What difference would it make to your life if your relationships, at home and at work, were based on mutual understanding and respect, where you inspire each other to be your best and enjoy the differences between you? The Enneagram is a powerful and still surprisingly little known approach to understanding our personality type and that of the people we are close to, and it helps us to create and enjoy wonderfully fulfilling, happy relationships that just get better over time.

With insights from the Enneagram, we can maximise the potential for fun, connections, love, and growth in our relationships, rather than endure problems based on misunderstandings.

How does it work then, I can hear you asking? Well, first you need to understand what type you are and identify what areas of development you have within your type---and by the way, it's much easier to work on your development when you have specific, individual areas to look at, rather than a generic, one size fits all self-help approach.

What is Your Enneagram Type?

There are 9 basic personality types, each of which has one of three essential frameworks through which they view and filter the world: analytic, where we have an intellectual first response; emotional, where our first response is a feeling one; and instinctive, where we first have a gut reaction to a situation. Just knowing which of these 3 frameworks is primary, immediately gives us a short-cut to deeper understanding.

Type 1: The Reformer, idealistic and perfectionist Type 2: The Helper, motivated by the need to be valued Type 3: The Achiever, ambitious and driven Type 4: The Individualist, romantic and artistic Type 5: The Thinker, analytical and detached Type 6: The Loyalist, motivated by the need for security Type 7: The Adventurer, enthusiastic and fun-loving Type 8: The Challenger, assertive and direct Type 9: The Peacemaker, mediating and non-confrontational

It's Dynamic, Not Static

Unlike most other personality testing you might have done in the past, the Enneagram does not simply put you in a box or category, but instead shows you how to develop to become the best version of your personality type.

Each of the 9 types is much more complex than the simple description above might apply, and each type will come across differently depending on where they are on the spectrum of emotional health.


You are probably wondering at this point whether certain types are more compatible than others. The answer is yes and no...yes, because some types find it easier to understand and connect with each other, and no, because it depends ultimately on the level of development and self-awareness of each type. A very healthy one, for example, can get along beautifully with a similarly healthy person of any type, whereas an unhealthy two, for example, might find type 9 with its tendency to withdraw unbearably frustrating emotionally.

So What Can The Enneagram Do To Help You Strengthen Your Relationships?

It Helps People Communicate

By helping us be lucidly conscious of who and how we are in relationships, what our framework of expectations is, what brings out the best (and the worst) in us, we understand what we need from the other person, and equally what can trigger a negative spiral.

For example, if you're dealing with a heart-centred and aesthetic type Four, you wouldn't approach them initially in an analytical and impersonal way.

It Gives You A Specific Approach and Plan For Maximising Your Relationships

You can maximise harmony and trust by understanding the enneagram type of your friend, and create a clear plan for allowing the relationship to deliver its potential.

It Helps You Enjoy Your Relationships More

It Helps You Avoid And Resolve Conflict

Each type has a specific pattern in how it deals with conflict, and understanding this pattern allows you to resolve any tension quickly and concentrate on positive solutions instead. Some types deal with conflict by immediately looking for a positive, best-case scenario approach for solutions, whereas others have an emotionally intense response that needs to be understood, and others go into analytical mode. And of course we need all three approaches to resolve conflict successfully.

Just for fun, here are some examples of famous Enneagram couples. Can you see the potential patterns from the brief introduction I've just given you? Six and Four: Princess Diana and Prince Charles Seven and Four: Rhett Butler and Scarlett O' Hara Eight and Two: J.R. Ewing and Sue Ellen in Dallas Nine and One: Bill and Hillary Clinton

I use the Enneagram as a fundamental part of my coaching approach with clients, and regularly get feedback that the new understanding they have has transformed a difficult relationship at work into one of mutual support and respect, or turned a stressful pattern of conflict in a personal relationship into a new pattern of mutual understanding and renewed connection. Whether used as the framework for an executive coaching workshop on team development, or used in life coaching for personal development, the Enneagram always gets rave reviews from my clients.

Having conscious awareness of our own way of seeing the world and that of the people we are close to, gives us the tool kit to create the positive, happy relationships we want, as well as allowing relationships to be part of our spiritual and emotional journey of development towards our best self.

©Dr Nicola Bunting, 2009

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Nicola Bunting is a top international personal and professional coach, who has earned the Master Certified Coach credential from the International Coach Federation (ICF); one of only 1% of coaches in the world to have reached this level of certification. Working with successful professionals in Europe and the USA for over 10 years, either as a personal or executive coach, Dr. Bunting specializes in helping ambitious individuals dramatically accelerate their success and career fulfillment.
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