How the Enneagram 5 Can Better Communicate at Work and Beyond

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on March 10, 2020
Category: Type Five

Fives are the investigators of the Enneagram world. They are known for their laser-sharp attention to topics of interest, hunger for knowledge, and drive toward autonomy. They value individual competence, practice and intellectual mastery—but they are not known for their teamwork and interpersonal skills. This may result in miscommunications at work and with loved ones. 

Luckily, any type can grow and there are several strategies that can help Enneagram 5 types learn the ropes of written and verbal communication in different situations. With practice and patience, clear communication becomes much easier, to the point when it becomes second nature. 

Camaraderie with Bosses and Coworkers 

The Enneagram 5 personality has the ‘work’ aspect of work nailed down. They come prepared and ready to take any project to completion while meticulously tackling the obstacles that stand in their way. They know the tools and methods necessary to achieve their goals. 

The ‘team’ aspects of work, on the other hand, can drive them to frustration. It’s fair to say that socializing is not the Five’s favorite sport. This can make the type of water-cooler conversation that other personalities take for granted, and use to build rapport with their co-workers and bosses, especially challenging for Fives.     

Tips for communicating and socializing with coworkers and bosses:

  • Let colleagues know your communication preferences as soon as possible. For example, you might ask them to approach you first through email so you can consider your response, or speak to you during specific times of the day. 
  • If social obligations such as happy hours or lunch outings become an overwhelming source of anxiety, opt to leave early or arrive late. Do you have to attend all of these functions, or could you focus your efforts on the ones that really count? 
  • Use the “away” and “do not disturb” auto-features in chats and email—add additional details to clarify the situation (Status: “Will be back in 30, working on XYZ project”).
  • Learn how to make small talk more interesting for you. For example, you might have a few general questions ready to go at any given time. 
  • Adapt or shift the tone and style of a conversation to match others, as it demonstrates empathy on your end. 

Text Messages and Emails

The golden rule for text and email is, the clearer and more precise, the better. With communication, the Enneagram 5 strives for accuracy above all. Sometimes, their use of jargon and overly technical terms can be confusing and even off-putting to readers on the receiving end. 

To resolve this, consider the context, style and tone of each conversation as a separate case, and adjust your responses accordingly — for example by simplifying the language. Colleagues and friends will notice and appreciate the difference!

Tips for communicating better in text messages and emails:

  • Add a touch of appreciation and warmth such as a genuine compliment or sentiment, for instance. Sometimes, the Five’s approach to emails can be perceived to be stiff in their delivery.
  • Ask the receiver to confirm whether he has understood what you said, or whether they need clarification of any technical terms or equivocations.
  • Use questions to facilitate a back-and-forth conversation instead of ‘preaching’ to your audience.
  • Learn to adapt to a more conversational style if the situation demands it. Yes, sometimes this does mean more emojis! 
  • Simplify and break down your thoughts into actionable steps—bullet points work particularly well.

Friends and Acquaintances

The Enneagram 5 actively selects friends based on shared interests and worldviews, and likes to hang out with people who have a similar sense of inquisitiveness. In short, they’re keen to climb the self-improvement ladder with a small and tight-knit pack of buddies. Once the Enneagram 5 deems a friendship to be genuine and long-lasting, they can have an intense, “all-in” mentality, much to their friends’ surprise. 

In terms of communication, however, the Five’s interaction strength can also be their biggest weakness. Fives tend to be respectful, observant and non-intrusive when they talk to friends and acquaintances and are reluctant to take the initiative and push for what they need. They might also be reluctant to share personal feelings, which means they do not always come across as warm or relational, no matter what the Five is feeling on the inside. 

Tips for communicating better with friends and acquaintances:

  • Take the initiative: suggest new activities to do and places to visit, and carry through with organizing these plans.
  • Make your appreciation and affection known verbally—you might think that your actions are speaking louder than words, but others may not pick up on this subtlety. 
  • Reach out for emotional support when necessary, and also be there for friends to lend a listening ear.
  • Ask what is expected of an event or gathering beforehand and leave early if necessary; always put personal health and well-being first; set firm boundaries.

Intimate Relationships

Building a healthy, balanced romantic relationship can pose several challenges for Enneagram 5. These types value independence and time alone. You’ll often find them tinkering on personal projects or exploring new ideas and knowledge, rather than doing ‘coupley’ things with their partner. 

Once a relationship has been established, Fives can be incredibly loyal, affectionate and funny.  Communication is problematic, however, since a Five’s first instinct is to withdraw from intense feelings. These types may have difficulty expressing their love and affection, and their partner may not know where they stand. 

Tips for communicating better in intimate relationships:

  • Aim for open communication, whether positive or negative—silence can gradually morph into a dangerously cold war.
  • Be assertive with personal boundaries and needs at the first sight of conflict, and gently but firmly discuss them with your partner.
  • Make an effort to keep in touch through text or voice chat, and shoot for quality over quantity (or duration).
  • Practice forgiveness and gratitude, which can be shown through each of the five love languages.
  • Learn the unique communication style of a partner, and seek to grow together in improving conversations.

Overview: How the Enneagram 5 Can Better Communicate at Work and Beyond

While known for being scholars and knowledge-experts, Enneagram 5s do tend to hold back on communication especially where feelings are involved. But on the plus side, this type has a knack for distilling complex topics into simple and easily digestible chunks of information. Through patience, trial-and-error and practice, these skills can be exploited, allowing the  Enneagram 5 to mature and develop into a confident, seasoned and skilled communicator.

Lily Yuan

Lily Yuan is a personality psychology writer who tests as INTP and constantly questions her type. Learn more at Explore her blog at

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


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