Nine Natural Human Responses in Uncertain Times
Updated: Jun 2
In the current uncertainty, understanding your motivation, worldview and focus of attention, can be invaluable in helping you to be more effective under pressure, to play to your strengths and to sidestep your blindspots.
You can do this using an ancient map of the human psyche called the Enneagram, which provides remarkable insights into different individual responses during the Coronavirus crisis.
Understanding the Enneagram can also enable you to strengthen interpersonal relationships by understanding how other people's responses differ from yours, and give you to access a complementary set of practical strategies to choose from during the crisis.
Incredibly, the nine personality archetypes common to all human beings were well known in ancient Greece. How do we know this? Because there is evidence in the form of Homer's Odyssey, which is a precise journey through the Enneagram archetypes in the correct order.
The nine archetypes form a natural structure of interconnected personality traits in a framework which connects traditional wisdom with contemporary psychology and neuroscience in a scientifically validated way.
Recent advances in neuropsychology show that human beings are born with in-built personality temperaments. These advances validate Enneagram theory that throughout your life, your 'home base' on the Enneagram will dictate how you respond to events in the world around you.
The more intense the impact of the event, the more non-conscious your response is likely to be. In uncertain times, it may be your autonomous 'operating system' that responds rather than your integrated mind-body system choosing a conscious response.
Understanding the Enneagram archetypes can help you manage yourself and others. A clear understanding of other people's different responses - family, friends, partners and colleagues - will enable you to collaborate better, connect with compassion and help you cope in uncertain times.
The Enneagram acts like a master-key for unlocking self-awareness.
So what are the nine Enneagram archetypes and how is each type likely to respond in a crisis?
As you read about each Enneagram type and its strain responses ask yourself:
Which type resonates most strongly with you?
Do you recognise the response pattern of anyone close to you?
Which of the alternative approaches in crisis could benefit you the most?
Type 1 - Strict Perfectionist
In crisis: Follow process
Strict Perfectionists are all about improvement and doing things 'right' so they can deliver quality. The focus of attention for Type 1s will be towards what's right and wrong, structure, organisation and procedure.
Growth: To accept the world as perfectly imperfect as it is. To recognise what can be changed and what can't be changed, and to understand the difference.
Negative Strain Response: With a strong inner critic, Type 1s may take personal responsibility for what's happening, and they may feel angry or resentful when things go wrong. Inflexibility may be a blindspot, based on their own definition of right and wrong.
Positive Strain Response: At their best Type 1s will pay attention to detail, and they will be conscientious and responsible. They are likely to follow rules and guidelines to the letter. When Type 1s trust their instinct, relax the tension a little (even allow for some 'gallows humour'), they will strive tirelessly to overcome any adversity.
Type 2 - Considerate Helper
In crisis: Consider others
Considerate Helpers want to meet other people's needs in helpful, supportive ways, so their focus is almost always on the needs of others. Type 2s thrive when they can use their social and emotional intelligence in service of others.
Growth: To recognise their own needs and to ask for help. Learning to be compassionate, first to themselves, releases deep resources in Type 2s for helping others more effectively.
Negative Strain Response: Type 2's 'Superhero' complex is likely to be on overdrive, which can make it almost impossible for them to ask for help or even to register their own needs. As a result, Type 2s can exhaust themselves, or become resentful when their own needs are not met. They may worry about how they will care for everyone.
Positive Strain Response: At their best Type 2s will be empathetic, considerate, compassionate, and driven in service of the greater good. By attending first to their own needs and feelings, they can release almost unlimited energy and drive to help others with warm-hearted generosity.
Type 3 - Competitive Achiever
In crisis: Work smart
Competitive Achievers are 'doers' who tend to be practical and task-oriented. They like to project a polished image. Highly goal-oriented, Type 3s have an unstoppable drive for delivering results.
Growth: Being honest with themselves and true to their feelings. By accepting themselves flaws and all, Type 3s can develop the authentic success they continuously strive for.
Negative Strain Response: For Type 3s, excessive busyness is a way to avoid deeper feelings and a weak sense of who they really are. Any extended period of inactivity will be a challenge for Competitive Achievers who dislike any space in which to contemplate.
Positive Strain Response: At their best Type 3's focus is directed towards efficiency and productivity. When they're honest with themselves, consider others and collaborate, they can get things done and drive collective rather than individual success.
Type 4 - Intense Creative
In crisis: Follow intuition
Intense Creatives are emotionally sensitive, attuned to their environment and expressive. They search for meaning, depth and authenticity.
Growth: Seeing balance between themselves and others. Recognising that everyone has their own strengths and flaws in equal measure releases Type 4s to channel their originality into extraordinary endeavours.
Negative Strain Response: Type 4s are likely to experience the intensity of turbulent times more dramatically than others. Focusing on their internal feelings, they may exaggerate how much worse their personal situation is compared to others. In isolation Type 4s are likely to struggle with disconnection, they may wallow in melancholy, at worst falling into depression.
Positive Strain Response: Type 4s are at their best when they become objective and work within structured routines. This enables them to become calm, purpose-driven and imaginative, driving innovative and creative solutions. Type 4s will not shy away from difficult conversations because of their ability to handle deep emotions that can be painful or overwhelming for others.
Type 5 - Quiet Specialist
In crisis: Be wise
Quiet Specialists are private individuals with an active mental life, who observe how the world works in order to understand it. They are likely to take a logical and rational approach to world events based on factual information.
Growth: To participate fully in the world they observe. By engaging with all aspects of their present experience, including emotional 'messiness', Type 5's depth of knowledge can be applied in practical and heartfelt ways.
Negative Strain Response: Dispassionate, detached and theoretical, during turbulent times Type 5s risk being disconnected from the emotional impact on themselves and others. In this way they miss an essential source of information.
Positive Strain Response: At their best, Type 5s are practical and perceptive. When they claim their personal power by taking direct action, their depth of wisdom, curiosity and problem-solving skills are superb. Type 5s are likely to handle extended periods of isolation well, and even enjoy it!
Type 6 - Loyal Sceptic
In Crisis: Be alert
Loyal Sceptics tune into potential danger and risks, acting on a sense of anxiety. Valuing trust, responsibility and loyalty, they need to feel they are safe and they belong.
Growth: To trust themselves, and others, and learn to live comfortably with uncertainty. When Type 6s acknowledge their own fear and doubt, they can access deep reserves of courage, working collaboratively for the benefit of all.
Negative Strain Response: The worriers of the Enneagram, Type 6s are prone to pessimism, reacting defensively, and projecting their emotions onto others. The coronavirus crisis is likely to confirm their worst fears that the world is an unsafe place, leading them to irrational over-thinking, catastrophising, or even belief in conspiracy theories.
Positive Strain Response: Because their minds constantly structure worst-case scenarios, in a genuine crisis Type 6s can display remarkable courage and be ready to tackle anything. At their best Type 6s are loyal, dutiful and risk-aware. When they relax into uncertainty and go with the flow, they find incredible strength to lead collective action.
Type 7 - Enthusiastic Visionary
In crisis: Keep smiling
Enthusiastic Visionaries seek variety, stimulation and fun, engaging with life in a positive, future-orientated way. The focus of attention for Type 7s is towards planning, pleasure, possibility and potential.
Growth: To accept that pain and joy are interconnected in real life. Becoming grounded in the present reality releases Type 7s from endless positive anticipation which can be exhausting to themselves and others. This enables Type 7s to focus on immediate priorities, evaluate options objectively, and to learn through adversity.
Negative Strain Response: As perennial joy seekers, Type 7s have an aversion to unpleasantness. This may lead them to indulge in immature pain avoidance, joking about or making light of troubling world events, to the extent of being insensitive to others. Boredom will always be a challenge for Type 7s.
Positive Strain Response: At their best Type 7s are optimistic, practical and adaptable. By cheerleading and championing with infectious energy, they motivate themselves and others to tackle challenges with optimism, enthusiasm and vision.
Type 8 - Active Controller
In crisis: We'll beat this
Active Controllers are forces of nature, with a strong presence and a personality that values control and power. Their big energy is focused on strategy and big action; however, that energy can be intimidating to others.
Growth: To balance power with vulnerability and weakness. By letting go of control and allowing their genuine vulnerability to surface (8s are just as human as anyone else), Type 8's natural strength and aptitude for effective leadership can be genuinely focused towards the good of all.
Negative Strain Response: Type 8s have a blind spot for weakness and vulnerability as well as the extent to which they can disempower others. Type 8s have an almost uncontrollable lust for action, so they are not likely to endure confinement well, and sickness will trigger their aversion to personal weakness. They may struggle not to rebel against rules.
Positive Strain Response: Type 8s love a challenge, especially if it enables them to protect others. By acknowledging their own humanity and the humanity of others, Type 8s can be incredibly generous in service of society. At their best they are assertive, decisive, protective and influential. Under pressure Type 8s get things done.
Type 9 - Adaptive Peacemaker
In crisis: Build consensus
Adaptive Peacemakers are diplomatic and attuned to the ideas of others. They form the glue between people with their friendly, grounding and stable demeanour.
Growth: To wake up to who they are, assert themselves in the world, and allow themselves to be seen in success. When Type 9s connect with their instinct, passion and personal energy, they realise the big impact they can make in the world around them.
Negative Strain Response: Type 9s are averse to conflict and chaos, which they deal with by zoning out, numbing out ... or even taking a nap! If triggered by a crisis Type 9s may find an almost infinite number of ways to zone out in order to escape having to assert themselves.
Positive Strain Response: When Type 9s wake up to their own agenda and get into action, their momentum can be transformational. Type 9s can readily synthesise a lot of complex information which can give them a unique perspective in a VUCA world (a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). At their best Type 9s are patient, collaborative, determined, and independent.
Which type resonates most strongly with you? Do you recognise the type of anyone close to you?
This article was first published on LinkedIn Pulse: Nine Natural Human Responses in Uncertain Times