What’s Your Coping Style? Choose Your Response {Enneagram Series #20}

When troubles come, what’s your coping style? Do you respond logically, positively, or emotionally?

Knowing your Enneagram style can help you choose an appropriate response.

Choose your response Enneagram

When Life Disappoints Us

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In the space there is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Victor Frankl

When life disappoints us or things don’t go our way, we often respond predictably.

  • Some people search first for a logical explanation.
  • Others immediately look on the bright side.
  • Still others respond with heightened emotions.

But not only do we respond our way, we expect others to respond our way, too. And when they don’t? We might label them as illogical or downers or irrational.

To better understand our own reactions and those of others, the Enneagram gives us another group of three: the Competency, Positive Outlook, and Reactive groups (called the Harmonic Groups).

3 Ways We Respond

The following descriptions are revised from The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

• The Competency Group – Types 1, 3, 5

The people in this group cut off their feelings when they face difficulties in order to solve their problems logically, effectively, and competently. They expect others to also put their feelings on the back burner and respond rationally.

1s operate inside the rules, 5s tend to operate outside of the rules, and 3s want to play it both ways.

“I’m sure we can solve this like sensible, mature adults.”

They emphasize being correct, organized, and sensible while channeling their feelings into activities.

“There’s an efficient solution to this—we just need to get to work.”

They emphasize being efficient and presenting themselves well, using their achievements to offset painful feelings.

“There are a number of hidden issues here: let me think about this.”

They emphasize gathering information and focusing on the process, instead of feeling their feelings.

• The Positive Outlook Group – Types 2, 7, 9

The people in this group respond to disappointments by finding the silver lining in every situation. They want to feel good and want others to feel good. They may deny even having any problems.

2s primarily focus on others’ needs, 7s focus primarily on their own needs, and 9s try to focus on both.

“You have a problem. I am here to help you.”

They focus on their good intentions and avoid seeing their own neediness, disappointment, and anger.

“There may be a problem, but I’m fine.”

They emphasize positive experiences, enjoyment and excitement, to the exclusion of their own pain and their role in creating suffering for themselves and others.

“What problem? I don’t think there is a problem.”

They emphasize the positive qualities of others while trying to avoid seeing their own or their loved ones’ problems.

• The Reactive Group (also called the Intensity Group) – Types 4, 6, 8

The people in this group react strongly when difficulties arise and struggle to contain their feelings. They expect a similar response from those around them. They are not naturally trusting of others and often have strong opinions.

4s subconsciously want to be parented, 8s want to be the parent and provider, and 6s want both sides, sometimes being the parent and sometimes being parented by someone else.

“I feel really hurt, and I need to express myself.”

They seek someone to understand and support them so they won’t feel abandoned.

“I feel really pressured, and I’ve got to let off some steam!”

They want someone to rely on but also want to be “the strong one,” having support yet not becoming too dependent on others.

“I’m angry about this and you’re going to hear about it!”

They seek to be self-reliant and to need others as little as possible so they won’t be vulnerable or care too much.

Read more about each group here.

Spiritual Practice #14—Choose Your Response

Being aware of how we instinctively respond can help us better alter our responses when another way is more advantageous. As you pray through your mode of response, ask God to guide you to give you growth and freedom to choose healthy responses, either in or out of your type.

Give grace to yourself and others when things don’t go as planned or aren’t performed perfectly; be less impatient and critical.

Balance your tendency to overemphasize the needs of others and being clingy, by fulfilling your own needs, too.

Lower your tendency to be too competitive in meeting your goals, noticing your own feelings instead of setting them aside to focus on the task at hand.

Don’t play “hard to get” or be overly moody with others, but allow others greater access to who you really are as you process experiences.

Develop more patience in working with others to develop solutions instead of remaining too detached or isolated.

Be aware of your tendency to be defensive and pessimistic, and instead trust others more often, giving them the benefit of the doubt when possible.

Notice that the needs of others are as legitimate as your own needs as you slow down and tone down your impatience.

Let your guard down more often, allowing others to get closer, seeing your vulnerable side.

Pay more attention to your own needs as well as the needs of others as you learn to deal head-on with conflict and change instead of avoiding them.

As we become more aware of our own style of handling problems (both good and bad), we can branch out to choose the best responses from the other groups as well.

Becoming whole and healthy, both in hard and easy times, is God’s intention for each of us.

What is your most natural response to difficulties: logically, positively, or emotionally? Please share in the comments.

Enneagram for Spiritual Growth

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Next: 3 Survival Strategies – Subtypes of the Enneagram {Series #21} 

10 thoughts on “What’s Your Coping Style? Choose Your Response {Enneagram Series #20}

  1. Lila Diller

    My reaction definitely tends to be defensive & pessimistic. I tend to see the worst possible outcome so that I am not totally shocked if it happens and pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t.

  2. Martha Brady

    very helpful regarding coping style. i see how my coping style has evolved over the years but still is basically what my style is. i have just learned more about learning to respond in ways that take care of myself in more healthy ways.

  3. Mary Geisen

    I didn’t realize that the Enneagram numbers were grouped based on how each number responds to situations. As a Two, it makes perfect sense that I fall into the positive outlook group. Thanks for digging deep into the Enneagram.

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