I feel boundaried which ultimately is good for me though hard for me to always embrace.

Suzanne: Sure, and what happens for him then, you know, if you wanna look at the best part of you, then watch him when he is really secure, because he goes insecurity of seven. So I think the fact that people misunderstand sevens, it’s often because we want sevens to be sevens. You know, I tell my people, sometimes I work with the same group for three years. I have a group of people I’ve been teaching for 20, so we’ve gone pretty deep into the Enneagram. And one of the things that I say to people is, "You know, when you start to really grow, when you start to outgrow your personality and embrace who you are without all of that, other people don’t get real excited for you. Other people don’t say, ‘Oh, thank goodness, you’re so much more mature than you used to be.’"

Jessica: I’m so glad you’re saying no to me for the first time in your entire life, people are like "What? You’re my yes person, not my no person."

Suzanne: That’s exactly right, and so you don’t get support for that. And I’m a two and I don’t get any support when I back up and say, "That’s not mine to do." And when you get more serious, people say to you, "What happened to you? You used to be so much fun. We used to count on you to be the life of the party," you know? So I think there’s a lot that goes on in terms of expectations, and I think people love us more for our personalities than they do for our essence.

Navigating Emotion with the Enneagram

Jessica: OK, tell me this, because one of my big limiting beliefs, and it actually comes from some childhood trauma and a lie that I began to believe, which they say with sevens, you’ve usually had some sort of trauma and then you learn to just escape. And escaping into my mind is one of my most looked forward to activities, I’m like I just love going up there it’s like it’s so…

Suzanne: Sow in a pen.

Jessica: It’s so entertaining, but I’ve realized one of my true limiting beliefs is I’m all alone in the world and really there’s no one else there to support me. So when I hear of problems or even at work when there’s a lot of stress, I realize what’s going on my head is like, "I’m gonna have to figure this out, I’m gonna have to solve this." Is that a seven thing, or is that more coming from some other thing in my life?

Suzanne: Riso and Hudson, they actually began teaching right after that ’70s event, that 1970s event that I told you about. And they published a lot and early. And one of the best things they’ve given to the Enneagram community among many is that they gave us a list of childhood messages, lost childhood messages, and unconscious childhood messages.

And for sevens, the unconscious childhood message is, "You can’t depend on other people." And the lost message is, "I’ll take care of you, and I’ll take care of your needs." So actually, you are being attuned to other people having needs that they’re afraid won’t be met because that rings true to you. And you have to be mindful of those childhood messages in order to overcome them, or in order to do things differently. And so I think that’s part of it. I think being in the aggressive stance which means you’re with threes and eights in what’s called the aggressive stance. That has to do with the fact that your orientation to time is the future, and that you’re a problem solver. So when people come to you as a problem you solve it so that you can move on, so you don’t get trapped in the pain of their pain.

Jessica: OK, so let’s… I wanna step back for a second because I loved how we described how the numbers in my triad related to fear. Can we go around the whole Enneagram and talk about how each number relates to fear, because I know everybody’s got fear in them?

Suzanne: Well, everybody does have fear, but it doesn’t define first the other six numbers, it doesn’t define behavior, or understanding of information in the other six numbers the way it does for you. So I’ll do that, but before I do that I would rather start with the fact that eights, nines, and ones are in the gut triad, and so that means their first response is, "What am I gonna do?" And that’s also called the anger triad. So while fives, sixes, and sevens, are trying to manage fear, eight, nines, and ones are trying to manage their anger.

Jessica: My partner, he’s an eight. 

Suzanne: Yup. And so eight anger is straight up, everybody knows they’re angry, they know they’re angry, they don’t hide it in any way, and then once it’s over, it’s over. Like once they say they’re done. One anger and I would guess that you see this in your husband probably is turned inward first. 

Jessica: Well, he’s got a nine wing.

Suzanne: And then they generally express their anger as resentment. And nine anger is passive aggressive. So certainly eight, nines, and ones, struggle with fear, and certainly fives, sixes and sevens struggle with anger, but it’s not their primary struggle. Twos, threes, and fours don’t as easily fit a category as the other six numbers do. And so there’s a differentiation among Enneagram teachers from all of the last at least 40 years as to what would be the equivalent of anger in the gut triad and fear in the thinking triad. I teach that triad as the relationship triad.

Jessica: Really twos, threes, and fours you call the relationship triad?

Suzanne: Well, I sometimes do, and I sometimes call it the feelings triad. And the reason I do that is because feelings determine so much for them. So here’s how they manage feelings. Twos feel other people’s feelings but not their own. And so when you ask a two what they feel, it’s very difficult for them to tell you, they generally report the feelings that they pick up in the room or from other people.

Threes take in information with feelings, but they don’t use feelings to process that information, or to make sense of it, or decide what they’re gonna do. And fours don’t like average feelings, fours exacerbate feelings. So if they’re sad, they like to be sadder because it’s richer, and it has more texture, and if they’re happy they’d like to be happier. So while in those different triads, we’re working with the thing that’s dominant for us. You know fear is just not the thing I deal with every day. Feelings are the thing I deal with it every day.

“You know fear is just not the thing I deal with every day. Feelings are the thing I deal with every day.” Suzanne Stabile

So in terms of my being thinking-repressed as a two, what I always say to twos who say, "I think all the time," and I say, "Yeah, you do. And about 85% of the time you’re thinking about relationships," and they all nod their heads, yes, that’s what they’re thinking about. So this is kind of what I was talking about at the top of the podcast when I said there are so many layers of Enneagram work that people can do, that each layer is so helpful, and adds so much to the first layer. But they all depend on you accurately identifying what your number is. And that always brings me back to you can’t do that with a test or an indicator.

Unlocking Courage 

Jessica: OK, so I wanna bridge this to talking about courage because that is the series that we’re doing right now. Have you spent much time thinking about this idea of courage, and if you, have how do you define courage?

Suzanne: My context for courage is, "Do I have the courage to do what’s mine to do? Do I have the courage to discern what’s mine to do without primarily focusing on how it’s gonna affect me?" So for my podcast, I interviewed a couple today, and she is headed to… they’re married and they’re both in ministry. She’s going to Iliff to get a doctorate in theology so she can teach, and that’s in Denver. And he has a job here as a United Methodist minister at a church that he loves, doing work that he loves, with people he loves.

And they explained to me that they discerned that it’s time for them to move to Denver, for her to go to Iliff. And it’s not like he’s getting away from something. He’s giving up what he loves to answer what they consider at this moment to be a call on both of their lives. That’s courageous to me. It’s courageous for both of them. And it’s very courageous of him because he’s a music minister in a church that really appreciates him and he’s very successful there. And both of them as aggressive members are particularly interested in justice, and he serves a church that’s interested in justice. So I think courage, actually in my world, and in my way of thinking, is about being faithful. Do I have enough courage to be faithful?

Jessica: When I think that comes from the ability to take a meaningful risk without knowing the outcome because what requires courage in there is that you don’t actually know how it’s all gonna pan out, but you’re moving towards it anyway.

“When I think that comes from the ability to take a meaningful risk without knowing the outcome because what requires courage in there is that you don’t actually know how it’s all gonna pan out, but you’re moving towards it anyway.” Jessica Honegger

Suzanne: Right. You know, I get asked to do an hour talk frequently, and sometimes it’s short notice, you know, "Can you fill in? Could you teach this class? Could you speak to our group?" So I came up over a 10-year period with about 10 talks that work for that. And one of them is I took the Book of Jonah and I put it with four mantras. And the four mantras are really old, but they are: show up, pay attention, tell the truth, and don’t get attached to the result. And those are courageous steps

Jessica: They are.

Suzanne: To really show up is courageous, to pay attention is courageous because life will affect you if you pay attention. Telling the truth is evidently so courageous that most people really struggle with it, I sometimes do. But the big one for me is not being attached to the results. It takes a lot to believe that I’m doing my part and that I did what was mine to do, and that I was faithful and that whatever happens with that—that’s really not my business.

Jessica: So would you say then that even though my triad might… we’re trying to manage our fear, every number has certain blocks towards this path to be courageous. This path of being able to move forward and not be attached to the results and…

Suzanne: Absolutely. Absolutely. But the results for each of us, what we’re trying not to attach to, would be defined by a number.

The Enneagram and Personal Attachments

Jessica: It’s different. Let’s do that, that’s interesting to me. Because I use this a lot in my talks too, is I say you know, that we… you know, anxiety is the fear of a certain outcome. And it’s when we attach our identity to that outcome that we become paralyzed. But when we can let go of that outcome and ultimately know that our identity is not a result of that outcome, we can walk in freedom. So I’d love to know what each number, what are we attaching to the outcome. I imagine as a two, you’re attaching otherness.

Suzanne: Well, absolutely, you know, the outcome for me is, "Do they like me and do they want me?"

Jessica: OK, so that’s what you want.

Suzanne: I sure hope I make their lives better. I sure hope I made their lives better but did they want me? And an outcome for a three would be, "Was that successful?" For a four it would be, "Was that unique? Was it meaningful? Was it different than what they normally experience?" For a five it would be, "Was it accurate? Was it deep? Did it have any kind of value that would connect it to my expertise?" For a six it would be, "Did it create safety? Is it safe? Am I safe with these people? Do they feel safe with me? Did it make the world more safe?"

For a seven, it would be, "Did people get that and can we move forward?" For an eight, it would be, "Have I affected this group of people? Have I affected the conversation of this problem, and then they move on? And they actually believe that they can affect the world without being affected by it."

Jessica: So true.

Suzanne: For a nine, it would be, "Did I cause conflict? Did what I say cause any conflict?"

Jessica: My mom is a nine, and I swear that has been one of the biggest Enneagram takeaways for me because she also is a stay-at-home mom. And I think I attributed a lot of her passivity to this like, "Well, this is what women did during her time, and now I’m breaking…" And then I’m realizing, no, she was just a peacekeeper. And she and my brother, are nines and my dad and I are sevens and it was crazy, it was just too dynamic in our family.

Suzanne: I wanna come back and talk about nines in a minute because I have a really good example, and I may use the example for every number. But ones would say, "Was it perfect?" And they focus on the mistakes and not what they accomplished, right? 

Jessica: Right. That’s what I do, I do that as a seven though when I’m not OK. All right.

Suzanne: All right, so. Well, you can choose that though, and your husband will have to work 10 times harder to choose it, to choose to do it differently, right? OK, so my husband has been in ordained ministry for 44 years, he’s 71, he’s bilingual in English and Spanish, and he is head of congregational care at a very large church, 16,000 members. And our church leadership was given the opportunity to send a team to the border to one of the camps where children are being held.

Jessica: I saw that on your Instagram.

Suzanne: The parameters around that were that it was a non-political visit. So the men and women who went, went so that they could bring theological understanding and comfort to the children. They came as a theological presence and to bring understanding, and comfort, and care, to the children and not to make a statement or to join in anything that is divisive.

And they did it, and so because they were able to pull that off they’ve been invited to come back. And they sent a team again this weekend, and I’m sure they’ll send a team again next week. Now the thing that is tricky about that is actually easiest for a nine, because a nine can look at anything and see two sides, and they’re the only number for whom that’s an ordinary everyday gift. And so because he can fully understand a reason to be apolitical, he’s able to pull that off, right? It’d be much harder for an eight who is justice seeking and feels a need to correct what’s wrong, right? It would be different for each number depending on how they see the world.

And I think what we have to recognize in trying to not just know about the Enneagram, but understand it, and have some wisdom around the use of it, is that it can be effectively used to address all of the situations where we find ourselves because it identifies difference, and difference is usually what separates us. And I think if we’re gonna continue to involve ourselves in either political discussion about let’s say the environment. I’m probably not a very good person for recycling, like I try. But, you know, I’m not like I’m not serious about it I guess. But I get it that recycling is really important and that there’s a need for it, and that we all need to be supportive of that.

“[The Enneagram] can be effectively used to address all of the situations where we find ourselves because it identifies difference, and difference is usually what separates us.” Suzanne Stabile

There are people who can talk that down, right, depending on how they see, and we don’t have patience for people who don’t see like we do. And I can’t remember not knowing the Enneagram so I don’t know what works if you don’t get it that they just don’t like you.

Enneagrams and the Common Language of Empathy

Jessica: Well, it’s really empathy, right? I think real empathy… and that’s what for my 360 feedback when I was able to stop and really put myself in my colleague’s shoes and understand… like I wasn’t surprised by anything right. I was like, "Oh, yeah. Like I can be like that." But it’s when I stopped and experience myself through them, that is when the tears came, and that’s when the change came. And it was like, "I don’t want to be experienced like that," you know? And really that is what empathy is. And I think empathy comes from understanding that the whole world doesn’t, you know, look just like how you see it.

“And I think empathy comes from understanding that the whole world doesn’t, you know, look just like how you see it.” Jessica Honegger on how the Enneagram opens new perspectives.

I mean, and that is key. That’s key to the path of leadership, that’s key to the path of being able to have dialogue which is really what we’re talking about is, we’ve lost the art of dialogue in our modern culture. And I speak—the whole second part of my book really is about this, like “how do we go it together?” Because we’re meant to go it together, we’re not meant to go in echo chambers where we’re all exactly alike. So what are some of the tools that we have where we can go it together with people that are not at all like us and have meaningful conversations that enable action, that ultimately lead to us building a flourishing world? And I’m sad I didn’t… I turned in an 80,000-word manuscript for a 60,000-word book so the Enneagram got cut out, but anyway, there’s you. You do that for us. 

Suzanne: I’m sure all about trying, but I think the table has to be set up for the Enneagram to be applicable, and that’s what you did with your 60,000 words. It doesn’t matter if I tell people how to get along if they’re not willing to get in a room with people who think differently than they do.

Jessica: True, that’s a huge call to action by the end of the book. 

Suzanne: I think we’ve gone somewhere beyond tribal, and I think it’s because no one is inviting people who don’t think like them.

Jessica: And if we can position ourselves, first, value empathy, and then begin to learn it, begin to learn empathy. And, you know, read books that are different than what you think you would believe, and listen to podcasts that you wouldn’t normally listen to. And befriend the person at Target that might not look like you. I mean, all of these things I think add up to creating an empathetic world where you decide, "I might be this number on the Enneagram but I’m gonna look at myself from all of these other numbers, and I’m gonna care about how I am experienced. And I’m gonna create an experience for someone else where they feel that space which is really how we started off to truly be themselves."

You know that if we could all create a space where someone else can feel the compassion to be themselves, then I mean that’s the answer. The gap would grow a lot smaller, which it is, I believe it is. I’m in spaces where I’m seeing this happen. 

Suzanne: Well, I think all it is possible, and I think if we were in the room together, and you were talking about people positioning themselves, then I think my part would be to describe the nine different ways of positioning yourself in the room so that you see what other people see. And I’m very hopeful too. I think what the Enneagram offers us is a common language so that we can understand the difference, right?

“I think what the Enneagram offers us is a common language so that we can understand the difference.” Suzanne Stabile

Jessica: Which is powerful.

Misusing the Enneagram

Suzanne: It is powerful, if it’s not used lightly, and if it’s used lightly it’s destructive. 

Jessica: Right. If it’s like, "Well, this is my number, and this is just who I am," or you start tearing each other down. Like, "Of course, you’re thinking that. You’re a one, you’re a perfectionist."

Suzanne: Exactly. 

Jessica: You know, like that, right? 

Suzanne: One of my rules is never use your number as an excuse for your behavior. And another is never judge other people based on what they tell you their number is, or what you think their number is. And don’t use the Enneagram to hurt people, and don’t talk about the Enneagram with people who don’t know it because it’s inside, or outside of language to help anybody.

“One of my rules is never use your number as an excuse for your behavior. And another is never judge other people based on what they tell you their number is, or what you think their number is.” Suzanne Stabile

Jessica: It is. 

Suzanne: Yeah, a lot going on. There’s a lot going on.

Going Scared with the Enneagram

Jessica: So many things. OK, let’s wrap up. I wanna know… this is The Going Scared Podcast, I wanna know how you’re going scared right now that you might… I’m happy for you to rewrite that sentence to resonate with something more that fits what you are trying to manage, which is other people’s feelings. Is that what you’re trying to manage?

Suzanne: Well, actually, right now, I’m trying to manage my own response to what I think I’m called to. I have four children, they’re all married, I have seven grandchildren and an eighth due any day. And they all live here.

Jessica: Congratulations.

Suzanne: Thank you. Thank you. They all live here in the area. I am crazy in love with my husband. And I want to be with them, all of them. And, you know, I travel a lot, and I teach a lot, and I think that’s mine to do. I’m about to turn in a proposal for a third book, if I find the courage to do it. And I’m kind of struggling with it. I know what I wanna write about, I think it’s really timely. I think it’ll be very helpful. I think my publisher will want it. But it’s like, man, that’s a big commitment.

Jessica: Because of your eight grandbabies and being a two you wanna go be there for everybody.

Suzanne: Yeah, I do, and I keep asking myself… my husband, I’ll be 68 in October, and Joe will be 71 next week. And I actually tried to get him to kind of say, "Let’s just move to a little cabin and read books and, you know, be with the kids and do the rest of our life." And he is wise and suggesting that maybe that’s actually not the right answer to what’s ours to do. So, in my language, I would say that I am pretty much always trying to find the courage to do what’s mine to do.

Jessica: I love that because, you know, I think we say, well, doing what yours is to do feels so good and you feel so right, and it’s so life-giving. But it also requires choosing discomfort.

Suzanne: It really does, and I think being led to do what’s yours to do insists that you not measure what you’re gonna offer to the world by how it’s gonna affect you.

Jessica: Thank you so much for joining me in today’s conversation. Now, you know it’s out there. I’m a seven. I’m a seven. I hope you still love me, and I love you no matter what. Go check out Suzanne, her writings, and her Enneagram mastery, go check out her podcast. And if you liked what you heard in this episode, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Leave a review so that other people will join the conversation. Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb, Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger, until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.