Many clients have strong moral feelings about money that make it difficult for them to deal rationally with having just the right amount.
Fundamentalist evangelicals, especially in the southern party of the United States consider not having enough money basically a moral fault.
So when clients are poor, they tend to feel a certain culturally-induced shame. This is especially hard on Enneagram styles with a social subtype. Social subtypes of all styles tend to pay close attention to where they stand in the community. If they feel they are on the lower rungs of the financial ladder,they will blame themselves, even if larger forces are responsible. (Larger forces like layoffs, depressions or various discriminations).
So as we approach the end of the year, evaluations can be painful. Some will fear evaluations by superiors, others will suffer from cultural evaluations that are often just as hard to deal with.

Christmas gifts

Gifts are layered experiences. We live in a Three culture that, like an unhealthy Three, considers that rewards should be given to people who deserve them. But the word gift is essential an unearned reward.

When you are coaching, one of fertile areas of exploration is whether the person does things for internal reward or an external reward. Do they expect any gifts or do they have to work for everything? And do they work for their own satisfaction or do they assume they have to do whatever the system (family, school, job) rewards them for doing?

A subset of this inquiry is a question I use to distinguish style 3 from style 7. It isn’t foolproof, especially if the style 3 is quite healthy but it has some validity. If you were faced with a choice of two jobs: one pays (I vary the amount depending on the client’s socio-economic class) $50,000 and you know you will love the work – it’s your dream job- and the other pays $80,000 but it will be difficult and tedious. Style 7 is more apt to choose what is internally rewarding (Sevens are self-referential) and style 3 is more apt to choose the higher paying job.

Literally false

Our Enneagram style is revealed in symbolic actions because they express an emotion, a worldview, a preoccupation etc. So when you are sorting for an Enneagram style, you have to read actions as symbolic. There is not a single cause-single effect kind of relationship. If someone gives you a gift, it doesn’t mean she is a style 2, it might just be Christmas.

At the same time that we are being entertained with Christmas/Hanukah/Winter Solstice merriment, we are facing and perhaps not entertained by the political process. When I watch TV or see “sound bite” quotations, it makes me uneasy. Literal language can be taken out of context. Four is always four whether it is legs or seasons or dollars or years. Four is four and you can take it out of context. It is one component of what anthropologists call “low-context” literature. Legal and scientific documents try to adhere to this kind of expression.
But “high context” literature or speech is context-dependent. If you say something is a “slam-dunk” (it’s basketball season), you need to know if you are using it literally (on the court) or metaphorically (an easy accomplishment). Slam dunk can be a metaphor: there are not metaphors for four.
So when you hear/see a sound bite of a few words, you can’t really know the message.
And when you talk about Enneagram behavior, you must think metaphorically.

Feeling the style

In this age of what Ken Wilbur calls the “hegemony of science” we try to be scientific when we want to feel intelligent.

Though science and experimental scientific knowledge is reliable, we also need to take seriously the kind of knowledge we get from all our senses.

So I have an exercise for you. How do you feel when you sense a specific Enneagram energy being acted out? For example, when someone with a style Nine is really stuck in his style, what emotional reaction can you trust to know that person is a Nine.

I’ll give you an example. I was wondering if this accountant was a Five or a Nine. He was sort of withdrawn and was doing very detailed work. Then he started to talk about being overwhelmed with information “these days.” As he talked, I started getting impatient (I’m an impatient Seven…) and I was saying to myself, “get to the point!” That’s when I knew he was a Nine. Their unfocused searching in vain for a conclusion is typical of a Nine in trouble. You just know they’re going to come to a conclusion, but you don’t know if you can stay with them long enough for both of you to get there.

It might be helpful if you went through the styles and accessed your own feeling information that tells you what someone’s style is. I could give you mine but it might be quite different because it IS so subjective. You might want to have my feelings, but what I really want is for you to recognize yours. “I know I’m in the presence of a style ______ when I feel ______.”


Thanks to a friend, coach Lyle Lachmuth, I learned that the quote I gave about style Nine, “Not to decide is to decide,” comes from Harvey Cox, a prominent theologian of the 60’s and 70s.

BTW, Sixes also have trouble deciding, not from inertia as a Nine would, but from a habit of second-guessing themselves. As soon as they decide on one course of action, they see the problems with it and start examining either the opposite course or an alternative.


Nines often polarize around taking action or not. The old saying, “Between two haystacks equidistant” the donkey starves to death. The animal can’t see any reason to choose one over the other, so it doesn’t choose. I’m betting that the observation that “not to decide is to decide,” was either said by or about a style Nine.

For and against

When style Eights are polarized, it is often a battlefield or football field mentality. Are you on my team or not? Are you for or against me/mine/ours. Not many people know this, but Eights have a secret plan to issue every child, at birth, a jersey, so that they can tell whether the child is one of our kind or one of the enemies. Why wait until they form teams in grade school?


Sevens are described in a lot of polarizing ways. Clinicians link style Seven to the DSMV classification of manic-depressive. Richard Gere, in the movie, Mr. Jones looks a lot like a Seven but it is an example of someone being bi-polar.

There’s another polarization we could note. They oscillate between being optimistic and pessimistic. They take a lot of action, seeing lots of possibilities, but because they lack confidence in what they’re doing, they do too much. It would be like building a house with way more lumber than you need because you think the lumber is rotten. In the workplace, if you think you’re not achieving what you should, you take on more than you should. Sevens should really try to understand that there is a lot of wisdom in the saying, less is more. If Sevens substitute quality for quantity, less is really more.

Big Short

The move, The Big Short, is coming soon. I read the book. It’s about several hedge-fund managers who not only knew the banking system would collapse, but when – and when it did collapse on schedule, they made $2,000,000,000 by betting it would. At first I thought the heroes were several high octane and rather ill-mannered Fives (with their lack of social skills and hyper-focus). Towards the end of the book, the author is convinced that they have Asperger’s syndrome.
The focus on highly specialized information and the oblivion about their lifestyle is a bit like Fives, but the tell-tale problem that Asperger sufferers have is an inability to learn from peripheral information. They have a tunnel vision that Fives don’t have. (Tunnel focus maybe, but not the abnormal closure to anything they are not focusing on).