Did your Type 5 pal decline your dinner party invitation again? Do you need to recover from a spat with your Type 8 sibling? Are you puzzled by the contingency plans of your Type 6 partner?

Everyone in your life has personality traits that may be challenging for you to navigate because they are so different from your own. This is one of the reasons why personality assessments are so helpful. When you know more about the other person's type, you can stop getting frustrated by their confusing behavior and increase your compassion for them, because now you understand why they do certain things.

Here we’ll explore how understanding the Enneagram can increase your compassion for others.

Type Ones: Appreciate their need for high quality

As keepers of high standards, Type 1s have rigorous requirements for themselves and others. Whether at work or in a relationship, you may feel like you never quite measure up with a One. They may feel this, too.

You can honor this by:

  • Saying: “You are so hard on yourself. I appreciate how much you want to get this right. Maybe we can take a step back and ease the pressure?”
  • Praising them for their efforts even when the results do not turn out perfectly.
  • Suggesting a coffee, chat or walk to give them a break and help them lighten up.
  • Including lightheartedness in your conversation to reduce the performance mentality.

Type Twos: Honor their thirst to belong

Type 2s are all about relationships, and their commitment to maintaining good relationships can be both admirable and overwhelming. If a Two keeps giving you treats you do not want, for example, you may not know how to respond or how to keep up. Yet, the Two wants to ensure they remain tight with you.

You can respond by:

  • Saying how much you value and enjoy being around them, even without gifts.
  • Boosting their confidence in the relationship by planning a time to get together later.
  • Sending them an e-card that lifts their day without continuing the gift-exchange cycle.
  • Sharing: “I appreciate your thoughtfulness much more than anything you give me.”

Type Threes: Embrace their focus on productivity

Type 3 achievers may be so fixated on their next project they are not available for you. Weekend plans? Why bother, when a bit of extra work could win them an award? Soon, you may feel like you're at the bottom of their priority list.

You can respect their drive toward success by:

  • Scheduling time with them that is intentional and productive. “For two hours on Saturday, we will go for a hike and discuss our holiday plans.”
  • Rewarding them for non-work activities that benefit the family or household.
  • Helping them balance their workload with self-care. Offer to give them a spin class, facial, or massage.
  • Matching up calendars for non-negotiable time together over the next 6-8 weeks.

Type Fours: Be grateful for their authenticity

Being genuine is natural to Type 4s. Any false note, and they immediately feel it. Since they are not likely to fake either emotions or responses, you will get the whole, unvarnished truth from the Type 4 in your life - although it's likely to be delicately phrased!

You can support their authenticity by:

  • Realizing their compliments are trustworthy and reliable and basking in the glow.
  • Listening to them express their emotions and reflecting back on what you hear.
  • Thanking them for telling you truths that others may not care enough to share.
  • Checking in with them when you are not looking for flattery but for honesty.

Type Fives: Accept their need to preserve energy

Rather than feeling saturated by external pressures, Type 5s ration their energy. This means they may have less to give you when you want them to participate in gatherings or activities. Fives may not be inclined to join in unless it involves an area of interest.

You can help them preserve energy by:

  • Selecting outings that appeal to the Five's intellect, such as a museum or a lecture on an intriguing topic.
  • Pacing out social or family get-togethers to give them ample time to recharge between.
  • Allowing them space to pursue their interests by developing yours. Afterward, you can share notes about what you learned.
  • Showing some curiosity about the hobbies they choose. Although you may not select them yourself, you can grow in your knowledge while you connect with the Five.

Type Sixes: Empathize with their yearning to feel secure

Risk is not the friend of phobic Sixes. These types seek to protect themselves and ferret out anything that could go wrong before the plan takes motion. They may dampen your enthusiasm for adventure because they must consider all angles.

You can lean into this perspective by:

  • Instead of deflecting their fears, partner with them in weighing the possible dangers.
  • Provide the data up front so they can trust you have taken a sober-minded approach.
  • Being receptive when they express their vulnerabilities, so they feel safe with you.
  • Asking yourself: Are they correct? Is this a measured risk? Do I need to build in safeguards?

Type Sevens: Understand their preference to keep things light

These sunny-side-up personalities do not want to become engulfed by sadness or boredom - they would much rather keep the party going. You may struggle to get a Type 7 to respond to the darker realities of life.

You can show compassion for this tendency by:

  • Invoking appropriate humor, even when the circumstances may be serious.
  • Limiting the use of heavy or distressing words that may pull them further down.
  • Pointing them toward the future amidst complex or disquieting events in the present.
  • Displaying empathy to soften the difficulty of the moment and help them feel enveloped in care.

Eights: See value in their intensity and strength

The formidable force of a Type 8 can be overpowering. Literally. You may feel bowled over by their presence and might find yourself running for cover rather than having a mutual, life-giving conversation.

You can navigate this life force by:

  • Voicing appreciation when their decisiveness is spot-on and crucial.
  • Applauding their tendency to take on the mantle of leadership even when others won’t.
  • Encouraging them to slow down, get rest and take care of their body.
  • Holding any vulnerabilities they are willing to share with respect.

Nines: Be sensitive to their desire to avoid conflict

Everyone disagrees at times, no matter what their personality type is. Even identical twins have their moments of discord. While Type 9s would prefer to smooth over any conflict, this does not resolve the disagreement and may even prolong it. This can be frustrating if you prefer to deal with the situation head-on.

You can meet them at their need for harmony by:

  • Scheduling a time to speak with them rather than springing it on them.
  • Easing into the discussion with intentional care.
  • Using “I” statements that explain feelings rather than cast blame.
  • Showing gratitude when they respond to efforts for resolution.

Whatever our Enneagram type, we all exhibit behaviors that are difficult for others to handle. No type is perfect (not even Ones!). While we may understand ourselves, those within our circle may not. With greater insight through the Enneagram, we can see where each person’s tendencies lie. At our best, we can empathize and adapt so our relationships with them can thrive.  

Beth Dumey
Beth Dumey’s articles have appeared in Psych Central (Healthline Media), Writer’s Digest magazine, On The Couch, Med Device Online, and many more. With a MA in Communications, a MA in Counseling Psychology, and a BA in Journalism, she combines her interest in healthcare and psychology as a communicator, storyteller and coach. She holds certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and as a Certified Advanced Teacher in the Enneagram Spectrum Method. For more, go to BethDumey.com