Monday, May 13, 2024

On being quiet, social filters, and the enneagram

 At an activity a few weeks ago, I got up to speak and mentioned that I have a much easier time with public speaking (or writing) than with conversing. Part of that is because with public speaking, you usually don't have to interrupt anyone or impose yourself into another conversation. I've gotten to the point where I can answer questions pretty easily, but I still struggle to take the initiative-- when starting the conversation in the first place, bringing up a new topic, or remembering to ask questions back about the other person. Writing is especially nice because you can think about and edit your words before anyone sees them. 

At the activity, I also mentioned my social filters.

You know how some people say they have no filter when speaking? I have the opposite problem. If the thing I'd planned to say gets trapped in my filters, then I will stand there like a fish with a flapping mouth. For example, as a teen, I tried to tell my crush about a phrase that includes being naked. I literally could not speak. More recently, my aunt posed a critical question about my religion. My mind went completely blank-- I knew that I had explanations, but I could not think of them, much less share. Sometimes I can power through, but it takes a lot of effort. Worst is if I'm trying to show off while singing. The note will get stuck in filters and I will croak like a frog. I can sing in front of people usually, but if I'm specifically trying to show off, everything will crash. 

At this activity, one of my friends asked about my specific filters. I had to sit down to think about it. As I started to list potential filters, I noticed that my filters lined up with some of the enneagram types. So, naturally, I filled in the rest as well. These questions are subconscious. I'm not asking myself all of these questions as I speak, but the more these filters are triggered, the less I am able to respond. As mentioned, I can consciously power through only with a lot of effort.

So here are the nine filters, based off of the enneagram, a personality system that categorizes people into nine basic personality categories. I suspect that someone who identifies with a particular type will have an especially strong filter in that category, but people can have more than one. I'm a type 9 (though I also resonate with type 4), and I use every single one of these filters. I'd say that filter 9 is probably the one I use most often, followed by 2. 


1: Is the thing I want to say good/moral/correct? 

2: Could this hurt, offend, or even bore someone?

Note: Sometimes being quiet can be seen as selfish or not caring about what other people think. If the type 2 filter is in play, being quiet is exactly the opposite.

3. Is this socially acceptable? Could this limit my chances for success? 

4. Does this represent me as an individual?

5. Is this something that I know about and could speak more about if asked?

6. Would my authority figures (family, heroes, political or religious leaders) approve of this?

7. Could this limit future opportunities? 

Note: Thinking of a filter for type 7 was difficult. They're less likely to have social filters.

8. Could people take this as an invitation to intervene in my life?

9. Could this cause conflict? Could it invite aggression or ridicule?


So, there you have it. Next time you're talking with someone who suddenly goes quiet, they might have been stopped by a filter--or nine. If you're someone who lacks filters, maybe thinking about these questions before speaking might help you. Or not, who knows? 

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