A Curious Instinct

This is part of Fire! Ready! Aim! Series: Essays on Lessons Learned by an Enneagram Social 8w7

From my point of view, I don’t think Eights are very judgmental (humility isn’t our strong suit either if you can tell). We tend to have an open mind about things and are quick to empathy if we have wrapped our head around the situation. We might get a little judgy if someone is withholding something from us, or if we get the idea that they are trying to make something sound different than what it is. We will aprroach new ideas with initial skepticism that might come out as closedmindedness, but for the most part we just want directness and honesty and then whatever comes up we can handle.

I remember when one of my closest friends told me that he was moving across the country. We were out for drinks as a group and I was surprised to hear the news. We chatted a bunch about the new reality and the pros and cons of what that would be like. A few days later his wife (also an Eight, so that helped!) called me and told me how I came across. That it seemed like I wasn’t supportive of his decision and that I was attacking the merits of his rationale. I was really upset with myself because I had no idea I came across that way. Sure, I was sad he was moving, but I was proud of him for making the leap and doing something that was important for him. Because I was processing this new information out loud in front of him, I was giving off a very different impression than I ever would have intended.

With that said, because we are so quick to act, we often speak before we have made any judgments, and that initial engagement with people when they are sharing can be quite offputting.

One of the helpful parts of the Enneagram is what they call a triad of the Centers of Intelligence. This triad has an action center, thinking center and a feeling center. I’ve heard that we have a primary center, a secondary (or supportive) center and a center that we suppress. Each of the numbers would have a different combination of those three centers. The Eight’s primary is the action center, secondary is the thinking center and we suppress the feeling center. So an Eight is inclined to act before thinking and generally will support their actions with thinking afterwords. All this to say, Eights tend to say a lot of things that they haven’t actually thought about yet, and this can lead to a lot of problems down the road like my story above. Many Eights will find themselves in an endless justification of their actions to everyone around them as they try to pick up the pieces of their reactionary ways.

I’ve had to work hard at getting my initial reactions under control and learn to discipline myself to pause before acting or speaking. One way I’ve done this is to practice curiosity as a first reaction rather than skepticism or debate. I try to say “tell me more” while I take the space to actually do some thinking on what is being communicated to me. Curiosity is the anecdote to judgment, but it also creates a buffer zone for an Eight to wait and see before jumping in.

Curiosity is also a great way to balance out the confidence that Eights tend to have too much of.  It externally puts you in the space to receive what the other person has to offer and signals that you are interested. Curiosity can replace thoughtless reaction and ensure that the caring empathetic parts of us have a chance to shine through.

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