Hello. Perhaps you’ve landed on this page because you’ve done an Online Enneagram Personality Test which has given you a Nine as your main personality type, and now you’re scratching your head wondering what this means in terms of your self-development or therapy journey.
Are personality types no more than just a description of different traits – like a star sign? Or can a deeper understanding of our personality structure, or “self”, and the way it works at a psychological level, help us to play the game of life with a little bit more grace, and less suffering?
[Read more about Personality-Focused Psychotherapy]
One way to think about the Self is that it might work as a kind of Lens or “Operating System” through which our psyche (?) mind (?) “life force” (?) or “soul” (?) flows. Whenever we express a thought, or belief, or opinion about our lives and our struggles, it is usually the Self (an “I”) that is doing the talking for us:
I feel sad about…
I feel satisfied with life when…
I don’t understand why s/he said that…
I find this [thought/feeling/situation] painful to think about or deal with.
Of course we don’t normally think about these utterances as a “Self” talking through us, because it (we) are always just sort of here in the conscious experience of “I”, of Self, with its particular filter on the world always present. Like fish, we swim in the “waters” of Self, but are usually completely oblivious to what “water” actually is.
Therapy is perhaps an opportunity for us to look at, and work through the content of our experience, the different ways we might have filled the gaps above to describe what is going on in our lives, but also to pay a slightly different kind of attention to how our struggles are often being shaped or contained in a certain ways for us through this “Self”, or Ego, or “I”. Not in the negative sense of having a “big ego”, but simply in terms of this psychological “I”. Which is to say: our personality style, character, Ego, Self.
This is not our whole Being or Consciousness. We can also step back (as we often do, especially in therapy) and look at the Self from a more detached, less conflicted perspective. Maybe from the perspective of someone who cares for us, but also knows us really well. This perspective might also become one we develop in our relationship with that person (“me” or another therapist) who would like to accompany you and assist you with your journey into understanding, healing, and developing your Self.
Most of the time though, we experience our Selves either from either the perspective of an Inner Critic who tells us how we’re failing at Life (or how Life is failing us), or from the Driver’s Seat of our Core Self.
Whoever that Core Driving Self is (pick a number!) whoever is driving the bus –driving us to do the things we do, or make the choices we make– it clearly has a special way of operating. Others can often see, for better or worse, how we tend to operate, as we can also see their Selves at work in how they talk, think, and behave. In therapy, we can try to get to know this Core Self a bit better (as well as those of the people we’re in relationship with), and hopefully find out what we’re all about.
As you read about your Nine “Self” below, a portrait that reveals both the light and shade of “you”, try not to judge your Self, or feel bad about how this Self comes across when laid out in this somewhat reductive, psychological way.
If reading through this portrait makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, ashamed, or exposed, that is a good sign, it really is.
This is certainly how I felt when I first read about my own personality style. “Am I really like that!?! Oh dear. Well, OK, for good or bad, that does seem to be how “I” roll… [sigh]”
This kind of response might perhaps indicate that we are gaining new insights, or at least a bit more humility about our Selves, especially when embarking on the kind of therapeutic search that you’re engaging with for your Self right now by reading and reflecting on this.
With insight, we can hopefully learn how to handle our Self/Selves a bit better in terms of how we deals with those generic but often unpleasant realities of life: physical and emotional pain, uncertainty, as well as the various forms of constant work, both inner and outer that we seek to fulfil. The Self is always the interface through which we learn how to do this, trying as best we can to put into practice the lessons we’ve learned.
If you find when reading about the Nine “Self” described below, that it doesn’t feel like the kind of “I” you identify with, please have a quick look again at my Overview of The Nine Personality Types.
Your Core Self will make itself known to you there, as when you catch sight of yourself in the reflection of a shop-window or a mirror. Each of us holds aspects of every personality type within us (we all come from the same species,) but at a psychological level, our Core Self is usually present through our entire life journey, and shapes how we see the world, inwardly and out.
Human happiness and satisfaction seems to be strongly connected to getting the best out of our core Selves (i.e. our particular personality style, as well as following our unique threads), alongside learning how to manage with the not-so-great, and at times even “crappy” stuff that comes with each “I” or person-ality.
1. SNAPSHOT OF A NINE: HOW MANY OF THESE TRAITS DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH?
- I rarely get angry. It’s uncomfortable for me to feel and express anger. Although us Nines are “anger types” (part of the “body-based” triad of Enneagram types) indicating that we do carry a lot of anger and frustration inside us, we will often, unconsciously, turn down the volume on our anger, so it doesn’t rise up at an inconvenient moment and create disharmony with others.
- As a leader, or in my relationships, I will want to make sure everyone is fully heard and that decisions can be made by consensus whenever possible. My experience of sometimes not being heard motivates me to try to make sure others don’t feel that same pain. So, I work to make sure everyone has a chance to say what they think and that they all know their contributions matter.
- My desire for harmony motivates me to “go with the flow” and avoid “rocking the boat.” I am good at “going along to get along.” If maintaining harmony in my relationships means sometimes automatically erasing myself or leaving myself out of the picture, that’s what I do.
- I am good at mediating disagreements because I naturally see all points of view and want to help people hear each other and find common ground. I enjoy the challenge of helping people understand each other such that everyone feels heard and disputes can be resolved.
- I see the work I do, or myself in relationships, through the lens of what works best for the most people. I genuinely want people to get along and enjoy working and being together, and will do everything I can to ensure we both collaborate in positive ways and feel supported.
- I sometimes say “yes” because it feels hard to say no, but I may not follow through on what I said “yes” to (because I didn’t really want to do it). I want to say “yes” so no one feels bad or displeased (or unpeaceful), even if I am aware of not wanting to actually do the thing I said “yes” to. So “yes” can sometimes mean, “Well, actually I’m probably not going to do that, or I’m going to ignore it, or forget about it in some way if I can.”
- I like harmony and dislike conflict. I feel good when my environment is free of tension. I avoid tension and conflict because I believe conflict leads to a feeling of separation, and separation is painful.
- I try to avoid conflict situations by helping mediate disputes and being diplomatic in the way I state my views (if I state them at all). Often without even thinking about it, I say or do things—or avoid saying or doing things—to restore or maintain a feeling of peace in my environment or with friends, family, and my partner.
- I tend to be more attuned to the agendas of others than I am to my own. I naturally pay more attention to what others want than what I want. (What makes this particularly easy is that I often don’t really know what “I” want.)
- While I may have clear opinions on some things, I can at times have trouble knowing what I want for dinner. Us Nine may feel relatively comfortable voicing views about things like politics or current events, but when it’s more a personal or work-related matter, it’s sometimes much harder to speak up. So for a Nine, the answer to the question, “Where do I want to go for dinner?” might often be: “Mmmm, I don’t really know. Where do I want to go for dinner?”
- Emotionally, I tend to be pretty even-keeled and steady. I don’t typically experience a lot of emotional ups and downs.
- Although I may work hard, I don’t like being the centre of attention. When something is important to me (or important to other people who are important to me), I can dedicate a great deal of time and energy to it. But I can get very uncomfortable if the focus is on me.
2. WHY AM I LIKE THIS? THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF A NINE
Here is a kind of Origin Story that someone with a Nine personality style might resonate with:
“Once upon a time, there was a person named Nine. Early in life, he felt connected to everyone and everything, as if there were no such thing as separation. In this state of unity, Nine felt a deep sense of peace, joy, and love that was wonderful and deeply comforting.
But then something happened. Nine woke up one day feeling alone and disconnected. He felt frustrated at having been left by himself and wanted to register a protest against whoever had pushed him out on his own. But this made him even more uncomfortable. There were others nearby, but they seemed somehow distant. This new sense of being separate felt lonely and scary. If he was no longer connected to the world around him, how could he feel any sense of belonging?
When Nine tried to complain about this new and disturbing situation in order to re-establish his connection with others, no one would listen. Those around him spoke louder and had more important things to say. They knew what they wanted and argued to get it. They didn’t seem bothered by the fact that they were separate—and that their arguing made them more so. They didn’t seem to care what Nine was saying. He tried speaking louder and protesting more, but no one paid attention. After a while, he simply gave up. If they weren’t going to listen, he might as well go back to sleep. At least there was comfort in sleep.
Nine kept sleeping and trying to find comfort. But this sensation of not being connected stayed with him, and he grew concerned that he would never be included again. He wondered what his feelings of separation said about him.
Others didn’t seem as bothered by it as he did. Then he found that, when he stopped trying to get people’s attention—when he distracted himself somehow—he felt more comfortable.
Nine tried different ways to approximate the sense of connection he had lost, hoping to recover some of his feelings of belonging. He made friends and did whatever they wanted him to do. He tried to blend in. He tried to forget the distance he felt by focusing on what others wanted and forgetting about his own desires. He stopped confronting people with whom he disagreed, because he found it was easier just to go along with whatever they said. And after a while, he found he didn’t really care that much anyway. It didn’t really seem that important. He didn’t really seem that important.
Over time, Nine’s survival strategy of staying quiet and comfortable to avoid the pain of his separate existence caused him to forget all about his own feelings, his own opinions, and his own voice. He would rather get along with people. Staying comfortable was just so much more—well, comfortable. And being in harmony with others brought him a vague memory of the connection he had lost. After a while, it even seemed as if, even though he “woke up” each day, he was really sleep-walking through life.
Every once in a while, Nine tried sharing an opinion or a desire with the people around him so they could get to know him better and connect with him. But no one seemed to listen, which just made him feel separate again. Eventually, he realized that he no longer knew exactly what his opinions were or what he wanted. And that made him feel uncomfortable as well. Sometimes he felt bothered by the fact that everyone expected him to go along with whatever they wanted. And he worried that he no longer knew what he wanted. He even felt a little anger at not being heard or considered important. He tried expressing this anger once, but that just made people move even farther away. Apparently no one liked to connect with angry people. And that made him feel even more disconnected and alone. So Nine’s survival strategy of staying quiet and unaware of his own inner experience took over, and he just went back to sleep, even though this brought another form of suffering alongside the comfort of switching off. What to do?”
Nines often report feeling overlooked when they were young—perhaps they were a middle or younger child, or there were louder voices in their environment, leading them to adopt a strategy of blending in and going along with people who seem more powerful. Instead of fighting to be heard, the Nine child (unconsciously) gives up and decides it’s easier to “merge” with others—to adopt their wishes and pay less attention to their own feelings. This enables young Nines to ward off a scary sense of separation and find safety feeling connected to the important others in their world.
People with a Type Nine personality style experience a deep sense of discomfort if their important relationships are disturbed or threatened, so they automatically adapt in the face of any hint of potential estrangement. If they are super easygoing and “don’t care” what happens, it’s easier for them to harmonize with others such that tension or disconnection doesn’t occur. This means Nines experience a lessening of consciousness of what they really want, who they really are, and what actions might be important for them to take to meet their own core needs and desires. While we all “fall asleep” to ourselves to some degree, Nines are the prototype of this habit of proactively separating from one’s self to avoid having to experience conflict and separation from people.
At work, but also in relationships, this makes Nines good at unselfishly working on behalf of others, their teams, or the organization, or family, friends, a partner. Nines will tend to be alert to what others need them to do to be of service or achieve goals, and will defer to others’ agendas instead of pushing their own.
3. CORE MOTIVATIONS OF A TYPE NINE PARTICIPANT: WHAT “DRIVES” A NINE?
The strategy of supporting others to avoid division and maintain harmony causes Nines to pay attention to other people and their environment. They sense what’s going on around them, attuned to the relative peacefulness of the atmosphere and any small signs of hostility or unease, and focus on other people’s agendas while they may struggle to define their own. Going along with others’ plans seems easier for Nines, both because they don’t have to come up with their own and because they feel comfortable structuring their experience around doing things to help others.
People with a Type Nine style pay a great deal of attention to keeping everyone happy, making people feel supported and cared about, and giving everyone a role in the work or play that gets done. Whenever possible, Nines like to lead by consensus, and think about how to bring people together and defuse any conflicts that might arise. At work, Nines may expend large amounts of energy working to further other people’s projects or putting time into programs that improve the quality of life at work for the organization as a whole.
As part of not attending very much to what’s most important to themselves, Nines’ attention also gets pulled toward less important tasks as opposed to more significant ones. For example, if Nines have a report due that’s central to their success, or an email they need to write to someone, they may put off working on it and instead spend time cleaning out their desk drawers. Nines habitually distract themselves with inessential work as a way of not paying attention to what’s most vital to them. Just as it can be hard for them to tune in to their own personal agenda, it can be hard for them to take action on their own behalf—it can seem threatening to focus on their own well-being, both because it’s unfamiliar and because it, by definition, puts more focus on them potentially being out on their own, separated from the crowd.
Generally, individuals with a Type Nine style view the world as an interconnected place, where everything is happier and more peaceful when people are united in a common purpose and no one is left behind or left out. They tend to question their worth or importance in the world, and may have a default assumption that they don’t matter. Because they weren’t heard or their opinions were overlooked when they were young, they may (unconsciously) believe their import comes from aiding others and ensuring that no one gets overlooked the way they did.
Nines often feel called to serve the world through helping create peace and forging stronger unions among people. They tend to believe that accord comes through working toward a kind of seamless interdependence or greater connectedness, and often gravitate toward work roles in which they can work to reduce friction and increase mutual understanding within relationships or groups. Without necessarily thinking much about it, they often feel driven to help organizations and individuals think more inclusively and take practical actions that lead to more harmony in the world. They usually embrace difference, but want to help people overcome the disruptions that sometimes arise when differences aren’t fully understood and accepted. Wherever Nines find themselves, they tend to see the world as better off when everybody’s getting along and they find a sense of purpose in somehow helping that to happen.
4. NINES AT WORK & IN RELATIONSHIPS
Good mediators and facilitators. Nine can often excel at facilitating meetings and groups, making sure things follow a solid structure and everyone gets heard. They naturally listen to different points of view, see the points of agreement, and hear the truth and legitimacy of different perspectives.
Easygoing and affable. Accommodating and friendly, flexible and supportive, Nines specialize in being easy to be around.
Indecisive. When you can easily see all sides of any issue and you have a difficult time locating your own preferences, deciding what to do can be challenging. Whether because they don’t know what they want or they’re motivated to avoid the conflicts that might ensue, Nines sometimes get stuck “sitting on the fence.”
Tendency to “merge” and overadjust. Nines adapt to what others want as a way of staying in harmony with them, but they can overdo the adjustment to the point of erasing themselves entirely.
Passive resistance instead of active aggression. Nines tune out their anger because getting angry brings the threat of separation and other unpleasantness. But when we avoid an emotion, it doesn’t go away. So, Nines’ anger often leaks out as passive resistance, like saying “yes” but not doing it.
Lovers of comfort. Nine can do great things at work and home, but one of the main things that drives them is the desire to stay comfortable. This underlies their preference for peace, their dislike of change, and their awkwardness around getting recognition.
5. UNDERSTANDING WHY NINES THINK, FEEL, AND BEHAVE THE WAY THEY DO?
Nines like routine and structure and may think about the processes involved in getting work done. However, their mental activity is primarily focused on the people around them: “Are they feeling good? Is everybody getting along? What do others want? What do they want or need me to do? How can I behave in a way that keeps them from being displeased? How can I best ‘go with the program’ and support people?” All that merging and supporting and blending with others’ agendas can sometimes create an inner backlash, and while their first line of defense is “go along to get along,” Nines may reach a point where they feel their backbone stiffen as they realize they didn’t actually want to go along with that other person’s agenda. They must then devote a fair amount of mental energy to resisting or thinking about how to get out of doing something they didn’t want to do in the first place without raising alarms (though this may be less conscious).
As “body types,” Nines live from an energetic rootedness in their physical bodies, and are therefore more oriented toward taking or not taking action than to thinking or feeling emotions. They tend to be evenhanded and steady, and while they readily feel a range of feelings, including sadness, pain, and (more often) happiness or contentedness, their “highs” aren’t that high and their “lows” aren’t very low. Nines often need time to figure out how they feel, especially if they’re angry and don’t know it or don’t want to admit it—their (unconscious) resistance to anger shapes their personality in a significant way. While they belong to the Enneagram’s “anger triad” with Eights and Ones, Nines tend to under-do anger by ignoring it to avoid the conflicts it might cause. Often, Nines won’t register their anger at all, and can push it down to the point where it leaks out as passive-aggressive versions of anger like stubbornness, passive resistance, and mild frustration, which may get expressed in a Nine’s behaviour.
Nines like to stay comfortable, and many of their behaviour patterns relate to this central Nine need to maintain a sense of personal comfort. These include avoiding conflict and other interpersonal disruptions, resisting change, not deciding, and merging with others’ agendas. Nines can become so focused on another person or agenda that normal boundaries between them disappear, and become so absorbed in an important person’s attitudes and plans that they lose or forget themselves. Even a slight disruption in the relationship—including a close working relationship—can then feel highly threatening and disruptive. As mentioned, Nines may also express unacknowledged anger through behavior like passive-aggressively resisting doing what others want them to do (without saying anything). Like Eights, Nines don’t like to be told what to do, but they are quieter about it, and if they feel overly controlled or disrespected by someone, they can covertly stop cooperating as a way of asserting themselves without creating open conflict.
6. WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT AS A NINE
Unselfishly Supporting Others. Nines focus on helping others succeed, making sure their ideas are considered, and working to further their goals, often without asking for anything in return.
Diplomacy. Nines excel at seeing all sides of an issue or problem and communicating carefully to create alignment around shared agreements. They know just how to frame things to influence people while not offending them.
Being Democratic. Nines are by nature very egalitarian—they don’t play favourites or think anyone is more important than anyone else.
Building Consensus. Nines easily see the common truth in differing opinions, which makes them very good at finding a way to achieve consensus, even when people strongly disagree.
Being Affable and Friendly. Nines are almost always very easy to work with or be around because they are really nice and considerate. They go out of their way not to cause trouble, to be kind and thoughtful, and they don’t need to take credit for things.
However, as for all of us, our greatest strengths can also trip us up at times. If Type Nines overuse their biggest strengths (and don’t consciously develop a wider range of skills), they can also turn out to be their Achilles’ heel. Let’s see how this can happen.
Unselfishly Supporting Others. Nines often pay more attention to others’ agendas than they do to their own, which can cause problems for them and others when they don’t attend to what they need to do.
Diplomacy. Nines may frame the things they say so delicately or be so afraid of stirring up conflict that they don’t communicate clearly enough about what’s really true.
Being Democratic. In certain environment, some voices may be more important than others. Nines may want to avoid this reality to prevent conflicts or unfairness, but they can end up causing problems when they don’t take differences in status into account.
Building Consensus. Nines may stop the momentum of a project by taking the time to get everyone on board, even when that may not be possible or desirable.
Being Affable and Friendly. Nines may have trouble being confrontational when they need to get something done or make changes in their lives.
7. HEALTHY VS. UNHEALTHY NINES
Fortunately, Nines’ sincere interest in working harmoniously with others to get things done means they will likely be motivated to be more aware of how their desire for agreement and consensus can get taken too far. When they can focus on recognizing the limits of trying to please everyone and acknowledge that conflict can’t always be avoided—and can even be useful—they can usually more effectively leverage their strengths in a way that allows for both interpersonal comfort and a thriving enterprise.
When stressed to the point of going to their “low side,” Type Nines can get angry, and may act out their anger in passive-aggressive ways. They may be stubborn and resistant or get stuck in inertia and procrastinate, and may silently fume because they don’t want to express their anger for fear of getting into a conflict. Nines avoid their own anger in part because they fear what they might do if they really let themselves blow up. On rare occasions, they do lose control and explode, but more often they tend to avoid communicating their anger, which can lead them to passively resist others in different ways, including problematic behaviours like ignoring requests (from friends, loved ones, or at colleagues) or taking a long time to finish a task.
Less self-aware Nines under pressure may withdraw or appear sullen or irritated. They may agree to do tasks, have necessary conversations, and then not do them, put things off or avoid making decisions, thus holding up the work of others or withdrawing from relationships. When less conscious, Nines are extra sensitive to being overlooked or told what to do. If someone doesn’t explicitly ask for their opinion, they may silently refuse to participate in a work project or a personal situation. They may avoid discussing conflicts or resentments openly while covertly and passively acting out their anger toward others they feel wronged by—usually by seeming to go along, but failing to take action.
On the “high side,” when Type Nine become more self-aware and conscious of their programming, they can be consummate team players, friends, and partners. Easy-going and adaptable, they will work very hard to co-operate and get along, without complaining or needing to be recognized for their contributions. Emotionally intelligent Nines put their team, and finding consensus in relationship ahead of their own needs and wants. They are congenial and often funny. They don’t take themselves too seriously and will surface difficult feelings or problems with sensitivity and grace (after pausing to reflect on their emotions and reactions). They will give others the benefit of the doubt, take the high road, and stay focused on what’s most important for the greater good of the work, or their relationships.
When living from the “high side,” Nines learn to sense, understand, and deal with their anger in constructive ways. They communicate about what they don’t like before it festers and becomes a problem, and maintain an awareness of their tendency to avoid conflict and learn to raise issues in an open, responsive way. Healthy Nines ask for time to sort out their feelings if they need it, and they understand that it may sometimes take some time for them to get clear on what they want and share their emotions and desires with others. When Nines do the work of becoming more conscious of their habits and tendencies, they realize it’s important to tolerate some discomfort, so they can engage more fully with others based on a stronger connection to themselves.
8. THE THREE KINDS OF NINES: HOW THE THREE INSTINCTUAL BIASES SHAPE THE THREE TYPE NINE SUB-TYPE PERSONALITIES
According to the Enneagram model, we all have three main instinctual drives that help us survive, but in each of us, one of the three tends to dominate our behaviour. The Type Nine style is expressed differently depending on whether a person has a bias toward self-preservation, establishing social relationships and positioning themselves in relation to groups, or one-to-one bonding.
The Self-Preservation (or Self-Focused) Nine
All Nines suffer from a kind of “self-forgetting”—they go to sleep to their own deeper sense of “being” who they essentially are, and then distract themselves from the pain of being disconnected from themselves. Self-Preservation Nines distract themselves from their deeper desires and emotions (like anger) through focusing on physical comfort and activities. Nines tune out their agenda, their wishes, and their feelings and tune in to experiences of physical satisfaction, like eating, sleeping, reading, watching TV, or being on social media. These activities distract them from an awareness of their own being and all that goes with it.
Self-Preservation Nines tend to be practical people with a strong presence who may seem more irritable or stubborn than the other two Nine subtypes. They often rely on familiar routines, like reading in the morning while having coffee or having a beer while watching TV at the end of the day, to structure their life and help them feel settled and peaceful. When their routines and habits get disturbed by others, they may react by getting grumpy and silently retreating to resume their activity uninterrupted. This Nine likes being alone more than the other two Nines and may display a dry or self-deprecating sense of humour.
Self-Preservation Nines can be capable and forceful, but also humble and generous. When engaged and healthy, they can work very hard to move big efforts forward, and have a special talent for seeing how all the pieces fit together to make things work both in their relationships and their careers—they see the larger context and how the parts fit into the larger whole. If pushed or controlled by others, they may dig their heels in and refuse to move, usually without talking about it. They may also feel uncomfortable with the confrontational aspects of exercising power, and prefer inspiring people through fun, humour, and a positive focus on the goal and its connection to the well-being of others. At their best, Self-Preservation Nines know how to take practical steps to get everyone on board with a plan or project to get things done. The more they can connect with their anger in healthy ways, the more they will feel comfortable exercising power in constructive ways that benefit both themselves and others.
The Social (or Group-Focused) Nine
Social Nines distract themselves from the pain of disconnection through merging with groups. The “counter-type” of the three Nine subtypes, the Social Nine is a very hard-working person who often takes on leadership roles. Congenial and fun-loving, they are often pulled into positions of leadership to satisfy the responsibilities others want to put on them. They tend to be workaholics who put a great deal of effort into supporting their teams, groups or communities, while at the same time continually neglecting, or forgetting, their own needs. As Enneagram author Claudio Naranjo says of Social Nines, “They have full lives, full of everything but themselves.”
Deep down, Social Nines often have a feeling of not belonging to the groups they are nominally in. So, they work hard to gain the sense of belonging they yearn to experience, but often don’t seem to feel, even when they give a group all their time and energy. While Social Nines benefit from getting in touch with their anger, they also grow through getting in touch with an underlying sense of sadness at not belonging. When they can become more conscious of their deeper feelings and focus more of their efforts on what they want and need, they can begin to take in the appreciation of others more, and finally feel more a part of things.
Social Nines make excellent leaders—they want to work in support of the team, and they don’t complain or let others see the effort it takes them. Social Nines give very generously to the groups they support, but don’t ask for recognition or rewards. Humble and modest, they dislike being the centre of attention and often work much harder than anyone realizes behind the scenes. While Social Nines tell stories of getting “drafted” into leadership roles, they usually enjoy leading and doing whatever it takes to further the interests of the group. And although they can be indecisive or unsure, at their best, they work tirelessly to make things happen and unselfishly and unflaggingly support the larger aims of the group or team.
The One-to-One (or Relationship-Focused) Nine
One-to-One Nines are sweet, gentle, and kind—and the least assertive of the three Nine subtypes. They merge with other individuals to distract themselves from themselves, looking for a sense of purpose that they cannot locate internally and unconsciously taking on the opinions, attitudes, and feelings of the important people in their lives—whether it is a spouse, a parent, a best friend, or a manager or close colleague. They become so focused on the feelings and desires of others that they may have a difficult time knowing what they want or think, and may not know the difference between what they feel and what another person feels. And when they do know what they want or what they think, they may have a hard time expressing it, especially if it differs from what the other people they are close to think or want.
One-to-One Nines unconsciously deny the existence of boundaries among people, taking refuge in their close relationships as a way of avoiding the separation they may feel on their own. Because they rely on others for internal support, they may not have a sense of who they are and may not feel very self-confident. And when they do act to support themselves, they may do it in secret, surreptitiously rebelling against the other person, who may dominate the Nine’s experience in a way neither person is fully aware of. The most emotional of the three Nines, One-to-One Nines may not realize how completely they’ve merged with someone until they experience some kind of physical separation, which allows them to find themselves as an independent individual. Real relationships require both people to show up fully as themselves, but One-to-One Nines may not be standing on their own two feet—and may not know they are not standing on their own two feet.
At work, One-to-One Nines can be both sensitive and competent. They have a special talent for understanding others’ perspectives in a deep way, and blend a light touch with an ability to listen to others and empathize with their emotions. While they may at times be indecisive and insecure, when they are able to find ways to assert who they are as a unique individual, these Nines can bring great care, dedication, and personal creativity to their work. When they can work through any fear they might have of acting independently and expressing their authority, they can make thoughtful, sensitive leaders who have a great way with people. The more they do the work to discover who they are and what their particular strengths are, they more they can put their individual stamp on the work they do and the way they lead. At their best, they have a humble and gentle way of being with people.
9. HOW NINES MIGHT STRUGGLE IN WORK AND IN RELATIONSHIPS: STRESS-POINTS AND TRIGGERS
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAType Nines sometime feel like working with others, or being in relationship in general is hard because:
People pressure me to produce results or take actions when the task or plan for what we’re meant to be doing hasn’t been explained in a clear way.
I sometimes assume people know more than they do, so I go along with them and find out later they don’t know what they’re doing, and then I get taken down with them.
The people I’m working with, or in relationship with, don’t understand the larger context the way I do, which can lead to differences in the way we see what we’re supposed to be doing.
It can be hard to be the centre of attention when I’m singled out for some reason.
I worry about doing something wrong and standing out as doing a bad job.
I worry about doing something well and standing out because I was successful.
I don’t like any kind of conflict, and working with people sometimes leads to conflict. Even receiving critical feedback can feel like conflict.
I can feel insulted when people don’t make a point of asking for my opinion or listening to what I think.
I can have a hard time getting into the conversation when everyone is talking a lot and expressing strong opinions.
People sometimes expect me to make quick decisions, but I need time to decide.
People sometimes act in authoritarian ways and don’t make sure everyone is on board and aligned.
Type Nine Personalities Can Become Triggered…
When people go way outside of the general direction we’re going in (and decided on together) and aren’t considerate of the needs of the whole.
When expectations aren’t clear and I do something wrong that gets me in trouble (because the expectations weren’t clear).
When people expect me to take action, but I don’t understand how the action serves the larger goals of the project.
When I’m set up to fail because the agreed-upon direction isn’t clear and I’m asked to take action without knowing what we’re trying to do.
When people get into conflicts that could have been avoided.
When I’m overlooked and not consulted about projects and plans I’m involved in and should have a say in.
When I’m not informed about important decisions that affect me that I should be a part of.
When people make it hard for me to say “no” to something I don’t want to do.
When people autocratically tell me what to do (instead of asking nicely or finding out what I want to do).
When people take my easygoing nature for granted by pushing me around or assuming I’ll cooperate with whatever they want to do or neglecting to ask me what I want and need.
What’s great about working with, or being in a relationship with a Nine:
• They make others feel accepted and included.
• They know how to listen to people and make them feel like they were heard.
• They let people know that their opinions are valued.
• They focus more on solutions than blame when things go wrong.
• They blame the system and not the people if things don’t go well.
• They look for ways to improve the system and processes (meetings, discussions etc.) so that people can have a better experience.
• They are funny. They make jokes and bring levity to serious situations, which makes it easier to focus on tasks and work well together.
• They are easy to talk to.
• They give credit to others and model humility and generosity.
• They are very accepting—they focus on the best in people and rarely criticize others behind their backs.
• They help people find common ground when they have widely divergent ideas about how to get something done.
• They automatically find ways to defuse tension by being witty, gentle, and kind.
• They don’t have big egos and easily share power with others.
• They work very hard (also with regard to relationships)—out of a sincere desire to further the aims of the relational or work team, not out of self-interest or a need for attention or power.
Typical challenges for people who work with (or are in relationship with) Nines:
• They may be unwilling to take a stand or make a decision if there’s not enough alignment or consensus.
• They may hold back stating what they really think—they don’t always share their complete perspective (as conflict avoidance strategy).
• They tend to procrastinate.
• They may say “yes” to doing something but really mean “no” (which you find out eventually when it never gets done).
• They can passively resist what’s happening but not say what’s going on for them—why they are against it or what they are angry about.
• They may avoid “showing up” and offering an opinion—they may defer to what others want and then (silently) not go along with it because it wasn’t what they wanted to do.
• They may be problematically passive when they need to take action.
• They may not take the initiative to do things, even when there is an expectation that they do so.
• They may seem angry, but not say anything about what’s going on.
• They may want people to ask them questions and draw them out instead of just offering their thoughts and opinions proactively.
10. SELF-MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES THAT NINES MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
Observe the way you tend to pay more attention to others (and their agendas) than you do to yourself (and your agenda). Notice if you put others ahead of yourself and any feelings you have about putting yourself last.
Pay attention to your experience of anger. What kinds of things piss you off and what do you do in response? When do you not register anger (when it might be a legitimate response)? When do you express it or not express it?
Notice any behaviours you might engage in that might be passive-aggressive. See if you can make your anger more conscious so that you can see the kinds of things you do out of anger that you don’t want to express directly.
Observe your tendency to assume your thoughts will be overlooked. Notice if you hold back from offering input or speaking up because you proactively believe you won’t be heard. Notice any consequences connected to this kind of holding back.
Observe how easy or difficult it is to make a decision. What happens for you when you struggle to decide? Are some kinds of decisions easier than others? Under what conditions might you sit on the fence?
Under what conditions is it difficult for you to know what you want? How do you react when you don’t know what you want?
Notice if your discomfort with attracting attention leads to you not fully owning your power. Pay attention to any consequences of your potentially excessive modesty on your ability to lead.
Avoidance of conflict. Sometimes conflict is healthy and necessary. So, it’s important to understand why you dislike conflict and moderate your desire to avoid it so you can incorporate it in conscious and productive ways.
Avoidance of anger. Because you avoid conflict, you (often unconsciously) tend to go to sleep to your own anger. But your anger can be an important signal that something needs your attention. Anger is also connected to power—so you can more effectively show up in the world as a leader and own your power in conscious ways if you can moderate your habit of turning the volume down on your anger.
Tendency to act in passive-aggressive ways. When you are more able to feel, own, and express your anger, you will naturally channel it less into passive-aggressive behaviours, like slowing the pace of your work, “forgetting” about things, and quietly avoiding adhering to rules and procedures. Becoming more active and more proactive in the things you do will make you more direct and more powerful.
Putting others first. It will be important for you to notice how you pay more attention to others than you do to yourself. If you can right the balance by taking care of yourself more and prioritizing others less, you can take stronger action in support of what you really need. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to serve others—they will get the best of you when you make yourself more of a priority in your own life.
Sensitivity to not being heard and included. Often the way you react to your sensitivity to being unheard or excluded or overlooked is to further overlook or exclude yourself. This can lead to a vicious cycle in which you forget to include yourself, making it easier for others to regard you as unimportant, and so on. When you put yourself in the mix, you increase the likelihood that you will not be taken lightly or forgotten.
11. LIFE-TRAPS THAT NINES MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
Thinking about your own agenda—what you want (and why that’s important). If you are a Nine, it may not occur to you that you have desires and priorities just like everyone else—and you may not register what you want and so give way to what others want on a regular basis. When this leads to you feeling resentful later, that’s not good for anyone. It will help you to learn to ask yourself what you want, and keep asking with compassion even when the answer is “I don’t know.” You will eventually learn to connect with the desires you’ve gone to sleep to as a strategy for getting along with others.
Your own anger (and passive-aggressive behaviours). Nines tend to be blind to their own anger, which often leads them to act out the anger they don’t feel or acknowledge in indirect, covert ways. The more you can be aware of and welcome your anger, the less you will create problems for yourself by passively resisting others as a way of discharging your angry feelings.
Your own need for recognition and support from others. Nines discomfort with getting attention—whether positive or negative—can mean they underappreciate their own need to be recognized for their contributions and achievements. If you don’t learn to take in others’ appreciation, you may get stuck in a bind in which you deflect positive feedback. Nines need to know they are valued, both at work and in relationships, to keep their morale up.
How the desire for harmony actually leads to conflict. When you don’t take a firm stand or express a clear opinion, you can actually create disharmony because you can’t work through the natural disagreements that occur when people work together in a conscious, direct way. When people don’t know what you think, it’s hard for others to get the clarity you all need to move forward.
Your lack of clarity in communicating with others. Your desire to keep the peace and stay positive may lead you to hold back important information or not be clear when giving instructions or feedback. Your desire to avoid conflict and tension may lead you to think it’s better to stay positive, even when you need to be clear about constructive criticism to improve things.
Your own stress. If you are a Nine, you may tell yourself, “I’m okay,” when you aren’t. You may believe you need to be “okay” for others. But not acknowledging when you are not okay doesn’t help you or others—and can lead to big problems at work.
12. WHERE TO START WHEN FOCUSING ON YOUR OWN PERSONAL “NINE-STUFF”: STRENGTHS TO LEVERAGE & ENQUIRY QUESTIONS THAT I OFTEN ASK TYPE NINE CLIENTS
Ability to see the big picture and how all the pieces fit together. If you are a Nine it will be important for you to give yourself credit for your capacity to understand the larger context of the work you do and see how the different parts fit into the whole. The more you own this strength, the more power you may own around being able to direct the work to make things happen.
Ability to work with others to move big projects forward. You have many ways of motivating people to work harmoniously to get significant things done. The fact that you value everyone’s contribution and want to hear everyone’s input empowers people and allows your team or loved ones to achieve solutions to important social, work, and personal problems without worrying about who gets the credit.
Ability to mediate disputes and handle difficult situations diplomatically. The upside of your discomfort with conflict is that you have an easy way of seeing the way forward when people are far apart. When difficulties arise, you rise to the occasion, with the great strength of being able to know exactly how to frame things such that people can increase their understanding of people they initially disagreed with.
Sensitivity to inclusion and ability to create alignment amidst diversity. Your sincere desire to make sure all are listened to and decisions are made by consensus when possible helps you to appreciate and accept differences, but also unify people.
Tendency to unselfishly put greater good ahead of self-interest. You gravitate toward goals that will benefit others, you inspire people with your selfless approach at work and in relationships, and you model a way of being that shows how people co-operating peacefully are more than the sum of their parts. It will help if you remember this.
Questions I might ask a type Nine client in therapy:
Why is it difficult for you to know what you want? What problems would it create for you to know what you want more of the time?
What might be hard about focusing on your own priorities, as opposed to the priorities of others? In what way do you actively avoid attending to what’s most important to you and why?
Why do you turn down the volume on your anger? What fears might be connected to feeling your anger more fully?
Why is it important that everyone be heard? What feelings do you have about being overlooked or unheard? Where do they come from?
What feels hard or uncomfortable about being the centre of attention?
What feels difficult or scary about conflict? What kinds of things feel like conflict? What kinds of things do you do to avoid conflict of any kind? What are the consequences?
How might you hold yourself back from being as powerful as you are capable of being? What kinds of habits are you in that detract from owning and expressing your power?
Nines can also grow through consciously becoming aware of the self-limiting habits and patterns associated with their personality style and learning to embody the higher aspects or more expansive capacities of the Type Nine personality:
Learn how you go to sleep to yourself and your priorities and challenge yourself to be present to yourself more and more often. Allow yourself to enjoy putting yourself out there in the world more, enjoying the challenge of any discomfort that entails as part of the process of being alive and awake.
Learn more about what happens to your anger and why and experiment with turning the volume up and expressing it more. Allow yourself to experience exactly how your anger is connected to your power—and how good it can feel to be more powerful in the world, even if it means getting mad.
Learn to notice how you often know more about what you don’t want than what you do want, and how that can lead to getting trapped in passive resistance. Allow yourself to become more conscious of how your anger leaks out in passive forms and channel it into finding your purpose and taking action, even if it creates some healthy tension with others.
Learn about why it’s so hard for you to know what you want and allow yourself to gradually get more in touch with your desires. Trust that communicating your desires more benefits everyone. Your clarity and ability to include yourself leads to you feeling a deeper sense of belonging.
Become more aware of how you effectively erase yourself when you don’t say what you think or proactively assert your opinion. Figure out what it takes to speak up without having to be asked or invited.
Learn that sometimes achieving consensus isn’t possible or desirable and try going more for alignment—or being okay if some people don’t like what you or a few people decide is best. In achieving alignment, you acknowledge the limitations that come with consensus but still use your talent for finding commonalities to create balance and get people on board.
Overall, Type Nines can fulfil their higher potential by observing and working against their habit of diminishing their awareness of their own desires and priorities and emotions—especially their anger. When they can become more conscious of their tendency to fall asleep to themselves and wake up to their own experience, they can learn to value and support themselves as much as they value and support others. When they can consciously overcome their own inner barriers to expressing their anger and their power and their opinions—no matter what the consequence to their relationships—they may find that putting themselves in the picture actually improves their own life and work and that of others.
Getting Along with Nines: Some Tips for How To Get On Better With The Nines In Your Life
• Be peaceful and kind and make an effort to make a personal connection with them. Nines usually don’t see a reason not to be nice. They lead with friendliness and warmth and will assume people are trustworthy until they prove otherwise. The Nines you work with, and are in relationship with, will appreciate your efforts to get to know them on a personal level and create a positive atmosphere where the two of you predominantly get along.
• Value everyone’s opinion, including the Nine’s. When at all possible, Nines like to lead by consensus. They tend to be democratic diplomats who believe everyone’s input is valuable. If you demonstrate clear respect for everyone’s point of view, including theirs, the Nines in your life will probably admire you and want to work with you.
• Understand their sensitivity to conflict and criticism. Try not to stir up trouble or initiate a conflict unless it’s absolutely necessary. When Nines perceive that someone is venting or indulging their anger in a way that threatens to create conflict, they may feel uncomfortable and withdraw or get angry with the angry person. They can at times express the fury of a peacemaker—they will become upset if someone is making others or themselves upset. And—if you have a conflict that’s even slightly heated, make sure to circle back with them and make an effort to repair things.
• Ask the Nine for input, even if it’s not being offered. Working and being in relationship with Nines can be tricky because they often don’t proactively offer their opinion—or their full opinion—during conversations. They can be quiet in work meeting, or personal discussions, not speak up for themselves, and then feel irritated that the other person didn’t ask them what they think. So make sure to ask if they don’t tell. And it may be especially important to solicit and support their feedback if they express an opinion that goes against you or the direction of a group.
• Enlist their cooperation directly to get them on board. Coaches and leaders often ask, “How do you get a Nine to do something—especially if they have shown a resistance to doing it?” The answer is, you don’t “get” a Nine to do anything. Nines can be tough and strong when resisting doing something someone is pressuring them to do, and in a silent power struggle, they will most probably outlast you. So, instead of trying to move a Nine when you perceive them stubbornly resisting your will, talk to them openly, ask them what they think and how they feel, and be direct about wanting their buy-in to a decision or situation, and give them the freedom to say yes or no for their own reasons.
• Explicitly recognise their contributions to your friendship, relationship, or team. In a way that’s not too public or embarrassing, make a point of acknowledging them when they do something that helps the relationship, team or the larger organisation.