Enneagram Types & Communication

When it comes to communication, we have 2 main roles: Speaking to our partner, and listening to our partner. The capacity in which each individual in the relationship navigates these roles influences the health and satisfaction of the relationship.

Consider this: When you speak to your partner, in what capacity do you identify your thoughts, feelings, perspectives or desires, and share that with our partner in a way that is non-blaming, non-attacking, & non-accusing? This is an honest sharing of oneself, an accessing of oneself beneath the personality type structure.

Our Type can influence how we navigate this role.

For instance, do you seek harmony or accommodation, making it difficult to voice to your partner what’s important to you?
Or do you not express yourself in an authentic way because you’re worried your partner won’t like what they see?
Or do you share your perspectives and opinions, but it’s in a critical or domineering way so your partner doesn’t truly hear you?

We can see how each of those possibilities could lead to pain, misunderstanding and disconnection when speaking to our partner.

And now, consider this: When you listen to your partner, in what capacity do you hear and explore your partner’s thoughts, feelings, perspectives or desires, even if you don’t agree? How well do you work through your differences without caving in quickly, or without demanding you are right?

Our Type can influence how we navigate this role as well.

For instance, are you so sure you know the right solution, so you push for your way and don’t make room for my partner?
Do you quickly shut them down because what they are saying causes you shame or anxiety?
Or do you cave in and quickly just agree with your partner without considering what you really feel?

Again, we can see how each of those possibilities could lead to pain, misunderstanding and disconnection when listening to our partner.

Let’s take a look at common patterns in each Enneagram Type, and how these patterns may lead to relationship challenges:

Enneagram Type 1:

The way in which Type 1 share desires with their partner can feel critical or parental, such as, “Why am I always the one having to make sure everything is done? You just don’t involve yourself enough, you leave it all up to me. It must be nice to not have to worry about these things!”

The Type 1 intends for their words to illicit empathy from their partner, along with an agreement that the frustrating behavior will change. However, this almost never happens because the Type 1 isn’t aware of how stressful their communication style feels to their partner who experiences being “scolded.” Meanwhile, the partner is too busy feeling “scolded” to appreciate and truly hear the needs of the Type 1. It feels like a parent/child dynamic for both partners and things don’t get resolved.

Enneagram Type 2:

A common pattern in relationships is that the 2 will accommodate and give, but their partner doesn’t know how exactly much they are over-accommodating. Meanwhile, the Type 2 begins to feel annoyed that their partner expects it, leaving no space for them in the relationship. The Type 2 can then suddenly reach a limit, like “you took advantage of me for years” or “I have come your way for too long, and I can’t come any further.: All of the annoyance goes on internally, and then there’s a point where it blows up and looks like an extreme reaction to their partner. So it feels good to help to a point- but if it’s too one-sided for too long – they can get angry, tired and resentful.

Enneagram Type 3:

Just like the rest of us, a Type 3 desires for their relationship to be successful. Also just as other types, sometimes the 3 has blind spots that prevent creating or nurturing such a relationship.

As goal oriented as they are, 3’s often just want to know what to DO to improve their relationship. Part of the work though, is helping them slow down enough so that they can BE. Be what, you might ask?

  • Be Present
  • Be Focused
  • Be Curious
  • Be Empathetic

There is a problem and then there is a solution, but there is a huge gap in-between. It is often difficult for the 3 to stay in that gap for too long, yet it can be one reason as to why the relationship lacks fulfillment in certain areas.

Enneagram Type 4:

4’s self- perception and sense of self is influenced by how they perceive others engage with them. It can feel devastating when someone treats that self with perceived disrespect or disregard as it leads them to feel they must be seen as unworthy of being treated any other way.  “What people see in me is how they treat me” and how their partner is treating them serves as evidence. The 4 being understood and validated by their partner is a way for them to experience themselves- to come into contact with their self and have a mirror held up to reflect their experience.

4’s can have difficulty focusing on an aspect of the relational discussion if it doesn’t connect with their emotional needs (that includes discussing their contribution to an issue).  They have a desire to be true to themselves, which can mean being unyielding when hurt, and assuming certain motivations behind their partner’s behaviors rather than asking what their partner is indeed thinking or experiencing, and why.  4s are empathetic by nature, but if their partner offers feedback that feels hurtful, the 4 can quickly withdraw after hearing partner’s experience of them.  This is a missed opportunity to understand their partner.

Enneagram Type 5:

When the 5 listens to their partner expressing emotional grievances, they tend to “distance” themselves from their partner by way of thinking about what their partner is saying, verses just being present with them.  Because the 5 loves their partner, they want to help – so they will commonly offer solutions to solve the problem.  However, most of the time their partner isn’t seeking a solution at all.  Their partner instead wants the 5 to just listen, to tell them they understand.

To many 5’s, this concept feels foreign. However, when the 5 is positioned to listen to their partner with the intent to understand them, and only paraphrase what they are hearing their partner say, it removes their own clutter from their mind.  They can then be present with their partner, allowing their mind to be clearest and most powerful.

Navigating relationship issues doesn’t feel like a strong point to 5’s, so they may avoid / ignore the issues altogether.  Some dive into their career where they feel competent and capable. Still, if you are the partner of a 5, don’t mistake these tendencies for lack of care.

Enneagram Type 6:

When their partner isn’t there for them in the way they would expect or hope for, it’s very disconcerting and scary to the 6. Accusations though, can instigate arguments. The 6 is being called to explore what is true and what is not, via inquring into their partner from an open, curious place. It is in that process that the couple can work together as a team to bring forth growth and evolution not only individually, but also within the relationship.

If the 6 is often reacting to their partner from their inner alarm, they can miss opportunities to access and operate from the full truth in the relationship. Accessing the high points of Type 9 can bring forth qualities needed for the 6 to consider there may be more than one way of looking at things, and to trust in the process of growth.

Enneagram Type 7:

7’s are curious by nature and find it stimulating and interesting to explore their partner’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They like conversations that are playful and fun verses heavy and difficult. Listening to their partner express what they may be unhappy with can cause a trapped feeling that the 7 feels the need to escape from.  This leads to unresolved conflicts as well as the relationship lacking depth.

7’s can get distracted by possibilities of the next moment rather than being in the present one. Here is an example of how that plays out in a relationship: A type 7 planned a family road trip which was intended to spend quality time together, but while on road trip he was looking out the window wishing he was surfing. He didn’t want to miss out on anything, but he was in fact missing out on a current family experience. These ongoing examples had led his partner to feel lonely because their relationship lacked shared experiences together.

Enneagram Type 8:

8’s are goal oriented and used to pushing forward and going after what they want. In fact, they are very good at it. This same trait though, sometimes doesn’t work so well in relationships. In service of the relationship and what makes the most sense, 8’s often want to go from problem to solution pretty quickly. Often though, their partner would like some expression of empathy / understanding in-between. Because 8’s don’t offer themselves that kind of nurturing self-talk, it doesn’t come naturally for them to do that for their partner, either.

Yet, many partner’s of 8’s want and request this from them to benefit the relationship and invite more closeness, depth, connection and intimacy. It’s another way the 8 is often invited to grow within a relationship.

Like many of us, 8’s are being challenged in relationships to realize that there is not just one objective reality in relationships, but instead 2 subjective realities, perspectives or experiences. These are often different between the 2 partners – which is not the problem. The problem is that the Type 8 can have a difficult time eliciting their partner’s subjective experience or perspective, along with a willingness to hold both theirs and their partner’s, without being domineering about who is right.

Enneagram Type 9:

Type 9’s are often “good sports” – meaning they are genuinely agreeable, adaptable and flexible in their relationships, all while having a good attitude. However, sometimes they agree to something on the outside, but unbeknownst to their partner, resist/disagree on the inside. This is known as a resentful compliance. As a result, passive-aggressive behavior or lack of follow-through is a way to more safely express disagreement. And beneath it all, there is anger at themselves for agreeing to it in the first place.

When this manifests as passivity, the relationship can take on a parent-child dynamic. The partner feels frustrated at the lack of follow through or involvement and pursues the 9. Meanwhile, the 9 feels nagged, defensive and powerless.

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