The importance of the triads for the coach

The Enneagram describes nine personality styles, nine coping mechanisms we carry over from our childhood. The descriptions are vivid and when people first hear them they are astounded by the accuracy and range of the observations.

But the descriptions are rooted in one of the three triads. Styles 8, 9 and 1 belong to one triad, 2,3, and 4 belong to a second triad (or grouping) and 5, 6 and 7 belong to the third triad.

I will focus on one triad here, the 8,9, 1 triad. It is called by body triad and is characterized by a certain flaw in their thinking and a habit of self-erasure. Each one of the styles has both of these and they show up in different ways.

Despite many Eights being aggressive and loud, the inner dynamism begins with self-erasure. Their hyper-aggression is rooted in the dark concern that they are being unnoticed, overlooked or disrespected. Their bluster is the top side of a carefully concealed inner vulnerability. Their base line of anger is a reaction to the unfairness of being neglected. When they are healthy and not preoccupied by their inner weakness, they channel this anger into a passion for justice. When they are defending their inner vulnerability, they have a passion for revenge. Someone is going to pay for their inner (probably induced in childhood) vacuum.

Nines handle the baseline anger in a slightly different way. They are more passive. If they experience the anger, they may stuff it, at least for a while. Sometimes they smolder and explode, but they may just pout. Stuff anger requires a lot of psychic energy so they may complain of fatigue. Nines can self erase by finding ways to put themselves to sleep (through appetite-food, sex or chemicals) or TV binging or becoming very active about non-essential tasks.

Style One self-erases and then over-identifies with a larger identity: the law or a political party or a religious belief or some principle. They defend that principle so they can be right and be accepted and acceptable because of their loyalty to that principle. (This usually involves literal thinking).

All three types in this triad have some trouble thinking clearly about themselves and how to relate thinking to action. They have a tendency to black/white thinking, most likely because of their action orientation. Hamlet observed "too oft the vivid hue of action is sicklied o'er with the past cast of thought. Thus conscience (consciousness) doth make cowards of us all.

This triad has a tendency to consider thinking something like eating vegetables. You have to do it to get to the good stuff action. Their action orientation leads them to often cut short or bypass reflection. So their action conclusions are more secure in their mind than they are in reality. Nuance and shades of grey and elude them.

So when coaches are working with any one of this triad, they need to be aware of this fundamental orientation towards action. What they can mean is that instead of encouragement or explanation, the coach will focus on what they can do. This will differ in each of the three styles. Nines may not know what they want to do, Ones may cling to what they think they ought to do instead of accepting change. Eights may have to restrain their actions until they listen to other options.