With Valentine’s Day here, it felt like a great time to talk about communication styles. In my own life, this is an area where wires get crossed and assumptions are made simply because our communication styles are different.
The childhood game of Telephone is a pretty accurate metaphor for what it looks like when different Enneagram types communicate without
- Understanding the impact of different styles
- Valuing all styles
- Assuming positive intent
Without awareness, your communication style will be your preferred style. Those showing up to the conversation with a different communication style risk being misunderstood/misunderstanding, offended/offending, and/or being seen as having unsavory personality traits or ill intent.
Yet, you continue on to the next conversation with the same bias for your own style of communication. Standard practice. We all do it. Obvious, right?
Not really. What seems obvious to you isn’t so obvious to the one you’re talking to. Plus, it isn’t actually true that everyone should be communicating in the same style as you.
When you have an expectation that others communicate in a particular style and then they don’t, the tendency is to attribute negative intent:
“You’re not telling the whole story so I don’t trust you”
“You love to hear yourself talk.”
“That was harsh.”
“You’re being evasive.”
Your communication style – both how you communicate and how you want to be communicated with – is born from your personality type. Things like instinctual drives, wings, stress, and insecurity certainly give flavor to the descriptions below, but in general, people of the same type communicate in similar ways.
Enneagram Type 1 Style: “You should…” “You’ll want to…”
- an assumption that there is a right way or better way and you want to know it
- Take on the role of teacher or even preacher
Enneagram Type 2 Style: “I’ll get that for you.” “What do you think?” “I’m here to help.”
- focus on you, not on them
- an assumption that you need help more than they do
Enneagram Type 3 Style: “I’ll take care of that.” “I can do that.”
- assumption that you don’t see their value so they’ll show you in both how they communicate and what they communicate
- generally excellent communicators in terms of clarity, style, vocabulary, etc.
- focus on what they can bring to the situation, their experience, their value
- agreeable & generous
Enneagram Type 4 Style: “I’m not sure you get it.” “I’m not like that.”
- assumption that you don’t really get them or what they want
- focus on the ways they are different
- Language is dramatic, self-focused, and often waits before chiming in
- words that convey their depth of feeling
Enneagram Type 5 Style: “That’s because…” “Let me tell you…” “You should know that…”
- assumption that brevity is not clear and that lots of context and background will provide the clarity you need
- May prefer written to verbal communication
Enneagram Type 6 Style: “Yeah, but…” “What about …?” “I’m not sure.”
- assumption that you can’t be trusted to fully know
- Wants the whole picture and for nothing to be glossed over or dismissed
- Uses lots of words, explanation, and can be repetitive
Enneagram Type 7 Style: “I can’t wait to tell you…” “This is exciting!” “Don’t worry.” “No problem.”
- Lots of superlatives & exaggeration; great brainstormers with lots of ideas
- Very fast thinkers and their listeners can have a hard time keeping up
Enneagram Type 8 Style: “No.” “Yes.” “You’re wrong.” “Don’t do it that way.”
- assumption that you want them to be direct and you’ll assume good intent
- direct, revolutionary, unabashed, important
Enneagram Type 9 Style: “Sure.” “Whatever you want.” “What do you think?”
- assumption that “going with the flow” is what you want from them
- might seem like they aren’t listening, and might not give a lot of non-verbal feedback, but when they communicate, it’s clear and concise.