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Self-Assertion and the Transmitting Instinctual Bias

recent post covered the “broadcasting/narrowcasting” aspects of the Transmitting instinctual bias; this post looks at the “asserting” aspect. For a brief introduction to the Enneagram, please see www.AboutTheEnneagram.com. The Transmitting instinctual bias (and much more) is covered in depth in our certification program—find out more here.transmitting mece

When my wife, her parents and I were planning our wedding, we had lunch at a restaurant in the hotel where we eventually held the reception. After lunch, my in-laws were having a meeting with the banquet manager and my wife asked her father how he was going to approach the meeting. My father-in-law, one of the best negotiators and dealmakers I have ever met, said, “I’m going to ask for the best of everything and tell them I only want to pay half.”

I don’t know what he ended up paying, but he did get the best of everything. (My mother-in-law, also a Transmitter, had a lot to do with it as well.)

His comment stuck in my mind for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I struggled to imagine myself saying the same thing in a similar situation. This seems odd if one thinks in stereotypical Enneagram language, because my Ennea-type is the Eight (striving to feel powerful) and his is the Nine (striving to feel peaceful). By all logic, the Eight is supposed to be the bold, aggressive person and the Nine is supposed to be the one who is more accommodating and appeasing. But, while he is a Nine and I am an Eight, I always try to have him by my side when I am negotiating something. He’s good at it and he usually gets what he wants.

If we get beyond the stereotypes, however, this dynamic is easily explained when you understand the influence of the instinctual biases. A result of the Navigating bias (which I have) can be inhibition. Navigators are inclined to over-concern themselves with what people think of their social behavior—whether or not they violated a group more or norm, if they are embarrassing themselves or the other person, etc. Transmitters, on the other hand, tend to be much lower in inhibition and worry less about these issues.

In fact, many of their behaviors make them seem to be quite uninhibited. Transmitters often come across as extroverts—outgoing, talkative, willing to initiate conversation with others.* It can seem, at times, as if they lack a filter and will say what comes to their mind without thinking through how others may perceive it.

They also have a tendency to go after the things they want in life. If they want to make a sale, they will ask for it. If they want a discount, they will ask for it. If they set a goal for themselves, they will not let things get in the way of going after it. They often seem to simply not see, or at least not be deterred by, the obstacles that others so frequently see.**

This means that Transmitters are often driven, ambitious, and accomplished people, and the empire-builders of the world tend to be Transmitters. One of the reasons for this is that they often don’t seem to have the same governor that tells other people “Don’t take that risk,” “Don’t flirt with her (or him),” “Don’t wear that jewelry or that shirt—you will stand out too much.”

No normal, healthy person is completely uninhibited, of course. We all have some filters and when I discuss this issue with Transmitters they will point out the things that they do stop themselves from doing (usually while overlooking all the evidence of how much they assert themselves). That caveat aside, self-assertion—protecting one’s interests and going after what one wants in life—is a hallmark of the Transmitting instinctual bias.


*While most Transmitters may seem extroverted from the outside, many will report that they feel more introverted than they seem.

**As I said in the previous post, the Ennea-type strategy will alter the expression of the instinctual bias; Transmitting Sevens and Eights will seem much less inhibited than, say, Transmitting Fives, who have more of an internal conflict because of their preferred strategy of striving to be detached. Still, however, Transmitting Fives will typically be much more assertive than Preserving and Navigating Fives.