Enneagram Personality Types

The Ladder of Being for an Enneagram One

In this podcast, I take a deep, DEEP dive into all things One, trying to give an overview of how the Enneagram Type One Personality might shows up in our lives as a kind of continuum (or ladder) of psychological and spiritual health.
I call this “The Ladder of Being”, which ranges from the upper rungs where we are at our “best” as Ones, to the the lower rungs where we suffer the most as Ones, and are also more likely to cause suffering to others.
The nine rungs of this Ladder of Being can be subdived into three sections.
On the Upper Rungs we find these Contented Ones:
  • The Wise Realist
  • The Reasonable One
  • The Principled Teacher
On the Middle Rungs we find these Conflicted Ones:
  • The Idealistic Reformer
  • The Orderly Person
  • The Judgemental Perfectionist
On the Lower Rungs we find these Suffering Ones:
  • The Intolerant Misanthrope
  • The Obsessive Hypocrite
  • The Punitive Avenger
I hope that by joining me as I climb up and down this One Ladder with you, you will become not only familiar with the light and shade of us Ones but also get a sense of where we might wish to develop in terms of our “Life Game” or journey.
Feel free to get in touch in order discuss further your Finite and Infinite Games as a One – I always enjoy receiving and responding to mail:
Enneagram Personality Types

Working Therapeutically with an Enneagram Six (Loyalist) Personality Style


  • I am good at rationally analysing situations and am very insightful. I enjoy examining things with my mind and solving problems—I tend to think outside the box and usually read people well.
  • My desire for certainty motivates me to look for good data to help me make rational decisions. I naturally apply logic and reason when thinking through a problem to find the best solution. Being one of the most intellectual and logical of all the personality types, I attempt to find safety through the thought process itself.
  • While I often act from fear, I may not always be aware of my fear. I am motivated by a need for security and safety that can just seem like a good strategy for being prepared or being ready to solve problems as they occur. And so I may not relate to being “fearful”—even though I often am.
  • I automatically try to poke holes in people’s plans to test how solid they are. I have a hard time just accepting things at face value—I feel motivated to think about “worst case scenarios” as a way of preventing them from actually happening. 
  • I have a hard time trusting people in the initial stages of a relationship. I need time to get to know someone before I decide they can be trusted. I need to observe others to determine if they are trustworthy. I have a good inner “bullshit detector.” Once I trust them, I really trust them—but if someone I trust betrays me, that’s really bad.
  • While I hope to find good authorities and leaders to work with, I have a natural anti authority streak. I usually need to test them to see if they are trustworthy, and if they aren’t, I may withdraw or rebel against them. 
  • I see the work I do through the lens of what might go wrong. I am a consummate troubleshooter and contingency planner. I excel at noticing the problems that might occur at each stage of a work process.
  • I ask a lot of questions as a way of making sure products and procedures are thoroughly checked out and all goes according to plan. I can’t help doubting what people say, but my real intention is to solve problems ahead of time so fixes can be planned and disasters can be avoided.
  • Some people might view me as pessimistic, because I easily speak to what could go wrong or turn out badly, but I view myself as a realist. I can’t help noticing and voicing potential problems but I see this as essential: I realistically evaluate the pitfalls in any plan so they can be prevented.
  • I often support whichever team is the underdog. I naturally sympathize with the oppressed and the powerless, and I can mobilize a lot of energy and passion in working on behalf of underdog causes.
  • Although I may work hard, I may not feel comfortable with success. I don’t like standing out from the crowd, so success can feel dangerous or awkward. If things go well, I can’t help waiting for the other shoe to drop. 
  • I often have a hard time making decisions because I can always think of another question to ask. I may find it hard to take a stand at times, or decide on a course of action, since I can so easily find ways to doubt or question my own thinking.
  • I often can’t help taking the contrarian view or playing the “devil’s advocate.” If someone offers an opinion, I automatically want to argue the opposite position (even if I don’t fully believe it). This helps me to test whether people really say what they mean and find certainty through challenging what’s really true.


Here is a kind of “Origin Story” (or Trauma Story) that some Sixes relate to:

“Once upon a time, there was a person named Six. She came into this life with a singular capacity to be courageous, but also with a tendency to experience herself as smaller and more fearful than she actually was.

When she was a very young child, Six was happy and free. She did what she wanted without thinking about it too much. She didn’t plan ahead and she didn’t allow any fear of the dangers of the world to distract her from enjoying life and having fun. She had many friends and enjoyed learning and exploring. She even took tests calmly and with confidence.

As Six grew up, however, she had a few experiences that made her feel afraid. Her mother once forgot to pick her up at school. She was frightened by a movie that showed people being killed. She started noticing all the things that could go wrong and learned that sometimes bad things happened. The world started seeming more dangerous and more threatening to her.

One day, Six got very anxious about her performance on a test. She got so worried that she imagined she was getting every answer wrong. Because this picture of certain failure was so vivid in her head, she froze. And indeed, she did very badly on the test. Around the same time, she started being suspicious of people and wondering if they could be trusted. Then she had a few more bad experiences that made her feel very angry, but also very scared.

As Six grew older, she started doubting the intentions of some of her old friends. Did they really like her? Then she began to have paranoid thoughts about some of her new friends. Were they out to get her? Were they just waiting for her to trust them so they could do something bad to her? As her fears and doubts grew, she imagined all the bad things that could possibly happen to her. What if someone stole her money? What if her parents died in a car accident and she was left all alone? What if her cat got lost or her dog got hurt? What if she caught a strange disease? Six became paralyzed with fear and doubt. She wanted to feel safe and carefree as she had before, but that didn’t seem possible. The world seemed like a fundamentally dangerous place. The only thing that seemed to help was to imagine all the bad things that could happen, so that she could make sure they didn’t. But any feeling of safety that brought her was only temporary.

Six tried to address the threats she perceived by preparing for the worst, and this became a big part of her survival strategy. But even though she was very inventive and resourceful when imagining all the things that could go wrong and what she would do if they did, she was still consumed by her fearful thoughts. Soon, she was nearly always preoccupied with planning what she would do if her fears came true. And this only made things worse.

The need to feel safe in what seemed to her like an obviously dangerous world drove Six to try to manage all the many threats in her environment. It was exhausting, but she couldn’t stop going around in circles in her head. She had to be on top of security. Safety first! And always. She got a first aid kit. She studied harder so she would never do badly on a test again. Her survival strategy was out of control. She could imagine fearful things that were about to happen everywhere. And she couldn’t stop imagining different kinds of threats or suspecting the shifty-looking people all around her. She watched them to find clues about their ulterior motives, their hidden agendas, and their bad intentions. She knew they were up to something. But all of this made her suffer terribly. How to get on top of her Sixness, how to live with or beside Fear with a bit more equanimity? This became her Life path, her growth path.”

Sixes often report experiencing some sort of fear-inducing situation early on in life, often involving untrustworthy authorities. They may have had a parent who was unpredictable—perhaps because of alcoholism or mental illness, or just inconsistent, absent, or unreliable—and so to cope, they learned to try to anticipate what was going to happen next. Many Sixes report a problem with the father figure, the archetypal protector, giving them a sense that they did not have enough protection. Whether the father was ineffectual, overly strict or tyrannical, or undependable, the Type Six child had an early sense of having to find ways to feel safe without a strong protective figure to internalize to give them a sense of inner security. 

Motivated to try to establish a sense of safety on their own, Sixes adapt to what often feels like a dangerous world by developing the ability to forecast the future—to pick up on subtle clues about what people will do and where problems might arise. This makes them good at detecting inconsistencies in people’s behavior and sniffing out trouble before it occurs. While all personality types are essentially defensive stances, Sixes become good defensive strategists in the classic sense—they get good at scanning the environment for potential problems so they can have some lead time in figuring out how to meet those problems and mount a defense. 

At work, this makes Sixes good at getting ahead of the curve mentally and thinking through all the problematic issues that could arise so that they—or their team—can strategize about how to handle potential obstacles before they derail a project or a plan. They can be reliable employees and hard workers (though sometimes motivated by anxiety), but they can also get caught up in their tendency to overanalyze and have trouble taking action. People who lead with the Type Six style bring analytical and strategic skills to the job of managing people based on their talent for risk assessment, their loyalty, and their logical minds. 


The strategy of watching for signs of danger and seeking certainty causes the Six to scan the environment and the people in it for signs of threats. They constantly ask questions like, “Who’s doing what?” “Who can be trusted?” “What does the data say about what’s true?” “Who will hurt me?” and “What might go wrong?” 

People with a Type Six leadership style pay a great deal of attention to how people behave and whether their actions are aligned with their stated intentions. When surrounded by people they trust, they can relax and focus on the work, but they will likely have their guard up and maintain a certain reserve in new situations. They also watch what happens in their environment closely to determine what threats exist that they should anticipate. At work, Sixes automatically see potential problems in a project or process, solve what problems they find, remember what problems have occurred in the past and learn from those mistakes, and continually keep an eye out for new and recurring threats. 

Sixes apply the same kind of attention to people—it can be hard to earn their trust, and they will need time to watch your behaviour to get to know who you are and how you operate, try to detect inconsistencies, look out for unstated intentions, and test you to see if you do what you say. Eventually, if they see that you are honest and forthcoming, they may become comfortable putting trust in you. But if not, they will keep their distance and struggle to communicate their needs or show their vulnerabilities.


Generally, individuals with a Type Six style view the world as a dangerous place. They are acutely aware that threats to their safety and security exist at all times, and use their powers of perception and sharp analytical skills to constantly evaluate the risks they detect “out there.” However, because the threats they perceive outside stir up anxiety inside, Sixes may also project their fears onto their environment, making the outside world seem more dangerous than it is. The result can be a vicious cycle in which their habit of looking for threats amplifies the Six’s perception of the world as dangerous, whether they are aware of being fearful or not. 

Sixes seek out safety, security, and certainty in response to their sense that trouble could occur at any moment. They want to find a good authority to trust in and solid sources of outside support, but past experience has taught them that it’s safer to have their guard up, remain hypervigilant, and test people to determine their trustworthiness. Their coping strategy of being wary and watchful can make them good problem-solvers, but also problem-seekers (as a way of feeling safe), and because they also tend to enjoy the process of problem solving, they can view the world through the lens of searching out problems to solve, and may sometimes find them where they don’t exist. Sixes are particularly prone to suffer the effects of self-fulfilling prophecy—they may make things true by fearfully imagining they are true (when they really weren’t until the Six focused so much fearful energy on them). 

Sixes view reality as being context dependent—if you ask them a question about something, they will often answer, “It depends…” They have a keen awareness of the complexities and contingencies of life and see themselves as realists. Most of all, they value being prepared. They know that life can be unpredictable, and seek to foresee whatever problems may happen, and as a result of all of this forethought, they tend to remain calm in a crisis and handle threats well when they do occur.



Sixes are “head-centred” mental types who think in terms of analysing ideas and situations and evaluating risks. They have active imaginations and tend to think in terms of “what ifs?” as a way of finding certainty in an uncertain world. Sixes engage in “contrarian thinking” and mentally “push back,” challenge others’ thinking, test positions to see if they are solid, and try to strengthen group thought processes by pushing on potential weak points to see if they hold up. Highly logical people who value reason and rational thinking and want to base decisions on facts and data, Sixes also tend to have “doubting minds” that may perpetually question things. They may doubt what is going on, they may doubt themselves and they may even doubt their doubt. However, when they can step back and look at the evidence, they are good at evaluating data, thinking things through and finding good solutions.


Type Sixes come more from their heads than from their emotions. However, the one emotion all Sixes seem to experience is fear—although they experience it in different ways. Some Sixes will be very aware of regularly feeling fear and can name many things they are afraid of. Other Sixes subconsciously find ways to manage their fear so it doesn’t register in their conscious experience. Some Sixes ease their fear by looking to a good authority or a set of rules or processes to guide their actions. And other Sixes seek to become strong so they can proactively move toward the sources of their fear and overcome them. But whether they are aware of it or not, most Sixes are motivated to a large degree by fear. Some Sixes also feel guilt and shame, though their guilt is usually all in their heads—part of their defensive strategy of uncovering and fixing badness—and not based in reality. 


Sixes behave in very different ways depending on which of the three subtypes they are (described below) and the context and conditions they are in. They often ask a lot of questions, try to poke holes in plans and presentations, and doubt and test what is happening to see what they can trust. They can be hard workers who always do their due diligence, or they may get caught up in analysis-paralysis and have trouble taking action. They may manage their anxiety by taking on difficult situations, or they may avoid challenging situations and want to hide. They may be organised, precise, and efficient, or they may be indecisive, uncertain, and disorganised. They can be caring and friendly or reserved and defensive. As Sixes themselves will tell you: it all depends on what conditions they are facing, what they are thinking and feeling, and whether they tend to respond instinctually to their fear with a “fight” or “flight” or “seek protection” response. 


  • Ability to accurately assess risks and threats. Motivated by the need to stay safe and find certainty, Sixes have a talent for intuiting the risks and threats in any project or plan.
  • Good problem solvers. Sixes’ analytical minds easily focus on breaking things down into their component parts and finding the best ways to address problematic issues and situations.
  • Insightful and analytical. Sixes are good at asking the right questions, gathering and analyzing the pertinent data, and generating useful and accurate insights about what is going on.
  • Precision and attention to process. Germany is a Six country—and the phrase “German engineering” has become widely understood to mean German cars and other products demonstrate a high degree of precision and quality. Sixes find safety in precisely attending to the processes and principles that help achieve predictable, quality products and outcomes.
  • Loyalty and reliability . Once Sixes establish trust, they tend to be extremely loyal, reliable, and trustworthy—modelling the same qualities they look for in people they trust. 


Like all people of all types, when Sixes overuse their biggest strengths (and don’t consciously develop a wider range of specialties), those strengths can also turn out to be their Achilles’ heel. 

  • Ability to accurately assess risks and threats. Sixes can be so attuned to watching out for risks and threats, they may overestimate how risky a situation is and see threats where they don’t exist. 
  • Good problem solvers. The habit of looking for problems can lead Sixes to find them where they don’t exist. They may over-index negative data and underestimate the positive. 
  • Insightful and analytical. Sixes can get stuck in questioning, doubt, and endless analysis to the point where they don’t take action. In addition, they may overvalue their analytical ability and not develop their emotional intelligence.
  • Precision and attention to process. Like some German citizens, many Sixes rigidly insist on precision and process and don’t leave room for flexibility or going with the flow. If you’ve ever tried to cross the street against the light at an intersection when there are no cars around in Germany, and you were then scolded by a helpful German, you know what I mean.
  • Loyalty and reliability. Sixes have high standards for determining who is trustworthy and who deserves their loyalty. They may withhold their loyalty for a long time before they trust you, and if they aren’t sure of your trustworthiness, they may not be as reliable as you might like them to be—or as they are capable of.

When stressed to the point of going to the “low side” of their developmental spectrum, Type Sixes can become mistrustful and paranoid. They may get caught up in fear, question people endlessly, and their requirements for evidence of what or who can be trusted may be impossible to satisfy. They sometimes project fear-fueled scenarios they make up in their heads onto the people around them without realizing they are projecting. They may also push back and rebel against others (openly or covertly), refuse to accept the opinion of the majority or those in power, or mistrust anyone in authority. 

Less self-aware Sixes under pressure may also withdraw and hide. While suspecting others of hidden agendas, they may avoid conflict. They may express ambivalence, get stuck in doubt, and have difficulty making decisions. Stressed-out Sixes may also get caught up in an inner conflict between pleasing others and rebelling against them. They may get lost in fear-based abstractions or theoretical possibilities (or conspiracy theories) to the point where they have a hard time trusting anything. Depending on their subtype (described below), they may fear expressing anger and doubt themselves, rigidly adhere to rules, or get aggressive and refuse to cooperate.

On the “high side,” when Type Six leaders become more self-aware and conscious of their programming, they can be observant, intelligent, and understanding. They tend to read situations and people well, intuit what the key issues are, and meet challenges with courage and confidence (after evaluating the most relevant data). They combine analytical skill with a deep interest in people, taking care to get to know the individuals they work with so they can develop strong relationships based on mutual trust. Good leaders with a Type Six personality style identify with the underdog, or the “everyman,” and so establish democratic, egalitarian policies and are mindful of the needs of people at all levels of an organization. 

When living more from the “high side,” Sixes feel whatever fear and anxiety they have, but move forward anyway. They are able to act courageously, even under adverse circumstances, by assessing risks wisely and balancing an understanding of their fear and reactivity with a clear-headed analysis of the factual evidence and the input of trusted advisers and colleagues. Able to counter their naturally occurring fear through a careful consideration of reality, they are able to have faith in themselves and others to find the best ways to move things forward, despite the risks, threats, and problems inherent in the situations they face.

Fortunately, Sixes’ sincere interest in finding security means they will often do the work it takes to learn to trust people and engage with their team in productive ways, even if this means maintaining a certain level of vigilance for a while. When they can focus on proactively dealing with risks and solving interesting problems, they can usually develop good working relationships where they can put their analytical skills to good use and learn to have faith that things will turn out all right.


According to the Enneagram model, we all have three main instinctual drives that help us survive, but in each of us, one tends to dominate our behavior. The Type Six 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) Six

Self-Preservation Sixes cope with fear through finding allies and friends to protect them. The most actively fearful or “phobic” Sixes, they try to be warm and friendly in order to attract people, and since they fear others’ anger, they become programmed to hide or suppress their own aggression. These Sixes feel a kind of insecurity or separation anxiety—they fear that they are not ready or able and have a hard time feeling powerful or accessing an inner sense of their own authority. Because of this, they tend to be the least certain of the three kinds of Sixes. They ask a lot of questions, but don’t answer any, and are “proof junkies” who can never find enough proof to feel confident enough to take a strong stand. Self-Preservation Sixes see the world in terms of grey instead of black and white, and can inject doubt and uncertainty into any topic. They doubt others and they doubt themselves. 

The Self-Preservation Six must cope with a double dose of fear—the usual fear associated with the Type Six style combined with the fear and insecurity characteristic of someone who is concerned with survival. They present as very openhearted, warm, sincere and giving, but are very heady and intellectual on the inside. They can establish close bonds with others as part of their survival strategy, and may not look fearful to the people around them, but they have many fears, including a strong fear for their physical safety. 

Leadership (both at work and in the home) can be challenging for Self-Preservation Sixes. They may periodically succumb to fear and anxiety, have a hard time making decisions or appearing decisive, and struggle to appear strong or act from a clear sense of power and authority. They may look to others to shore them up and provide them with support or cover, which can make them feel or look weak. However, if Self-Preservation Sixes can learn to deal with their fears, they can leverage their ability to connect with others and be leaders who are thoughtful and wise and sensitive to the needs and concerns of their people. Even the most fearful Sixes can be calm and steady in a crisis. Self-Preservation Sixes have the power to rise to the occasion and deal with difficult circumstances without appearing afraid. Especially when they can learn to understand their responses and develop more courage and self-confidence in the face of anxiety, these Sixes can be approachable, considerate leaders who help others move forward through obstacles. 

The Social (or Group-Focused) Six

The Social Six is more certain and less ambiguous, seeing things more in terms of black and white than grey. Social Sixes feel anxious when things are uncertain, and cope with their anxiety by finding an outside authority to guide their life choices and ease their fears. This authority can be a person, but it can also be an ideology or a system of thought, anything that provides a set of rules and guidelines about how to live. However, this can lead Social Sixes to become too sure of things. In seeking to calm their anxieties by adhering to an impersonal authority (often a replacement for the father), Social Sixes can become “true believers” in a cause or system of thought. 

Social Sixes are highly intellectual types who feel more comfortable (and less fearful) when they have rules and reference points that tell them what to do to be safe, who the good guys and bad guys are, where north, south, east, and west are, and so on. They can look like Type Ones in that they obey the rules and want to know what their duty is—they are precise, rational, cool characters who think in flowcharts and like efficient, orderly processes. They appear stronger than the Self-Preservation Six because they find security and certainty in whatever authoritative system they adhere to. We see the Social Six character in the German culture—Germans are known for their reserved temperament and willingness to follow the rules. 

As leaders, but also with their loved ones, Social Sixes will want to create clear structures based on systematic, rational rules and guideposts. They tend to express their leadership through establishing and clarifying processes, norms, roles, and duties. They may have a system of thinking they adhere to, draw strength from and use to provide coworkers and direct reports with a set of instructions to guide their work and set expectations. They will take a highly rational approach to the work they do and may not be able to be spontaneous. Most Social Sixes will want to know and act from a clear sense of their duty as a leader and will work hard to fulfill their responsibilities in the most efficient and sensible way. Although at times they may be overly intellectual and abstract and have a hard time accessing their emotions, at their best, they will have an attitude of humble service and want to model a thoughtful, reasonable, and rules-based approach to doing work and managing others. 

The Sexual/One-to-One (or Relationship-Focused) Six

One-to-One Sixes are the most assertive, strong, and rebellious Sixes. To cope with fear and anxiety, they adopt a stance designed to intimidate others to keep danger at bay. They believe “the best defense is a good offense” and take on a “fight” mentality in reaction to fear, moving toward risky or dangerous situations as a way of dealing with underlying anxiety. Sometimes called the “counterphobic” Six, they’re the most likely Six to (unconsciously) avoid registering fear, and usually do not relate to feeling “fearful.” However, at a deeper level, they are, like all Sixes, motivated by fear. 

One-to-One Sixes have a very difficult time trusting others; they usually rely only on themselves, and actively take contrarian positions, pushing back on whatever the dominant opinion of the moment might be. They seek to be and appear strong (physically and otherwise), but they may only look courageous. Unconsciously overriding any awareness of their vulnerability and fear as a defensive strategy, they may act their fear out in an unconscious way to the extent that they deny it—the more aggressive and challenging they seem, the more fearful they may be. These Sixes can look like Type Eights in that they can be outspoken rebels who go against people in positions of power. They tend to be risk-takers and daredevils and “shit-disturbers” who react to their fear of being controlled by stirring things up or creating trouble within a team. 

As leaders, but also in relationships, One-to-One Sixes can seem strong and authoritative, though they may be more vulnerable and insecure than they appear. They may feel uneasy in leadership positions, since they have such a strong antiauthority attitude, and tend to be action-oriented, though the actions they take will be more effective if they become aware of their fear and learn to manage it in conscious ways. When they can own their vulnerability and act from true courage, One-to-One Sixes can put their revolutionary spirit to work in the service of good leadership. At their best, they take the interests of everyone into account and can take bold action to move projects forward in thoughtful ways, making sure their strength comes from true courage instead of just a rebellious or counterphobic impulse. The more they become aware of and own their fear, the more they can ground themselves in a deeper sense of their own authority. And the more they see the good things good authorities can do (whether they are the authority or someone else is), they more they will be able to model faith and boldness in the service of a larger vision.


Type Sixes sometime feel like working or being in relationships with others is hard because:

  • It’s hard for me to work well with someone if I don’t trust them, and it’s hard for me to trust people.
  • It can be hard to collaborate with people if I suspect them of having hidden agendas.
  • My coworkers don’t always place the same value on taking enough time to question and test every detail of a plan or project before it’s rolled out.
  • I feel dismissed when others won’t take the time to understand all my questions and doubts, especially because I am just trying to make sure mistakes aren’t made and problems don’t surface that we aren’t ready to handle.
  • People at work sometimes expect me to make decisions, but I don’t want to take the heat if it’s not the right decision—and it’s always the wrong decision for someone.
  • I can be a bit like a computer—more data-oriented than people-oriented.
  • I sometimes think the wisdom of my careful approach to work tasks is not respected. 
  • I don’t always trust that leaders, or people I’m in relationship with at work and at home will use their power fairly and wisely. 
  • Sometimes I’m viewed as a troublemaker or as slowing down work processes, when I am just trying to have all my questions answered and make sure we do our due diligence.
  • It’s difficult always being the person who asks the hard questions.

Type Sixes can get quite triggered…

  • When people don’t take my questions and doubts seriously.
  • When people don’t value my ability to poke holes in plans as a way to strengthen them.
  • When people perceive me as negative or pessimistic when I am trying to help them by bringing attention to potential problems and threats.
  • When people dismiss me or try to talk me out of my fears.
  • When others prioritize speed over careful analysis of plans.
  • When my coworkers, friends, or family don’t respect processes designed to make sure we do our due diligence and take proper safety precautions.
  • When people in positions of authority misuse their power.
  • When people don’t allow me to fully express my thoughts and opinions and play the devil’s advocate as a way of testing their opinions and proposals.
  • When people don’t respect my skills in assessing risk and making sure we are prepared for every contingency and scenario.
  • When people pressure me to make a decision when I have not fully examined all the data.
  • When people ask me to do things, because doing things involves decisions and I don’t like being the one who has to decide.

Type 6s are often loved and admired by those around them because: 

  • They understand and can clearly explain complex issues and problems.
  • They tend to be very honest, straightforward, humble, and trustworthy.
  • They give credit to others and feel uncomfortable in the spotlight.
  • They aren’t afraid to push back and inject a note of caution when they think their colleagues are heading down the wrong track.
  • They do all the worrying, so you don’t have to!
  • They are calm in a crisis—when something actually does go wrong, they know how to deal with it.
  • They will call out the higher-ups if they don’t agree with what they are doing—they question authorities and speak truth to power.
  • They err on the side of safety and help the team avoid potential dangers.
  • They are often funny and have a quick wit.
  • They think of all the questions that need to be asked when vetting a proposal.
  • They like to think out of the box. They are creative and enthusiastic problem-solvers.
  • They are very good at imagining multiple scenarios and making contingency plans.
  • They (usually) work really hard. 

Type 6s can be challenging to others at times because:

  • They slow down the work process when they ask so many questions.
  • They often have a hard time making decisions.
  • They tend to make things more complicated than they need to be—because they can look at a problem so many different ways and have so many questions about everything.
  • They may flood people with too much information.
  • They can get stuck in ambivalence and hesitation and have a difficult time pulling the trigger and moving into action.
  • It takes them a long time to develop trust—and it can be irritating to continually feel like they are testing and doubting you.
  • Their cynical attitude can feel like criticism and resistance.
  • They can spend a lot of time working on problems that no one else sees as a problem.
  • They may express so much skepticism and doubt that they undermine people’s or the team’s confidence.
  • They tend to talk in mixed messages—they are often highly ambivalent and so it may be hard for them to be clear and direct. 
  • They can think of 1,000 ways to look at a problem—and they will tell you about all of them.
  • They sometimes work harder than they need to because they make things harder than they need to be.


All the types can learn to be less reactive and better at collaborating with others through first observing their habitual tendencies, thinking about the things they think, feel, and do to gain more self-insight, and making efforts to manage or moderate their automatic reactions to key triggers. 

Sixes grow through first observing and then learning to moderate their habitual reactions to key triggers like getting alarmed at signs of danger, worrying that coworkers (or even family members) are untrustworthy, or perceiving danger and over-preparing for it. 

When Sixes can watch what they do enough to “catch themselves in the act” of doing the things that get them in trouble, and then pause and reflect on what they are doing and why, they can gradually learn to moderate their programming and knee-jerk responses. Here are some ideas to help Sixes be more self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and satisfied at work (and at home). 

  • Welcome and respect, but manage fear. Work to be aware of how your fear arises and what it’s about. Respect and have compassion for yourself when you feel fear, but learn to manage it and counter it with courage so it doesn’t run you.
  • Temper antiauthority and contrarian reactivity. Notice when you communicate in contrarian ways to prove your cleverness or resist others’ views out of fear you may not be fully aware of. Learn to observe your antiauthority reactions and temper them, knowing they can derail you if you allow your unacknowledged fear to surface as false strength or ego-based efforts at intimidation.
  • Moderate the worry. You may not be able to stop worrying, but you can tone it down through conscious efforts to be courageous and focus on the positive. 
  • Learn to tell the difference between intuition/insight and projection. It’s important to recognize how intuitive and insightful you are, but it’s even more crucial to make sure you learn to distinguish between intuition and projection. 
  • Develop trust more consciously. While you may have difficulty trusting people for a good reason, you can learn to moderate your mistrust through understanding where it comes from, what it’s about, and what you need to feel safe. 
  • Notice if problem-solving leads to excessive problem-seeking. When you love to solve problems, you can see them everywhere—even when they aren’t there. Sometimes this can make things harder rather than easier. Reining in your tendency to solve all the problems can help you to focus on what’s most important and conserve your energy. 


Here are some “blind spots” that Sixes often don’t see in themselves, but may be perceived by others who are in relationship with them:

  • Your own power and authority. Type Sixes sometimes don’t see and consciously own their inner sense of power and the authority to protect themselves and direct their own life. You may project power and authority onto others instead of recognizing, developing, and acting from a deep sense of your own confidence—which is the best way to counter fear and anxiety. 
  • The positive data in a given situation. Sixes tend to focus their attention on what might go wrong, so they may not pay attention to all the things that are going right. It helps to balance the tendency to find problems with an active effort to search out signs of what’s working.
  • Your tendency to project your inner fears onto the outside world. Sixes unconsciously use an important psychological defence mechanism to try to feel safe: projection. It tends to operate unconsciously, so it helps Sixes to work to be more aware of it. Ask yourself periodically if you are responding to a real external threat or making it up in your head and imagining it as coming from the outside. Examine the evidence. Do a “reality check.” This helps you recognise and own your fear so you can manage it in conscious ways. 
  • The effects of “splitting” the world into good and bad, scary and safe. “Splitting” is the other primary psychological defence mechanism Sixes (unconsciously) use to feel safe. It begins in early childhood, when the Six is too young to understand that good and bad can exist in the same person, so they separate what’s good and what’s bad—seeing one as originating inside and one on the outside (or vice versa). This is what we do when we demonise our enemies. However, the big issue here is that splitting often has the effect of making you “bad” and others “good,” or the other way around. You may feel guilty and bad and look to others to protect you, or you may feel like the good guy and suspect others. Either way, it’s important to learn to be aware of this defence mechanism, so you don’t label yourself or others as bad when you/they aren’t.
  • Your feelings and “gut knowing” as sources of good information. As head types, Sixes rely on the data they generate through thinking and analysing. And while this is a key strength, people who lead with a Type Six style may undervalue their emotions and their gut as co-equal sources of data about the world inside and outside. Accessing your emotions and your body (something Sixes can pay scant attention to) can help you to exit from the mental loop all that thinking can sometimes lead to.


It helps Sixes to be aware of, actively pay attention to, fully own, and leverage:

  • Ability to observe, analyse, and think through problems and find solutions. People with a Type Six style excel at noticing the flaws in a plan and generating solutions to problems. They like the process of solving problems and bring a lot of skill, competence, and energy to surfacing vital information and understanding how to act on it.
  • Ability to forecast problems before they happen and preparing to meet them. A key part of business (but perhaps also relational) success is being able to understand the obstacles that may occur in the course of a project or a relationship and prevent them from derailing things. Sixes’ minds work in exactly this way—they are extremely good at mentally generating scenarios and making contingency plans. This makes them excellent project managers and problem-solvers.
  • Sensitivity to power dynamics and egalitarian mind-set. Naturally wary of authorities and their power to exploit people, Sixes have a democratic, egalitarian outlook. As leaders, parents, friends, they don’t have a need to be significant or receive accolades. They want to be competent, but they can inspire loyalty in their people because they want to make decisions and enact policies that benefit everyone. And they want to work with others in an equal way to solve problems as a team.
  • Ability to be calm and competent in a crisis. Sixes spend so much brain power preparing for danger to hit that when it does, they handle it well—with strength and confidence. It helps them to remember this when they second-guess themselves.
  • Loyalty, support, dedication to people and causes. Sixes take time to develop trust, but once they are sure of something or someone, they commit fully. They want the things they do to benefit their people, and they work hard to create security for themselves and others.

Some questions I might ask a Six in our therapy sessions: 

  • Why is it sometimes difficult to stop looking for problems and focus on addressing specific threats or fixing problems?
  • What is difficult about trusting others? What kinds of things do you imagine will happen if you open up more to having more faith in people?
  • What is your relationship like with your fear? What are the main sources of your main fears? Under what conditions do you create fears in your head (as opposed to responding to an objective threat in the outside world)? 
  • What is your relationship like with your own anger? How conscious are you of avoiding expressing it (if you are a Self-Preservation Six) or expressing it too quickly (if you are a One-to-One Six)? 
  • What is your experience of your own confidence and power? What kinds of things make you feel insecure? How can you develop more faith in yourself and your own abilities?
  • What is happening when you take the contrarian stance and argue the devil’s advocate position? Can you tell when your contrarian positions are a way of expressing fear you don’t want to feel? 
  • Notice when you are hard on yourself and condemn yourself and look into why this happens. What is difficult about accepting yourself as who you are?
  • Are you afraid of both success and failure? What is behind these fears?

 Sixes 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 Six personality:

  • Learn how fear drives you and meet your fear with confidence, faith, and courage. Allow yourself to learn to own your power, your positive qualities, and to develop courage and faith in the face of fearful fantasy.
  • Become conscious of how you decide whether to trust someone and notice if your standards are so high that you have a hard time connecting with and collaborating with others. Allow yourself to experiment with having the courage to open up a little more earlier on, even if you aren’t sure it’s completely safe. 
  • Learn to recognize when you are getting overfocused on what seems threatening and get stuck in avoidance or suspicion or ambivalence or doubt. Allow yourself to open up to a wider perspective and actively index the positive data in the situation in a way that allows you to feel good and draw strength from what is working. 
  • Become aware of what you get out of overusing your intellect and realize you can find even more meaning in the things you do by accessing your emotional intelligence and “gut knowing” more often. Balance out your head-centeredness with a more active connection with your heart and your body.
  • Learn to notice when you seek to prove your competence through being an intellectual problem-solver and broaden your vision of how you can be powerful in the work you do. Realize that you have the ability to get out of your head and into the flow of life more than you think you do.
  • Learn to see when you are projecting out your fears and learn to tell the difference between projection and intuition. Learn to discern and call upon your intuition more. Refine your ability to open up to having more faith in others and in a broader range of your own capabilities. 

Overall, Type Sixes can fulfill their higher potential by observing and working against their habit of overfocusing on threats and other problems, but appreciating their broad capability to notice subtle nuances that might have meaning. When they can consciously draw on their powerful ability to analyze what is happening and find safety through creative insights and engineering, but also develop more connection to other people as well as their emotions and their courage, they can develop the faith and trust they need to face their fears and be able to use their higher talents to greater benefit. 

If you’re not a Six, but would like to get on better with the Sixes in your life, here are a few tips:

Be trustworthy. Your Six coworkers, friends, and lovers will be watching and listening to you closely to read whether you support them or not. It will help if you are honest, open, and clear about what you think and what you are going to do and why. And remember that it can take time to earn someone’s trust.

Be patient with their questions. It’s important to let Sixes ask the questions they need to ask. Although they can go overboard, they often ask the tough questions that no one else will—and they can relax more when they have the information they need.

Understand and respect their fears and worries (and don’t judge them for being fearful or anxious). You will get farther faster with the Sixes in your life if you don’t try to talk them out of whatever they are worried about. If you take their fearful stance as a given, and support them in doing what they need to do, they will have an easier time feeling less fear or forging ahead despite their fear.

Value their ability to assess risk and trouble-shoot. Sixes play an important role on teams, and in relationships, that most other types would rather not play. So, it’s wise to actively appreciate them for the way they examine all scenarios, make contingency plans, and do all the checks and balances involved in a project. If they feel valued and safe, they will be easier to work with (than if they feel like no one is listening to them).

Give them time to conduct thorough analyses, but help them take action. Everything Sixes see comes under the heading of a problem or a challenge that, if not taken care of, will end badly. You can support them by giving them the time they need to investigate and solve problems, but also help them to take action when warranted.

Enneagram Personality Types

Working Therapeutically with an Enneagram Two (Helper) Personality Style

Hello. Perhaps you’ve landed on this page because you’ve done an Online Enneagram Personality Test which has given you a Two 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 Two “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 most or all of the following characteristics apply to you, you may have a predominantly Type Two personality style:

You see your life (work, social and romantic connections, self-development) through the lens of your relationships. You think of your life as based on (and happening through) good relationships and seek influence through doing things to gain positive regard, admiration, and approval.

You are motivated by pleasing, impressing, or wanting to support others. You work hard, and you want positive feedback that validates your efforts and reassures you that you are doing a good job. Helping seems like the quickest road to being liked and valued.

You seek to excel so that the important people in your life will think well of you. It’s crucial for you to be appreciated by others—especially others you like or view as important, but also by people you don’t like. 

You believe you can make others like you. You make friends easily, know how to appeal to others, and take pride in the fact that you can win anyone over.

You are able to relate well to a wide range of people. You’re confident you can establish rapport with anyone you seek to impress or connect with, regardless of rank or position.

You find satisfaction in being supportive and helpful to others and may occasionally use this as an indirect way to get what you want or need. As you read this you may be thinking, I would never do that! However, you do think that giving should be mutual and reciprocal. It’s also easier for you to give than to receive, and while receiving can be awkward, you will often do things for others in the hope that they will like you or do something in return.

You place a high value on being considerate, empathetic, and unselfish. You believe people like people who are easy to get along with. Making others feel comfortable feels natural and important, and it bothers you when others act selfishly or treat people badly.

You can be emotional or oversensitive and will try to hide your feelings at work (and sometimes with others in personal relationships). While you may attempt to hide your emotions (even from yourself) to maintain others’ positive regard, sometimes you become so emotional that you can’t help expressing it. (Though if you are a guy, you may be more locked down emotionally.)

You have a talent for sensing the feelings, needs, and preferences of others, but may be unclear on what you need or feel afraid to ask for it, lest you impose on others or risk rejection. This can lead to people feeling supported by you and appreciating you, but it can also lead to you over-giving and exhausting yourself to the point where you may resent others, especially those who fail to reciprocate.

It can be hard for you to give candid (and especially critical) feedback. You empathize with others so much that you worry straightforward constructive criticism will make them feel bad. 

It bothers you (a lot) when someone doesn’t like you. You consider it important to always try to do your best and make things (and potentially yourself) more perfect so that people will evaluate you positively. 

You avoid conflict because you fear it will hurt your relationships, but you will at times feel relieved to get a problem out on the table so you can fix it. You may also have a hard time expressing contrary opinions because you fear they will alienate others. You may avoid confronting people or actively addressing conflict so that everyone can be happy again.

You have a natural ability to see the good in others and can truly enjoy helping people manifest their potential. You can’t help loving it when you hear someone say, “We couldn’t have done it without you.” This usually comes out of an altruistic desire to help and produce positive results, but it can also be a way to assure your value in others’ eyes so you can feel good about yourself.


Here is a kind of “Origin Story” for this personality type:

Once upon a time, there was a person named Two. When she was young, she was a happy child, full of love and a deep sense of satisfaction in life. She loved people—and loved loving people. She felt a deep sense of love for herself and all the beings in the world. From birth, she had a beautiful emotional sensitivity and an especially strong need to feel loved and supported.

But as Two grew up, perhaps because of this trait, she experienced bad feelings when some of her needs weren’t met by the people around her. Sometimes when she was hungry, no one came to feed her. Sometimes when she got hurt, no one realized she needed comfort. And when she felt her deep need for love, she often felt that she did not receive it.

Two tried to find the love she needed by expressing love for the people around her. She tried to get them to take care of her by taking care of them. If she was very pleasing, helpful, and supportive of others, she thought, they would want to be very pleasing, helpful, and supportive of her. They might remember to take care of her.

To get the love she needed so much, Two found herself doing all she could to please the people in her world. The affection of others made her feel safe and helped her avoid feeling neglected. In her quest to be loved—or liked—she focused a great deal of energy on all her relationships. She created very positive connections with others. She listened to them. She expressed interest in them. She said funny things to entertain them. She always looked her best to impress them. She made them feel happy by giving them things they liked or needed— sometimes even before they knew they needed them. Two became quite good at pleasing people and even liked to do it most of the time, although it sometimes made her very tired.

Over time, Two’s desire to win people’s love made her extremely good at tuning in to what they were feeling. This helped her make them feel good so they would appreciate her and take care of her. She became very generous and giving because she saw that, when she gave people things, they liked her more. But she didn’t like to ask for anything for herself, because others might say “no,” and when that happened, she felt rejected. And feeling rejected was the opposite of feeling loved. Eventually, after years of trying to avoid the pain of not being loved, Two erased the memory of love almost completely.

Because Two was so good at doing things that pleased others, a lot of people did like her, and this made her feel important. But in focusing on everyone else’s needs, Two forgot all about her own needs—and sometimes her feelings. Eventually, she lost all awareness of her needs and feelings. All she ever did was seek approval from others. Driven by her unconscious need to be appreciated, she even started to control and manipulate others, because sometimes she had to make them see how important she was. She became really good at imposing her will on others in ways they didn’t realize, because she disguised herself so well as a nice, generous, and selfless person.

Two’s survival strategies came to rule her life. She completely forgot about the original need for love that had driven her to please others. She sometimes felt a vague sense of satisfaction when they approved of her, but it went away quickly, leaving her even hungrier for more. She tried to meet everyone’s needs, even when she was completely exhausted. She shape-shifted into a different person every time she wanted someone’s approval and she couldn’t say “no” to anyone. Her need to be liked and important became insatiable, and in trying to be whatever she had to be to get people to like her, she lost all memory of her true self.

Occasionally, when someone did offer Two genuine love, she didn’t even realize it was happening. By learning to settle for small bits of attention, appreciation, and approval, she had deadened herself to her own larger needs and deeper feelings—and cut herself off from her self and her ability to receive what she wanted the most. This made her totally unable to take in anything good from others, including the love she had wanted in the first place. What to do?

Early on in life, Twos come to believe that love and approval are contingent upon them doing things for people, acting nice, or being who others want them to be. They sometimes have a history of being told that they are “too sensitive” or “too much” or “too emotional,” which proves to them that their needs are too much for others or that they must suppress their needs and emotions to be liked. 

Motivated by the desire to create positive connections with people, Twos’ coping strategy involves sensing and meeting others’ needs, pleasing others, and presenting themselves as likable to gain the affection and approval of others. They become adept at emphasizing parts of themselves they think people they want to impress will like and downplaying the parts they think will interfere with establishing a connection. They worry about the potential disapproval of others and so try to appear attractive and pleasant so people will want to be around them.

Twos are at their most relaxed and happy when they know others like them or approve of what they are doing or want to connect with them. They read the people they interact with to sense what they like and then try to become what they like to create a positive impression and a friendly rapport. They avoid rejection (which feels intolerable) through being pleasing and easy to be with and not asking too much of people. They tend to gravitate to people they regard as important and become indispensable to those individuals in the hope they will return the favor and meet their needs in a reciprocal fashion. This strategy helps them to get their needs met without having to ask directly (which opens them up to the risk of rejection). 

The strategy of presenting themselves in a way that will please others focuses Twos’ attention on other people. They have an automatic and finely tuned radar for picking up the subtle signals that reveal people’s moods and preferences, and they use this skill to decide how to manage the impression they are making to ensure they are liked. Often without even thinking about it, they adjust their presentation to match what they believe other people want or need them to be. This focus on shape-shifting to orchestrate positive relationships may be so deeply ingrained in the Twos’ way of being that they may not even be aware they are doing it. 

At work, but also at home, Twos focus attention on the “people” aspect —how they can best collaborate with, support, and contribute to what people in the organization, or their families, friendship groups are doing. Whatever their title or position may be, they focus not only on the work at hand, but also how work tasks and processes affect people, and they have a talent for doing all they can to make sure the relational aspects of work go smoothly. 

As a result, Twos can be extremely productive, especially if they like the people they work with. But focusing so much of their attention on other people and attuning so completely to what others are feeling, wanting, or needing means Twos may have no idea what they themselves are feeling, wanting, or needing. 


Generally, individuals with a Type Two style want to keep other people happy and improve the experience of their fellow humans. They sincerely like people and usually want to see the best in others (unless they have a reason not to), and when they don’t, they are really good at acting like they do. Most of the time, they enjoy interacting with others—they are the “people people” of the social world. 

Twos tend to think they need to make everyone like them (by force, if necessary). They believe that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like them, and those who don’t know them well enough yet to know that they like them. They feel confident that they are just one charm offensive away from winning everyone over. Twos have many weapons at their disposal to create a positive impression; however, when they fail to forge an alliance or inadvertently piss someone off, they will feel extremely bothered and get self-critical and obsessively second-guess themselves. They tend to look outside themselves to decide how they should feel about things (including themselves), and can think: If you like me, I’m okay, but if you don’t like me, there’s something wrong with me. In the psychology business we might describe this as having an “external locus of control.” 

Twos believe in reciprocal giving—I scratch your back, you scratch mine—even if this is not always conscious. They believe everyone should help others out and have a hard time saying “no,” even to things they don’t want to do. They focus more on the people around them than themselves and then have an expectation that others will focus their attention on supporting them. Sometimes this goes well, like when they are generous, selfless, and fun-loving companions and the relationship is mutual. Sometimes it can go badly, like when they neglect themselves and then blame you because you took up so much of their time and attention and didn’t give back (even though you didn’t ask them—or want them—to give you so much).


Strategic help to create indispensability. Giving for Twos isn’t always altruistic (though they may want to think it is). It can be a strategy to ensure their position or power or influence. The more you need them, the more secure they feel in the knowledge you won’t be able to exclude them.

Charm and warmth. Much of the time, Twos will be exceedingly nice because they feel motivated to be liked and accepted and to avoid rejection of any kind. Their charming presentation is usually sincere and authentic, and when it isn’t, they might not be aware that they are being false because they are programmed to believe it’s good to be nice. 

Empathy and emotional sensitivity. Twos often readily feel what others are feeling and are willing to listen and offer emotional support without being asked. However, the emotional sensitivity that makes them good friends and partners can also make them take things personally or feel offended when no offense is intended. 

Relationship-oriented. Relationships are front and center on the Type Two view screen and nurturing important relationships is their top priority. The saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” conveys their belief that work gets done through relationships. 

Other-oriented. Twos pay more attention to what’s going on with other people than what might be going on inside themselves. This means they may be more aware of how you are feeling and what you need than how they are feeling and what they need. 

Self-elevation and self-deflation. Believing they need to be all things to all people means Twos may unknowingly walk around with an inflated sense of who they are and what they can do. If this elevated sense gets punctured by negative feedback, they can feel very hurt, believe they have failed to convey a positive sense of themselves, and may go to the other end of the spectrum and feel quite deflated and bad about themselves.

Giving with the expectation of reciprocity. Twos usually believe they give to others without expecting anything in return; in reality, sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn’t. Because they are sensitive to rejection, asking someone to meet their needs can feel humiliating, so, Twos sometimes (unconsciously) “give to get.” They get generous hoping others will reciprocate and give them what they need without them having to ask directly. 



Because the Type Two outlook is about forming and enjoying mutually supportive relationships, Twos spend time thinking and strategizing about impression management, the achievement of positive connections, and whether people like them. While they can apply just as much intellectual focus to work tasks as others, the people around them and the important people in their lives are regularly in their thoughts. When they focus mental attention on doing a good (or great) job, this is often motivated by the desire to look good to specific people they want to impress or inspire.


Although they sometimes hold back their feelings so their emotions don’t repel people they want to attract, Twos are essentially very emotional people. One of three “heart-based types” within the Enneagram system, they tend to react emotionally to things, whether they show it in the moment. People with a Type Two personality style tend to be happy people who may repress their negative feelings to get along with others. They may think that sharing their real feelings of anger or sadness may alienate people who may not be comfortable with shows of emotion, and so they may feel more emotions on the inside than they reveal on the outside. And while Twos tend to be genuinely upbeat people who try to lift the general mood, they often feel sad underneath, as they may be aware of the ways they fall short in their efforts to be liked or appreciated by others. They can also be angry and resentful, especially when people they have supported do not support them in return. 


Twos work hard to prove their worth and gain acceptance and approval. They can be driven to support others’ success, to accomplish and achieve for their own sense of satisfaction, and to look good to people who matter. Twos tend to “merge” with others and can feel so connected to or aligned with people they care about that that they can share in (or over-empathize with) their emotional experience. They may work very hard to please their boss or support a favourite coworker, their best friend, or their spouse or children. Since they have a hard time saying “no,” they often overwork in an effort to meet all the needs of the people around them. They may also act to orchestrate experiences for others—either to connect people they like, or provide positive experiences for other people, or (and this is a big blind spot for Twos) manipulate someone into giving them something they want, but don’t want to ask for directly (because they fear rejection).


Energetically supporting others. Twos can move mountains to help their allies be successful in the things they do. 

Empathically understanding others feelings, needs, and experiences. Twos excel at being right there to give you exactly what you need right when you need it. They really do feel your pain as well as your triumphs along with you.

Service orientation. Twos automatically attune to their audience and have a strong ethic about the value of selfless service. A team that lacks Twos may have a blind spot when it comes to taking full account of the needs of their customers. 

Having fun and lifting the mood. Twos think, “What better way to have fun with people and make them want to be around you than to be fun to be around?” 

Orchestrating positive experiences and connections to please others. Twos enjoy being the person who connects people, the host of a great party, or the supporter someone couldn’t have succeeded without. They like doing powerful things behind the scenes—that way they won’t get blamed if things don’t go well and they can express their people power in subtle, less risky ways.

Appreciating what’s best in others. Twos feel enlivened when called upon to help people manifest their gifts and leverage their strengths to be happier and more successful. 

However, as for all of us, our greatest strengths can also trip us up at times. If Type Twos 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.

Energetically supporting others’ efforts. Doing too much can leave Twos feeling exhausted, overburdened, and resentful of the people they support for taking up all their time, energy, and attention.

Empathically understanding others’ feelings, needs, and experiences. It’s so easy for Twos to “feel your pain” that they may feel yours more than they can feel their own. 

Service orientation. Too much focus on meeting others’ needs can mean Twos overlook important elements of the bigger picture or neglect their own needs and opinions. When less self-aware, Twos’ “selfless service” can lead to playing the martyr if they don’t receive the support they want from others. 

Having fun and lifting the mood. Feeling like they have to put on a happy face to make others feel good, even when they don’t feel particularly happy, is a recipe for self-abandonment and resentment. 

Working hard to orchestrate positive experiences and connections. Twos can go too far to enhance others’ experiences and not attend to the quality of their own—or those of other people they aren’t focusing on as important.

Appreciating what’s best in others. Twos’ tendency to support or appreciate what others do well can make it hard for them to provide honest feedback about what needs improvement—they can sugarcoat the truth to the point where they can’t deliver critical feedback at all.


When stressed to the point of going to their “Low Side,” Type Twos can finally get angry that they have spent so much time, attention, and energy giving others what they need that they haven’t gotten anything they need. They may have been (unconsciously) hoping that focusing on others’ needs would somehow eventually lead to those others focusing on their needs, but bitter experience eventually shows them that this often doesn’t happen. And at that point, cracks appear in the usually ultra-friendly Two’s façade—while the people around the Two are often mystified by their distress, because the Two never actually asked for what they needed. Instead, they’re so accustomed to “reading” others for clues to what they need and rushing in to provide it that Twos assume other people will do the same thing for them. 

Type Twos on the Low Side can express resentment (After all I’ve done for you, you treat me like this?), can get controlling and bossy (as opposed to hinting or being overly polite and indirect about what they think you should do), or they can punish others by withdrawing their support entirely (Let’s see how you do now without my help!). They may believe they know what’s good for you better than you do and may become irritated if you don’t take their advice or acknowledge and appreciate them for their efforts. They may also become highly manipulative, secretly forcing things to go the way they want them to without recognizing what they do is manipulation.

On the “High Side,” when Type Two leaders do the work of becoming more self-aware and conscious of their habitual patterns, they can be diplomatic, authentically generous, and deeply supportive—without expecting anything in return. At their healthiest, Twos do for others simply because it’s the right thing to do, or it feels great to provide just the right kind of support, or because it’s what the person or team or organization needs to succeed.

Emotionally intelligent Twos know who they are and feel good about themselves, so they don’t rely so much on being affirmed by others. When they stop denying their own needs in an effort to win others over, they can take care of themselves instead of subconsciously expecting others to do it. Self-aware Twos learn how to get their own needs met, understand how to have healthy boundaries with others, and don’t have to make other people happy as an indirect way of inspiring reciprocity. Healthy Twos retain their emotional sensitivity and deep commitment to others, but don’t abandon themselves in the effort to create rapport with others. When they give, they give from the heart.


According to the Enneagram model, we all have three main instinctual drives that help us survive, but in each of us, one tends to dominate our behaviour. The Type Two style is expressed differently depending on whether a person has a bias toward self-preservation, social relationships within groups, or one-to-one bonding. 

 The Self-Preservation (or Self-Focused) Two

Self-Preservation Twos lead with charm and sweetness. They can be more fearful and mistrustful than the other Twos, which makes them more hesitant to own their power, more guarded with others, and more shy and adaptable. They appear youthful, playful, and enthusiastic, tend to be fun-loving and self-indulgent, and may also be more ambivalent about connecting with others and more irresponsible if they feel incapable or overwhelmed. These Twos can be quite emotional (though they will try not to express feelings at work) and can be oversensitive and take things too personally. And while they can be very capable and competent, they are less willing to “take charge” and less comfortable being the leader or “the authority.” 

While all Twos feel compelled to take care of others as a way of inspiring mutual bonds of affection, the Self-Preservation Two often expresses a greater need (that runs counter to the focus on others)—sometimes in hidden or indirect ways—to be taken care of by other people. This makes them the “counter-type” subtype of the three kinds of Twos. This (often unconscious) desire to be supported by others can take a more benign form, like needing help to figure out how to do something, or a more serious form, like neglecting their own welfare—all stemming from an unconscious hope that someone else will step in and provide resources or material support (so that they don’t have to). And while these Twos will want to be seen as strong and independent and hard-working, they may also be more tentative when it comes to “stepping up to the plate,” or taking an active role in leading projects and exerting power in a decisive way to get things done.

As leaders, Self-Preservation Twos pride themselves on being able to relate to people at every level of the organization. They excel at doing the planning and strategizing necessary for making sure the work gets done in a structured way that succeeds and are humble when it comes to getting credit for their contributions and leadership. However, these Twos may feel more at ease in support roles and show less pride at being at the top of an organization. They often need to learn how to access and exert power and leadership in concrete ways, and may have mixed feelings about being in the spotlight and getting attention. They will likely be deeply gratified by positive feedback, but may struggle to take it in and let it feed their sense of competence and power. At their best, they will seek to support people through sincere expressions of friendliness and helpfulness and try to make work fun and enjoyable. 

 The Social (or Group-Focused) Two

In contrast to the Self-Preservation Two, the Social Two is more of a leader type. This Two is the “Power Two” who gravitates toward leadership roles and likes to be in charge of making things happen. They can often be found in high-level executive positions or as small business owners or entrepreneurs. 

Social Twos tend to be ambitious and enjoy being influential. They seek to be seen as super-competent and capable of taking on and succeeding at any task or project. They like to feel their power in groups, to take the lead to see things are done the way they should be done and that the right people are being supported. Highly strategic thinkers, they excel at making things happen through their give-and-take relationships with people. Others may experience them as controlling and manipulative, but in their view, they may believe they are just “being strategic” or “getting things done behind the scenes” when they trade favors to win support or maneuver behind the scenes to attain a power position. They may believe they know how things should be done better than other people and so will take on a lot of work and produce a lot—and want to tell others what to do and how to do it.

As leaders, Social Twos tend to be decisive, visionary, and committed to the organization and its people. They feel comfortable in leadership positions and will work diligently to win over the crowd. Savvy and strategic when it comes to solving problems through leveraging the right relationships, Social Twos enjoy the power that comes with being the boss and will be very supportive of people who support them or provide something they need. They can appear magnanimous and warm on the outside, but may be more focused on their individual success than they appear. And while they may show vulnerability as a way of connecting with others, they may not really be as vulnerable as they look (or intend to look). At their best, Social Twos act in bold ways to do ambitious things by mixing a clear reading of what’s needed in the situation with a deep understanding of the people involved. 

 The One-to-One (or relationship-focused) Two

One-to-One Twos focus their energy and attention on being appealing to others and creating mutually supportive relationships, one at a time. They generate a lot of forward momentum in moving toward people and presenting themselves in an attractive way to others so that others will want to be connected to them. They can also be highly emotional, but this may take the form of expressing their opinions forcefully, taking the lead in having fun or organizing social events, or lobbying passionately in support of important others.

A naturally emotional and vibrant person, the One-to-One Two brings a lot of energy and a sense of fun and excitement to interpersonal interactions. When they want to befriend someone, they can turn on the charm and impress the other person with their generosity and their attention. Good at reading people, they can pick up on the clues about what someone likes and “become that” as a way of engineering positive rapport or allegiance. However, when the object of this Two’s pursuit doesn’t respond in the way the Two would like, the Two find this frustrating. They may turn up the volume on the charm offensive even higher, or may become angry and insistent. 

As leaders, One-to-One Twos will focus on aligning themselves with key colleagues and making sure they have the support of people they like and respect. They tend to prioritize relationships generally and focus a considerable amount of their attention on the people they regard as the most important to their success or the success of the team or organization. However, while One-to-One Twos may have favorite people within the organization, they will bring passion and emotional intensity to everything they do. They will seek to charm specific individuals so that they will know they can count on them when they need them. They may also act on impulse and get carried away if they feel excited by a particular idea or plan. When conscious and self-aware, One-to-One Twos can make big things happen, motivated by their deep caring for others and their energetic commitment to working with others for the benefit of the people they are connected to.


See if some of the things I often hear my Type Two clients saying resonate with you?

  • If I don’t get any feedback or affirmation, I can feel anxious and uncertain because I don’t know where I stand. 
  • They don’t try to read me, figure out what I need, and meet my needs (without my having to ask) in the way I do for others. 
  • When something happens that makes me angry or upset it can be difficult for me to contain my feelings or just get over it, but I also worry people will judge me for being too emotional. 
  • I can feel burdened by meeting others’ needs, but at the same time, I have a hard time knowing how to create boundaries or say “no.” I often take on more than I can handle because it’s easier to just do it myself than do the hard work of saying “no.” 
  • It bothers me when people are inconsiderate and don’t take other peoples’ feelings into account, or when the corporate culture doesn’t value team cohesion, loyalty, and putting people first. 
  • Sometimes I don’t feel free to do whatever I want because I worry so much about what others will think.
  • I can feel very hurt when people don’t recognize me for my efforts or include me in social outings.

 Type Two Personalities Can Become Triggered…

  • When people put their own self-interest above that of others.
  • When people do things without considering how it will impact other people.
  • When people give negative feedback without also providing positive feedback.
  • When people don’t reciprocate when I’ve done so much for them.
  • When people withhold information and don’t let me know where I stand.
  • When people leave me out of meetings or social gatherings that I’d like to be included in.
  • When managers patronize other people or treat others with disrespect.
  • When people don’t work as hard as I do—or when others ask for or take vacations they haven’t earned.
  • When people won’t listen to me or take my advice.
  • When people insult or personally attack me or other people.
  • When people haven’t done their part or have been lazy about their work and then I have to work harder to do what they should have done.
  • When people take advantage of my flexibility and generosity.

Here are some ways that others can sometimes struggle when being in relationship with a Two:

  • You seem angry or upset, but you aren’t saying anything.
  • You work hard (either for the relationship, or for the team), but then might act a little bit like a martyr and resent others for not working as hard as you do, or giving as much as you do.
  • You sometimes believe that you can do it all yourself—but then get resentful that you are doing so much and others aren’t helping (even while actively rejecting offers of help).
  • You might become obsessed with winning over the one person in the office who doesn’t like you (even if he doesn’t like anybody).
  • You might struggle to deliver negative feedback or tolerate bad behaviour where it is not helpful to do so.
  • You might have a hard time being honest and direct about what isn’t working for you (in relationships, or at work), but you probably will vent about it to others.
  • You may act friendly and believe you are open and receptive to people, but have walls up out of a fear you won’t be liked, or will be rejected in some way.


Responsibility. Taking less responsibility for managing how others feel and more responsibility for your own needs and feelings.

Boundaries. Managing boundaries with more awareness. Learn that it’s okay to say “no” and expend more energy on your own priorities and less on others.

Welcome but moderate emotions. Accepting your emotional nature as a strength, but also learning what you need to do for yourself to have your feelings, process them, channel them with awareness, rein them in when necessary, express them in conscious ways, and let them go when appropriate.

Letting go of your need to be indispensable. Developing your sense of self-worth so you don’t need to be needed by others to prove your value.

Building confidence in yourself. Learning to value yourself more from the inside so you don’t need so much validation and approval from the outside to know you are okay (or fantastic). Owning your power and authority in conscious ways.

Learning to become conscious of false pride (when you think you need to be better than you are to be appreciated) and aiming for humility—knowing and feeling good about exactly who you are and not seeing yourself as more or less than who you essentially are.

Learning to become conscious of when you over-give such that you can offer support appropriately on the outside and give more to yourself on the inside.

Learning to recognize when you are exhausting yourself through your efforts to prove your worth to others and develop a deeper awareness of your personal value and qualities aside from what you do for others.

Learning to be aware of any fear of dependence you might feel and develop your ability to receive (and really take in!) love, support, appreciation, and acceptance.

Learning to be aware of avoiding certain emotions and develop an ability to embrace your emotional nature and deploy it for good.

Learning to be more conscious of any negative beliefs you hold on to about yourself and own your competence, beauty, and power, and try to embrace what’s really true.


“Giving-to-get” (and how giving can be about control). Twos often think they like to give in a generous, selfless way without expecting anything in return. While this is often true, sometimes Twos give as a strategy to get people to like them or to get something they need or to exert control. But many Twos may not be aware that their own denied needs may motivate their offers of help or support—especially because receiving can feel awkward and uncomfortable. It’s very important for Twos to become conscious of their potentially hidden motives related to giving and helping so they can learn to ask for what they need directly.

Manipulating things to get what you want without having to ask. When I work with Twos, they usually relate to much of the description of the Type Two personality—until we get to the part about Twos being manipulative. But if we think about the definition of “manipulate” as a more benign shifting things around behind the scenes for a particular purpose, this word does describe what Twos often do. Out of a desire to avoid rejection, they try to get what they want indirectly by orchestrating what’s happening on the down-low to meet their needs in a covert way.

What you are feeling and needing in the moment? Twos often lose contact with how they are really feeling because others’ feelings seem more important. While Twos can be very emotional, they can also unconsciously avoid their feelings as a way of aligning with others. When Twos deny their own needs in favor of proving their value through meeting others’ needs, their unacknowledged needs will inevitably leak out in their behavior in ways they don’t see. This may lead others to perceive Twos as needy—the absolute last thing a Two wants to be! So it will be good for them to consciously focus on their own needs to avoid this troubling scenario.

The presence and causes of sadness or anger. Twos may not notice how they really feel because they naturally lean toward being in a happy mood. Most people want to be around people who are upbeat and pleasant, so Twos endeavour to be just that. However, beneath their perky exteriors, Twos often harbour feelings of sadness (and can feel depressed) because people may not regard them as highly as they would like them to, or they may believe people appreciate them for what they give and not for who they are. Also, Twos can deplete themselves by giving too much and then get resentful that others don’t take care of them the way they take care of others.

Dependence on others. Twos like to believe that they don’t need or rely on others the way others rely on them. And while this may be true to an extent, it also represents a way that Twos tend to lie to themselves. We all need people, but because Twos may have had a history of being hurt by people they depended on, they want to believe they don’t need anyone.

Blind spot: self-elevation and self-deflation. Twos usually don’t recognize the way they may need to see themselves as better than they are to impress and attract others or the way they feel bad about themselves when they fail to impress and attract others. They have a kind of false pride about all they can do and be for others that leads to a puffed up self-image and can feel humiliated when the puff gets popped.


You can start your therapy journey right now by noticing the following behaviours when they crop up for you.

Noticing when the habit of meeting others’ needs can go beyond simple generosity and become too much—or even intrusive. How and why do you tune in to the needs and feelings of others? How aware are you of your own feelings and needs?

Observing your connection to your emotions: When are you more aware or less aware of how you are feeling? What kinds of feelings do you tend to feel more often and less often?

Noticing when you are overempathizing with others and not taking your own feelings and needs into account.

How comfortable are you asking for help? What happens when you need help but don’t ask for it? 

Noticing when you need everyone to like you and the consequences of that. Notice what kinds of things you do to ensure others like you. Notice what happens when you aren’t sure if someone likes you or you get the message that someone is not happy with you.

Noticing when you shape-shift to adapt to others and lose touch with who you are and what you need and want.

Observing what happens when you want to say “no” but you say “yes.” What thoughts and feelings are behind this? How comfortable are you saying “no”? 

Strengths for Twos to Leverage In Their Therapy Journey and Life In  General

It helps Twos to be aware of, actively pay attention to, fully own, and leverage:

Your natural ability to empathize with others’ feelings. Understanding how others feel and focusing on the emotional impact of things on other people allow Twos to be powerful advocates, considerate collaborators, and loving human beings. Since “being emotional” can still get a bad rap in the workplace, it’s important for Twos to own their sensitivity as a strength.

Your dedication to nurturing relationships and taking impact on people into account. Twos often play an unsung role at work in understanding the importance of knowing how to relate to others and nurture working relationships. In many corporate environments work tasks are often prioritized above relating, so it helps Twos to recognize and value the work they do to establish, maintain, and improve relationships.

Your willingness to work hard. Type Threes often get most of the credit for being “hard workers,” but Twos also bust their asses to get work done. The difference is, where Threes get motivated by looking successful, winning, and getting to the goal, Twos want their efforts to have a positive impact on others.

Your interest and skillfulness in collaborating with others. Twos genuinely like the process of teaming with others, and feel an inherent enjoyment in working with people to achieve common goals. They bring a great deal of enthusiasm, positive energy, and commitment to the things they do on a team.

Your generosity in giving to others. Much of the time, when Twos give, they have the best of intentions to support and uplift others. They tend to be unselfish, thoughtful, and considerate.

 The Kinds 0f Enquiry Questions I Might Ask A Two Who Is Feeling Challenged By Work/Relationships, Or Some Other Kind of Suffering:

How and why do you lose touch with yourself when you are trying to please important others?

Why is it so important to be liked? What do you do to ensure others think well of you? What happens when someone doesn’t like you?

Why is it hard to give honest feedback to others without sugarcoating any criticisms you might have? What are you afraid of when you avoid offering coworkers a candid assessment of how things are going?

How and why do you “shape-shift” to align with others? What motivates you to alter your presentation depending on who you are with? 

Why is it hard to ask for help? What do you fear might happen?

Overall, Type Two Personalities can fulfill their higher potentials by observing and working against their habit of focusing so much of their attention on others and learn to tune into their own feelings, needs, and wants. When they begin to value their own contributions more consciously, they can balance out their sincere caring for others with a greater degree of self-support. When they can lean into their higher capacity for validating who they are from the inside—for valuing themselves for who they are and not for how they please others—they can express more of who they are in the world and bring more confidence, decisiveness, and productivity to their work as leaders. When they can balance their concern for the welfare of others with a deep appreciation of what they bring to the table, they can lead from a grounded sense of their emotional intelligence and sensitivity and their personal power. 

If you are not a Two, but have a relationship with a Two, here are some tips for getting on better with the Twos in your life:

  • Offer support. Twos want to know that you’re on their side and you have their back—that they can trust you to support them when they need something. If a Two knows they can trust you to be generous with them, they will be willing to do anything for you.
  • Give them space to do their best. If you want a Two to do something well, don’t rush them. Twos want to do their best and add value and not let anybody down, so they need time to prepare and figure it out.
  • Match their level of passion and dedication to the relationship, in your own way, or to the work and the team. Show equal commitment and enthusiasm and they will see they are not alone in putting their heart into the work they do.
  • Be upbeat and positive. Twos want to enjoy people and have fun both at work and in their relationships, so they appreciate others who will join them in shouldering the burden of keeping peoples’ spirits up.
  • Handle with care. Learn to deliver negative feedback sandwiched between two pieces of positive feedback. Resist the impulse to ask too much of your Twos, and encourage them to say “no” if they need to. Be direct, and support them in being the same way with you and others. And above all, let them know you like and care about them.
  • Affirm them and their efforts. Let Twos know when what they are doing is working. They are highly responsive to encouragement and positive feedback. They need to know where they stand in terms of how others feel about them, and they may feel lost if people don’t let them know how they’re doing and how they can do better.


This is a great, easy-to-follow overview by Russ Hudson of the Two personality style, which also offers some practices which Twos (or all of us) might find helpful when struggling with “Two-Stuff” in our lives.

In the episode below, I take a DEEP dive into all things Two, trying to give an overview of how the Enneagram Type Two Personality might shows up in our lives as a kind of continuum (or ladder) of psychological and spiritual health.