How to Use Your Enneagram Type to Work for Change - jennwhitmer.com

Jul 8, 2022

How to Use Your Enneagram Type to Work for Change

It’s a lot right now. We’re holding a lot.

Arguably, at any point in time, you’re holding a lot. But this season feels like a high tide of change and uncertainty, barely getting your head above water before the next wave crashes.

And do all the waves feel angry? Or at the least barbed and pointed?

You are not alone. Justice, peace, nuance…all seem to be slipping through our collective fingers. And if you’re new working for change, it can feel completely overwhelming. If you’ve been around a minute, it can feel hopeless at times.

Enneagram wisdom can provide the way to sustainable change—in our own lives and in the way we bring change to our world.

The Enneagram helps us examine our perspective. Enneagram work is about understanding your motivations and your way of seeing the world. By its very design, Enneagram gives us freedom to recognize we all see the world differently. 

That posture of observation in Enneagram work naturally lends itself to practicing respect for other views and working for the change you want to see in the world.

My goal is always to help you find freedom from unhelpful patterns in your thoughts, process your emotions, and choose healthy actions so you can feel energized, peaceful, and good in your own skin.

Because you, my friend, don’t have to be like anyone else to manage change or be a good leader. 

The lens of your Enneagram type helps you untangle what challenges you when working for change. And it also helps you understand why the way you see the world is important when working for justice and change in your team, your community, and the larger world. 

Ones
You naturally have a desire for the right way. And what is happening, the concept of a protest or an organization making unfair rules in general, doesn’t feel “right.”

Because of that, it can be easy to focus on how people are doing the process wrong, rather than seeing the impact on hurting people.

“If they would just…”

“I would listen if…”

This would be the time to remember there are many good ways of doing things, not just one right way. And solving a systemic issue requires many good ways of doing things.

Also, remember you can turn down the inner critic, or relax that voice in your head. And when you do something “wrong,” you want relief from your family and friends because the internal critic is beating you up. Tap into that empathy when the way others fight systemic racism and justice doesn’t happen the way you think is right.

Ones, showing up in person will help you. Go to a rally, go the office, be with the people working for change.  When someone must proclaim their own humanity, and you experience that with your very own body in real time, the need for a right way melts away. You feel that beautiful One space of the Reformer.

Ones, you can work for accountability. You want those who break the rules and harm people to face justice. Move your anger from those who are oppressed to seeking justice for them and those in power who have abused that power.

Ones, lean into your line with the Four. A space where every feeling doesn’t need evaluation. Experiencing those deep emotions can change your judgments and move you toward empathy and compassion.

Twos
Your intentions are always to help. And then bam, someone says it wasn’t helpful, and you are hurt to the core. And your struggle with shame becomes front and center. It’s easy for you to throw up your hands and say, “FINE. I won’t do anything.”

In general, Twos struggle because they are helping to earn love and acceptance. Justice work, change work, is too complicated for that formula. It can be so simple to slip into performance rather than genuine sacrificial work.

Twos, find ways of helping (at first) that are more private. Have conversations with coworkers and family. Call your manager, mayor, county council, state senator, or federal representative asking for specific policies. Maybe it’s a letter campaign. Signing petitions. Even a sign in your window or yard. Definitely talk to your children about anti-racism and justice. Do work suggested by organizations already advocating for the change you want to see. Then you know your help is truly helping and not just to receive acceptance for it.

Twos, help in personal ways. You can send a gift card, flowers, or make a meal for a friend who impacted by the inequity or news. Twos are amazing at loving people with their hands and feet and food. Do that for those closest to you, but do not expect gushing thanks for praise in return. Freely love them.

Twos, you will need to take true respites in this emotional work. You will need some solitude to sort your emotions from the emotions of others. Don’t make these permanent retreats, but solitude will help you continue change work for the long haul.

Lean into your line with Eights and move to action and protection of the powerless, not simply thinking that gets you spinning your wheels.

Threes
You have worked and worked. You have set goals and smashed them. You have worked for those achievements.

And because of that, the concept of privilege can be hard for you to accept. Also, when something you’ve worked for is taken away, it’s devastating.

Know what you’re fighting is shame. The internal struggle of the three is achievement will keep me from shame and give me significance. You build an internal space that says, “I’ve worked to get here which means others can too.” It’s the American bootstrap fallacy in your own brain. When the fallacy is exposed, that we are a part of systems that limit achievement for others and ourselves, the foundation you’ve built crumbles.

For Threes, it’s important to say clearly you’ve benefited from the systems you exist in. Saying it out loud is hard, but also true and important in the work of justice and change. It helps to be specific, not just overall. It helps your soul when you identify the various forms of privilege you have. It’s also important to grieve the places the systems have failed you. 

Once you see the places that need change, your goal-setting and wooing communication style can promote the change you want to see. 

Bringing specifics to the light fights shame and helps move the work of justice forward. Privilege is a concept that if you as a three can break down to specifics, you have a talk style that can woo and promote others toward change.

Read resources from black specialists. Have one or two ready to share as your go-tos for learning when people ask you. Lean into your charm to help others learn once you have learned. 

Move into your line with Six to tap into a more cooperative nature and seek the collective good.

Fours
Fours, lovingly. This isn’t just about you.

It can be easy for you to put your intense emotions about injustice and pain right in the center. Which is distracting and off-putting at best. Also, because you are so very good about sitting with pain, you can sometimes stay there and doomscroll, looking for the next horrible video or ridiculous comment to keep the intensity strong. That is unhelpful. You will need to move to action.

Fours can get a little caught out if you feel you cannot share how you feel about what’s happening. And if people are ignoring that or you don’t even get your chance, that can send you into withdrawal or the push-pull of the Four. You may need to find someone to feel your big feelings with, just not your friends of color.

You can really feel with your BIPOC friends who are sharing their experiences. Share the burden of their pain without sharing your own feelings.

Fours, you can get distracted and withdraw until you find the most authentic way to engage. Not wanting to deal with a shame feeling of being “not genuine” or unique in your approach. Resist that tendency. Move to action before you have it all figured out. You can write letters and donate with complete authenticity. You absolutely can find black artists and creators to follow and share their work. Just get going.

Be honest about where you’ve learned something in your justice work. Share how you came to change your mind. And put down your competitive nature to say it the best way. Sharing how you didn’t get it right is actually so authentic and special. It also just frees others from the shame this work can bring.

I really encourage you to lean into your line with the One and move toward reform. Get into the space that gets your creativity out into the world. That will be the space that moves you to action.

Fives 
Your fear of the amount of energy justice and change take is real. Empathy is already a difficult place for many Fives, so logic and research become the way forward.

You may also fear you don’t know enough. Fives struggle in many spaces when they believe they don’t know enough to speak about a topic or be a reliable source. For the work of justice and change, you don’t have all the facts, let alone have them sorted.

Fives, engineer a framework for how to engage on topics you care about. That will decrease the energy required. Planned breaks from news and media will also be important.

Lean into your love of logic to find the overwhelming statistical evidence of racism in systems. Also, look for the ways the system hurts everyone. You know what credible sources are. You can refute the false information that gets shared and reshared. 

Move to your Eight space to get the energy and the mindset of protecting the vulnerable.

Sixes
Sixes, looking for guidance and support from trusted authorities can be confusing right now. The cognitive dissonance can be staggering for you. To say police brutality exists feels disloyal to your friend who is a cop. To recognize pay inequity in your company feels unsafe in keeping your job.

It will be helpful for you to remember that this is systemic work. You want a process and a system that supports everyone.

Another pitfall you may topple into is relying a little too much on your personal (or social media) black friends to give you personal feedback on what you should do or your progress. 

Sixes, your biggest kryptonite is your group. You deeply value group belonging, this may be the hardest part of your journey. This doesn’t mean you have to reject them, but you may have to add a new group to support you in your justice and change work. Trust yourself. You can do this. Turn the volume down on the inner committee.

You ask the best questions. Ask them of yourself and your group about how to help. You also prepare like no other number. Use that preparation for protests or campaigns that support justice work.

Lean into both wings: Five for data and Seven for the energy to just start doing.

Sevens
Looking for positivity too quickly can really hinder your work. Part of change and justice is looking at the pain straight in the eye. “Let’s just focus on the positive” is hurtful to those who are in pain. Especially if you are wanting to be an ally, this doesn’t come across as just dismissive, but oppressive.

Another bit that may be hard for you—limits on the best way white people can do justice and anti-racist work. Sevens can bristle at limits and lack of options. See these limits as the best and most efficient way to lasting change.

Sevens, focus your starburst mind on the long work that change requires. Sevens are experts at jumping to the next thing. Because this is hard work, it will be even more tempting to want to leave it behind when another great idea comes up. Persevere in this work and focus on the better world you are creating. 

You will need intentional breaks in consumption, but don’t leave anti-racism work behind. I suggest understanding the power of silence in your own life. Chris Huerutz talks about the power of silence for the seven, “Real transformation takes place when we pair the self-awareness that the Enneagram stimulates with the silence of contemplative practice.” Silence to examine your own pain and the pain of others. Acknowledging and really sitting with the pain and injustice is the first step toward changing it.

Sevens, you have the energy to do this. To rally people to the cause. You can envision the future and see the freedom there. Put that gathering tendency to good use! Find a specific activity, especially on a local level, you can use your gifts to rally people toward change. Share petitions, call/write local politicians, donate, register people to vote, host a book club: find a way into a routine of justice work.

Lean into your Eight wing for the passion toward protecting the vulnerable and your line to the highest ideals of the type One reformer.

Eights
Your desire to not be controlled can come out sideways in justice work. You’re used to moving mountains alone. You’re going to need others in this work.

Many eights may have already been working for change for a long time. Sometimes your language can come across as past tense, “I did that. And here’s what you need to know.” Don’t let your first experience with information be the last word. Rather stay in the present tense of learning. “I’m still learning, too.” This doesn’t mean you are being controlled. It means that you are still learning how to dismantle the power structures that oppress people.

For those new to the work, you may feel all the guilt and anger of “How did I not see it? How was I not working to protect people?” And it may shock you. Don’t burden your black friends with all of the anger. Absolutely admit your revelation, your complicity, your commitment, and your support. But don’t expect your grieving black friend to carry your anger. Most are full up of their own at this moment. 

Eights, your passion runs hot and intense. You are solving so many future problems all the time, you can burn yourself down. Physical breaks and taking care of your body will be vital for you to continue this work for a long time. 

You may also need to examine whom you believe is the oppressed or the oppressor. Slow down and examine your assumptions. Our culture has constructed an almost monolithic hero status around veterans and police. I encourage you to consider either/or thinking about policing doesn’t serve the officers or the cause of justice. 

Defending the powerless is where your passion goes. I encourage you to look at who has the most power—systemically, culturally, politically. And then look at the effects of what those who are in power do. You will begin to see how the system—policing, justice, education, housing—isn’t working.

When you raise these issues with others, your natural tendency will be to shut people down with your power and rightness. That can often send issues into the shadows, rather than leading people into examining their thoughts, presenting them with information, and leading them toward change. Do your homework, but come in with that posture of “I thought that. And I’m still learning too.” 

Once in a good posture, you can mobilize and promote like few other numbers. You can speak up (but not over). You can mobilize a group for change at the systemic level. Go into your networks and work for change. Go super local. City and county councils are where the change is at. 

Go to that high side of Two and grow in actively helping others. Tap into your Nine wing to slow your action.

Nines
All of this can seem too much. There is nowhere to find peace, externally or internally. It can also be paralyzing because of your gift of seeing many sides and merging with other people’s ideas.

When you want to maintain your inner peace, withdrawl and disenggement appeal to you. This conflict everywhere is draining. Especially for nines who grew up in the church, it can be tempting to couch your desire to be non-confrontational in religious language. Such as we just need to trust Jesus to change hearts. Or we just need to forgive and move on. I encourage you to examine the steps after changed hearts and forgiveness and not stop there.

Nines, in many circumstances, your people need you to be affected by life. In this time in particular, people want you to wake up to your anger of the pain of others and connect in that way, rather than fearing the disconnection.

It may be really helpful for you to remember you didn’t start this. The path to this moment in history is centuries in the making. This time of difficulty is years of unmet needs. And now, you have a voice in making change. Your voice does matter in making peace. And this is the way to real peace.

Because Nines often struggle with prioritization and decision fatigue. Create routines for this work. Monthly donations. Regular book club. A specific decision tree for when you will have a conversation, “If they say do X, then I will say this.”

Nines, you are also the best-suited for this work. That ability to see all the sides? That makes you a safe space to have hard conversations. Especially for people who are in a process of learning and unlearning. You also have a special gift for speaking with people in power. We need your voice there.

Lean into the Eight wing and your line to Three for the energy to protect and see a goal accomplished. 


For every type, I want to encourage you to work toward connection, peace, and flourishing.

Most of all I encourage you to ask more questions to understand yourself and others better. I’ve found that in the waves, curiosity becomes the surfboard that brings joy in the difficulty of change.

What do you notice about yourself after reading? Let’s set up a time to talk about it!

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