Our team partnered with Diane Tompkins of Courage Corps to identify each of our Enneagram types and discuss how they complement or challenge one another in our work. Because it was such a productive exercise for us, we reached out to Diane to learn more about the communication styles for each of the nine Enneagram types.
For each type, Diane explains communication strengths and opportunities for growth, as well as ways colleagues can best engage their teammates of that type.
If you are a One you value clarity, directness, being fair, and listening to all voices. You can also be quick to judge and share your own opinion on the belief that it is usually the “right” one! Make sure you pause and check your motives. Are you shutting others down inadvertently? Are you thinking you know best? Is this true? Watch the tendency to dominate and how often you use the word “should.”
If you work with a One, you can lean on them for clear, decisive, and well-articulated thinking. If you are having difficulty being heard by a colleague who is a One who thinks s/he is right, try the phrase, “That’s interesting. I see it a bit differently…” and then explain your perspective, inviting the curious One to explore with you.
If you are a Two, you are most at ease using warm, generous, caring language. You’re great at giving positive reinforcement and being helpful. You love to help and freely offer it. Your challenge in communications is that if your offers are not taken up, you can slip into being manipulative or needy. Watch if you notice you’re feeling insistent that people take your suggestions. Take a breath and connect to the part of you that knows how good it feels to give freely and see others thrive.
If you work with a Two, you can trust their offers are well-intentioned and that most often, they genuinely want to be of service. If their willingness to help starts to feel like a bit much, thank them for their effort, acknowledge that they care, and ask for a bit of space or time while you try it a different way.
If you are a Three, your communication preference is to be clear, solutions-oriented, and pragmatic. You value achievement and getting things done, as this is often a source of feeling good about yourself. Your challenge in communications is that you can come across as impatient, sharp or self-promoting, all of which can put colleagues off. Your ability to produce can be at the expense of listening to others or bringing them along with you.
If you work with a Three colleague, you know their amazing gift for getting things done. Let them know you value that and appreciate them and all they are doing. If it feels like your colleague is pushing too hard for a goal, invite them to step back and take a breath. Offer your thoughts as a means of achieving that goal — affirming you share the desire to achieve it, but that there might be other considerations to make in getting there.
If you are a Four, your communication style reflects your appreciation of being thoughtful, reflective, and attuned to others. You have a gift for helping people appreciate subtlety and emotional nuance and for going to the hard places in a conversation, when needed. But your gift for personal expression can challenge others who appreciate a more direct style. Your written and spoken communications can be long-winded and rely on metaphors, leaving some folks scratching their heads — “What do they want me to do?” You can balance this by making sure that you include clear statements or requests in your written and spoken words.
If you work with a Four colleague, know that their sensitivity can cause them sometimes to appear moody or to withdraw. Try not to take this personally or to judge them, but instead check in and make a connection. Ask how they are doing. Tell them you noticed they are a little more remote than usual. Invite them forward and let them share whatever they feel like without trying to manage it for them.
If you are a Five, you have a gift for holding complexity and seeing the big picture. You are innately curious, engaged, and excited by learning — internally, you are constantly reflecting, wondering, and chewing on things that interest you. Those who know you well understand that this takes an enormous amount of internal energy — your wheels are always turning. As a result, however, you can come across as remote and emotionally unavailable. And you can feel like you have to “solve” things on your own. If this happens, check in with your teammates. Ask how they are and what they are working on/thinking about. Ask for their support — chances are they will gladly offer it.
If you work with a Five colleague, remember they can self-isolate. Give them space but also make it easy for them to connect to the group. Invite them to share their thoughts on a topic or challenge. Note, that “What are your thoughts?” is a more helpful way to ask a Five than “What are you thinking right now?” which can feel intrusive.
If you are a Six, your communication style tends to be caring, compassionate, and engaged. You can be witty and warm. You are excellent at considering and assessing options and communicating thoughtfully to your teammates what you think. It’s also true, however, that you can feel a weight of responsibility to figure things out on your own. You can get anxious and doubt yourself, which makes it hard to inspire confidence in others. Try to remember that you are not alone. You are a part of a team. Find people you trust and can use as touchstones when you need reassurance.
If you work with a Six colleague, remember that the more secure they are feeling, the more relaxed their thinking will be. Avoid putting them on the spot without warning or time to prepare (remember, they like to reflect and balance all the possibilities). And whenever possible, help them trust that they are supported by the team and to remember it’s not all on them to make something happen.
If you are a Seven, your communication style is often described as energetic, optimistic, and enthusiastic! You have a gift for generative thinking, for opening up possibilities, and for visioning. Some of your challenges come up when you need to follow through and fill-in the detail. Additionally, your preference for starting things (projects, ideas, etc.) can be frustrating to people whose thinking is more methodical or to those who like to go “deep.” To these team members you can appear scattered or unfocused, like a hummingbird. Watch for signs that you are overwhelming others with possibilities. Check in to see if you feel connected to your colleagues even as you hold different responsibilities and strengths. If not, slow down.
If you have a colleague who is a Seven, try to embrace the joyful energy of their unbridled curiosity. Look for ways to channel it so it serves the group. And partner a Seven with teammates who are good at actualizing their ideas, rather than expecting a Seven to do this for themselves. Sevens can shy away from hard or negative topics. Help them remember that negativity isn’t bad and that if dealt with thoughtfully, attending to it can lead to clarity and alignment.
If you are an Eight, your communication tends to be honest, direct, and assertive. You have a reputation for being generous and loyal to the people on your teams and can be a fierce advocate. Winning the praise of an Eight can feel like winning the lottery. It’s also true that in your commitment to directness you can come across as demanding, brusque, even intimidating, which can cause teammates to retreat and play it safe.
If you have a colleague who is an Eight, remember that they value directness and welcome being challenged because it provides clarity of where they stand. They appreciate colleagues who can meet them and debate/discuss/problem-solve honestly. So, if you have an Eight colleague, you can take some risks to be bold and direct. Chances are you’ll be met with enthusiasm and find a whole new way to collaborate.
If you are a Nine, your communication style tends to be calming and inclusive. You naturally avoid conflict and choose your words — written or spoken — carefully, taking care not to offend anyone. Your gift at seeing all perspectives makes you a natural mediator on any team, smoothing out misunderstandings and building connections. Your challenge can be that for all the care you put into communicating, it can be difficult for people to know where you stand. If you find yourself running on and accommodating each member of your audience, check in and make sure you’re in touch with yourself and what you really want to say. Is it clear, or are you trying to be acceptable to your audience? Take the risk of being declarative: “Here’s what I think.”
If you have a colleague who is a Nine, let them know you really want to know what they personally feel or think. Help them “bottom line” if they are rambling and touching on all the perspectives of an issue, gently asking, “What do you think it means?” or, “What do you believe we should do?” Help them also trust the creative potential that lies in having courageous conversations about hard topics. Conflict can be very scary, but it needn’t be destructive.