The Enneagram of Emotional Intelligence: A Book Review

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You may have heard me say this before: The Enneagram is an amazingly accurate model of human motivation that’s incredibly helpful for all aspects of life – but it’s not everything. That’s why I look into other models and paradigms to add to my knowledge and understanding of what makes us tick.

One of those is Emotional Intelligence, abbreviated as EQ or EI. It’s a way to assess how well we acknowledge and regulate our emotions, both internally and with others. Self-awareness is a key tenet of this model, which resonates with the Enneagram; Riso & Hudson’s Levels of Development are measures of how aware and present we are.

I like EQ, so I was thrilled to come across a book that combined it with my first love. It’s called The Enneagram of Emotional Intelligence, by Scott Allender. He’s an expert in global leadership and organizational development. You may think that because he works in the business world that this book isn’t appropriate for individuals, but that’s not the case. This book is chock-full of examples and practical applications for every Enneagram type.

The first section of the book provides an overview of these two modalities. The first chapter offers recommendations for how to identify your type, the Centers of Intelligence, the Passions and Virtues, and brief descriptions of the nine Enneagram types. The second chapter provides a “working definition” of Emotional Intelligence and explains that research shows it is “the single biggest predictor of success.” Yep, it’s a pretty big deal, and that’s why I like to study and apply it.

Allender discusses the importance of awareness and how to build it, then moves on to the 5 aspects of EQ as he identifies them. They are:

  • Self-perception (also called self-awareness)
  • Self-expression
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Decision-making
  • Stress management

I say “as he identifies them” only because there isn’t always consistent consensus on what to call these things or what to include. Some experts include motivation, for instance, but not decision-making. Some use the term self-perception while others use self-awareness. In fact, when Daniel Goleman first started talking about EQ, there were only four aspects. That just shows that, like the Enneagram, it’s an evolving system that gains wisdom as more research and practice happen.

In subsequent chapters, Allender explores each of these 5 aspects in turn and applies them to each Enneagram type. I appreciate his reflection questions at the end of each chapter because they offer time to pause and consider how what you’ve just read applies to you.

I have a lot of underlines and marginalia in this book, but the final section is where the mark-ups get intense. This third section is called “The Work of Transformation.” He speaks of finding the courage to face your fear and quotes Joseph Campbell: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” As you may know, each Enneagram type has a specific fear, and it must be acknowledged and confronted. He goes on to talk about our defense mechanisms and how to let go of them, and how to integrate our many Centers and parts.

I particularly love it that he talks about the necessity of doing spiritual work. “Our spiritual experiences are enhanced by the healing that comes from psychological work. And our psychological work can benefit exponentially from healthy spiritual practices. We need both.”

Hallelujah and amen! I’ve seen so many comments from Christians who say, “I don’t need the Enneagram; I have the Bible.” And my response invariably is, “How’s that working for you?” Have you noticed people who are regular church attenders and Bible readers who never seem to grow or to overcome their vices? Because I used to be one of them. I’m reminded of the premise of the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: You can only be as spiritually mature as you are emotionally mature. I am convinced that the Enneagram is a gift from God to help us get emotionally well so that we can live out the fullest expression of our true selves on this earth.

There’s a lot of insight and compassion in this book. There’s also a heap of practical application, which is key to actually taking what you’ve read and realizing it in your life. I’ll be referring to this book over and over as I work to help others along on this journey of self-knowing that enriches the lives of not only those individuals but everyone around them.

So, two big thumbs up for The Enneagram of Emotional Intelligence!

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