Is Your Social Style Annoying? 9 Ways We Manipulate Each Other {Enneagram Series #19}

Look at the three social styles (stances) on the Enneagram. See how we manipulate each other. And more importantly, how we can stop doing it.

Are you doing any of these?

Social Styles Enneagram

3 Social Styles 

We each have ways of relating to others, to ourselves, and to God. Some ways are healthy; we need to keep these. But some aren’t healthy. They can be annoying and even harmful to ourselves and others.

But until we’re aware of what we’re doing, we’re unlikely to change.

The three main social styles identified on the Enneagram are

  • Assertive
  • Withdrawn
  • Compliant

All nine types fit into one of these styles. There are healthy behaviors and unhealthy behaviors in each style. They are also called Stances or the Hornevian Groups (named in honor of Karen Horney).

If you follow Your Enneagram Coach, Beth McCord often sends helpful downloads with short descriptions via email. Her latest freebie includes the three social styles. (Note that she calls the Compliant style, the Dutiful Style.)

Here is Beth’s graphic of the three social styles. 

Enneagram Stances YourEnneagramCoach

Enneagram Stances key YourEnneagramCoach

Style Descriptions

Learn more about each social style here. The manipulations for each type are found in The Wisdom of the Enneagram. 

• THE COMPLIANTS – Move Toward Others

Also called the Dependent Stance, this type includes 1, 2, and 6.

  • Healthy Traits:
    Committed. Responsible. Sacrificial.
  • Unhealthy Traits:
    Few self-care habits. Try to earn favor. Judgmental.

The people in this group love to be needed. They are dependable and loyal to those they serve. They’re aware of and strive to meet others’ expectations of them, thus “earning” what they want. They move toward others.

They tend to follow standards they have established for themselves so as to earn favor. They can temporarily forget to tend to their own needs by focusing on others around them, self-sacrificing in ways that are or aren’t really needed. They can come across as “holier than thou” types or as judgmental.


Specifically, they can manipulate others in these ways: 

By correcting others—by insisting that others share their standards

By finding out others’ needs and desires—thus creating dependencies

By complaining—and by testing others’ commitment to them

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

• THE ASSERTIVES – Move Against Others

Also called the Aggressive Stance, this type includes 3, 7, and 8.

  • Healthy Traits:
    Energetic. Independent. Confident.
  • Unhealthy Traits:
    Demanding. Unaware of others’ feelings. Oppressive.

These people are often the ones in charge, and happy to be so. They are active and direct in getting what they need. They have no problem asserting their will or putting forth their agenda. They can be viewed as moving against others.

They often act without thinking about how they affect others. They can easily take over a space when they enter a room. They are accused of thinking the world revolves around them. They sometimes have trouble developing deep relationships with others.


Specifically, they can manipulate others in these ways: 

By charming others—and by adopting whatever image will “work”

By distracting others—and by insisting that others meet their demands

By dominating others—and by demanding that others do as they say

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

• THE WITHDRAWNS – Move Away from Others

Also called the Withdrawing Stance, this type includes 4, 5, and 9.

  • Healthy Traits:
    Creative. Don’t seek a spotlight. Introspective.
  • Unhealthy Traits:
    Detached. Live in their imagination. Reluctant to act.

Those in this group are apt to be quieter and more private than those in the other groups. They are the least likely to be overbearing (and are most likely to leave a party early). They are highly imaginative.

When stressed, they are more likely to withdraw into their own inner space and zone out. They deal with their needs by disengaging, or moving away, from others.


Specifically, they can manipulate others in these ways: 

By being temperamental—and making others “walk on eggshells”

By staying preoccupied—and by detaching emotionally from others

By “checking out”—and by passive-aggressively resisting others

Spiritual Practice #13—Exercise Positive Changes

“The Enneagram is designed to increase one’s self-awareness toward transformation rather than self-absorption.”
– A.J. Sherrill 

Once we discover our shadow sides, we know where to shine the light.

As you practice exercises to improve your attitudes and behaviors, don’t do it alone. Ask God to guide you in practices that are helpful specifically to you.

The exercises that follow are added to and revised from information by Enneagram expert Susan Burns


Because the Compliant types are most in touch with the heart and body centers, and least with the head center, these exercises help them think inward about their own desires.

  • Think about why you believe in God. Allow yourself to ask God questions.
  • Pay attention to your thoughts in the moment
  • Practice meditation
  • Ask yourself, “Is this true?” and “Am I sure?”
  • Notice when you are passing judgment on others or yourself
  • Make up your own mind instead of following the crowd
  • Find your own truth and speak it

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


The Assertive types are heavy in the thinking and doing centers, and least in the feeling center. Thus, they need to work on using their heart to be aware of other people’s feelings. 

  • Tune in to God in contemplative ways that don’t come naturally, such as stillness and silence
  • Listen to others for understanding, not to talk back
  • Go easy on yourself instead of expecting so much
  • Relax your body and just sit still
  • Do something for someone else simply to make them happy
  • Play more
  • Practice putting your feelings into words on paper or with another person

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


The Withdrawns live mostly in their heads and their hearts. Their need is to practice connecting with the body and doing center, to be present in the world.

  • Let God lead you out of your comfort zone 
  • Volunteer in a soup kitchen or with another ministry
  • Find something around you that needs to be done and just do it
  • Move your body. Walk, dance, exercise, breathe.
  • Join a small group
  • Speak up for yourself
  • Create something AND share it with other people

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Each of these descriptions in the Enneagram will not fit you exactly. Take what is helpful to you and leave the rest.

Even within all the intricacies of type, there is still uniqueness among each person. God is more creative than we can imagine. He designed each personality complex and rare.

You are amazing. 

Are you more compliant, assertive, or withdrawn? How has it benefited you? How has it caused you trouble? Please share in the comments.

Enneagram for Spiritual Growth

Subscribe to the blog here

Previous: What’s Your Connection Style? Prayer Practices for Each Enneagram Number {Series #18}

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

8 thoughts on “Is Your Social Style Annoying? 9 Ways We Manipulate Each Other {Enneagram Series #19}

  1. Laurie

    “They are accused of thinking the world revolves around them.” Oh, yikes! I have to confess, I do that sometimes. I am a #7. When I was a school teacher, being an enthusiast served me well. I think my enthusiasm often rubbed off on my students. In my personal life, maybe not so much. Sitting in stillness to contemplate God is so good, but so hard for me.

  2. Anita Ojeda

    I should just carry my test results around with me so that I have it to refer to as I read your posts! 🤣. This post is especially important, because I know I can be annoying, and I want to change.

  3. Martha Brady

    lisa, this post is very helpful! i like the way the social styles are brought out and how they affect our spiritual practices, as well as how to improve spiritual practices in a way that will be helpful. thanks so much:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *