Help! There’s an Observer in my House, guest blog by Theresa Hoang.

Cartoon of all the Enneagram types talking around a table

Drawing by E. Wagele from “The Enneagram Made Easy.”

People who are “Observers” are analytical and wise. They (surprise, surprise!) observe. They want to understand the world around them and how it works.

This explanation of the Observer would be the perfect description of my 12-year-old brother. As the eldest of four kids, I have tutored all three of my little siblings. And I must say, he is the most difficult one to tutor.

For example, he is very slow at answering questions. It takes him forever to answer a simple yes-or-no question. Even his teachers have talked to my parents about him being very silent and non-responsive—that he needed to pay attention in class. My brother recently asked me a question about sex-linked traits for his biology class, and I went on a 20-minute speech about genes and heredity. When I was done, proud that I remembered something from my AP Biology class, I asked, “So does that answer your question?” And all he did was stare at me. All I did was stare at him back. And got angry. I asked, “Were you even listening to me?! You can’t even tell me if you understood me or not?” And my brother stood quiet. Then finally, after a full ten minutes, he uttered, “I still don’t get it.” It would drive me nuts when this happened. I mean, does it really take that long to realize you don’t understand it?

My parents took these signals as signs that he was getting behind in school, and they have hired countless tutors to help him. But still, his habits stayed the same.

However, after starting my externship with Elizabeth Wagele and learning more about the Enneagram, I discovered many things. After reading her The Enneagram of Parenting, I concluded that my brother was definitely an Observer. He has a “quiet personality,” “likes to be alone,” and “seems uninterested in social norms,” just to name a few (The Enneagram of Parenting). I never knew that my brother could not help but be the way he was. He wasn’t slow. His mind just works differently.

I decided to put what I learned to use. Late last night, my brother called me to help him with math. I was sure to be patient. (Two times during the conversation, I told him to call me back so he could think about it until it made sense to him or he realized he did not understand it. It worked.) Lo and behold, after about half an hour, he figured out the problem! Because of finding out what his “type” was, I learned he wasn’t blatantly ignoring me or not understanding the concept. He just needed to sort things out in his mind before saying anything. Reading this book made me realize how important it is to understand how other people work. For me, this just doesn’t pertain to how I should be patient towards my brother when helping him, but also to how I should be flexible in how I treat other people, because their personality types might be very different from mine. Now, I just need to tell my parents (and make them tell my brother’s teachers) about my newfound discovery… the Enneagram!

  • See reviews of The Enneagram for Teens and suggestion of how to teach the Enneagram:
  • I’ll be presenting a panel of teens at the 2015 IEA Conference in San Francisco (July 31 to August 2). I’d like to find a teen of each type to be on the panel. The requirement is to have read The Enneagram for Teens. Please write to me at   The Enneagram figure

You can leave comments by clicking here, leave a trackback at or subscribe to the RSS Comments Feed for this post.