No, not that type of observer/stalker. If that were the case, I would instead be whipping out my phone to call the police instead of writing a blog about it. I’m talking about the Number 5…the Observer on the enneagram. People who are “Observers” are very 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 would take him forever to answer a simple yes-or-no question. Even his teachers at school 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 talking 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 even took these signals as signs that he was getting behind in school, and they have hired countless tutors to help him. But still, his old habits stayed the same.
However, after starting my externship with Elizabeth Wagele and learning more about the Enneagram, I discovered so 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 or anything. 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 until 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 that 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 very patient towards my brother when helping him, but also to how I should be very 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!
Theresa Hoang is a University of California, Berkeley, student majoring in music and biology. She is an extern for Elizabeth in January 2011.
Another book relevant to this blog is “The Happy Introvert” by Elizabeth Wagele. Included is a chapter on introverts as children, which covers most 5-Observers.