Being able to navigate conflict is essential for career and organizational success. Conflict is a natural and important part of our work life. Instead of trying to avoid it, the key is to focus on how to support healthy constructive conflict, rather than permit unhealthy destructive conflict.
Each Enneagram type responds to conflict in a particular way. They each bring a certain set of skills and strengths to navigating and resolving conflict.
You need to be aware of this when trying to resolve conflict with a person of that type. If you know their approach, meeting them in that style can help them feel heard, understand and create a foundation of mutual understanding and respect that helps to resolve the issue.
Below is a brief overview of the strengths each Enneagram type uses when trying to resolve conflicts, and some tips for meeting them in their style for when you are trying to resolve an issue with that type. There are many factors to consider when trying to resolve conflict. For now, we’re just focusing on what the Enneagram can teach us about conflict.
And if you would like to learn about what triggers your Enneagram type into conflict and how you react to that, learn about that here.
Enneagram Nines: The Peacemaker
Let’s start with Enneagram Nines as they are known for their mediating abilities.
Nines help mediate conflict by listening to all parties and ensuring everyone feels heard and their perspectives are considered. As they see all sides of an issue or problem, they find the commonality in each position and use it to build consensus. And as Nines focus on being the mediator, they don’t insert themselves into the conflict. Nines rarely will compete, dominate or take credit.
The Nine’s conflict-resolution strengths are:
- Seeing all sides
- Finding common ground
- Being humble and friendly
However, Nines are deeply uncomfortable with any conflict that involves them directly. If you are in conflict with a Nine, try to give them the same gifts they give to others in conflict:
- Ask them for their view and listen to them fully without interruption
- Find the common ground between you
- Remain humble, avoid being competitive or dominating
It can also help if you frame the conflict as being good for the people Nines care about.
Enneagram Eights: The Challenger
Eights are known for their big energy and ease at confronting issues directly.
They are quick to spot issues or obstacles that will impact the larger goal and proactively address them. With their direct, straightforward style, they address the key issues quickly and focus on finding fair, simple solutions that can be applied immediately. And because they are comfortable with tension, they are able to stay in the conflict until it's resolved.
The Eight’s conflict-resolution strengths are:
- Being comfortable with conflict
- Staying engaged while issues are resolved
- Being motivated to address obstacles
- Finding fair solutions quickly
If you are in conflict with an Eight, they appreciate when you can try to meet them in their conflict style. This includes:
- Holding your ground and staying in the conflict
- Being direct and to the point
- Focusing on what is actionable now
Eights aren’t always aware of their impact on others so you may want to give them feedback about this. But do so in a considerate way, because underneath their powerful exterior, they are sensitive and caring.
Enneagram Sevens: The Enthusiast
The Seven’s positive attitude can give the impression that conflict doesn’t phase them, but underneath they can get quite anxious.
As Sevens tend to stay upbeat, they bring a sense of optimism and possibility to conflict. They turn negatives into positives and share their vision for what could be possible in the future. And they often provide a range of unexpected ideas of how that could be achieved.
The Seven’s conflict-resolution strengths are:
- Their positive approach
- Suggesting creative solutions
- Envisioning new possibilities
- Reframing negatives into positives
If you are in conflict with a Seven, remember they find difficult conversations very challenging. Try using some of their gifts to make the conversation a bit easier, including:
- Start by focusing on what’s positive
- Provide them with options
- Ask them to share different possible solutions or a new vision for the future
- Reassure them you are keen to resolve the conflict quickly too
As Sevens fear being trapped in uncomfortable situations, they find it easier to open up when they don’t have to look at someone directly. So plan on talking to them during a walking meeting, preferably past their favorite coffee shop!
Enneagram Sixes: The Skeptic
When it comes to conflict, the phobic Six tends to become more doubting and questioning, while the counterphobic Six becomes more rebellious or aggressive. What is true for all Sixes, though, is that they are always on the lookout for how trustworthy someone is.
Sixes are keen to ensure that any solution is properly thought through. Hence they ask a lot of questions to uncover any risks or threats. They naturally break problems into their component parts to address issues associated with each. This means they can explain complex problems and issues clearly.
The Six’s conflict-resolution strengths are:
- Asking questions to uncover potential issues
- Being honest and open about what’s not working
- Being a good problem solver
- Offering insightful analysis of the situation
If you are in conflict with a Six, it helps to create a sense of trust. Ways to do that include:
- Doing what you say you will
- Focusing on objective data
- Allowing them to ask questions without judgment
- Taking their fears and concerns seriously
Also know that Sixes have a contrarian nature. That means they often say the opposite of what you said first, like playing devil’s advocate. What they say next is more likely to be their true position.
Enneagram Fives: The Investigator
In conflict, Fives see their role as the person who remains calm and provides information relevant to resolving the issue.
As subject-matter experts, Fives provide objective and rational information. They will outline the relevant analysis and give people time to process it. They won’t insert themselves into the conversation unless they feel they have pertinent information to share.
The Five’s conflict-resolution strengths include:
- Remaining calm under pressure
- Providing objective analysis about the situation
- Conducting research to gather more data
- Listening to others’ ideas
If you're in conflict with a Five, it can help to approach the situation as they would, including:
- Staying calm and avoiding being overly emotional
- Giving them time to process or research after you have spoken
- Providing research or evidence that supports your position
- Being sincere and listening well
Fives are very sensitive to being overwhelmed, hence they keep a tight control on their time, energy and space. Ensure you respect the Five’s boundaries as part of the resolution process.
Enneagram Fours: The Individualist
Being authentic is very important to Fours, and this is especially true during difficult conversations.
As Fours are emotionally intuitive, they pick up on unspoken tension between people and believe that raising these issues is better for the people involved in the long run. In doing so, they deeply empathize with those concerned and aren't intimidated by intensely emotional situations. They will speak honestly about what they are noticing, with the aim of helping people reconnect with each other.
The Four’s conflict-resolution strengths:
- Communicating authentically
- Raising unspoken issues that need to be addressed
- Being emotionally intuitive and insightful about relationships
- Caring about the connection between people
If you are in conflict with a Four, it's helpful to give them the same gifts they give to others, including:
- Listening deeply to understand them
- Appreciating their emotions, even if they are overwhelming
- Speaking honestly and transparently
- Affirming what you appreciate about them and their work
If you are not a Four, you may feel daunted by the Four’s emotional depth and feel uncomfortable when talking to them. It’s essential that you don’t dismiss their depth of feeling. Instead, recognize your discomfort and manage your own reactions.
Enneagram Threes: The Achiever
Enneagram Threes tend to be too busy to get involved with conflict until it becomes an obstacle in the path to the goal, or threatens to make them look bad in some way.
Threes want to get projects back on track quickly. They are often confident about their ability to resolve the problem, and suggest practical solutions to address it quickly. They value good working relationships so they want to ensure everyone is on board and there is mutual understanding about the path forward.
The Three's conflict-resolution strengths:
- A confident, can-do attitude
- Recommending practical solutions
- A desire to see the problem through to the end
- Ensuring mutual understanding
If you are in conflict with a Three, it helps to adopt the same energy they bring to work, including:
- Reaffirming the goal
- Getting to the point quickly and succinctly
- Being positive about the ability to resolve the problem
- Helping them look good
Threes can really struggle to slow down and listen more fully. Until they can do that, it helps to keep things focused on the goal. Take the time to understand what the Three defines as success and what rewards they are seeking.
Enneagram Twos: The Giver
Enneagram Twos are very focused on their relationships and on being likable, hence they prefer not to initiate conflict. But they will do so if they sense something is off in a key relationship and the best way to clear the air is by confronting it.
Twos want to maintain good relationships with people so, in conflict, they tend to be diplomatic and caring. They create positive rapport with people and use that as a basis to understand different points of view. They sincerely listen to others and work with the other party to create a mutually beneficial solution.
The Two’s conflict-resolution strengths:
- Develop collaborative solutions
- Empathically understand others’ feelings and needs
- Support different perspectives
- Clear the air when it's needed
If you are in conflict with a Two, you may be surprised by their emotionality. To help them return to a even keel and resolve the conflict, it helps to:
- Provide positive feedback and affirmation
- Let them know the relationship is important to you, too
- Listen to their story and try to understand their emotions
- Help them feel heard
Avoid blaming the other person. Instead, focus on finding where the confusion about expectations arose and what wasn’t as clear as it needed to be.
Enneagram One: The Perfectionist
With their focus on right and wrong, Ones have their own process about the ethical way to approach conflict.
Ones approach conflict logically, and prefer to hear arguments based on logic, facts and reason. They focus on doing the right thing in the particular situation, as well as ensuring that relevant rules and procedures are adhered to. They will stand their ground, even in the face of opposition.
The One’s conflict-resolution strengths:
- Ethical, honest and responsible
- Wanting to do the right thing
- Speaking directly, logically and precisely
- Remaining objective, even in the face of strong opposition
If you are in conflict with a One, it can help to know that behind any rigidity, they have good intentions and want things to go well. To help resolve a conflict, try:
- Focusing on what is working and going well
- Avoiding criticizing them or over emphasizing what’s not working
- Allowing them to vent their frustration
- Seeking to understand their intentions behind their position
Ones aren’t always aware of just how angry or frustrated they are, which is why it helps to allow them to vent. Once that is out of the way, it will be easier to identify the core issue and discuss the best way to resolve it.
Mastering conflict for every type
Learning to navigate conflict at work is an ongoing process. As you become aware of how your approach differs from others and how to adapt as needed, the more adept you’ll be at mastering conflict resolution at work.