Jun 112013

Are You Seen as Difficult and Contradictory – and You Like that About You?

This is the fourth in a series of articles based on the nine personalities of the Enneagram. We use the Enneagram Personality Assessment in our Coaching and Ascending Leader’s Program(TM). The Enneagram helps us gain self-knowledge and self-awareness. It acts as a mirror to reveal aspects of our personality that are not normally visible to us.

This issue focuses on personality Type 4, The Individualist. Individualists are motivated by the need to experience their feelings, to be understood, to search for the meaning of life, and to avoid being ordinary. They are also driven by the desire to express their individuality.

One of the biggest challenges Individualists face is learning to let go of feelings from the past; they tend to nurse wounds and hold on to negative feelings about those who have hurt them.

Fours are from the Heart Center of the triad of our ego self. They are the most sensitive of all the Enneagram styles, although their sensitivity is generally focused on their own internal reactions and feelings. They are primarily concerned with the development of self-image.

Famous Individualists include John McEnroe, Barbara Streisand, Angelina Jolie, James Dean, Julio Iglesias, Carlos Santana, and Johnny Depp. They are concerned about the feelings of others and dislike doing the same ordinary things repeatedly.

How do we identify a Type 4? They engage in extensive introspection; they want to be unique or special; they can appear moody; they use self-referencing language and want to be understood. Fours typically have problems with negative self-image and low self-esteem.

The average Individualist is artistic and imaginative, fantasizing, introverted, self-absorbed, self-conscious, self-indulgent, and self-pitying. They worry that others will not appreciate them for their uniqueness. They feel they are missing out on life and exempt themselves from “the rules,” becoming sensual, pretentious, and unproductive.

Unhealthy Individualists can be self-destructive, alienated, and emotionally self-tormenting. They fear they are wasting their lives. Their repressed rage results in depression, apathy, and constant fatigue.

Healthy Individualists are inspiring, creative, and express the universal human condition. They are also self-aware, intuitive, and individualistic. Their basic desire is to find themselves and discover their significance. They focus on their own feelings and preferences to create a clear sense of personal identity. They are eloquent and subtle, exploring their feelings and finding ways to share them with others.

The Individualist’s communication style is melancholic, idealistic, emotional, and dramatic. They are typically employed as visual or performing artists, entrepreneurs, and interior or fashion designers.

When coaching an Individualist it is important to remember that their reactions to feedback can vary. Negative feedback may cause them to feel defective. They prefer a coach who is sympathetic, understanding, and warm. Being objective and direct will help them the most.

If you know a Type 4, give plenty of compliments and be a supportive friend or partner. Help them love and value themselves. Respect them for their gifts of intuition and vision, and don’t tell them they are overreacting or too sensitive.

Suggestions and exercises for Individualists are about self-esteem.

  • Be proud of your special gifts, talents, and accomplishments.
  • Find ways to make everyday duties and responsibilities creative and playful.
  • Commit yourself to creative work the will bring out your best.
  • If it is not possible to work in a creative career, take the time to germinate your ideas in your off-work hours.

Remember, none of the personality types is better or worse than any other. All types have unique assets and liabilities, strengths and weaknesses. While it is common to find a little of ourselves in each of the nine types, one of them typically stands out as being closest to ourselves. This is our basic personality type.

The Enneagram is a valuable tool coaches can use as a catalyst for change. In an organization or business, this can help in employee development, hiring decisions, or forming highly functional teams.

To identify your dominant personality type, visit www.enneagraminstitute.com and take the free assessment, or take the ten dollar enhanced assessment, then contact me so we can discover how you can enhance your effectiveness. Coaching can be a valuable resource for developing yourself, your business, and your employees.


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