The Enneagram Type 9 is called the Peacemaker or the Mediator, and with a habit of attention that gravitates towards harmony, these are often the people who hold society together and help the rest of us get along. Easy-going, soothing and gifted at being able to hold multiple points of view simultaneously, Type 9s can be the most powerful type in the Enneagram. Look no further than Barack Obama and the Dalia Lama to find famous examples of Type 9.
When in balance, Type 9s can be amazing leaders, team members, friends, parents and partners. But when operating at the mid to lower levels of awareness, conflict-avoidance takes center stage, and challenging behavior may start to present itself.
If you have Type 9s in your life, you probably already know they dislike conflict, but you may not know how intense it can be for them. Some Type 9s report they feel as if they vanish in the face of a serious disagreement, even if it isn’t their own.
Because they experience confrontation so intensely, they work hard to avoid direct conflict, and unless they’ve done a lot of inner work to relax their habit of attention, they may have adopted some unhealthy strategies along the way. This can be tricky to recognize because sometimes Type 9s themselves can be in denial and out of touch with their true motivations.
Let’s explore some ways Type 9s say no without actually saying no.
1. They become passive-aggressive.
Passive-aggressive behavior and “negative implementation” are classic tools Type 9s use to stand their ground and yet still avoid conflict. They may agree to do something they never intend to do. It's an indirect yet clear way to say no. Deliberately forgetting, repeated stalling, and making ongoing excuses are the hallmarks of this passive-aggressive strategy.
If confronted about the situation, they might become vague and evasive. Deep down, they may know they don’t intend to follow through on the request, but they still want to avoid saying no. Eventually the delays become frustrating, and someone else gets assigned the task. Or they make such a half-hearted effort, the other person throws up their hands in frustration and finds another solution. Passive-aggressive behavior can be conscious or subconscious, but the common thread is that the Type 9 knew they didn’t want to do something but didn’t say it directly.
2. They disappear.
When they don’t want to do something, Type 9s sometimes disappear. The CEO who needs to decide the layoff list starts being absent at the office. The father who needs to discipline his unruly teenager begins working late. Whatever the scenario, they physically remove themselves from the situation. There is an element of denial in this strategy too, a subconscious hope that if the problem is ignored, it will somehow go away. It’s another way to say no without saying no and another less than ideal strategy to avoid confrontation.
3. They procrastinate.
When they feel resentment about being asked to do something but don’t know how to advocate for their position, they may agree to it but then put it off as long as possible. They are asked to plan a trip and wait until right before the departure date to focus on it. They are asked to finish a work project and decide it is a good weekend to clean the garage. Eventually they may address the issue, but they wait until the last minute and put in minimal effort subconsciously hoping a more assertive person will have already taken on the task. In their more honest moments of self-reflection, they may realize they feel drained of energy when they think about the topic. They may even realize they wanted to say no but didn’t know how to. Procrastination often goes hand-in-hand with numbing out because the Type 9 may fill their time with self-soothing strategies designed to make them feel better. Overeating, binge watching television, playing video games for hours on end can be part of the procrastination strategy.
4. They say yes.
This is perhaps the most confusing and the most damaging of the strategies. Because Type 9s can be so conflict-avoidant, they may actually agree to do things they really don’t want to do. This over-accommodation is their kryptonite, sapping them of their energy and leaving them with little motivation to go after the things that are important to them. If a Type 9 finds they are tired a lot and can’t seem to motivate themselves to do things, they may have said yes, when they really meant no. And in this instance, they may do the thing they didn’t want to do, but resentment begins to build below the surface.
De-coding the “No.”
If you’ve got a Type 9 in your life, you may need to dig hard to hear when they are saying no without actually saying no.
How will you know? Energy doesn’t lie. If your Type 9 enthusiastically dives into whatever they agreed to do, it is probably a true yes. If your Type 9 seems to withdraw, procrastinate, or becomes tired, lethargic or low-energy, take it as an invitation to explore if there is more going on beneath the surface. Body language and eye contact can all give valuable clues if verbal communication feels like it is falling short. Some Type 9s appreciate being given a range of options as it is a more indirect way to say no.
The growth path for Type 9
Type 9s grow when they get in touch with their own priorities and their subconscious anger. They evolve when they start setting clear, direct boundaries with others. This can be a long journey because Type 9s often disassociate from their anger and resentment. It can be a surprise, and sometimes alarming, for them to learn that under the layers of accommodation, agreeability, and acquiescence, there is a dormant volcano ready to erupt.
If you are a Type 9
You know you are growing when you start to feel anger in real time. And you are really doing good work when you not only can feel this anger, but you can express it in a direct and healthy way.
“I knew I was making good progress in relaxing my habit of attention when my wife did something that really annoyed me, and I was able to tell her the next day. The old me would have waited weeks if not months before saying anything, if I would have said anything at all.” ~George, Type 9
Self-aware Type 9s grow to understand that only within conflict lies true harmony. When Type 9s are able to get in touch with and communicate what is true for them, they finally step into their power. They find their energy levels rise, and they are able to engage with others in a more authentic way. They don’t feel the need to numb out with food, drink, Netflix or video games. They become present, not only to themselves but to others. And in this space, Type 9s show us that they can be the most powerful type in the Enneagram.