The best relationships of our lives are made up of moments, moments when we are awake and present with self, God, and others. It doesnt take very many of these experiences of truly landing in the exhilarating now with someone before we start to value that relationship. This is probably because, on some deep level, we realize that those real relational moments are extremely necessary and extremely rare.

The Enneagram of Personality can help us invite more of these real relational moments into our everyday life. Our personality has a tendency to rely on the same perceptual grid in all of our relationships, no matter who is standing in front of us or what they are actually doing. Woven into that grid, either loosely or rigidly, is a kind of temperament-driven nagging question about the relational world. Riso and Hudson were among the first Enneagram scholars to identify these for Type One (Is this my fault?) and for Type Eight (Who did this to me?) (Don Riso & Russ Hudson; Authorized Workshop Training Program for the Wisdom of the Enneagram; December 2006)

These nagging questions are an attempt by the personality to extract something needed from the relational world, like worthiness or protection. Frequently, these core questions remain part of unexamined patterns in our interpersonal style. Ironically, the questions themselves can get in the way of good relating.

There are appropriate places for these questions in all relationships. However, when the personality overuses one habitually, the personality is operating under an assumption that there is a scarcity of some relational resource in Gods universe – a false premise! When we begin questioning the nagging questions, we automatically relax the limiting perceptual grid of the personality. Then we can actually be in each moment of relational opportunity. With all of its sadness, with all of its joy, reality is where great relationships happen.

Here are a few common nagging questions for each Enneagram personality type that should be suspect, because the question itself colors reality:

Type One- The Reformer: Is this my fault? Is this your fault? How can this moment be improved?

Type Two- The Helper: How do I make a connection happen here? Do you need me? How can I make you like me more?

Type Three- The Achiever: Am I worthwhile? What do I need to do to get a good evaluation from you? Do I impress you?

Type Four- The Individualist: Will you help me establish my identity? Why cant anyone understand me completely? How can I possibly be accepted for who I really am?

Type Five- The Investigator: What must I bring to the relationship in order to avoid being useless? How can I be completely separate from you so I can have me? Where can I go to gain more understanding of this moment?

Type Six- The Loyalist: Are you the one I can trust? Will you make up for my lack of capacity? How can I defend myself here?

Type Seven- The Enthusiast: What experience am I missing out on here? How can I avoid pain in my relationships? If I just have you, how will I have enough? Why isnt all of this fun?

Type Eight- The Challenger: Who did this to me? Will you do what I want you to do? Am I in control here?

Type Nine- The Peacemaker: How can I belong all of the time? Do I want to put myself through this? What part of me must I ignore in order to prevent conflict here?

As you begin to identify some of the regular nagging questions your personality habitually asks, you will begin to question those questions. Are they really helping you experience reality, with all of its relational gifts? Experiment with removing those questions from your internal dialogue when youre in the presence of another. See what happens. Great relational moments are there for the experiencing; and you can learn to actually be there for those moments!

For more on the Enneagram of Personality and healthy relationships, join us for the Relationship Workshop – An Authorized Riso-Hudson Workshop, February 9th-11th, Burlingame, CA. (See flier below.)