I’m asked all the time about how the Enneagram helps you to become a better entrepreneur. And while I often point Enneagram newbies towards the growth path and tips for managing stress (who doesn’t want a break from stress?!) I find that the most transformative experiences come through understanding communication styles.
Communication is how we connect with others and form relationships. It’s also where we first encounter our differences. Most conflict can be attributed to miscommunication, and all of us have experienced getting a certain “vibe” from someone during an initial conversation. So how does understanding your own communication style, as well as the differences between each type, actually help you as a business owner?
Benefits of Understanding Your Communication Style
First and foremost, understanding your communication style will illuminate behaviors that you’re probably unaware of. Habits like talking really loudly, withdrawing, overreaction, or talking too fast. While communication “quirks” can sometimes feel individual and random – you’d be surprised just how much of it is rooted in your personality and experience within the world.
At some point in the life of your business, you’re going to want to hire a team, partner with another company, or work alongside a client. Knowing how you respond to opposing points of view, share information, process feedback, and show emotion is a vital part of healthy collaboration. Building a team requires finding communication compatibility just as much as adequate skills. Just because someone can get the job done, doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the process along the way.
Whether you’re providing a service or offering a product, you’re eventually going to have to interact with your audience and customers. Knowing your communication style will help you see what kind of relationship you thrive in – a good thing to know even in the early stages of starting a business and deciding which route to take. Understanding your communication style will help you build customer service standards that play to your strengths and leave people coming back for more.
Personality-Typing Best Practices
As we explore each of the nine Enneagram types and their unique communication styles, there are a few things to keep in mind about your personality and understanding the personalities of others.
There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ personality.
Each personality has certain strengths and weaknesses. When learning about your own communication style, understand that we’re all a work in progress and part of growth is knowing where you need to do the work. Don’t let it keep you from putting yourself out there or building relationships. You will never be a perfect human, you will always need to ask for forgiveness at some point or another.
Do not manipulate your knowledge.
Understanding the potential weaknesses of another personality is not your permission to manipulate the conversation. Telling a Type Nine that if they do not get on board they will cause conflict within the group is manipulative. Telling a Type Four that you don’t have time for their sadness and to ‘suck it up’ is unkind. Telling a Type Three that everyone’s talking about them (in a bad way) is just cruel. Use the information you gather to have more empathy for others’ experiences to create peaceful dynamics.
You are not in a box.
One of my favorite parts of the Enneagram is its fluidity. You are not confined to your type, nor should you fully embody it. The point of this personality model is to shine a light on our natural instincts so that we can more consciously show up in the world. You have access in one way or another to every other type. Consider developing your Type Two wing to have a more generous, helping heart. Focus on embodying the confidence of a Type Eight next time you give a presentation. Learn from a Type One what it means to stand up for what you believe in. Do not feel confined or limit yourself to being one type of way.
Talk about it.
The best way to understand others is to have a real-life conversation with someone who sees the world differently than you do. Not sure how a Type Five processes so much information internally and what triggers a shutdown? Ask about it, preferably in a non-personal way that feels safe. Not sure how to respond to a Type Six’s anxious venting sessions? Next time it’s a non-emergency situation, just ask what support looks like in those conversations. Most people ultimately want to feel understood when they’re communicating with you, and being asked to clarify is a form of showing that you care.
How to Communicate with a…
Type 1 “The Perfectionist”
rational, ethical, critical, practical
A Type One personality is motivated by a desire to be in good standing and uphold their personal standards. However, Ones may have trouble feeling irritated with others’ shortcomings and their own feelings of pressure to perform at a higher level. Ones prefer clearly communicated expectations, logical reasoning, and personal ownership. They are masters of efficiency and can judge a situation fairly.
When under stress, Ones can appear angry and may be nitpicky and critical—just know that they are most critical of themselves. When they are able to complete a project and feel proud of their contribution, they can relax and celebrate a job well done.
Communication Style: delegating, teaching, preaching, informing, telling, educating, and elevating.
Energy: rigid, upright, stiff, contained, solid, stoic, elegant, polished, self-assured.
Internal Dialogue: I am right; I am good; I know best; I want perfection.
Best Practices: communicate expectations, take ownership, acknowledge a job well done
A Type One wants to communicate to the world that they have it together and are competent, right, and good moral people, even though internally they may feel the opposite.
Type 2 “The Helper”
heartfelt, effusive, helpful, manipulative, people-pleasing
A Type Two personality is motivated by a desire to help others and be seen as accommodating and loveable. However, Twos may have problems with ulterior motives for their helpful actions and end up playing the martyr. Twos need to know where they stand in the relationship and feel appreciated for their contribution. They are masters of reading the room and anticipating what needs to be done.
When under stress, Twos may become needy and manipulative—giving assistance even when it isn’t asked as a way to gain leverage in an uncomfortable situation. Just know that it’s because they value the health of the relationship above all else. When they know where they stand and feel valued in their role, they are altruistic and can nurture the culture of a team. They also make amazing managers of people.
Communication Style: inviting, relational, heartfelt, emotional, helpful, complimentary, and empathetic.
Energy: soft but strong, seductive, clingy, flirtatious, nurturing, emotional, kind.
Internal Dialogue: I am helpful; I am nice; I am giving; My will be done; I have what you need.
Best Practices: be appreciative, get personal, give credit where credit is due
A Type Two wants to be seen as helpful and kind because this supports their self-image. Two’s will present themselves as someone who has whatever you need, whether it is resources or attention.
Type 3 “The Achiever”
successful, goal-oriented, driven, image-conscious
A Type Three personality is motivated by a desire to be seen as the winner and achieve personal success. However, Threes can be classic narcissists and unaware of their impact on others. Threes want conversations to be efficient and future-focused, with everyone showing up at their highest potential. Threes are visionary and effective at setting, and meeting, goals.
When under stress, Threes can come across as arrogant and dismissive. Just know it’s typically a defense mechanism when they feel like they are being evaluated and coming up lacking. When they feel productive and effective at work, they are inspirational, encouraging, and highly motivational.
Communication Style: strategic, professional, polished, bragging, smooth, trendy, competent, and mentoring.
Energy: tough exterior, shallow, impressive, energetic, high powered, glossy, chameleon, proactive.
Interior Dialogue: I am successful; I am a winner, I am impressive, I will accomplish the goal.
Best Practices: pair criticism with praise, focus on the future, be efficient with your words
A Type Three wants to be seen as someone who is successful and attractive, so they will present themselves as popular and accomplished even if internally they feel like an imposter.
Type 4 “The Individualist”
creative, intuitive, melancholy, original
A Type Four is motivated by a desire to express their inner world and to be different and unique. However, Fours can become victims of their emotions. Fours want to feel that they have the space to fully express their experiences, while also feeling heard and supported by those around them. Fours are naturally creative and can come up with original ideas for solving problems.
When under stress, Fours may become moody and high maintenance. Just know it’s a way of processing a wide range of emotions that need to be processed to move forward. When they feel understood and appreciated, they are insightful, emotionally aware, and grounded.
Communication Style: Breathy, dramatic, metaphorical, vain, symbolic, passionate, discerning.
Energy: Fluid, poised, sensitive, intense, emotionally charged, melancholy.
Interior Dialogue: I am intuitive; I am deep; I am creative; I am different.
Best Practices: be patient, provide support, communicate emotions surrounding the situation
A Type Four wants to be seen as special and creative, and will often exaggerate their differences to cover up feelings of being ordinary or mundane.
Type 5 “The Observer”
cerebral, remote, private, peculiar, intelligent
A Type Five personality is motivated by a desire to intellectually understand the world in order to feel safe and secure within it. However, Fives can emotionally withdraw and become distant from others when trying to process a situation. Fives need to have all the information and space to mentally process before sharing. They are masters of analytics and deep thinkers who are wise and discerning in their interactions.
When under stress, Fives may have problems with interaction, social anxiety, and shyness. Just know it’s because they need a moment to process information before responding to it. When a Five feels safe and independent, they are intelligent, highly inventive, and can contribute well-researched and creative ideas.
Communication Style: technical, knowledgeable, unemotional, detached, know it all, specific, distinct.
Energy: prickly, removed, quiet, withdrawn, observant, and independent.
Internal Dialogue: I am knowledgeable; I need more time; I am intelligent; I think; I am different.
Best Practices: give space, provide all the details, remove overly emotional language
Fives want to be seen as intelligent, rational, and idiosyncratic. They may over-share their knowledge to cover feelings of insecurity.
Type 6 “The Loyalist”
witty, reliable, anxious, prepared
A Type Six is motivated by a desire to find a trustworthy authority in the world in order to feel safe and certain of the future. However, Sixes can be overly anxious and uncertain before building trust with new people. Sixes want to feel a sense of belonging within a safe and predictable environment. Sixes are reliable, nurturing, and masters of planning out the road ahead.
When under stress, Sixes may become overly reactive, letting their anxiety take the wheel. To counter this, focus on teamwork for crisis management and creating a safe space for people to express their thoughts and feelings. When a Six trusts the group they are apart of and can anticipate what’s down the road, they are extremely loyal, easy collaborators, excellent problem solvers, and supportive friends.
Communication Style: tentative, funny, friendly, warm (or prickly), sarcastic, engaging, rebellious, provocative.
Energy: Mentally active, hyper-vigilant, anxious, suspicious, punchy, and high-strung.
Internal Dialogue: I am clever; I must be safe; I am loyal; I am harmless; I am “real”.
Best Practices: create safety nets, focus on culture, be consistent
Sixes want to be seen as responsible, clever and loyal. They may cover feelings of insecurity with ingratiating niceness or sweetness or rebellious provocativeness.
Type 7 “The Enthusiast”
entertaining, adventurous, versatile, future-focused
A Type Seven is motivated by a desire to stay positive and keep things moving to avoid boredom—so they are constantly making plans for the future. However, Sevens can lack focus when too many opportunities are available to them. Sevens want conversations to be light, exciting, fast-paced, and positive, with everyone bringing ideas to the table. Sevens are visionary, creative, and can work quickly.
When under stress, Sevens may become inconsistent, high-strung, and overly indulgent. This is a way of avoiding hard conversations or difficult realities when the fun times finally catch up. When Sevens feel excited for the future, proud of their accomplishments, and connected with their team, they are visionary, grounded, realistic, and able to make significant progress.
Communication Style: High energy, fun-loving, entertaining, storytelling, enthusiastic, evasive, exaggerating, frantic.
Energy: Amped-up, restless, airy and light, quick, spritely, mischievous, fast, positive, shallow.
Internal Dialogue: I am free; I am exciting; I am entertaining; I want it all; I am positive.
Best Practices: keep it light, stay focused, reward progress & seeing things through to the end
A Type Seven wants to be seen as interesting, entertaining, and fun. They may cover over feelings of inferiority or a fear of being bored with big plans and interesting stories.
Type 8 “The Challenger”
assertive, bold, domineering, powerful, protective
A Type Eight is motivated by a desire to be in control of themselves and their environment in order to avoid being controlled by others. However, Eights are often the most ethical and nurturing personalities. Eights want conversations to be honest, straightforward, and solutions-focused, with everyone taking personal ownership. They are fiercely protective, confident, and effective leaders.
When under stress, Eights can appear aggressive and intimidating. Often this is a way to protect their own feelings of vulnerability and hurt emotions. When an Eight finds people to lead, they are strong, nurturing, and inspire the respect and admiration of others.
Communication Style: bold, direct, factual, brash, impactful, empowering, offensive, confident.
Energy: strong, solid, powerful, intimidating, big, respectful, irreverent, crisp, cool.
Internal Dialogue: I am strong; I am a survivor, I am in charge; I will protect.
Best Practices: be honest, hold your ground, take ownership
A Type Eight sees themselves as strong and in charge. They want others to recognize their strength and to protect against vulnerability, both for themselves and for others.
Type 9 “The Peacemaker”
easygoing, relaxed, gentle, stubborn, introverted
A Type Nine is motivated by a desire to maintain their inner peace by keeping themselves and their environments calm. However, when pushed into an uncomfortable position they will react and can become judgemental. Nines want conversations to be kind, peaceful, and focused on solutions instead of problems. Nines are great team players and able to see a lot of different points of view.
When under stress, Nines have difficulty taking care of themselves and meeting others’ expectations. It’s usually a sign that they need some encouragement and a pep talk to get back on track. When they feel calm and cared for, they are motivated, great listeners, and engaged with the world.
Communication Style: peaceful, agreeable, complacent, stubborn, passive (aggressive), noncommittal, receptive.
Energy: calm, grounded yet spacey, detached, open, sleepy, daydreaming.
Internal Dialogue: I am peaceful; I am calm; I am easy; I am drama free; I am uncomplicated.
Best Practices: be calm, provide encouragement, explain reasoning
A Type Nine wants to be seen as easygoing and peaceful and may deny problems or negative emotions to cover over secret feelings of anxiety or anger.
Want to discover which communication style suits you?
If you enjoyed this article, but want to discover your own Enneagram personality type so you can become a more effective communicator—I’ve created a free ebook to help you find your type!