If you're feeling stuck about pinpointing your main Enneagram type, it will be really helpful for you to look at the Interpersonal Coping Styles. I mentioned these styles in a video a while back about 3 things to do when you're super confused about your Enneagram type, and I got a TON of comments asking for more information. I heard you loud and clear, so let’s figure out your coping style and then put that knowledge to use!

The 3 Interpersonal Coping Styles

The three ways we cope can be grouped into categories called Assertive, Dutiful, and Withdrawn. They show us how people get others to respond to them in order to get their needs met. If you can narrow down your Interpersonal Coping Style, also called Stance, you can eliminate 6 of the 9 Enneagram types from your main type options. So you're probably thinking, okay... so how do I know what coping style I have?

Interpersonal Coping Skills for the Enneagram of Personality

Take heed: 2 caveats

  • Before we dive in, take heed! Everyone is able to access all three coping styles. However, most of us will lean towards one dominant style because it's how we've been getting our needs met for a very long time. It’s the route we always take when we drive home from work. Even though there are many different routes you can take to get to your destination, your comfort zone is taking the same old highway, getting off at the same exit, and taking the same side street past your favorite ice cream shop. Your coping style is your comfort zone route- the way you’ve been getting your needs met for a long time.
  • One more disclaimer! Your coping style is not inherently good or bad. If you're out of alignment, you may lean towards the more negative aspects of your stance. But if you're aligned, your stance can help you get the things you need in a healthy way. It’s like Thai food. I’m about to get a graphic here so prepare yourself. The Roasted Duck Curry is delicious and is a surefire way to make your date night extra special. But if there’s too much spice? That date night will be interrupted by an appointment with your toilet. Just enough spice? That’s just right.

So you're probably thinking, okay ... how do I know what coping style I have? 

Let’s jump into the nitty gritty of each interpersonal coping style and see which one most resonates with you.

In my private typing sessions, I like to ask my clients to imagine a recent scenario where they really wanted something and then relate this knowledge to their real-life example. I encourage you to do the same right now!

The Assertive Style - Enneagram Types 3, 7, 8

The first coping style is The Assertive Style. This is Enneagram Types 3, 7, and 8. As a 3, this is actually my main coping style and it means that I move against people and take action to get my needs met. When 3s, 7s, and 8s encounter stress, they will either boost, reinforce, or expand their sense of self.

As a plant mom, I'm going to use my beloved prayer plant as an example. You wander into a plant store and fall in love with the most beautiful plant that is just beckoning for you to bring it home. You take it to the register to buy it, but the person who owns the store won't sell it to you. They say to you: "That is a super special plant and you don't seem like the kind of person who can take care of it."

At this point, if you're in the assertive stance, you will push back against the store owner. You will show the owner pictures of all the plants you take care of, you will rattle off your knowledge about botany, or you will get angry and confront the owner about the injustice of the situation.

The types in the Assertive Style typically enter a room and take up space. If you're out of alignment, you assume that everything meaningful that is happening is connected to you. Does this sound like you? If so, you know that you’re in the Assertive Style. If it doesn’t, keep on reading!

Assertive Coping Style Enneagram

The Dutiful Style - Enneagram Types 1, 2, 6

The second coping style is the Dutiful Style. This is Enneagram Types 1, 2, and 6. You try to get your needs met externally by moving towards people. This means that you will ask yourself, "How can I meet the expectations that others have of me?"

Back to the plant example. If you're in the Dutiful Style, you will say to the store owner, "Absolutely. This wondrous plant should go to a good home. How about I work here for free every weekend for the next month to show you how responsible I am in taking care of plants?"

This stance comes from the core belief that you have to do something to get something. This behavior typically presents as loyalty and commitment and often results in you shutting down your own wants and desires in order to be loved and accepted. People-pleasers, is this you? If not, keep on reading.

Dutiful Coping Style Enneagram

The Withdrawn Style - Enneagram Types 4, 5, 9

The last coping style is the Withdrawn Style. This is Enneagram Types 4, 5, and 9. You move away from people and turn inwards to find fulfillment, fearing that others won't be able to meet your needs.

So, back to my amazing plant store analogy... if you're in the Withdrawn Style, you would bring your darling plant up to the register, get that negative response from the store owner, and completely shut down. You will internalize their words. You will think, “They’re right. I’m not good enough to care for this plant. And I’m not good enough to care for myself or anyone else in my life either.” You will leave the plant at the counter and rush out the door, never to be seen in another plant store ever again. As a plant-lover, this is heartbreaking.

When entering a room, you usually feel that you don't fit in. You have to summon up the energy you need to move through the world. You can easily retreat into daydreams in order to cope with this stress. Does this resonate? You’re probably in the withdrawn style.

Withdrawn Coping Style Enneagram

What to do next

Now that we've gone through all three coping styles, I want you to think about your personal real-life example of a recent time when you were faced with difficulty about getting a need met.

  1. How did you react?
  2. How did it make you feel?

Once you’re positive which coping style you use most often, you now have a better idea of where your main Enneagram type lands. I hope this was helpful for you and that you understand yourself just a little bit better than you did 5 minutes ago. Also, I hope you go buy yourself a beautiful plant.

Happy Discovering!