Category Archives: Relationships

Getting Along with Others

getting along with othersIt’s easy to be annoyed or hurt or frustrated by the way other people interact with us. But if we can identify what kind of responses we prefer—and communicate that information (rather than accuse or make demands) to significant others—we’ll have a much better chance of getting what we want. And of  getting along with each other.

With that in mind, in 2016 and 2017 I added a question for the Enneagram panelists: what advice can you give other people for getting along with you? The actual question included the phrase in one sentence, but not everyone took that part of the question to heart. Here are the answers they provided.

Note: Only one person on the 2017 panel was also on the 2016 panel. So 3 is the only type showing a single response.

Type 1

2016: Be responsible.

2017: I’ve noticed that when I get really stressed and start to think that things aren’t going to work out, when somebody gives me reassurance that everything’s going to be OK, I’m able to relax about not having things be perfect. That’s really helpful for me, that reassurance that it’s going to be all right. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Type 2

2016: I like to be noticed and spoken to when I enter a room or group.

2017: Accept my kindness. I’m not running for prom queen or for office and I’m not flirting with you if I’m extra-nice to you. So just accept the fact that I genuinely really like people.

Type 3

2016/2017: In order for you to get along with me, put me in charge, and I guarantee success. And make it a challenge because I love pushing myself, and I’ll push you, too. Just don’t expect too much emotional connection.

Type 4

2016: I tend to be pretty introverted and I like to have a lot of solitude, so don’t take it personally if I want to be alone a lot. But don’t write me off, either. Keep inviting me because I like to socialize, too. I need to do that.

2017: Just keep asking us questions. Keep varying how you do it. But just keep trying because we’re really, really good people to know.

Type 5

2016: Listen and show an interest in whatever topic has captured my inquisitiveness at the moment.

2017: Realize I enjoy talking to people but I feel uncomfortable in front of groups, especially groups of strangers. Interaction drains me so eventually I’ll need to escape and recharge.

Type 6

2016: When I’m in a group that’s single-minded, I’m going to be the devil’s advocate. When I’m in a group that is completely disparate, I’m going to be able to identify with every person in the group and draw them together. I thought it was leadership, but it’s actually my personality type, I think. So don’t be surprised if I’m poking you on something when you’re single-mindedly running toward something. I’m going to slow a process. And don’t be surprised that when you’re considering everything, I’m going to go the opposite direction.

2017: Be open and honest with me, which will help me overcome my innate caution and skepticism.

Type 7

2016: Remember that I will tend to control the issue. I’m aware that sometimes I’m trying not to do that, but it’s going to come out that way, so deal with it.

2017: To get along with a 7, be reasonably indulgent in allowing the expression of these creative possibilities and always acknowledge us. 7s like to be heard and they like to have some room so they feel like they have possibility.

Type 8

2016: Just get to the point and I’m happy.

2017: 8s tend to be drivers; we always have an agenda. So it’s good to address that. I know you have an agenda, but could I take 5 minutes of your valuable time. Please step outside your agenda and deal with me, look at me. Because we’re going to discuss doing something.

Type 9

2016: I may not draw attention to myself. I may not be competitive. But I have a lot to contribute. So don’t take me for granted. And don’t underestimate me.

2017: Just listen once in a while. I’m happy to listen to you, but it would be great to be listened to once in a while, too.

As one of those agenda-driven 8s for whom interruption is actually painful, I’d like to share how my partner of 30 years learned how to get along with me. If he had something to tell me or ask me and I was otherwise engaged, he’d stand in the vicinity until I finished the compelling thought, action, sentence—whatever was driving me. At that point, I’d be able to give him my full, rather than distracted or grudging, attention, and both of us were satisfied.

Is there some advice you would like to give others for getting along better with you?

I Am He as You Are He as You Are Me and We Are All Together*

As alien as one Enneagram type may seem to another, the fact is that each type has something in common with every other type. Each type is, in a way, a fragment of a whole. The “whole” is represented by the circle of the Enneagram, which garners nowhere near as much attention as the points on the triangle and the hexad do. It’s our differences that tend to get played up. There’s obviously a lot of value in exploring those differences, but there’s at least equal value in exploring our similarities.

Searching for Common Ground

Figuring out what we have in common with another person, Enneagram-wise, is an interesting exercise that can yield surprising results. Sometimes it’s the very thing we have in common with someone of another type that is the source of friction in the relationship. We all have aspects of our personalities we prefer not to acknowledge or that we outright deny. Besides, seeing what we have in common with others makes it more difficult to write them off completely.

Contact Points

There’s a simple way to check out what you have in common with the other types. This Contact Points chart includes centers, triads, stances, and coping styles (Harmonic Groups). Identifying your contact point with another type and trying to understand how the issues of that particular center (or triad or stance or coping style) play out for someone else as compared to how they play out for you can be illuminating.

You can also print the Ennea-Journaling: Relationships with Other Types worksheets and use them to jot down your thoughts and feelings about each type. You can either stop there or you can use your notes as jumping off points (prompts) for some flow-writing exercises.

The patterns of connection within the Enneagram are very much like the threads that connect everything within the great web of life. We aren’t really as separate from each other as we may imagine ourselves to be.

*Thank you, Lennon and McCartney.

When Push Comes to Shove

Conflict is a fact of life in general, and relationships—whether with family, friends, partners, co-workers, or neighbors—are definitely a part of life. In any relationship, there are times when things don’t go according to plan. Or they may go according to one person’s plan but not the other person’s. We famously can’t always get what we want. So how do we cope when conflict inevitably arises and things don’t go our way?

In The Wisdom of The Enneagram, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson describe what they refer to as three Harmonic Groups, which organize the nine types according to their coping styles.

[T]he Harmonic Groups tell us how we cope with conflict and difficulty: how we respond when we do not get what we want. … [T]hey reveal the fundamental way that our personality defends against loss and disappointment.

–The Wisdom of the Enneagram

The Competency Group
Types 1, 3, and 5 

This group deals with conflict or difficulty by putting aside their own feelings and needs and attempting to solve problems logically and objectively. Each of the three types in the Competency group has a particular attitude toward playing by the rules. Continue reading

You Can Call Me (Antisocial) Al

Al was one of my clients when I worked as a substance abuse counselor at the methadone clinic. Somehow I managed to persuade every single one of my clients to complete an Enneagram questionnaire, so I knew he was a Type 5. With his shaved head (usually covered by a baseball cap) and multiple tattoos, Al was a little off-putting, appearance-wise. He had spent more than one stint in San Quentin where he joined an Aryan Brotherhood gang. As he—and several other ex-con clients—explained to me, you had to belong to some group in prison in order to survive. He never seemed very committed to the white supremacist thing, and being a 5, he certainly wasn’t part of any gang on the outside.

Somewhere along the way, Al had encountered a psychiatrist who diagnosed him as having Antisocial Personality Disorder. I’m not sure what the psychiatrist was thinking. Did he believe that because Al had committed antisocial acts, he must therefore have Antisocial Personality Disorder? I don’t know. And I wouldn’t have cared, except the doctor was so convincing Al took on the diagnosis as part of his identity. It was as if he introduced himself by offering his hand and saying, “Hi, I’m Al. I have Antisocial Personality Disorder.”


The disconnect for me was that Al was unfailingly prompt for his counseling appointments and far more considerate of me than many of my less-sinister-appearing clients. He’d knock softly on my door and stick his head into my office after the client ahead of him had left. “I just wanted you to know I’m here,” he’d say. “Take your time. If you need a break, I’ll wait.” Continue reading

Squaring Off with the MBTI

Many years ago, before I’d heard of this thing called the Enneagram, I took a job as an office manager where I had to share an office with the company accountant. He was a consultant and had several other clients, so he wasn’t there all the time. Besides, it was quite a large space with exterior windows on one wall and lots of glass on another. Our desks were across the room, in opposite corners, about as far away from each other as they could be.

He seemed an affable sort of guy at first glance. I probably seemed pleasant enough to him, too. But within a month, it became obvious we saw eye-to-eye on almost nothing. The situation became so disagreeable that he tried (and failed) to get me fired, and I threatened to bring a roll of duct tape into the office and run it from one corner to the other to mark off our respective halves of the room.

Then I had another thought. Continue reading

Changes in Attitudes … Changes in Latitudes

The word “stance” usually refers to some kind of motionless or standing posture. So it’s an interesting choice of word to describe three different ways of moving. Instead of stances, we’re actually talking about different approaches. But we’re sort of stuck with the vocabulary at this point—at least I am.

The stance we take—moving against (Aggressive), moving away from (Withdrawing), or moving toward (Compliant)—is basic to who we are and underlies our automatic responses and reactions to the world around us and to the other people in our lives. Although it’s true we access the other two stances occasionally, the stance our type takes is our “go to” stance—the approach we fall back on, especially under pressure or in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations.

 Moving Against
The Aggressive types (3, 7, and 8) generally take a direct approach,
moving against what gets in the way of what they want.

Moving Away From
Keeping to Oneself
The Withdrawing types (4, 5, and 9) turn inward to find fulfillment,
moving away from what disturbs them.

Moving Toward
Giving in to Others
The Compliant types (1, 2, and 6) tend to seek a point of reference outside themselves, moving toward what will help them earn what they need. Continue reading

My Friend, John

John is my friend Donna’s son, who celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday. He was born just a few months before I moved from California to New Mexico, so although I visit them occasionally (not nearly as often as I’d like), I’ve been present for approximately .0000001 percent of his life—or something like that, math not being my strong suit.

But John is clearly another 8w7. I totally grok him and get a huge charge out of seeing how similar he is to me.

WORDs, Words, Words

A couple of weeks ago, I got this email from his mother:

Quizzing John for his final in grammar. Pretty solid except he could not get the definition of COMPLY to save his life. Repeated efforts resulted in plenty of anger towards me. I was laughing on the inside. Continue reading

Don, Don, He’s a 1!

Don and I have been critiquing each other’s writing for about five years. Shortly after we met, he completed an Enneagram test that figured him to be a 9. I didn’t know him very well then, so a 9 he was. Although every once in a while I wondered about that, we never talked about the Enneagram until I decided to start this blog, at which time he completed my Stance Keyword Comparison Checklist. The results indicated he was a Compliant type, and we soon determined he’s a 1w9—a profile that fits him much better and explains quite a lot.

So, in one corner of the critique ring, wearing the white trunks, we have:

Do It the Right Way (Don)

and over in the other corner, wearing the black trunks:

Do It My Way (me)

Thank goodness for the moderating influence of our wings, his 9 and my 7. Sure, we’ve had a couple of minor skirmishes. One time when we were meeting as part of a critique group in a bookstore café, I took the lid off my cup of coffee, and the person to my right backed away from the table, assuming I intended to toss the contents at Don. But no knockout punches have been delivered to date and no liquid refreshments have been tossed. Continue reading

Remembering Mom

Apparently when she was born in 1917, my mother’s parents couldn’t afford a middle name for her. I think she was offended by that vacant spot—and probably even embarrassed. She righted the wrong when she received Confirmation in the Catholic Church and took her Confirmation name, Theresa, as her official middle name. She wore it proudly to the very end.

Color me Skeptical (age 1-1/2)

A few years before she died, my mother completed an Enneagram test and readily identified as a 9w1: a Withdrawing type with a Compliant wing. If only we’d known from the beginning that temperamentally-speaking we were two entirely different species, we might have grated on each other a little less. She never knew what to make of me, and I was equally perplexed by her. She tended to work herself up over what the neighbors might think about something. To be fair, ours was not the most conventional of families. But I couldn’t be bothered about what the neighbors might think.

Mom’s 1 wing asserted itself at the supermarket, where she wouldn’t allow me to put any of the groceries on the conveyor belt at check-out because everything had to be precisely placed in a particular sequence she was convinced I would mess up. Since I didn’t care enough to learn her system, I’m sure she was right. When we got home to unpack the bags, all the items had to be moved to their appropriate staging areas before anything could be put away. As a Doing type, I would have been happy to put the groceries away as she unpacked them. That would have been so much more efficient. But it wasn’t the “right” way, so we never did that.  Continue reading