Does your significant other say they want to spend quality time together yet chooses to work all weekend? Does your brother claim he is open to anything but cringes at your idea of a silent retreat? How about the pal who offers to plan game night but really wants you to volunteer for carpooling duties?
If you are confused by your favorite people, then understand you’re not alone. Within every personality type there’s a contradiction. We all have motivations that sometimes oppose one another.
Here’s what that looks like, according to your Enneagram.
Type 1: I want to avoid criticism, but I also want to show you how you can improve.
As keepers of quality standards and rules, Type Ones strive to preserve order and structure and do things right. They are committed to excellence, which fends off criticism. It is unlikely they will receive harsh words if they don’t make mistakes.
At the same time, Ones may be more than willing to point out where others fall short. To outsiders, this can look pretty strange – why would someone who hates receiving critical feedback go out of their way to give it? But the One believes that giving critical feedback is helpful. They merely want to show you how to make things better.
A point of growth for Ones may be to take a step back. Reflect. Consider if they are being useful or simply critical. Rather than seeking a perfect result, Ones can decide to extend grace—to themselves as well as others.
Type 2: I want to help you meet your needs, but I really want you to meet my needs.
Enneagram Twos lean hard into relationships. These helpers look for ways to assist, support and encourage you. Sometimes they fulfill your need before you even realize you have it. The unexpected snack sitting on your desk mid-afternoon? Look for the Type Two nearby!
At other times, Twos may give you more than you want. After all, who would turn down a second cookie or an offer to work late alongside you? In their efforts to maintain close relationships, Twos may not realize the below-the-surface bargaining they are doing. “If I help you now, you will feel obligated to help me tomorrow.”
The Two’s contradiction is they “give to get.” The Two may not be aware they are doing it, until they feel hurt that others have not reciprocated their acts of service. They must consciously acknowledge their own needs and ask directly for what they want to prevent this puzzling behavior.
Type 3: I want to focus on work, but I want to be successful in relationships.
As the most enterprising and production-focused Enneagram type, Threes delight in getting things done. They are satisfied when they achieve goals and fulfill their destiny. Want that presentation by noon? Will do! A last-minute project? Put their name at the top of the list!
This success-orientation means that Threes are sought after in the workplace. It feeds their drive to be more, do more and attain more.
At the same time, Threes want their success story to include more than career accolades. Rather than existing as workhorses alone, they want a significant other and family relationships to fill out their life resume. Rebalancing their work bias can help this type adjust. Relaxing it a bit gives them time to develop and sustain relationships.
Type 4: I want to make a deep connection, but I also want to withdraw sometimes.
Empathetic and authentic, Enneagram Fours swim right past the shallows to dive into the deep end. Plunge into a casual conversation with this type and you’ll soon be confiding your innermost doubts and anxieties. Have you experienced a recent loss? Type Fours feel you. Fearful of a relational shift? Let’s discuss what that means for you.
With an ability to take in a full range of emotions and connect deeply, Fours can handle the darker shades of life. Before you realize it, you have shared far more than expected, yet you feel seen and heard.
While this type engages at a depth many types won’t, Fours must retreat at times. The energy and intensity involved in feeling shared emotions mean Fours need to hit pause more often than anticipated. It may startle other types when Fours withdraw. Fours need to focus on communicating their need for downtime, reassuring others that they’ll return to the usual dynamic once they feel restored.
Type 5: I want to share my knowledge, but I also want to remain anonymous.
The most private on the Enneagram spectrum, Fives hold their rich reservoir of knowledge close to their chests. Their expertise can draw attention to themselves, which can feel invasive. Being the person in the know can be draining, and Fives want to preserve their time and energy.
Rather than be depleted by others’ expectations, Fives tend to limit their interactions to those who share their specific interests. “Teach a lesson on nuclear physics? Sure, as long as I can set the boundaries and maintain an acceptable detachment.”
Setting limits helps Fives share their knowledge without feeling overwhelmed. While their need for privacy may mystify other types who want to shout their know-how from the mountaintops, Fives defend their space to feel safe. As Fives begin to understand how their choices restrict them, they can seek ways to expand within their comfort zone.
Type 6: I want to feel secure, but I am doubtful of ever feeling secure.
With a radar constantly surveying the landscape, Enneagram Sixes look for something that may go wrong. These security-seekers know the world can be full of hazards. They want to see them in advance so they can make plans to respond.
However, while they’re constantly looking for security, they seldom find it. Sixes are both watchful and doubtful, and these feelings stop them from feeling safe and self-confident. With fear and anxiety as their companions, insecurity remains.
Because Sixes live with uncertainty, they may stoke the very fears they seek to avoid. Rather than fixating on these, Sixes can accept that some adversities are part of life and there’s nothing you can do about them. They can then seek ways to cultivate inner courage to face the challenges they can control.
Type 7: I want unlimited possibilities but only those that feel good.
Optimistic and adventure-loving Type Sevens live for unending opportunities. Parasailing? Let’s go! A new high-exposure project? When does it start? A weekend in New York? Getting out the suitcase now! The thrill of new possibilities is the siren song for their hearts.
However, while the next great thing is hugely appealing, Enneagram Sevens seek experiences that keep them far removed from pain. Opt to spend hours in therapy dealing with childhood wounds? Decline. Care to join a grief care team? Um, no. Want to lead a conflict resolution project? Rather not.
Though moving toward pain is difficult for many types, Sevens seek to avoid it altogether. Yet, pain is often the pathway toward growth. Approaching both the light and dark spectrum of options is a stretch point for this type—adding layers of depth to an otherwise sun-drenched existence.
Type 8: I want to protect the vulnerable, but I do not want to be vulnerable.
Type Eights will move mountains to protect loved ones. Not intimidated by roadblocks or challenges, they forge ahead even if it is not wise or necessary. They do what they “must” to protect others they perceive as weaker or lacking in power.
Enneagram Eights may overplay their intensity to the point where others may retreat from the Eight’s level of aggressiveness. Eights can be rather forceful in getting their demands met, but it may be at the expense of cultivating mutual relationships.
Their not-to be-trifled-with demeanor positions the Eight as someone who doesn’t need support or protection for themselves. They don’t show their vulnerability, and this blocks them from receiving the care that others would genuinely offer them. They may need to loosen up on the confrontation. This makes them more approachable and can help them receive softer emotions.
Type 9: I want to avoid conflict, but I want everyone to get along.
As tension in the room rises, Enneagram Type Nines start looking for cover. These conflict-avoiders may move toward agreement even when they don’t agree. They prefer this over letting conversations get too heated.
Nines are uncomfortable in environments that continually lack harmony. Maintaining a sense of calm and serenity in their homes and relationships helps them thrive. Yet, it’s impossible to achieve 100% agreement, 100% of the time. Sometimes, conflict is the only way to resolve disagreements so that everyone can get along.
To invite consensus—or an amicable compromise—Nines can start by learning conflict resolution strategies. While counterintuitive, taking on these skills offers a more realistic approach to gaining the peace they seek.