Twos, I need your help. A friend of mine is trying to track down a specific T-shirt to wear to an upcoming Enneagram training at his workplace.
It reads, “I’m whichever number doesn’t care about the Enneagram.”
Yeah, he’s that guy. (Cough: What an Eight! … Or maybe a Four who doesn’t want to be put in a box?)
By now, I have either caught you completely Ennea-unaware, or you’re rightfully accusing me of drive-by typecasting — totally misusing what has become one of my favorite aids for personal and relational growth. Kim and I picked up a book about the Enneagram this summer. Reading it together was like fog lifting out of San Francisco Bay.
An experience like that makes you want to engage further, so we scheduled coffee with Rachel Briscoe, a personal and business coach, at The Garden Coffee & Local Eats in Spokane Valley. Rachel is passionate about “digging in deep with people and helping them go from where they are now to where they were created to go,” and the Enneagram is one of her favorite vehicles to aid this transformation.
“When I was first introduced to the Enneagram, I tried it on, and it fit so well,” she said. “It’s like somebody lifted the veil, and all the work I needed to do in my own heart to take that next step was just laid out.”
The Enneagram breaks down nine basic personality types.
“It’s an intimate way of understanding who you are, how you show up in the world and how the world best receives you,” Rachel said. “Once you have that understanding, it gives you more compassion for yourself and more compassion for others.”
“It’s an intimate way of understanding who you are, how you show up in the world and how the world best receives you.”Rachel Briscoe
What happened next in our conversation was equivalent to a 5-year-old picking up a running chainsaw at a Christmas tree farm.
I was the 5-year-old, and I essentially said: “That’s so cool Rachel guess what I’m a Nine and so how can I be a better parent and friend and husband and if it helps Kim’s a One (makes sense, huh) — oh, and then tell me the same thing about all the other types so I can help all my friends and then write about it.”
Then my Nine kicked in: “But whatever you think would be best.”
Fortunately, Rachel knows how to handle kids with chainsaws. The Enneagram is a tool, and like any tool it can be used poorly — in ways that are inefficient at best and destructive at worst. So before Rachel answered all my questions, she shared some guidelines for wise use of this powerful tool in relationships.
Leave room to be different
Ever been confused why your spouse or friend isn’t showing up the same way you are showing up for the relationship?
“The Enneagram gives us the power to have compassion and to understand that there are nine ways to be normal,” Rachel said. “When we understand this is just another normal way to show up for the world, then it leaves room for both of us to be different.”
Relationships have two people
When I asked Rachel my probable parenting strengths and blind spots as a Nine, she offered an important clarifier. Just considering my own strengths and weaknesses as an individual is not enough information to understand my strengths and weaknesses in a relationship.
“As parents, it can be easy to forget that our kids are their own people, and who they are has just as much to do with the success of the relationship as who we are,” she said.
Only with that dual knowledge will our own strengths and blind spots in a particular relationship come into focus.
When your strength is also your blind spot
“The best teachers are those who had to learn it first,” Rachel said. Which is why she is going to have a hard time teaching you how to “read a room.” She’s a Two, a type that “walks into a room with a thermometer,” able to intuitively look around and sense how people in the room are feeling, what kind of day they are having.
It’s an intuitive thing for her, but if she tried to teach some other number something that she never really had to be taught?
“I can show my kids what it looks like to serve others in an intuitive way, but my blind spot is I can’t teach them something I’ve never learned how to do,” she said.
It’s draining not to be you
Sometimes the demands of life — a job, a relationship, a conflict — will ask us to play a role that really isn’t in our sweet spot. Sacrifices like this might be sustainable for the moment, but they are not a healthy lifestyle decision.
“We can all hold a role that is needed for the environment around us, but if we are not energetically in tune with who we are and how we are created, it will drain us so fast,” Rachel said. “When you meet people who are burned out, it’s probably because they have been operating at a level that they are not supposed to be operating at. Leave that for someone else who is supposed to show up that way.”
The nine types
Of course, another tip might be this: Don’t trust a single article to plumb the depths of the Enneagram. It can’t. That’s why links to Rachel’s favorite resources are included at the end of this story.
The names for each of the nine numbers are taken from one of those links, yourenneagramcoach.com, a site where Rachel has gained training and resources to help in her coaching practice. This quick overview of each type is followed by insight from Rachel regarding what each type can bring to a relationship.
Ones: The Moral Perfectionists
Responsible, Idealistic, Self-controlled, Purposeful, Fair
“(Ones) are able to really help people understand a clear direction. … They can compassionately come into a relationship and guide it in the right direction, helping someone understand what is a good and right path to go down. When it’s healthy, it comes across as guidance, not nagging.”
Twos: The Supportive Advisors
Caring, Generous, Nurturing, People-Pleasing, Warm
“Twos bring a deep sense of service to a relationship. They need to feel like they are serving someone or something outside of themselves. … They want to play a starring role in someone else’s story! (Healthy or unhealthy — you can see how that could be a problem.)”
Threes: The Successful Achievers
Competent, Productive, Driven, Image-Conscious, Adaptive
“I believe the energy of a Three is what makes it possible for things to move forward efficiently. … If you are around a healthy Three, you are going to want to achieve something big in your life. They probably aren’t the ones who are going to help you step by step get there, but a three is your walking vision board.”
Fours: The Romantic Individualists
Deep, Unique, Tasteful, Expressive, Emotional
“Fours are the friends who want to try new things with you just to have that experience with you. … In a relationship, they bring a certain amount of creativity and beauty that other types can’t. Envy is something to watch out for as Fours can show up competitive in relationships.”
Fives: The Investigative Thinkers
Cerebral, Perceptive, Innovative, Introspective, Private
“Fives are happiest when they are collecting data, even if that’s people watching in a coffee shop. … It is one of the highest compliments if a Five lets you into her inner circle, because it is exceptionally, intentionally small. If Fives aren’t careful about their own boundaries, they can drain themselves quickly.”
Sixes: The Loyal Guardians
Prepared, Hard-working, Committed, Security-oriented, Responsible
“A Six is someone who will go to bat for you. They are so loyal. … They want to have a deeper understanding of people in their circles, and they want to protect the relationship. … If they don’t feel security in a relationship, it feels like everything is going to fall down around them.”
Sevens: The Entertaining Optimists
Fun-loving, Spontaneous, Creative, Imaginative, Inspirational
“Sevens bring the fun. They are the ones who want to help you find the fun. An average to unhealthy Seven is more self-serving — what feels fun to me — but in a healthy relationship, they want to find out what fills you up and is fun for you, and they will do that thing.”
Eights: The Protective Challengers
Direct, Bold, Decisive, Powerful, Self-Confident
“Eights bring strength to a relationship. They are good at saying, ‘No, you need to advocate for yourself.’ They won’t take over your life and do it for you if they’re healthy. … An eight in a healthy relationship will empower. When it’s not healthy, it’s controlling.”
Nines: The Peaceful Mediators
Agreeable, Calm, Enduring, Easygoing, Receptive
“There is something about a Nine in a relationship that they tend to fill in the gaps of what a relationship needs. It’s almost like the Nine will wait and see. ‘OK, I’m in a relationship with a Two. What does the Two bring to the table? I will fill in the blanks.’ … They need to watch out for losing themselves.”
For more on the Enneagram …
Rachel recommends the following online resources for further learning on the Enneagram:
• • •
For people wanting to learn more without committing to paid online evaluations, she likes the free Enneagram test at yourenneagramcoach.com.
Curious to take the next step in learning more?
Head to go.oncehub.com/rachelBcoaching and sign up for a complimentary Enneagram conversation with Rachel. You can also connect with her at rachelBcoaching@gmail.com.
Rachel Briscoe is a personal and business coach, team development trainer — and a Two. She and her husband run four local businesses.
Rachel likes to meet clients at The Garden, where she orders a Spiced Chai Tea Latte with Oat Milk. “It tastes like Christmas!” she said. “I literally order this everywhere I go, and it’s the best at The Garden. Hands down!”
For more on The Garden Coffee & Local Eats, check out this profile I posted in October.
Feature image credit: “Enneagram clock” illustration (which creatively shows a Type 5 with a 4 Wing — confused? ask Rachel! — courtesy of www.fitzel.ca/enneagram
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