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Type Angels and Saboteur Demons

Personality type is a wonderful tool for personal development, but it doesn’t explain everything about people, powerful as it is. As type expert Sandra Hirsh told me early on in our writing partnership, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Adding other frameworks often enriches what clients are learning about type and may just explain things that type can’t.

Adding Saboteur Demons to Type

One tool I’ve found useful in helping clients gain insights into their struggles—and to how they are similar and different from the general descriptions of their type—is Shirzad Chamine’s Saboteurs model. Try his free assessment at www.positiveintelligence.com/assessments/.

Clients quickly understand their saboteurs; no huge explanations are needed, which is helpful given the depth of the type model. What comes to mind as you read through Chamine’s saboteurs? Stickler, Pleaser, Victim, Controller, Hyper-Rational, Hyper-Achiever, Hyper-Vigilant, Restless, Avoider? Chamine describes them on his website as,

“Saboteurs start off as our guardians to help us survive the real and imagined threats to our physical and emotional survival as children. By the time we are adults, we no longer need them, but they have become invisible inhabitants of our mind. Our Saboteurs’ patterns of thinking, feeling, and reacting become soft-coded in our brain through neural pathways. When these neural pathways are triggered, we are “hijacked” by our Saboteurs and feel, think, and act using their patterns.” 

Clients and Type Angels/Saboteur Demons

While there is much to learn about how saboteurs work and how to coach with the model, people gain immediate insights. You can see how they might be “demons”. One of my ENFP clients only read the label “Hyper-Vigilant” and said, “So…overdoing this, such as…I walk my 8-year-old son into school and to his classroom every morning. If I keep that up, one of these years it could mess up our relationship, couldn’t it…”

That’s the trouble with saboteurs. They work well and may even bring success. But they get you onto a hamster wheel, running and running even when they aren’t helpful anymore. 

Working With Saboteurs and Type

You might immediately guess that correlations exist between type preferences and saboteurs, and you’d be partially right. My colleague Ann Holm and I have data for at least eight  people of each type–our workshops in Brisbane and Auckland added to our knowledge base. Some types show predominantly one or two of the saboteurs, while others show far less clear patterns.

For example, we have 24 ENFPs in our database. You might expect that Restless and Avoider would be common saboteurs, and many ENFPs reported those, but even more had Hyper-Achiever. Pleaser was common as well. Every saboteur showed up in the top three of at least one ENFP in our database—except Hyper-Rational. Surprised? We weren’t! 

Because we knew a lot of people who took the Saboteur Assessment for us, we could see how their saboteurs explained some of the variation in how they express their type. You may have heard the adage

Why all the books in the image? Because I’ve coauthored these books with ENFPs—four different ones. While ENFPs may be stereotyped as too restless or lacking the follow-through to finish a book, these books are proof that those are stereotypes! Every one of them brought resources, ideas, and creativity to the projects, all reflective of their dominant Extraverted Intuition. Some did more actual writing than others. None of them used the same process with me. Note how their saboteurs led to different strategies for bringing closure to their use of their dominant perceiving function.

  • One talked through chapters she was in charge of with me, “wrote” via dictation, and hired a transcriptionist. Can you see how these practices tamed her “Restless” saboteur—loving to move and to move on. 
  • One taught a course, a session for each of his chapters, and gave me recordings of the class to write from. I think the “Avoider” saboteur is at play here, but he avoids avoiding writing by getting that class—a commitment he would never fail to follow through on—on his calendar.
  • One gave me ideas, research articles, and stories, and let me do the writing. She’s a “Hyper-Achiever”. Knowing that, she ignores any thought that she should try to out-write me and instead uses her outstanding research and synthesis talents.
  • One wrote stories from her own experience, narrowed the focus through our conversations, and then backfilled with exquisite details. She’s a “Stickler” but learned not to get bogged down in trying to find the perfect phrasing for each sentence until she had the story in good shape.

Can you see how they all used the “angels” of their personality type? But also, how thinking of their individual blind spots via the Saboteurs model provides insights and strategies that might not be helpful at all to the others? 

Coaching with Type and Saboteurs

ENFPs exposed only to stereotyped information might of course conclude that ENFPs shouldn’t try to write a book—they’re not planful enough, not detail-oriented enough, not…but we know that type, rather than describing limits on what a person can do, points out in advance where different skills or strategies may be needed, and provides access to what has worked for other people. 

An experienced coach might take the general information on ENFPs and project completion and form a powerful question to an ENFP hoping to write a book, such as, “Are there similarities to other large projects you completed? What strategies did you use to persevere and get even that last 5 percent of the details done?” Or, “How have you kept up your energy in the past for introverted projects such as writing?” Proper use of type concepts—and of coaching—allows for doing more of what is already working, as well as adding new ideas. 

However, can you see how the addition of saboteurs allows for much richer ideas of what will and won’t work? You can go steep and deep with saboteurs, just as you can with type—in fact, Ann and I have been facilitating day-long coaching workshops. Join me April 13, 2019 for the next Type Angels and Saboteur Demons workshop in Milton Keynes, England right after the BAPT conference! Join me for fun, for insights into your own saboteurs, and for new ways to enrich your use of type with others.

Jane Kise

Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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