Do’s and Don’ts for Coaching Each Enneagram Type

The Enneagram personality test is a powerful tool for coaches, not only because it helps you understand your clients deeper motivations quickly, but because it also teaches you how to be a better coach.

Each Enneagram type needs a different approach from a coach in order to feel safe, accepted and open to the process. As a coach, you need to be aware of some of the do’s and don’ts when working with each type. Most coaches tend to attract two to three Enneagram types as clients so it's unlikely you need to learn how to apply all of these recommendations right now. However, understanding your client through the lens of the Enneagram can help you bring out the best in them, more quickly than before. 

Enneagram Type Ones

Being naturally improvement focused, Type Ones tend to come to coaching to improve themselves in some way. Generally they have already spent a great deal of energy trying to fix the issue but have been unable to, and have come to the conclusion that something is wrong with them.

What they don’t see is that their relentless focus on self-improvement is actually increasing their stress and undermining their ability to achieve their goals. 

When coaching a One, it's important to:

  • Help them see how much criticism they have inside of themselves
  • Have high levels of empathy and be non-judgmental
  • Clearly define expected results and provide clear structure
  • Focus on helping them become “worse” not “better” 
  • Start and end sessions on time 

When coaching a One, it's essential to not:

  • Ask them to use more self-control
  • Give them more self-improvement tasks
  • Criticize or judge them in anyway
  • Go too slowly, be too theoretical or too emotional 
  • Get distracted and talk about random things 

Enneagram Type Two

Being relationship focused, Type Twos come to coaching when there is a problem with their relationships in some way. They may be burnt out from overgiving, angry at not being appreciated, or lonely from struggling to develop a deep connection with the people they care about.  

They will appear to be very happy and congenial, even if they are very stressed internally. They may not even realize how burned out they really are.

When coaching a Two, it's important to:

  • Create space for them to express their emotions
  • Be very positive
  • Help them label their emotions
  • Validate their feelings
  • Ask for permission before pushing them

When coaching a Two, it's essential to not:

  • Be fooled by their happy exterior
  • Judge them for their emotions
  • Be too direct
  • Tell them what or how to feel
  • Rush them to describe their feelings, needs or to set goals 

Enneagram Type Three

Type Threes come to coaching when their strategies for being successful start breaking down or have stopped working, or when they start to realize that the rewards they have been chasing aren't as fulfilling or valuable as they thought they would be. 

Being goal and efficiency focused, Threes want to “win” at coaching by doing it faster than others or as quickly as possible. As a coach, you’ll need to help them find a balance between efficiency and effectiveness.

When coaching a Three, it's important to:

  • Help them get in touch with their feelings
  • Let them know that emotional discomfort is normal and okay
  • Challenge them constantly
  • Reframe failure as a learning experience 
  • Use examples of successful role models to validate your points

When coaching a Three, it's essential to not:

  • Focus on external goals
  • Let them “perform” for you or impress you
  • Assume their emotions are small (there is a lot of feeling beneath the surface)
  • Undermine their emotional expression in anyway

Enneagram Type Four

Type Fours come to coaching when there is an issue in their relationships or they are unable to express or achieve their creative vision. As Fours feel misunderstood, they are seeking a coach who takes the time to really hear and understand them. 

When coaching a Four, it's important to:

  • Understand them at a deep level before taking action
  • Affirm their positive qualities
  • Help them analyze their emotions and situations 
  • Be very authentic and honest (even if its uncomfortable)
  • Be very emotionally expressive 

When coaching a Four, it's essential to not:

  • Be too structured
  • Be impersonal 
  • Share your story or take the focus away from them
  • Assume you understand them (ask them to confirm)
  • Offer practical solutions before they feel fully heard

Enneagram Type Five 

Type Fives generally come to coaching when they can’t solve a problem with logic. Often, that’s an issue with a relationship but it could also be a decision that requires them to get in touch with their feelings. 

Fives can struggle to articulate the issue they have come to coaching for and the coach may need to help them by reading between the lines. They will have already done a lot of research on both the issue and you as a coach before they get in touch.

When coaching a Five, it's important to:

  • Allow time for reflection during and between sessions
  • Ask them to explore their feelings between sessions
  • Share some of your story to help build trust 
  • Be open to shorter sessions and sessions by phone or text
  • Let them control how much emotion they display

When coaching a Five, it's essential to not:

  • Rush them into action or decisions
  • Push them into their feelings before they are ready
  • Ask for immediate answers
  • Assume you know what is happening in the Five’s inner world
  • Stay in empathy or feelings too long

Enneagram Type Six

Type Sixes come to coaching for help stepping into their own authority and having confidence in themselves. However, Sixes can appear very anxious, very certain, or very assertive, so you will need to adjust your approach depending on the type of Six you are working with.

When coaching a Six, it's important to:

  • Let them play out their fears 
  • Help them argue both sides of an issue to get clarity
  • Be reliable, consistent and confident
  • Tell them what is going to happen and why
  • Push them to take action within a short timeframe
  • Answer their questions 

When coaching a Six, it's essential to not:

  • Talk them out of their fear
  • Judge their fear or response to it
  • Give compliments or positive feedback
  • Be disorganized or unreliable
  • Buy into their fear story

Enneagram Type Seven

Type Sevens tend to come to coaching for help setting aside distractions to focus on completing a big goal or aspiration, or they come for help being with the pain and discomfort they usually avoid, for help being more present in their relationships or with themselves. 

When coaching a Seven, it's important to:

  • Focus on the positive so they can see the negative
  • Keep things fun and upbeat but on track
  • Help them prioritize 
  • Feel feelings through to the end
  • Observe when they are rationalizing or brainstorming 

When coaching a Seven, it's essential to not:

  • Allow yourself to be charmed 
  • Stay in pain and discomfort to long
  • Tell them what they already know
  • Tell them what to do 

Enneagram Type Eight

Type Eights come to coaching to solve a problem, often to figure out how to be better with people. Once they realize they don’t come across as well as they would like to, they are keen to understand why that’s happening and how to change it. 

They will appear confident and a little angry, both of which help to hide their insecurity, vulnerability and underlying feelings. 

When coaching an Eight, it's important to:

  • Be direct, clear and to the point
  • Be firm and kind
  • Be practical and concrete 
  • Role play scenarios during the session
  • Be very gentle and soft when they start being vulnerable

When coaching an Eight, it's essential to not:

  • Be intimidated by their energy
  • Be indirect or theoretical 
  • Push them into vulnerability 
  • Waste time
  • Assume they know the impact they have on others 

Enneagram Type Nine

While Type Nines are focused on other people, they tend to come to coaching when they realize that many of their life choices have been made by other people and they want to be more in charge of their own life. 

When coaching a Nine, it's important to:

  • Create rapport and harmony at the start of every session
  • Actively listen without interrupting
  • Ask questions about what they want
  • Trust they know what they want
  • Slow down to their pace

When coaching a Nine, it's essential to not:

  • Rush them
  • Interrupt them 
  • Compliment them too often
  • Pressure them to know what they want 
  • Agree with them all the time 

Next steps

If you are a coach and you want to learn more about using the Enneagram as part of your coaching practice, there are a few ways you can go about it. You might want to read Bringing Out the Best in Everyone by Ginger Lapid-Bogda or take a course specifically focused around coaching using the Enneagram, such as that offered by CP Enneagram or the Narrative Enneagram, among many others. 

Wherever you are in your coaching journey, it's important to remember that different types require different styles to get the most out of coaching. 

To learn more about your client’s motivation and the role it will play in their coaching engagement, take a look at Truity’s Platform for Coaches and Counselors. We have a variety of assessments that can help you and your client understand who they are and what motivates them, helping you both get the most out of your coaching engagement. 

Samantha Mackay

Samantha is the Lead Trainer at Truity and will shortly be a certified Enneagram Coach. She believes our personality is the key to navigating life's strangest hurdles. Despite her best efforts Samantha is an ENTP and Enneagram 7, who is always surrounded by a pile of books, a steaming cup of tea and a block of her favourite chocolate. Samantha is currently studying with Beatrice Chestnut and Uranio Paes of CP Enneagram Academy undertaking their Professional Enneagram Certification. Currently located in Auckland, New Zealand. Find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samanthamackay/. Check out her course "Unlocking the Power of Your Personality" at www.truity.com/training

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