Saturday, December 3, 2016

Reflective Action: Enneagram Six and Nine Partnerships


We all want mutually satisfying relationships that nurture our potential and help us find purpose in life, relationships in which we listen and are listened to, know and are known, where we release attempts to manipulate, share our true selves, acknowledge each other as unique and valuable individuals, and are willing to learn, grow, and change in response to the other's development: a dynamic process where the relationship is continually recreated. 

However, partners come to relationship from different worldviews. Some may resist giving up control; others may fear sharing their needs. The Enneagram is a helpful tool to clarify interpersonal patterns. Understanding the nine different styles can help us recognize our special gifts and areas of growth, better understand our partners, and appreciate the potential in each for higher human capacities. 

Any Enneagram combination will bring complementary gifts as well as the potential to exaggerate each style's down side. Here, you'll learn how to create specific actions that are mutually enhancing, whatever the combination of styles.
For example, if you're style Three interacting with style Eight you might find that both of you (for different reasons) are out of touch with your emotional side. It would be mutually developmental to practice and reinforce each other for active listening.
Or if you're style Two (highly relational) interacting with style Five (highly independent) you both would benefit from exploring your differences, agreeing the Two will give the Five a little more space and the Five will accede to the Two's desire for a bit more interaction.
Focusing on mutual development can accelerate personal growth and transform a relationship. The possibilities are illustrated here with Six and Nine partners. 

Style Six  

Enneagram Sixes are relationship-oriented and motivated to feel secure. At their best they're loyal, likable, caring, warm, compassionate, witty, practical, helpful, and responsible. They're energetic, with a devotion to the common good, and they attend to interdependent needs. What style Sixes personify for all of us is the fear and caution we feel when our security is invaded. Typically, they felt powerless as children to influence their own fate. Consequently, they've developed a radar system that leads to high empathy, sometimes to an astonishing degree (it may feel like ESP). On the down side, they tend to check for hidden agendas in their interactions, and their assumptions are not always correct.

Sixes may either procrastinate making decisions or second-guess the decisions they have made. This is because what's "best" tends to be defined in terms of others' wishes or expectations. They too often question their own ideas or even their own competence, especially if challenged. As children, they learned to communicate from a one-down position, and they tend to carry this power-under stance into adulthood, often giving power to others, particularly those in perceived authority roles or whom they believe have higher competence. So it's a sign of growth to learn how to be interdependent, operating from a power-with perspective, a true partnership.

Sixes have two distinct expressions of fear. Some can be immobilized by fear and self-doubt (phobic), others fight against internal doubt by throwing caution to the winds (counterphobic). Most tend to challenge authority; they may decide it's honest to say whatever they feel at the moment and then worry they've somehow risked too much. For the most part, though, their candid communication is a model for others who tend to be less self-disclosing or less actively involved in a relationship. Consequently, self-aware Sixes are highly relationship-oriented people who can bring out the best in their partners, working tirelessly to make things better, always hoping the relationship can survive and flourish. This helps their intimates feel secure, knowing their partner will be sympathetic and without pretense. 

Style Nine 

Style Nines are motivated to keep peace and avoid conflict. At their best they're pleasant, peaceful, generous, patient, receptive, diplomatic, open-minded, and empathic. They honor diversity, nurture cooperation, and are typically skilled at building consensus. Unexamined Enneagram Nines tend to merge with others' agendas and to forget their own. They typically forget any childhood difficulties they experienced, and may be unaware of the degree to which they've allowed themselves and their wishes to become invisible, even to themselves.

From this history, when conflict arises they typically take an implicit power-under position, withdrawing or minimizing the importance of an apparent problem. This strategy can lead to a tamping down of emotions but also helps them develop the gift of artful negotiation: they're able to see situations from many points of view and to resolve issues by seeking an integrated perspective. 

In organizations, style Nines usually do very well until expected to be decisive, which is difficult because they truly do see all sides of an issue, and because they're unaccustomed to having their opinions valued. Though they typically seek consensus, they can become quite stubborn about opinions they do hold. In a personal relationship, Nines may seem difficult because they find it easier to focus on what they don't want. They may back off from conflict, unable to take a stand, except indirectly. The partner may long to be met half-way, to talk openly about difficulties, instead of meeting with obstinacy or passive-aggression.

If Nines go along with the partner's interests, even this can wear thin over time, as the partners become tired of always planning their time together. What under-developed Nines personify for all of us is our universal fear of and resistance to change: change requires confronting what the present situation lacks. A deep emotional fatigue sets in when unaware Nines are forced to deal with work overload or emotional stress, because being out of touch with what they want makes it difficult to act on their own priorities.

Well-developed Nines are serene and centered safe harbors for intimates. They're good listeners who accept partners as they are and help them see things from a broader perspective. Having worked through their avoidance of conflict, they deal with problems in a constructive fashion while retaining their gift of honoring diversity and differences. In this respect they're the epitome of cooperation and consensus.  

How Style Nine Sees Style Six 

Enneagram Sixes are quite aware of their own boundaries, so aren't a big threat to style Nines' fear of losing a sense of self. In spite of Nines' defensiveness when they feel discounted, they want very much to connect with others and be appreciated for their ideas. Sixes, with their personal radar, can be sensitive to style Nines' needs. When this pair relates with mutuality, Nines become more known to themselves because of Sixes' honesty.

Style Sixes, usually spontaneous and open with their feelings, can balance Nines' more laid-back style with a great deal of energy. This is a partnership where fighting can be fun. Nines may not know how to directly express their unhappiness with circumstances or people, and are stimulated to action by Sixes' willingness to state the obvious. In fact, style Six's tendency towards self-disclosure is a wonderful model for style Nine. This is particularly true when the two have a conflict: Nines can learn from Sixes' active willingness to take some risks and resolve their differences. 

How Style Six Sees Style Nine 

Enneagram Sixes learn to be more centered and self-referencing from serene Nines, which reduces their self-questioning and promotes a sense of peacefulness. Out of their power-under perspective, Sixes are on the alert for a "take-over," and tend to feel safe with Nines, who are not overtly interested in holding power.

Because Nines are calm and reassuring, they provide a model for living with more ease and tend to balance the Six's emotional intensity. Seeing Nines as a safe harbor, Sixes trust they're liked and allow their deeper selves to show. This can strengthen their belief in themselves and help them be their best selves. When things are going well, Nines are generous with their praise of Sixes' good qualities and contributions, which makes Sixes less likely to look for a hidden agenda and less defensive about discussing areas for improvement or greater self-awareness. Also, Nines can help Sixes to be less challenging or doubting of others, by offering alternative ways to view a situation.

Merging their strengths can lead to a partnership characterized by reflective action. Nines will reflect thoroughly on an issue, reviewing many perspectives before acting (if at all); Sixes are more likely to act without a great deal of reflection.  

Potential Problem Areas 

On the down side, style Nine's general tamping down of emotions is in contrast to style Six's emotional presence. Sixes can reach a height of emotion that seems disproportionate to Nines. Style Nine's withdrawal from difficulty often shows up in emotional apathy, physical fatigue, and/or illnesses such as chronic neck pain. Thus in the Nine's search for stability, the Six's response to the ever-changing present may feel like emotional whiplash. In fact, the Six is stating where s/he is for the moment, but the Nine may take that to be the Six's total reality and find it difficult to stay energized and engaged to match the Six's current state. 

Also, the very activeness that draws Nine to Six may cause difficulty. Sixes (who may seem constantly in motion over some perceived miscarriage of justice) may push Nines to become more active, which can feel like bossiness, and the Nine may express resentment or freeze in a state of inertia and stubbornness. 

From the perspective of style Six, Nines will seem too slow and deliberate. Style Six may want to engage in the moment and is likely to interpret style Nine's relative lack of response as disinterest. In trying to work through disagreements Sixes may be disappointed in Nines tendency to focus on the bright side or, worse, to remain silent or even withdraw. Over time, the Nine's accommodating quality may give way to a desire to "fix" the Six. This could well show up as criticizing the Six for being so tenacious and/or blaming others. 

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