Welcome to part six of the Enneagram series! If you are a Type Six, this post is meant to offer some clarity into your personality and ideas for improving your work life. If you are not a Type Six, chances are you know one. My hope is that this gives you greater compassion and appreciation for the Loyalists in your life.
In this series, we will be heavily referencing The Modern Enneagram, which was one of the options for #dropcapbookclub on Instagram. Because the votes were tied, we will be going through Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crushing It in book club, but I will be doing this blog series on the Enneagram for those of you who want to learn more about this wonderful personality tool. You can grab a copy of The Modern Enneagram on Amazon, which will give you additional thoughts and insights into your type and how it plays with others.
We're going to focus on each personality in the context of a work environment. Our lives are incredibly complex, and The Modern Enneagram explores family dynamics, romantic relationships, and personal development, but we won’t be exploring those issues in this series.
In each type's post, you’ll learn:
YOUR CORE MOTIVATION
HOW TO HANDLE STRESS
CREATING THE RIGHT WORK ENVIRONMENT
The Modern Enneagram starts with a story of “Julia” (who is a Type Seven) and I found it extremely helpful in understanding how the Enneagram model might be applied to a real person. So let’s start with our own story of a fictional Type Six named Susan. Keep in mind that the point of this story is to notice the patterns of motivation, not the specific circumstances or behavior.
“Susan is a 29-year-old creative marketing consultant living in the Midwest. She enjoys drinking almond milk lattes while she works with creative small business owners from the comfort of her local coffee shop.”
We’ll use Susan as an example of a Type Six as we dive into the deeper personality and core motivations of this type.
The Sleeping At Last “Six” song has not yet released. I will link to the song and podcast here as soon as it becomes available.
Motivation - to have security and support
Basic Fear - fear of being abandoned and without support
Susan is what you would call a natural brand ambassador. Ever since she started her small business, she has become known by her dedication to the clients she works with. Her humor and practicality have made her an extremely successful online marketing expert, because people trust her to tell it exactly like it is, with a little dry humor on top. She’s had a pretty good story with entrepreneurship, too. After months of stressing out and venting about her unappreciated role as a marketing assistant at a boring corporation, her friends pushed her to start something new and encouraged her along the way. Honestly, if it weren’t for her close group of girlfriends and supportive family, Susan isn’t sure whether or not she would have really made the leap. But now that she’s found her groove, she can’t get enough of the freelance life!
Susan's Unfolding Story
Susan’s ability to consider all components of a project have made her an effective marketing consultant. Her clients have had the most amazing success stories under her watchful eye and careful guidance. She’s able to laugh at herself, and clients feel comforted after meeting with her, knowing that their business is in good hands.
When Susan finds reliable clients and feels that the support is mutual, she shines in her role, and delivers consistently valuable content. She enjoys creating structure for others, and showing them that entrepreneurship and marketing don’t have to be stressful topics.
But when Susan comes across a client that doesn’t seem to support her or value her work, she can slip into an average or unhealthy state. Fear that her client will take advantage of her time and leave her high and dry at the end of the project, Susan can begin to subtly push them away and make condescending remarks during client meetings. When this happens, it’s only a matter of time before conflict and miscommunication unfold.
If left unchecked, Susan will project her own premature fears onto the client and create the situation she was dreading. Once her anxiety starts driving, she’s certain to burn a bridge and miss out on what could have been a great opportunity, if only she had been honest about her concerns.
In states of stress, Sixes take on the characteristics of an unhealthy and competitive Type Three. Fearing that they can’t trust others, anxious Sixes go into survival mode to maintain their personal interests.
When stress progresses, they lash out at others, having irrational fears that they are being targeted. Fearful that they are defenseless, they become increasingly competitive and arrogant, counteracting feelings of inferiority by acting superior towards others.
how to counteract stress for a type six
1. Be aware of your anxiety without being ruled by it.
When Susan starts to pick up on red flags with a new client, she immediately addresses her potential problem in a practical, logical way. Instead of assuming the worst, she treats every concern as a conversation - figuring that it’s not worth making a mountain out of a molehill.
2. Control your tendency towards pessimism; for every negative thought, try to balance it with a positive one.
Instead of looking for what could go wrong in each new relationship, she intentionally looks for what could go right. She realizes that it’s easy for her anxiety to rub off on her client and cause them to feel uncertain and stressed themselves. When things get particularly stressful, she writes a list of all the reasons she loves her job, and why she wanted to work with the client in the first place.
3. Observe moments when you overreact - realize that you may be worried about something that has happened yet, and may never happen.
Susan has noticed that she often overreacts to perceived injustices. Often her clients are unaware of their demands, and can be blindsided by her aggression. Instead of acting out when a client makes an unrealistic request, Susan takes a moment to consider if there is a real problem before replying in an honest and cordial way.
4. You are called a loyalist for a reason - rely on your community and trust the strength of your friendships to share your deepest fears and anxieties.
Susan has found it helpful to vent to her friends when she’s in the thick of a project and feeling stressed. She knows that she has a tendency to focus on what’s wrong and forget the progress she’s made. Her friends are able to remind her of the ways she has grown and encourage her by telling the truth instead of validating her irrational anxiety.
5. Your fears tell you more about your attitude towards yourself than your attitude towards others.
The biggest lesson of all was when Susan realized that her pessimistic attitude towards her clients was actually an indication of her own lack of trust in herself. After a few months of complaining about a string of difficult clients, she realized that she hadn’t dealt with some feelings of inadequacy that are natural in the first year of entrepreneurship. Once she addressed the real problem within herself and focused on her own confidence, she was able to see that she actually worked with a wonderful group of people who truly wanted her to succeed (I mean… why else would they be paying her?)
The most important thing for a Type Six to experience at work is support. As a Type Six entrepreneur, it is crucial that you have built-in support systems to hold you up when you’re feeling down. Here are three other ideas for incorporating your Type Six strengths in your business:
You do well when you’re able to form a collaborative relationship with your clients. At the beginning of a new client relationship, set some joint goals that you can both work towards. Communicate that you will be most successful if you have their support and attention throughout the project.
Take a moment in the middle of your day to get outside. If you’re at a coffee shop, try walking to a nearby shop for lunch. Take client calls as you walk through a park, listen to podcasts on your back porch in the morning. Nature gives you a sense of peace and order that will help to alleviate feelings of anxiety.
Have a venting outlet. You tend to carry around more anxiety and fear than most, and the best way to get it out is to vocalize it to someone who can help you see the real situation instead of the worst-case-scenario. Trust your people when they tell you things are ok; you might be oblivious to the opportunity in front of you if you would just trust it.
When we first met Susan, she was a successful online marketing consultant who loved creating systemized campaigns for her creative clients. Her organized approach and realistic timelines made her excellent at generating huge success stories. As a creative service provider, Susan was a natural brand ambassador, generating awareness and support for her small business clients and gaining their love and appreciation in return. However, as the stakes grew higher with her clients, Susan allowed the stress of their expectations to build a wall of resistance and distrust.
By gaining a deeper understanding of herself and how she handles stress, Susan will be able to rebuild her relationships and manage her anxiety in a healthy and effective way. When she takes a moment to step away from the computer and reconnect to the natural world, she’s able to calm her nerves and slow down her pessimistic train of thought. When that doesn’t work, venting to her friends usually helps her gain some perspective and see the opportunity instead of just the challenge.
Although Susan will always struggle with doubt and anxiety, she will create more stability and infrastructure the more she is able to harness her worst-case-scenario thinking. She makes it a point to express at least one thing she is grateful for everyday, and have direct conversations with her clients when she becomes concerned. She’s found that approaching problems in a collaborative way “How can I help you with this situation so that it can be more beneficial to us both?” has allowed her to gain even more trust and loyalty from her clients, as well as open the door to extremely productive conversations.
It turns out her greatest contribution is her unwavering loyalty, and her ability to form truly collaborative environments. By turning her anxiety into an opportunity to have honest conversations, she tackles the unknown and creates the security and stability she has always craved.
If you enjoy learning more about the Enneagram and are curious about how to lead with your personality in your business, you may enjoy participating in our Enneagram for Entrepreneurs course. Click the link below to find out more!