Matt Schlegel presents a model – The Empathy-Sympathy Matrix – that shows the degree to which each Enneagram type is empathetic or sympathetic. The model builds on an understanding of Dr. David Daniel’s Harmony Triads and Karen Horner’s Temperament Triads putting these two sets of triads into a single framework that explains empathy and sympathy. Matt also discusses the Harmonic Triads (not to be confused with the Harmony Triads) and their unique relationship to empathy and sympathy.
Here’s a link to the slides: https://evolutionaryteams.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2022-08-08-sympathy-versus-empathy.pdf
#Empathy #Sympathy #Enneagram #Emotional Intelligence #EQ
Thanks for tuning in. Today, I want to share a model that I’ve been working on, which I’m using the Enneagram as a framework to understand empathy and sympathy and the degree to which each Enneagram type feels empathy or sympathy. And this came about in a conversation with my son, and we were talking about how we were processing certain feelings, and it occurred to me that I really understood the feelings, but I wasn’t actually feeling them myself, while he said he was actually feeling them, and that precipitated an epiphany of sorts that led me to develop this model, so many thanks to my son for that conversation.
So first of all, let’s just start off with some definitions. These are the definitions that I’m using for empathy and sympathy. First of all, empathy is “I feel what you’re feeling.” So if you’re in a situation where you’re with somebody and they are somehow feeling a feeling, you start to empathetically have that same feeling, and so that’s what I’m using for empathy, is that you actually feel what the other person is feeling. And then sympathy is more about knowledge and that you care about what they’re feeling. Now, you may know intellectually what they’re feeling, if it’s anger or sadness, because you’ve felt it too so you know what that feeling is, it’s just that you may not be actually feeling it when they’re feeling it, but you know what it is and you care, and the more you care, the more sympathetic you are. So those are the two definitions that I’m working with here.
So when we look at the empathy part, I found that there is a relationship with empathy and the Harmony Triads. So the Harmony Triads are the two, five, the eight, the one, four and seven, and the three, six, nine. In my book, Teamwork 9.0, I call these the Work Team Triads, because these are the triads that seem to come together naturally, organically, and form work teams. Everybody gets along, everybody has affinity for each other, and everybody complements each other in their work, and so that’s why I refer to them as the Work Team Triads, but here I’ll fall back and rely on the more traditional Enneagram description, which is the Harmony Triads.
And what I am finding is that it’s the two, five, and eight, the Relationist Triad is the most empathetic, so that group is most in tune with how others are feeling. Now, clearly the two is a pretty obvious one. We all know the two, the Helper, is the one who is emotionally connected with you and feels what you’re feeling. And the eight is also highly empathetic, and then the five, and this is one that might be a little bit… Take a little bit more understanding, is that because the fives don’t emote that much, that doesn’t mean that they’re not feeling what other people are feeling, and in fact, they may be feeling it so intensely, it’s one of the reasons why they kind of are quiet and shut down, because they don’t want to reveal that they are feeling so intensely. So that’s the two, five, and the eight.
And there’s three degrees, so I’m putting these into three degrees of empathy. So the highest degree would be the two, five, eight, the second-highest degree would be what the Harmony Triads call the Idealist Triad, and that’s the one, four, and the seven. And in each one of these, they all will feel empathy, just not to the extent to which the most empathetic, the Relationist Triad, will feel it.
And then the least empathetic is the triad that is called the Pragmatist Triad, and that’s the three, the six, and the nine, and it’s one that… The three is pretty obvious, because the three suppresses emotions, and so it’s not really a surprise that you would find this, the three in the least empathetic category. The six, so I’m a type six, and this one was part of my epiphany, it’s like, “Now I get it. I’m not feeling what others are feeling, I just know what they’re feeling” and we’ll get to that more later.
And then the nine is also in this group where they are not necessarily feeling, but they’re… They do want to make sure that there’s no conflict, but they’re not feeling the same emotions as the other people in the environment, which allows them to kind of confront people to mitigate any conflict in the environment without getting emotionally wrapped up in it. So that’s what’s going on with those, so now you see that we have this kind of pecking order in empathy that is described by the Harmony Triads.
So now what about sympathy? And so for sympathy, we can turn to the Temperament Triads, or the Hornevian Triads, and what we find here is the most sympathetic are the one, the two, and the six, and again, we see the two in there. Again, we know how intense the twos process emotions, and they care so much that they want to help, and so that’s why they are kind of the most sympathetic and the most empathetic, and now we also see in that… In the Temperament Triads, it’s called the Compliant Triad, where you have the one, the two, and the six, and it’s in this triad where you’re feeling the most sympathy, and so you’re working to comply with whatever is going on in this situation in order to… Because you’re so sympathetic.
And as a six, I feel like I really understand what people are going through, and so I want to be there for them, and that is my strong sense of sympathy. And ones also have that, especially when there’s some kind of injustice involved, then they become very sympathetic to the situation. Then the mid-level sympathy are the Withdrawing Triad, which is the four, the five, and the nine, and then the least sympathetic would be the Assertive Triad, which is the three, the seven, and the eight. And so again you see the three in that least sympathetic, so it’s really the polar opposite of the two, where the two is the most sympathetic and the most empathetic, and then the three, suppressing emotions, ends up being the least sympathetic and the least empathetic in this framework.
And you also have the seven and eight in there as well, both are very positive, optimistic, looking forward and somewhat focused on creating a future. All of these are creating a future, and so they’re not… Sympathy is almost dwelling a little bit in the past, or even in the present, and they’re trying to create a new future, so they don’t… So they minimize the sympathy, that’s my take on it.
So now when you put all of these together in a matrix, so this might be the Empathy-Sympathy Matrix, where you have the more empathetic, the two, the five, and the eight, the least empathetic, the three, six, and the nine, and the one, four, and seven in the middle, and then in that same way, you can structure the sympathetic folks from the three, seven, eight to the least, then the four, five, seven in the middle, and the one, two, six as the most sympathetic. And there’s some really interesting things that come out of this once you understand each perspective, each Enneagram type’s perspective on empathy and sympathy, and then how that plays into our interpersonal dynamics and conversations and motivations.
And so I’ve been thinking about what each type might say about their relationship with empathy and sympathy, and I’ve actually taken a lot of these sentences just from my conversations with different Enneagram types. And so the one, they might say, “I get a sense for what you’re feeling and I care, especially if there’s an injustice,” so that would fall exactly on that point in the matrix. The two, of course, is “I deeply feel what you’re feeling, and I really care.” The three, “I’m not so sure what you’re feeling, and I’m not really sure that it’s that important,” so that might be what a three would say.
Four is smack dab in the middle of the matrix, and so they’re the most balanced on empathy and sympathy, and so they could say, “I feel what you’re feeling and I care about what you’re feeling,” and they would have that centered perspective. The five now being up at the most empathetic would say, “I strongly feel what you’re feeling, and sure, I care,” without revealing too much. The six, and so this is me, is like, “I really care about what you’re feeling, but I’m not sure that I feel it,” so that might be what a six would say.
And then a seven would say, “I sense your feelings, but I’m having… I think having fun is more important,” right? So not a very sympathetic response. The eight is, “I know exactly what you’re feeling,” and I’ve heard eights say this, “I know exactly what you’re feeling, and I really don’t care.” So that seems to be the eight’s stance on this, and that’s how they fall in the most empathetic, but the least sympathetic. And then the nine is, “I’m not sure what you’re feeling, and I care, especially if those feelings might lead to a conflict,” right? So there’s like a caveat on their caring, which kind of puts them in the middle of the sympathy. So those are some examples of how you might interpret what each one of the Enneagram types would say based on their position in the Empathy-Sympathy Matrix.
And now, just some other really interesting ideas that come out of this is that which combinations of people have all aspects of empathy and sympathy covered? And so one is the main triads, the Gut Triad, the Feeling Triad, and the Heart Triad. If you go through, you’ll see that all degrees of empathy and sympathy are represented in those triads, okay? And then there’s another set of triads that also have all points, all degrees of empathy and sympathy represented, and these are called the Harmonic Triads, and they are the two, seven, and nine, which is the Positive Outlook Triad, the one, three, five, the Competent Triad, and the four, six, eight, the Emotionally Reactive Triad.
These are really interesting triads because not only do they represent all perspectives of sympathy and empathy, but they also, if you look back to my work in Teamwork 9.0 on the chapter Two Balanced Brains, where I talk about how the Harmony Triads have all perspectives of amygdala dominance and prefrontal cortex dominance covered, well, the Harmonic Triads, and don’t confuse Harmony Triads with Harmonic Triads, the Harmonic Triads are also… They have all amygdala and prefrontal cortex dominances covered as well, so these Harmonic Triads are really special in that way, is that they have so much balance in terms of neural diversity, for lack of a better word, just diversity in the way we’re processing and using the different dominances and parts of our brain to process things, so there’s really a great relationship with the Harmonic Triads and this Empathy-Sympathy Matrix. So that’s all for now, I was just very excited about this and wanted to share it with you, and I look forward to talking more about this in the future. Thanks.