5 Ways for Enneagram 9s to Thrive
How the peacemakers can learn to face conflict, become more decisive, and experience true peace.
Before I begin, I'll admit that I, too, was once skeptical of the Enneagram. I worried that the trending personality tool would box me in too tightly into one of its nine categories and misunderstand my multi-faceted heart. In reality, however, diving into the Enneagram with a book club last summer did the opposite. As I uncovered my own type (Nine with a One wing) past patterns and present habits began to make more sense. I then realized how an increase in self-knowledge, combined with an application of basic principles paves a path for spiritual transformation. That said, on to the Nines!
Perched atop the Enneagram’s pointy, geometric diagram sits the Nines—commonly known as the peacemakers. Whether you are a Nine, you love a Nine, or you work with a Nine, everyone can benefit from learning something about this fourteen percent slice of the peacemaking population. Despite the existing stereotypes, most Nines are neither lazy couch potatoes nor reality transcending yogis. Typically, they are easy-going and pleasant people with occasional streaks of downplayed anger or frazzled anxiety. Fearing loss, and desiring inner stability at their core, Nines are driven to create harmony in their inner and outer world.
Like all the Enneagram numbers, Nines are neither better nor worse than any other type. Rather, the quality of character depends on how they function on the spectrum of health and unhealth: in growth or in stress. At their worst, unhealthy nines sleepwalk—numb, and self-forgetting—through a life built on choices that are most likely, not even their own. At their best, though, the healthy, awake nines bring harmony and optimistic perspective, healing conflict wherever they go. After listening to the stories of other nines and paying attention to my own experience as a nine, I’ve created a list of five practical tips. Read on and enjoy the discovery.
#1 Make Your To-Do Lists Clear and Short
If Eights march through the world as the energetic equivalent of triple caffeinated cold brew coffee, Nines could be considered akin to the chamomile tranquili-tea of the bunch. Their deadly sin is sloth, but not the physical kind. More subtle, and also more dangerous, it’s spiritual laziness; Nines are susceptible to falling asleep at the wheel of their lives. If left unchecked, an unhealthy Nine will fall asleep to their pain, their calling, their ambition, their desire, and most notoriously—their anger. Adept at being simultaneously busy and lazy, a Nine could run around doing dozens of errands a day for years but never face their real important work because, well, that would inevitably involve disrupting the peace. To put it more simply, we trick ourselves into procrastination.
To overcome this sneaky self-protective procrastination, try making a crystal clear to-do list that prioritizes your values. Entrepreneur and author Gary Keller, recommends that people seeking clarity and productivity ask themselves the following question: “what is the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
While anyone can benefit from asking themselves the “ONE thing" question, the habit is especially game-changing if you are a Nine. A short clear to-do list prevents you from hiding in the weeds of avoidant busyness, doing 99 semi-important things while avoiding the one main thing. In addition, setting yourself up to follow through on a single goal, day after day, has a positive, compound effect, moving you closer to how you function in health: similar to the high achieving Threes!
#2 Find a Healthy Outlet for Your Anger
Anger? Nines?? Yes. So, if you just backed away, shaking your head in disbelief, keep reading. Nines reside in the anger triad, right alongside the Eights and Ones, but since anger feels like a threat to most Nines (after all, it’s not a very peaceful emotion) the default management strategy is to block it out and ignore it. While ignorance appears innocuous on the surface, losing awareness of your anger, can build-up a well of passive aggression and stagnated resentment. Do not be fooled by a consistently cool, calm, and collected demeanor. An unhealthy nine is a sleeping dragon.
Now, Nines, you might be tempted to slay this anger dragon, or at least keep it in permanent captivity, but it's in your best interest to keep your fire alive. Like a torch, anger can burn through the fog of confusion, clarifying your convictions, and fueling right action. Stay awake to what upsets you, and find an outlet. Your anger is healthiest when felt in real-time, and channeled—whether through exercise, journaling, expressive conversation, or works of art.
# 3 Learn the Difference Between True Peace and False Peace
Enneagram expert, Ian Cron warns Nines about deception when he says, “what looks like peace is your desire to be unaffected by life.” Real peace can be a real pain and a real mess—at least at first. Many Nines will attempt to bypass this mess altogether by avoiding conversations, blocking out unpleasantries, and acquiescing to others. Essentially, they trade long-term peace for short-term harmony. The strategy of blocking out life, while comforting for a fleeting moment, delivers a side effect of numbness and lingering resentment.
To discern the difference between true and false peace, Nines benefit from doing regular “emotional anesthetic” inventory: meaning, check-in to see where you’ve become desensitized. Ask yourself if there’s anything you’ve been unwilling to feel, or if there are any distractions you’re using to numb yourself from those feelings. It could be checking your email a hundred times a day, scrolling through clickbait, drinking an extra glass of wine, or something else entirely. Regardless, removing your numb-outs will feel like a plunge into cold water. And in many ways, it is. But once you catch your breath, and breathe in the fresh air of reality, the genuine peace you’ll experience is worth it. Ditch the shortcuts to peace and begin walking the long path to true peace; here, your natural gifts will truly shine.
# 4 Practice Making Decisions
Unlike Eights and Threes who seem to eat executive decisions for breakfast, decision-making can be difficult, even paralyzing, for Nines. We see dilemmas from multiple angles and account for multiple people’s feelings. But in addition, making a decision by default means taking a stand of some sort, which exposes you to feedback and criticism. It’s not that nines don’t care, but when harmony is a priority, personal preferences, opinions, and anything else deemed disruptive are often the first to go. Many Nines default to not making decisions at all: they either merge with another person’s agenda or allow the passage of time to eliminate all possibilities. Neither strategy is effective in moving you towards health.
From my experience, I have found that an accumulation of unmade decisions doesn’t feel peaceful at all—it just feels burdensome. Thus, incorporating a “decision-making practice,” as silly as it may sound, can be incredibly empowering. Start by paying attention to your preferences and making quick decisions in low-stakes environments. Even the seemingly insignificant choices, such as where to eat or what movie to watch, serve a purpose in keeping you aware of your own preferences and helping you build decision momentum. Flexing your decision-making muscles over and over is a form of waking up, and it comes with a huge positive payoff. Over time, decisions become less agonizing, and the choices that really count will become more clear.
#5 Don’t Shield Your Relationships From Conflict
When it comes to relationships, most Nines are caught in a problematic conundrum. They want close, meaningful connections but despise the inevitable conflict that comes with the territory of forging said connections. Sadly, the Nine’s fervent attempts to “protect” their relationships—usually through people-pleasing, or excessive accommodation—often end up pushing others away, bringing their worst fear (loss) to reality.
If you are a Nine seeking to deepen your relationships, you must grasp these two simple truths. One, avoiding conflict causes more conflict. Not only do you risk building up resentment within yourself, but you risk stunting the personal growth of the other if you jump in as an emotional shock absorber. And two, shielding relationships from conflict also shields you from what you really want—authenticity and depth. When conflict arises, take a deep breath and remember that what feels like a massive fight to you often only registers as a tiny tiff to your non-nine friends.
Trust that your closest friendships can handle a modicum of discomfort. A friendship too fragile to withstand any challenges is a friendship ready for re-evaluation. Ultimately, your distilled inner circle will be truer and deeper than anything you could build based on harmony alone.
And now, Nines, as you go back into the world, remember these 5 takeaways:
Make your to-do-list clear and short.
Find a healthy outlet for your forgotten anger
Learn the difference between true peace and false peace
Practice making decisions
Don’t shield your relationships from conflict.
Thank you for reading. If any of this content resonated with you, feel free to leave a comment below!