Just get to the point! Anyone ever said that to you? Enneagram Type 6s are contextual communicators—they want to understand the background of an issue and may think others do to. But that’s not always the case. Here’s how a Type 6 leader adjusted their style to better communicate with their boss.
Type 6 vs. Type 8
Communication styles for Enneagram Type 6 and Type 8 could not be more different. Type 6s want to lay out all the contextual information and logically come to a conclusion. They think everything through, fitting it together coherently and rationally. On the other hand, Type 8s operate on intuition and want to get to action—no need for the back story, just get to the bottom line.
Paragraphs vs. Bullet Points
For Type 6 to communicate effectively with Type 8, the Type 6 must adjust their style. Rather than communicating in paragraph form, the most effective form is bullet points. You don’t even need complete sentences—just get to the point! People who prefer this style are easily recognizable. They often prefer using text messages to communicate. Even their emails may resemble a text message.
Logic vs. Intuition
Type 6s are guided by thinking and logic, while Type 8s follow their intuition. Without context, Type 6 will often have many questions about a topic before being able to express an opinion or make a decision. In essence, they want the backstory and details to validate that everything fits together logically. On the other hand, Type 8s are typically following their intuition. They will often already have a sense of the answer so hashing out the details may seem a waste of time to them. They will only question a direction if it seems out of line with their intuition. Otherwise, they just want to keep moving forward.
Planning Ahead vs. Here and Now
Type 6s tend to think about the future. They are scanning ahead, looking for pitfalls and building contingency plans. When something out of the ordinary happens but falls within the range of what the they had planned for, they may not think much of it—they’ll have a plan for that. On the other hand, Type 8s tend to live in the moment and will generally not have thought through all contingencies to the extent that 6 has. If something out of the ordinary happens, the 8 might consider that a surprise and will want to know about it immediately. Type 6s are well served to maintain a stream of updates—using bullet points—to their Type 8 boss. Type 8s hate being blindsided, so keeping them abreast of the latest news will help avoid unnecessary surprises.
Mirroring Communications Styles
While the Type 6/Type 8 communication mismatch is one of the more dramatic ones, each Enneagram type has a distinct communication style. In order to communicate effectively, it is important to understand both your own style and the style of your communication partner so that you can adjust your style for a better communication match. You can do this with a technique called mirroring—reflecting back the style being presented to you.
How have you had to adjust your communication style to suit that of the people with whom you communicate? Have you had to adjust both content and frequency? How have you asked others to communicate to you so that you are getting the information that you want? Has that been challenging?
“I give Phil all the reports he asks for, but he’s constantly asking me for updates. It’s like he doesn’t trust my reports.”
Mark was frustrated because he thought he was giving his boss Phil everything he wanted but Phil kept asking for more and would often seem angry.
Clearly there was a communication mismatch between the two.
To understand the situation, first I wanted to understand Mark’s style.
Mark was proud of the team that he’d built.
They were working on many projects, and he’d organized them to focus on the highest priorities.
He trusted his team; and in his mind, everything was proceeding on track and as planned.
When a problem came up, he counted his team to take care of it and to escalate if they needed help, which they did from time to time.
Mark provided Phil with weekly updates on all the projects highlighting both progress and challenges,
which is exactly what Phil had asked for.
But, clearly this wasn’t enough.
Then I asked Mark to describe Phil’s style, especially how he communicated.
Mark said that he would only get very short messages from Phil.
Sometimes in email, but mostly in text messages.
Phil. Loves. Texting.
Mark also recalled that Phil hated being blindsided. He wanted to be the first to know if there was any news, good or bad.
I made several suggestions to Mark:
First, I suggested that he mirror Phil’s communication style, reflecting back that same short, to the point style that Phil used.
Also, I suggested that he use text messages, since that seemed to be Phil’s preference.
And finally, I suggested that Mark increase the frequency of the updates. Rather than wait for a weekly report, send Phil a text whenever there was any news, good or bad.
Work to make sure that Phil was never surprised by any issue.
To do this, Mark let his team know that he would be dropping by during the week to get updates. He also asked that if they heard anything new, to let him immediately so that he could pass it along.
Within just 2 weeks of this new approach, the tone of Phil’s texts completely changed. Rather than asking for information, Phil started offering useful suggestions—a sign that he wanted to find ways to help the project be successful. And, Mark was relieved that the tone of Phil’s texts seem much less angry.
Happiness for you and your boss can both be achieved by taking time and care like Mark did, to understand and mirror your boss’ communication style.
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