Feb 10, 2023

How to Improve Your Communication with the Enneagram

My plane was delayed last month because of poor communication and a dog.

My 5:20am flight (YIKES) was set to leave early, when the flight attendants started whispering about a dog on the plane. I’m in the second row, so I’ve got a front-row seat to the quandary.

“The dog’s not in a carrier.”

“She said she had a carrier.”

“It’s not a carrier. It’s a sling.”

This poor woman had a ticket or boarding pass or whatever you’re supposed to have to bring a pet on a flight. She just wants to bring this 4lb dog on her vacation.

Everyone thought it was fine: the gate agent asked her, and said she had a carrier. She thought she had a carrier.

What she had was a pet papoose. What the airline required was a small piece of luggage like a kennel.

Good communication is about creating shared meaning.

Cute Dog

While sweet dog mom and lovely flight crew were both saying “carrier,” they were not sharing meaning.

One of the biggest blocks to shared meaning is your Enneagram personality communication style. Observing your typical communication is challenging for everyone because it just feels like the way you are. How do you change that?

The great news: Communication is a skill you can improve.

The Enneagram helps you to see your unique communication challenges. You don’t have to change your personality to avoid a carrier vs. pet papoose situation.

Here are tips for each type to move through communication roadblocks

Enneagram Eight

As an Eight: Ask clarifying questions. Resist the urge to fill in blanks and solve problems before truly understanding.

Working with an Eight: Be direct, concise, and honest. Otherwise, you’re like Mr. Cellophane. It’s like you’re not even there.

Enneagram Nine

As a Nine: Others often interpret your “uh huh” as a yes, even if you’re just nodding along. Ask, “What action are you wanting me to take?” and then say yes or no to the request.

Working with a Nine: Notice when a Nine is in a pattern of “Uh huh.” Seek out their perspective by asking “What are your thoughts about this discussion?”

Enneagram One

As a One: Tone down absolutes. Replace always, never, every, every time, everything, only with more open and flexible words. Try at times, some, frequently, often, possibly.

Working with a One: Avoid teasing or ribbing as a form of bonding with Ones. Even offhanded comments can keep Ones trapped in self-critique. This can damage a One and break trust in a relationship.

Enneagram Two

As a Two: Be more direct in asking for what you want or need. People cannot guess or anticipate your needs (even though you think they should.)

Working with a Two: Respond to messages. Even if it’s simply, “I got this, and I’m working on an answer for you.” Or just a clear yes or no. Don’t ghost them.

Enneagram Three

As a Three: Work on increasing your wait time. After questions or before moving onto the next topic, pause for 8-10 seconds. Yes, the feels like an eternity! I promise it’s not.

Working with a Three: Curtail extraneous information at the beginning and give a clear focus to the conversation. “I want to talk with you about two things: this and this.”

Enneagram Four

As a Four: Learn to summarize and give concrete examples in addition to your metaphors and imagery.

Working with a Four: Be generous and kind when giving feedback about their creations (design, writing, ideas.) Fours see their creative work as an extension of their identity.

Enneagram Five

As a Five: Practice intellectual empathy when explaining your ideas or strategy. Remember what it feels like to not know something. Define technical terms and jargon.

Working with a Five: Fives are always managing their energy and knowledge. Ask “What are your thoughts on this (specific issue)?” instead of “What are you thinking?” That feels less threatening or intense.

Enneagram Six

As a Six: Others don’t need as much context or words as you do. Especially in emails, give a brief set-up with only the highly relevant information. Summarize, use bullets, then invite questions. 

Working with a Six: Acknowledge their anxieties without dismissing them. Rather than “Oh, don’t worry about that. It’s going to be fine,” say “I can see you’re worried about that.”

Enneagram Seven

As a Seven: Reduce your interruptions. Fully listen and don’t talk until others have completely finished their thoughts. (Yes, that means hold your story or quip.)

Working with a Seven: Focus on purpose and the why before jumping into details. Sevens are solution-oriented but want to know why the solution is needed.

Back to the plane…I hate to tell you, but the woman had to leave the plane and get rebooked. There wasn’t time for her to purchase the right kind of carrier and get back on the plane.

Think about what your team and organization have lost because of miscommunication like this. It’s likely far more expensive than a TSA-approved dog carrier.

Great communication improves employee engagement and can save some of the $7.8 trillion dollars disengaged employees cost the global economy. Not to mention just how we feel about working together.

Imagine what great communication could do for your team. What could be accomplished with how much more peace if you can grow in the skill of understanding how your personality plays out in your communication?

Of course, creating great team communication is more than just one tip for each personality type. I’d love to help your team improve your communication so you can enjoy working together, increase your productivity, and cultivate a great team culture. Head over to my speaker page to set up a time to talk.

Want more communication help? Grab “Say it Like This: Enneagram Communication Guide.”



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