The Instinctive Nine

No Priorities

We don't always have to go to the movies to see a type acted out in vivid color. When we get to Eights and Nines, we can just remember the 1996 elections. Dole was a clear Eight and Clinton, a Nine. Clinton can easily be confused with a Three because like a lot of Nines, he gets swept up in whatever is going on. Many really fine athletes are Nines (Joe Montana comes to mind) and their talent lies in just submitting to the flow of the game and mastering it, using their skills at merging to become totally absorbed.

Clinton led a Three country in a Threeish job so when he just goes with the energy flow he looks like a Three sometimes. But here are some things that point to his Nine-ness. The New Yorker (Sept. 23, 1996 p. 56) describes his giving a speech in this way: "He gave a long speech. It was not a good speech in any classical sense -- it was, as most of his speeches are, too multitudinous in specifics, and lacking in coherence -- but it was casual and fluid, moving from one part to another with an internal rhythm. It was likable, and the man who was delivering it was likable, too." Later, they describe his method of giving speeches: "Merely addressing what Clinton says is an exhausting, endless chore, as George Bush found, because he says so much and because the things he says are all so mixed together -- some are true, some not, some are important, some are meaningless; some have nothing to do with Clinton, some are real, some are vapor." (p.57) Dole may have thought this was strategy and it was, but it was his Enneagram strategy. Nines do not have a clear grasp of what is primary and what is secondary and they are not organized thinkers, as a rule. What the frustrated writers report is just the muddled, wandering, unprioritized, global thinking of a Nine.

Like the 2-3-4 center has confusion about how to feel and the 5,6,7 center has a knot in the will, the 8-9-1 center, often called the gut center or instinctive center, has a knot in their thinking. In a certain way they don't think clearly, especially with words. They often have uncanny intuition - a "gut feeling" but they tend not to be articulate.

Clinton's speech patterns reveal the life struggle of the Nines. Nines tend to merge with their environment, go with the flow, and include everyone. They are often leaders because they know what everybody else wants and that is what they want. Clinton is not our only recent Nine president. Reagan was a Nine. His falling asleep was metaphorical - Nines are oblivious to themselves. Reagan's cheerful oblivion was one way the Nine minimizes life's struggles. Eisenhower was a leader, but his campaign slogan had no content at all. It simply said "I Like Ike." Nines are often lovable. Reagan was loved even by people who disliked his economic and political policies. Quayle, another Nine, is a little different. He manifests the same thinking problem that Reagan and Clinton do, only his was more of a vacant nobody-at-home symptom rather than the simplified Reagan thought cloud or the prolix unprioritized thought of Clinton. These politicians are intelligent Nines, but their intelligence is interpersonal, intuitive and non-verbal.

Dole had a hard time attacking Clinton because Clinton was all over the lot. He had so many ideas, so many positions that Dole could shoot down one or some, but Clinton had no priorities, so Dole couldn't focus his Eightish wrath on any important one. Dole had a few broad planks (which he defended with fierce Eightness). Clinton had 300 skinny ones.

Reagan was hard to attack, too (Teflon president), because he talked in anecdotes and little stories that really didn't have any cognitive dimension. How do you attack a little story?

Nines specialize in being hard to attack. From childhood they perfected the art of not getting caught in storms, of staying alive in a hostile or unstable environment. They emotionally and intellectually just hunker down and lie low. They often have a sweet quality about them with no hard edges.

Nines have anger - a lot of it - but it's imploded, turned in on themselves. It smolders, but it doesn't explode very often. Rather it becomes passive aggressive - extremely hard to deal with. Clinton is often attacked for having no agenda and that's almost right. His Nine agenda is to get along with everyone, include everyone (remember his first inauguration - The Way America Looks - with every kind of music and art he could cram into it?) Nines often have difficult prioritizing - Clinton is no exception - and they merge with whoever has a strong agenda. People sense this about Bill and Hilary. He was our leader, she is his.

When Clinton ended his speeches, that plea for congress to work with him was real. He didn't like conflict deep down and really wanted to cooperate.


  1. See the movie, The Last Picture Show / Texasville (the sequel) They are both about a town with about Nine characters and they are living in a Nine environment - a land without hope or future.
  2. Jerry Wagner's The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles has a good 101 profile of style Nine. Nines are hard to recognize because you are sorting for something that is not there, namely a self-assertion.


  1. If you are a Nine, one of your best exercises is a daily list of priorities. Check them at the end of the day and see if you did what you said you would, or whether you did other people's priorities.
  2. Nines find goal-setting quite helpful. All the goal-setting literature is written by Threes, so books will be intimidating, but setting a few modest goals would be helpful for you.
  3. Negatively, make a list of what you have intended to do for a long time and haven't done. Then discuss with yourself first and then with friends what you would really like to do instead of what you have been considering as goals that really weren't. For example, if you've said you were going to go back to school or take a class in something, you very likely don't want to do it (that's why you didn't!) Can you get in touch with what you would really like to do?
  4. For one week, keep track of how much time you spent watching TV. Nines can easily become couch potatoes. If you don't watch TV, do you have an equivalent?
  5. Can you find any common denominators in Clinton, Reagan, and Quayle?