First Time Bringing the Enneagram to the Holidays? 4 Tips to Help

Blog post graphic, 4 tips for your first holiday season with the enneagram, podcast #34

Today we are talking about 4 things to keep in mind if this is your first holiday season since gaining more knowledge and self-awareness with The Enneagram. I know from firsthand experience the tendency that we might have to type our family and friends, or to unintentionally bring up wounds and things that need a lot of unpacking, all over the mashed potatoes at family dinner! What I want to try to do is save you from some of the heartache that I’ve experienced from bringing all of my Enneagram self-awareness to a holiday gathering and around the table (because that’s really just not the best place for it.) So if this is your first holiday season, after learning your type and getting to know yourself on a deeper level; some of your coping mechanisms, tendencies, and behavior patterns that might not be so healthy; and you are really diving in, doing the work, figuring it out, and experiencing growth…It’s totally normal to want to share that, and to want to help other people do the same.I wanted to share four things that are very important to remember that might give you a little bit of those healthy self-boundaries as you’re going into these gatherings.

1. Remember That Other People are Not in the Same Place As You Are

Other people aren’t in the same place as you, and they may not even be on the same journey as you! What I mean by this is, you are learning about a lot things, and are sitting in the discomfort of growth and experiencing the joy and grace that is to be had when you “shine a light” on your unique strengths and behaviors that might need some looking at; but some people are not there yet, or they do not want to go there, (maybe ever.) While that can be hurtful for you to know that they may not experience the growth that you’ve experienced, or they aren’t ready for that, or they just don’t want to hear about it right now, it is their right to make that decision for themselves; and it may not be the right time or place to try to convince them over turkey and gravy!

I don’t know what goes on at your family gatherings. I have quite a large family and we’re all in different places of growth. If I go to a family gathering and I’m so excited about the growth I’m experiencing, and I want to share that with others, it may just not be the right place to do that, or the appropriate time to do that. Your family might want to talk about the things that you all share in common instead of the things that might make them feel “put on the spot”, and some of your growth might be connected to them. A lot of how our coping mechanisms show up from a young age is often because of our circumstances, and your family is part of your circumstances. So being gentle and aware of how things will impact the people around you, whether what you say will just bounce off or will plow over them, can be so helpful. We don’t want to avoid talking about some of the things, but I just want us to be thinking before we enter into a mixed space of people who haven’t seen each other in a while, or have different beliefs or political views. Maybe introducing the idea that you are the way that you are because of them isn’t going to go well over pecan pie, right? There may need to be a different place or avenue to bring those things up and talk them through.

2. Don’t Type Your People

If this is your first year being around your family, to this extent, after learning about the Enneagram and all of that, do not type your close friends or family. This is going to be really, really hard; because if you have done the work in your learning about the Enneagram, it might be top of mind for you (I know it was for me!) So I’m saying this from experience: avoid putting labels on your people. This is easier said than done, let’s be honest, but if you are typing people, what you are saying underneath all of that is that you think you know their motivations, their particular wounding, what they are chasing after for fulfillment, what they are running away from and fearing; some very deep, personal stuff! We often don’t think this way, when we are typing people; we’re looking at their behaviors or their “vibe”, or what causes a visceral reaction in them, and we’re saying, “Oh, that looks like a type (fill-in-the-blank).” But we want to be very, very careful with that, because if that person starts to understand the Enneagram themselves, they are going to know that you have declared something about their darker side, their “shadow side”, and that can be hard to stomach. We can’t see the heart of a person, so try to avoid, at all costs, typing your people. You can definitely avoid saying it out loud, but try to avoid even thinking about it in your brain as well, because it will just make it easier for you to simply be with that person instead of being distracted with trying to diagnose their Enneagram type.

If you are in a great conversation about the Enneagram and you find that somebody that you love is interested, I would focus on you: What you’ve learned about yourself, what you’ve learned about the Enneagram itself as a framework, and what you enjoy about it. You don’t have to put anything on the listener at all! You don’t have to help them find their type (unless they want you to, and you feel confident with that; be careful even with this, though.) You can share a lot about the Enneagram without turning the mirror on them.

3. Be Curious About How Your Tendencies are Activated, but Don’t Feel Like You Have to Process It Right Away

As you enter different situations and events with your people over this holiday season, I want to invite you to be curious about your reactions; what activates you and brings out some of the tendencies that you’ve started to notice? Be curious about them, without necessarily needing to process them in the moment, especially processing them with the people that you are with. There are definitely some healthy ways to invite people who don’t know about the Enneagram into your inner thoughts: “This concerned me because I tend to focus on (fill in the blank).” Or, “This got that reaction out of me because I have this fear of (fill-in-the-blank).” That can be totally appropriate and helpful in the moment, but if you want to get really, really deep with what’s going on with you and other people are confused and wondering what you are talking about, that can turn something into an unhelpful situation. Often when we get into situations with a lot of people, especially a lot of people that know us well, there can be baggage around that, and you may find that your Enneagram tendencies just pop out! They show up almost like a whack-a-mole game going on all over the place internally with you. That’s something to notice, although we don’t want to be judgmental about ourselves. You’ve heard me say it before, but we can be curious about what’s going on with us in a situation like that without needing to invite everybody else into it in the moment if that’s not going to help you or the people around you in the moment. We don’t want to go too far and become completely closed off and private about our motivations, especially as we start to understand them on a deeper level using the Enneagram. My only concern here is if you go too far and start to bring everybody into the tidal wave of needing to get to the bottom of it, or needing to explain yourself in the deepest way possible so that you can be understood. Instead, try to find ways to share parts of yourself that you now know better because of the Enneagram, without needing to explain the whole of you to people who may not be ready to hear it, make space for it, or accept it.

4. Use Your Boundaries

We talked about boundaries in my last post, and I actually have a lot more to say around boundaries (it’s one of my passions!), but boundaries can be so helpful. Boundaries help you…

  • Give yourself permission to end conversations that are harmful
  • Decline holiday invitations
  • Make decisions using a framework that is best for you
  • Decide what is harmful for you (even without harmful motivations and intentions coming from somebody else)
  • Help you see the impact that something will have on you
  • Keep yourself from being hurt (even unintentionally) by someone else

Boundaries really give you permission to do what is best for you, your nuclear family, your time, or your mental health without judging somebody else. So use your boundaries. If there is a conversation that’s happening that is impacting you in a harmful way, you can use your boundaries and excuse yourself based on the impact it’s having on you and not on anything else that’s happening (like somebody else’s intentions or motivations,) If I can empower you to do anything, it is to use your boundaries; know what they are for you, know what they are for your family, and know what they are if something is bringing this harmful impact to you (and what your game plan is.)

So to quickly sum up those four things:

  1. Remember that other people aren’t in the same place as you, and don’t expect them to be; it’s okay that they aren’t.
  2. Don’t type your people. I will say this all the time, and you will get tired of me saying it, but that’s okay because we all need to hear it.
  3. Be curious about your reactions and tendencies in your type without needing to process it fully right in the moment
  4. Use your boundaries. That’s what they’re there for. Holidays can be a great opportunity because there’s going to be a lot of demands or expectations or invitations into other people’s world, and that will have impact that maybe isn’t intended. So make sure that you use your boundaries and give yourself permission to use those boundaries.

Enjoy this post? Have a question? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below or over on Instagram where I hang out the most. If you haven’t yet, grab a copy of The Enneagram for Beginner’s book (affiliate link, thank you for your support!) or you can shop through my favorite books and resources for using the Enneagram in the Amazon Storefront.

Want to purchase Enneagram stickers, hats and more? Click through to the Christian Enneagram Shop and check it out.


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