{ outreach in action } by Paul Roberts • Foundation & Outreach Director The Enneagram Personality Factor D

o you ever wonder to yourself, “Why do I always react this way in certain situations?” or perhaps more honestly ask, “Why do

others act the way they do?” How’s this for a paradox: It’s so evident that people are really different. Yet, it’s so mysterious as to why. Need some evidence? Just look around your practice or your family. How can so many people share a similar environment and react to it so differently? To see and understand oneself accurately can be a real advantage in both your professional and personal life. In this brief article I hope to provide a spark to help you in that self-knowledge.

It’s doubtful that anyone in modern cor- porate America has not encountered some self-testing like the DISC or Myers & Briggs. Maybe you look to these or other factors like your birth order, love language, Zodiac sign, “color” or even your spirit animal to reveal personality traits prevalent in you. All of these hold a measure of truth meant to high- light tendencies (strengths and weaknesses) in your personality. Test results are not ironclad sentences that doom you from ever changing, nor are they a license to avoid the difficult work of self-improvement (“Sorry, that’s just the way I am.”) However, knowing the default wiring inside each of us can help us find more peace and engage in all manner of relationships more productively.

Last fall I was introduced to the personal- ity typology system called the Enneagram. Some argue it has roots way back in fourth century mysticism. It came back on the scene some 60+ years ago through the work of several counselors, educators and psychia- trists. Then, most recently, it’s experienced a rebirth through the millennial generation. I don’t qualify as a millennial, but I know some, and I was easily hooked. I’m starting to understand the nine different types and how they interact together. They range from per- fectionist to artist to thinker and more. As I

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share my neophyte discoveries with others, I find that most people enjoy learning and talking about themselves. And I find that the types are pretty accurate.

You can Google Enneagram and find all manner of free assessments as well as in-depth paid testing with elaborate results analysis. You also will find different approaches to interpreting and applying the Enneagram. My introduction came through a more spiritual path via the book, “The Road Back to You” by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Their basic premise is that understanding others begins with under- standing yourself. They work you through the different triads (fear, anger, image). They do a hilarious job explaining the traits of each number. They show how each number responds in childhood, under stress, in re- lationships, at work, etc. They even identify the Achilles heel associated with each type. It’s an easy and interesting read.

So what does this have to do with dentistry? I’ve written four paragraphs without mentioning dentists, the MDA or benefits. The takeaway is that as you learn about yourselves and others, you can be a wiser employer and a more in-tune provider. Making assignments for certain people could enhance productivity and allow for more flourishing and less stress. Dentistry is a great occupation, but when you boil away the treatment plans, growth strategies, educational experiences, and so on, it’s still a people business, so it behooves us all to improve our people skills.

This summer at Connect4Success we will have a very brief introduction to the Enneagram as part of the leadership track taught by Gary Wilbers. Make plans to join us, or at least make plans for a spike in con- versations about what number you might be. Remember it’s meant to enlighten us and not be a weapon against others.

I won’t spill too many beans, but you may be surprised to learn that I am a 7—or the Enthusiast. I was shocked at how exacting the seven traits fit my life from my love for adventure to my resistance to confrontation. My mind constantly lives in the future— what’s next? That can be helpful in planning. It also can be detrimental to being present in the moment. Knowing more about myself helps me choose the best roles for me in the MDA. Learning about my colleagues helps us all understand why certain views on certain issues vary so much. The knowledge doesn’t eliminate tough days or conflicts, but it does help you work through it more intelligently and with a sense of respect for the gifts that each type brings to the table.

So as this enthusiast signs off, be sure to check out the Enneagram, register for Connect4Success (, buy a ticket to the wildly fun Connect4Cash raffle ($), read all your MDA communications, enjoy your many member benefits, track what’s going on at the Capitol and get excited. Life is an adventure! f

Contact Paul at paul@modentalmail. org and for all things MDA, read his blog, The Week That Was, posted on Fridays at

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