“You can’t change how you see—you can only change what you do with how you see.”
– Suzanne Stabile, The Path Between Us
Know Yourself, Know Others
While relationships can bring us great pleasure, they also can bring us challenges. Especially when our differences seem greater than our similarities.
One way to bridge the gap is to learn more about ourselves. The Enneagram is a helpful personality tool not only for understanding ourselves better, but also as a roadmap for improving ourselves.
But the Enneagram also helps us understand other people better, too. While we can’t necessarily type another person in the Enneagram system, we often can know enough to recognize patterns.
Along with Ian Morgan Cron, Suzanne Stabile wrote a primer on the Enneagram, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. It’s an excellent introduction to learn your own number and how to grow within it.
But now she’s back with a new book of her own, The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships. This one is unique among Enneagram books. As you can tell by the title, it’s not about gaining just self-knowledge; it’s more about interacting between Types.
And how to improve those interactions.
“First, please don’t use your Enneagram number as an excuse for your behavior. Second, don’t use what you’ve learned about the other numbers to make fun of, criticize, stereotype, or in any way disrespect them. Ever. Third, it would be great if you would spend your energy observing and working on yourself as opposed to observing and working on others.”
How Fives Interact
I am a type Five (I’m fairly sure anyway) on the Enneagram, the Observer. I learn from Suzanne that Fives are often misunderstood. As a result, I need to spend more time verbalizing my way of seeing and sharing my needs, to reduce misunderstandings.
“Fives want adequate resources so they never have to depend on someone else. They manage fear by gathering information and knowledge.
Fives have a limited, measured amount of energy for every day so they are careful what they offer to others and when. It is extremely brave of them to show up for relationships because it costs them more than any other number.”
But how do Fives interact with other numbers?
- Ones can benefit from the objectivity of Fives.
- Fives can learn more about social relationships from Twos.
- Fives can help Threes remember that image isn’t everything.
- Fives and Fours can be opposite in many ways but Fives with a Four wing (which I think I am) can easily connect to each other between head and heart.
- Fives are most comfortable with other Fives.
- Social anxiety in Fives can be exacerbated by a Six in unfamiliar territory, but a Five can be rational about a Six’s unwarranted fears.
- Sevens offer Fives a lightheartedness that can keep them from taking themselves too seriously.
- Eights learn from Fives the value of pulling back, observing, thinking, and then reconnecting.
- Nines are a challenge when they don’t just go along with what Fives say or think. But that’s good for Fives.
Relationships Require Translation
One by one, Suzanne goes through each Type, assessing how they relate to each other Type and ways they can improve those relationships.
While none of this is exact science, it does give positive starting points for how to grow our relationships.
“All relationships—those that truly matter and even those that don’t—require translation. And if our interest in relational growth and transformation is sincere, then the Enneagram is one of the most helpful translation tools available.”
All Nine Types
Here are some specific suggestions from Suzanne about each Type and how we might best relate to them.
Ones, the Perfectionists – Things could always be better
“In a relationship with a One, honesty is essential, but telling them that they are good in ways that they can hear it is the greater gift. Do it as often as you can in all the ways you can. Ones appreciate equity—they work hard and they expect the same from you.”
Twos, the Helpers – Your feelings or mine?
“In an intimate relationship, Twos need to hear you say ‘I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. There’s nothing you need to do, there’s nothing you need to be, and there’s nothing you need to help me with. I love you for you.’ Don’t trust their answer when they say they’re fine or good. Press a little deeper.”
Threes, the Performers – Being everyone but myself
“Since their orientation to time is to the future, Threes are often distracted during conversations. Don’t take the distraction personally. They won’t be interested in rehashing things from the past. Know that Threes want your approval and praise, and they really like it when you verbalize it.”
Fours, the Romantics – Go away but don’t leave
“Fours long for what they don’t have and they are comfortable with longing. It’s not something for you to fix. Don’t tell Fours to ‘cheer up.’ They are usually neither sad nor depressed. Fours are comfortable with melancholy.”
Fives, the Observers – Fences have gates
“Be forthright and direct with Fives, but don’t use too many words. If you have a problem with a Five, agree on a time to discuss it. Give the Five time to think about your concern and then limit the length of the conversation.”
Sixes, the Loyalists – Question everything
“Worst-case scenario planning is comforting to Sixes, so take them seriously when they talk to you about the possibility of what could go wrong. Telling them they don’t need to worry and that everything is going to be fine they will feel patronizing, disrespectful, and dismissive. Sixes like friends who are emotionally mature, honest, and not too needy.”
Sevens, the Enthusiasts – It’s all good
“Don’t try to get Sevens to commit to specific routines and schedules. They need spontaneity and flexilibity. If you want to share your feelings with a Seven, by all means do that. But do not process your feelings with a Seven. You will need to do that with someone else. Be attentive to their stories. The telling of their stories is often the way they express and share their feelings.”
Eights, the Challengers – Vulnerability is not weakness
“Don’t beat around the bush with Eights: they want communication to be brief, straightforward, and truthful. Be aware that Eights are controlling in relationships simply because they don’t want to be controlled. Even though Eights are strong and assertive, don’t forget that they still need care.”
Nines, the Peacemakers – Risking conflict for connection
“Don’t interrupt Nines when they are talking. Make room for them to meander a bit—they will get to the point. Nines don’t like confrontation, but that doesn’t mean you should never confront them. Encourage Nines to share their grievances with you.”
While this book isn’t necessarily a Christian book, it is definitely a spiritual book, and one that you can apply to your Christian faith. Suzanne Stabile is cofounder (with her husband, Rev. Joseph Stabile) of Life in the Trinity Ministry, a nondenominational ministry for spiritual growth and formation.
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My thanks to NetGalley
for the review copy of this book
Do you recognize yourself in a Type? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Read more on the Enneagram