Nines and Relationships
Nines came out of childhood believing that their presence doesn’t matter and it’s not okay to assert yourself. This sad conviction supports the fear that nines will lose their connection to others through conflict. This childhood wound and corresponding fear means nines have a deep desire to get along with others and avoid relational turbulence.
A nine’s desire to keep the peace ultimately leads them to neglect their own interests and desires. Nines avoid saying what they think or stating what they want. This helps nines avoid conflict. However, they rely on silence and inaction so much that nines can become stubbornly neglectful of any pursuit that might cause conflict. Nines habitually go along with the desires of others so they can remain connected to them. If a nine gives you an honest “no” make sure you show your appreciation for their courage to assert their will.
Value and appreciate a nine’s kindness, gentleness, and patience, but don’t take advantage of their generous spirit. Remember their kindness flows from the conviction that it’s not okay to assert yourself and that your presence doesn’t matter. As their friend, look for ways to show them their presence matters rather than unreflectively accepting every act of kindness. When a nine is generous ask yourself, What need of their own might they be neglecting? and consider deflecting their generous offer and meeting the nine’s need instead.
Try to practice patience while nines make decisions. Decision-making is difficult for nines because they see the potential for conflict around every corner. Practice your listening skills, as nines like to ponder a decision out loud with friends and family. They are not gathering information and looking for your opinion like sixes. Use this as an opportunity to listen to them and to show them that their presence matters through the subtle, yet powerful act of listening. Listening is a powerful way to tell them that their presence matters.
Ask a nine questions to help them clarify what they think. Give them space and encourage them to share their opinions. You can be a good friend to a nine by helping them rediscover their long-forgotten desires. Don’t be disappointed if a nine cannot answer your question in the moment. They have carefully buried their thoughts, feelings, and desires during countless peace-keeping missions, and they won’t be excavated in single moment. However, you can circle back and ask them again. Don’t nag, but gently return to your question later. This will show them you value their thoughts, feelings, and their very presence.
Try to focus on what nines do and show your appreciation rather than focusing on what they fail to accomplish. A nine’s failure to act on the requests of others often leads those in close relationships with them to nag them about the things they haven’t completed. Do not pester or harass a nine over unfinished tasks because It won’t accomplish anything.
Nines also avoid conflict through these four basic strategies: stubbornness, sleep, retreat, or disconnected presence. Behind a nine’s peaceful veneer lies a stubborn person who will remain silently entrenched in the face of even the most impassioned plea for action. Stubbornness allows the nine to negotiate a situation where they don’t want to do what you ask, but they can’t bring themselves to face the conflict involved in explicitly refusing your request. You can ask a nine to do something, and they will look at you like they are going to do it, but they have no intention of acting on your request. Their stubbornness is so effective because it is silent.
When life is full of conflict, nines sleep, both literally and figuratively. A nine will avoid conflict by going home and taking a nap, or they fall asleep to their own desires, because desires get in the way of keeping the peace. Nines will often physically retreat from conflict if they can. Nines will busy themselves with tasks, work, or anything that removes them from conflict and allows them to busy themselves with monotonous tasks. If they can’ t withdraw physically, they will remain present, but disconnected and numb to the experience even as they are remain physically present. Stubbornness, sleep, retreating, and sitting it out are all indirect was of telling you that they are displeased. Nines are passive-aggressive, so those four subtle behaviors are the best clue you will have to help you know they are upset.
We all have to practice engaging with the world in order to develop our ability to accomplish things. Nines have dulled their ability to act in the world to the point that they struggle to prioritize tasks. Imagine you are in a close relationship with a nine who knows your birthday is tomorrow and your nine-friend has the following things on their to-do list: buy flowers, clean the bathroom, pick up dry cleaning, buy a kitchen blender. A nine may not know that buying flowers is the most important item on the list. The nine might see each task as one of equal importance to you and might not get around to the one that allows you to hear that you are loved. If a nine hurts your feelings or causes you to feel neglected, remember their failure to accomplish the task most important to you is not a reflection of how they feel about you as much as it is a reflection of a lifetime of dulling their doing center of intelligence.
If you criticize a nine, they are prone to neglect themselves by failing to come to their own defense. They fear defending themselves will cause more conflict. Instead of defending themselves nines usually take the criticism to heart and use it to confirm their already deep-seated conviction that their presence doesn’t matter. They say, Well, I didn’t get that right. It’s probably better if I just stay away next time. With these words, the Nnne’s wound (it’s not okay to assert yourself) is supported and reconfirmed.
All Enneagram wounds trick us into a type of confirmation bias where our personal wound acts as a lens that lies to us by reaffirming a deeply held falsehood, thus perpetuating our life story’s painful theme and our unhealthy behavior. The question for all of us is this: Will we continue to integrate the events of our life into the same painful theme or will we dare to find a new story? Nines, what if your foundational assumption that your presence doesn’t matter was replaced with the conviction that you are God’s beloved child? How might your life story be different?