Improving Relationships with Others through the Enneagram

This will be my final post about the Enneagram, rounding out a short three-part series. In my first post, I described how the Enneagram helped me understand myself better and fostered self-growth, after I figured out and accepted that I was a Type One. My second post shared how the Enneagram helped me appreciate my spouse more and navigate conflicts better in my marriage. 

This post will talk about how the Enneagram can improve your relationships with everyone else: coworkers, friends, family… anyone. 

After learning what another person’s Enneagram type is, I can begin to understand why they would think and act the way that they do (which is crucial if they think and act differently than me!) It’s easy to judge the actions of other people when they don’t line up with what we think we would do in a situation. We often assume the worst about others: they are simply being inconsiderate, they haven’t thought it through, they’re living in ignorance…

Instead of immediately judging others for doing things differently (I’m looking at you fellow Ones!) we can ask ourselves questions like:

What would motivate a person to do that or act like that?

Why is a particular issue so important to them?

What internal struggles could this person be facing at this moment that might be influencing their actions?

Motivation is a huge component of fully understanding the Enneagram. Two different types on the Enneagram could perform an identical action for very different reasons. This is why you aren’t supposed to identify another person’s type for them – only they will truly know their own motivation for doing or not doing something.

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Being Married to a Peacemaker (Enneagram Type 9)

Enneagram Type Nines are some of the best people, the salt of the earth, so to speak. Nines are called “Peacemakers” and are described as easy-going and self-effacing. Nines strive to avoid conflicts with others, and many times this shows up as not having a strong opinion about things, but going along with what others think – never rocking the boat.

My husband Dean is a type Nine – a no-questions-about-it kind of Nine. As I look back to when we first met, I think this is part of what immediately drew me to him. I could tell he was a genuinely good person – he was so sincere and kind. He was (and still is) a great listener, he’s great at validating points of view that are not his own and seeing issues from all different sides. (It’s probably no surprise that he ended up a licensed marriage and family therapist!)

If you read my earlier Enneagram post, you’ll know that I am a Type One – the “Perfectionist” (also known as “Reformer” in some circles.) As you can imagine, my husband and I are very different when it comes to our personalities. Being in a marriage that’s a One/Nine combination comes with many challenges, but also plenty of opportunities.

The Enneagram Institute does a great job at describing relationships between all the different types. As I read the One/Nine relationship description, I felt like it genuinely could have been written about Dean and I.

Opportunities

Some of the great opportunities between a One/Nine relationship are described as follows:

Nines tend to take a bit of the rough edge off of the criticality and seriousness of Ones, while Ones give clarity and direction to Nines. Further, Ones feel that they have a mission in life, and they are able to inspire Nines to become aware of their own purpose and to want to follow it.

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Anger² – Being an Enneagram Type 1

How did I know I was an Enneagram type One? A single word: anger.

Many people after initially meeting me will tell me that I seem like such a laid-back, easy-going person – that they couldn’t imagine what I would look like angry. What they don’t know is that anger is second nature to me, it’s frequently raging under the surface while on the outside I’m trying to appear calm and collected.

I guess that’s pretty textbook for type Ones. Here’s an excerpt about Ones from The Enneagram Institute:
“In the effort to stay true to their principles, Ones resist being affected by their instinctual drives, consciously not giving in to them or expressing them too freely. The result is a personality type that has problems with repression, resistance, and aggression. They are usually seen by others as highly self- controlled, even rigid, although this is not how Ones experience themselves.”

When I learned that type Ones are in the “Anger triad” and that they also have their “passion/drive” as anger, I thought to myself, “that’s double anger… must be me.”

So how does this anger manifest itself for me? If I’m honest, many times it comes out as anger or annoyance with other people. A lot of Ones have an “inner critic” that they can’t get out of their head, and it’s constantly telling them that they could have done better. It’s easy to see why Ones are labeled the “Perfectionist.” My inner critic is there, but it is more outwardly focused. I notice when things are out of place in my environment, when there’s too much clutter for example. I also notice when other people aren’t following the rules – I’m a BIG rule-follower, which I think is also pretty typical for Ones.

I have a hard time when things are not fair – it makes me angry (go figure.) I prefer for most things to be done in a structured and orderly manner, and when things are too chaotic or by-the-seat-of-your-pants, I tend to think they could have been done better with a little more planning and effort. I hold myself to high standards and want others to do the same.

But the reality is most people don’t have the same standards I do… so I end up setting myself up for a lot of disappointment (or anger – are you catching on?… literally everything has the potential to make me angry.)

5 years ago – my husband and I dressed up as Inside Out characters for Halloween – ironically he was “Anger”

It’s a bit embarrassing to say that I struggle so much with anger. I frequently find myself wishing to be a person who can just play it cool, that lets things roll off of them, and is care-free most of the time. (That is pretty much my husband – he’s a Type 9.)

But the Enneagram’s purpose is not to compare yourself to others, or to wish that you were a “better” number. There’s no “better” or “best” number, they all have strengths and weaknesses.

The Enneagram is a helpful tool to discover more about yourself, and then accept what you’ve learned with self-compassion. Accepting yourself doesn’t mean you find excuses to be the worst version of yourself (like for example: “I’m a One so I guess I deserve to be angry all the time!”) With self-awareness and acceptance, you can move forward to growing into the best version of yourself – which is really the heart of why the Enneagram is so valuable.

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