Break Out of the Box: Enneatype 6: Yes, But What If?

In working with clients who have the Enneatype 6: The Loyal Skeptic, this type is hard wired to be both fearful and watchful, depending on the person.   The unconscious drive of the 6 is to feel secure and they will naturally go to the worse-case scenarios.  Planning and preparing are the activities they do to stave off not knowing what lies in the future.  Energy and attention is focused on creating certainty in an uncertain world, not an easy task for anyone.  Trust is not easily given, are you friend or foe?  They will need to test for loyalty and honesty first before allowing someone to enter their world or engage, yet once this is established they are steadfast committed and will desire to protect what they have.  They hesitate to act and are uncomfortable with making decisions, yet will sometimes act out of haste to alleviate the stress of not knowing.   You will hear them ask “What If” questions a lot and are rarely comfortable with the way things are, even questioning and doubting the decision that they just made.

I was asked to work with a family who owned a business together.   Cathy, the wife, felt they were doing alright with communicating, yet there were areas they simply could not progress through and it was affecting decisions that needed to be made as to transitioning the company over to their daughters.  Cathy ran the business with her husband, Harold and their four daughters (one with a fiancé working in the company).  Cathy and Harold were looking to retire and the daughters were looking to grow the business.  The husband, Harold, was the Enneatype 6.

Introducing the Enneagram into a family dynamic, especially when they work together, creates a powerful opportunity to optimize how they communicate with one another. The family Enneatype lineup included a Type 3 wife; Types 4, 5, and two Type 8 daughters and a Type 4 fiancé.   What they already had going for them was a solid foundation of caring and listening, so my role was to guide them to understanding how they interacted with each other, and how they processed and responded to the situations in the business and family life.

We all view the world through our own unique perceptions, when we understand how others view the world, we can up level how we relate and communicate with one another.

Harold was the person who made all the decisions for the family business.  Cathy and the daughters often ran into problems when important action items were not being addressed or simply stagnating by his indecisiveness and inability to take advantage of more effective and efficient systems for the business in a timely manner.  Hours were spent in lengthy, laborious conversations on the same issues with Harold stressing about all the reasons not to move forward with an action.  Out of respect for their father, the family didn’t force him to make a decision, they just went along with him, yet they never really understood the reason for his constant questioning and doubt, even in light of sound, realistic data.  They listened to all the bad that could happen, yet most of his arguments were not justified or real and they didn’t know how to convince him otherwise.

So what was happening with Harold, is when 6’s are insecure, they challenge everything others say, usually with a strong opinion.  This is to gain a sense of security rather than to contribute positively to the conversation.

It’s normal to have some doubt, yet the 6’s go way beyond doubt.  The tendency is the indecisiveness reflects the worst-case scenario thinking, and we all have experienced real life isn’t ever as bad as the mind makes it to think it is or will be.  6’s can help themselves by being aware of when there is the urge to overcome the indecisiveness by becoming hasty and making decisions because the goal is to get rid of the stress around making a wrong decision.  The work is to develop a trust in themselves, to take the time to evaluate a decision based on knowing what their best interests are.  Getting feedback from others they trust, in Harold’s life it would he his family, is helpful in doing this work.

Skepticism can be healthy, but if the evidence goes against what the fears or preconceived notions are that the 6 is stressing over, the work is to be open to it.  Challenging just for the sake of challenging is tiresome after a while.  The work is to be aware when the 6 is living in the world of “what ifs” and relax more.

Once the family saw how the Enneatype 6 operated and understood how his attention was focused on always looking for what could go wrong, they could better dialog with him and support him in making decisions based on what was more realistic.

Through education and counseling, Harold began to relax more and embrace that his family appreciated his role as the protector of the family and their company.  He was able to release responsibility to his daughters and trust himself and them that they were capable women to run the business.

Harold began to practice and apply the high traits of the 6.  When secure, 6’s are great listeners and offer deeply thought out suggestions and recommendations for trouble shooting or prevention planning.  Life is accepted as complex with layers of gray tones.  Maturity for the 6 is a confident inner trust of self, they have moved beyond looking outside themselves for security.  They are protective, empathetic and caring and allow others their individuality.  They question to understand psychological dynamics, need no special attention and are not easily fooled.

If you have a 6 in your life, here are some ways you can support them:

  1. Always be consistent and trustworthy with them
  2. Provide them with alternative, positive meanings to their fear and worry
  3. Encourage them to make some test decisions that have lesser consequences. Then walk with them through their worry and doubt to illustrate that the thoughts are not real.

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