Feedback is hard to give and even harder to receive. There are many reasons for this. As the giver, you may worry that the receiver will not like you if you deliver difficult messages or that they won’t be able to handle the truth. As the receiver, you may feel vulnerable and exposed when someone critiques the work you’ve done or suggests changes to your approach.

That's the crux of feedback – it consists of two acts, giving and receiving. Whichever side of the table you're on, you have to navigate your own way of giving and receiving feedback as well as the other person's. The styles used can either align beautifully or clash terribly, depending on the personalities involved.

This is where the Enneagram comes in. By understanding your Enneagram type and the type of the other person, you can more effectively give feedback that is specific, meaningful, understood and likely to be acted upon. These tips will help. 

Enneagram Type 1: The Perfectionist

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 1:

  • Make sure you’re measuring the recipient against objective performance standards and not your own (overly) high bar. 
  • Practice beforehand to ensure that your feedback is not overly strong or judgmental, but instead is useful and helpful. 
  • Mention the good things you’ve noticed in your co-worker before letting them know where you see room for improvement.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 1:

  • Let them know you appreciate their diligence and dedication; Ones like their efforts to be noticed. 
  • Keep your criticism direct and on-point, focusing on facts not emotions. Provide evidence if possible. 
  • Suggest areas they could improve with a slightly different approach or through small alterations in strategy; the One might resist big changes.

Enneagram Type 2: The Giver

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 2:

  • When giving negative or critical feedback, plan what you’ll say ahead of time so you don't get distracted by any empathy and sympathy you experience in the moment.
  • Use direct and straightforward language that keeps the emotion out of it.
  • Separate the person from the feedback. You don’t like hurting anyone’s feelings but the reality is, they’re probably not taking things as personally as you are. 

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 2:

  • Focus completely on their actions, and not on them as people. 
  • Reassure them that you appreciate their efforts and their kind and giving spirit. 
  • Recognize the good work they have done in the past and emphasize that you want them to do well.

Enneagram Type 3: The Achiever

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 3:

  • Tone down your tendency to be overly blunt or harsh in your assessments of the work or behavior of others. 
  • Bend over backwards to be diplomatic, assuring the other person that you’re truly on their side. 
  • Encourage their feedback on your feedback, to make it clear you aren’t trying to lecture or chastise them.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 3:

  • Cast yourself in the role of ally; the Three can easily overreact to less-than-sterling feedback so show them that you only want to help.
  • Focus on improvement areas so they can become even more successful than they already are. 
  • Appeal to their need to be acknowledged, as they are very motivated by recognition.

Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 4:

  • Originality and creativity are your strengths, so leverage them when offering feedback. 
  • Include suggestions and insights the recipient hasn’t heard before, to position yourself as wise rather than critical. 
  • Be aware of your tendency to be pessimistic and check yourself by including positive feedback as well.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 4:

  • Fours prize their individuality so express your appreciation for their special qualities and their rare characteristics.
  • When giving negative feedback, focus on the facts and don’t be swayed by the Four's feelings if they start veering towards self-victimization.
  • Reinforce your belief that this person is capable of great things in spite of any shortcomings they may be facing at the moment.

Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 5:

  • Understand that others may react more emotionally to negative assessments than you would, so try to soften and customize your approach based on what you know about the recipient.
  • Make an effort to be involved, rather than distant and detached; your feedback will come across as more genuine when you show some empathy.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 5:

  • Give feedback that is well thought-out and as deep as possible, giving the Five something to really chew on. 
  • Make sure your observations are not overly general or superficial, as the Five will dismiss your feedback as irrelevant.
  • Focus on the data and facts rather than emotions and be very specific about next steps.

Enneagram Type 6: The Skeptic

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 6

  • Your instinct is to give advice that is designed to prevent problems down the line; be sure to focus on the present issues as well and give the recipient a tangible action plan to follow.
  • Take care not to dominate the conversation or come off as scolding or disapproving.
  • Be mindful of your own anxiety and try to keep your tone supportive and reassuring.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 6:

  • Give feedback with a sensitive touch; Sixes imagine worst-case outcomes all the time and may overreact to negative feedback by fearing that their job is in jeopardy.
  • Let them know that the problem is of a limited nature and can be easily resolved.
  • Validate their worries and fears and make sure to remind them of past successes in order to re-establish a sense of confidence.  

Enneagram Type 7: The Enthusiast

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 7:

  • Follow your instincts and focus on the positive aspects of their performance before anything else.
  • Make your critique as pointed and as specific as possible so you don't veer off course.
  • Give the other person a clear agenda to follow; your words of encouragement won’t help them that much unless you show them how to proceed.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 7:

  • Be prepared to have fun with your conversation; they’ll appreciate your willingness to engage with them and explore their ideas.
  • Make sure the Seven knows that you have faith in their ability to succeed, regardless of their mistakes or setbacks, so they don't feel overwhelmed by your criticism.
  • Tap into the Seven's enthusiasm by giving them improvement plans that allow them to be imaginative and think outside the box.

Enneagram Type 8: The Challenger

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 8:

  • Practice diplomacy so the force of your personality does not leave others feeling attacked or overwhelmed.
  • Make sure you provide constructive solutions rather than just highlighting a problem.
  • Offer feedback as part of a conversation so it will not seem as if you’re lecturing them.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 8:

  • Set up a dynamic that has the two of you discussing solutions as equal partners; Eights will reject your feedback unless there's give and take.
  • Be brief and direct. Do not bore with unnecessary details.
  • Don't be afraid to show that you are vulnerable; it will make the Eight feel more comfortable in opening up and being honest with you.

Enneagram Type 9: The Peacemaker

Giving feedback as an Enneagram 9:

  • Deliver bad news if you have to, even if it causes hurt feelings.
  • Be as honest and forthright as is necessary to make sure the other person gets the message, no matter how much it distresses you.
  • Be prepared to give examples and provide tangible action steps; you'll find it easier if you focus on solutions rather than criticism.

Giving feedback to an Enneagram 9:

  • Watch and listen carefully: Nines have a habit of nodding and agreeing with you even when they disagree with what you say.
  • Be patient and make sure to give them enough time to process their feelings.
  • Allow Nines to feel heard and respected by being empathetic and understanding of their point of view.
Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.