Families are some of the most powerful relationships around. They’re the first relationships we’re involved in, and the patterns of interaction that we develop in our families shape the rest of our lives. We think it’s unlikely that parents or upbringing define Enneagram type; take any set of siblings and you’ll find that their view of the same childhood moments differs radically. However, our families have a lasting impact on our well-being. Healthy families increase children’s confidence and capacity for resilience, while unhealthy families make it harder for kids to develop these skills.
We can choose our partners, but for the most part, we don’t choose parents, siblings, children, and other relatives. Sometimes we have a lot in common with family members, and their differing skills and perspectives smoothly complement our own. Other times, we find ourselves diverging from the values of other family members, or being set off by their personality tics. For better or worse, families make great laboratories for learning how to get along with different kinds of people!
If you find yourself wondering why your mother has to go on about her health so much, or what possessed your teenager to get that tattoo, the Enneagram can help. By understanding what motivates our family members, we’re better able to connect with them. Instead of hoping to make them more like us, we can show up with attention, compassion, and hold space for family members to be the best versions of exactly who they are.
Here are some ways you can hold space for your family members of all Enneagram types:
Type One: The family Perfectionists, Ones are upstanding and lead the family by example, but can get critical when you diverge from their rules. Connect with the Ones in your family by encouraging them to have fun, and letting them know that you value them just as they are.
Type Two: Two Helpers seek to meet family members’ unstated needs through acts of service, caring, and sometimes intrusion. Connect with the Twos in your family by acknowledging the importance of their needs and showing them love no matter what they do.
Type Three: Three Achievers inspire their families. They often squelch their own desires by picking up on their family’s dreams and striving to become the family success story. Connect with the Threes in your family by guiding them to follow their own interests and desires.
Type Four: Four Individualists add soul to the family, and also bring shadows into the open – making sure families can’t forget things they don’t want to acknowledge. Connect with the Fours in your family by taking responsibility for the past, and holding emotional steadiness.
Type Five: Five Investigators bring rich expertise to their families, but may be difficult to engage otherwise. Connect with the Fives in your family by allowing them the space they need, while nurturing them in developing emotional connections with others.
Type Six: Six Loyalists show steadfast commitment to family, but may test family members for loyalty, and sometimes rebel. Connect with the Sixes in your family by showing them that you’re trustworthy and devoted, while being steady and clear with your boundaries.
Type Seven: Seven Enthusiasts stir up excitement and make family gatherings fun, but may act out when they get bored and frustrated. Connect with the Sevens in your family by savoring joy together – especially mindful, everyday joy – and supporting them during the hard times.
Type Eight: Eight Challengers are protective of family members but sometimes also push to exert control over the family. Connect with the Eights in your family by showing strength and solidity, but also allowing them to be vulnerable and lean on you when they need to.
Type Nine: Nine Peacemakers create a harmonious, cohesive family environment, which sometimes means they sweep problems under the rug. Connect with the Nines in your family by sharing pleasant times, while encouraging them to speak up and assert their needs.