Have you ever tried being left with the feeling that nobody understands you – even though you believe that your message has been communicated to the best of your abilities? When you have explained again and again – loud and clear – why it is important that your employees deliver on time – and in the right quality. And then have to accept that not everybody has got the message. Or when you, as the sales person at the sales meeting, believe that your products and solutions are exactly what the client should buy – and do not get the order? Only one person can do something – you! You should re-evaluate how you communicate, your choice of instruments and your attitude.

People are (luckily) different. Different in relation to what motivates and scares us, and what we perceive from a conversation. An old saying is that “you hear what you want to hear.” And if you communicate with others, as you would like being communicated to, there is a risk that you will not get through with your message. Do not presume that everybody is like you.

The Enneagram explains the differences to us as well as the characteristics which might mean something in communication. In this article, I aim to show how the “rhetorics” supplements the Enneagram and help us communicating with different characters in connection with specific rhetoric deliberations.

A Rhetorical Situation

Rhetorics is the theory on communicating and convincing and it dates back to the ancient Greece. A sender (rhetor) has something on his/her mind – and a recipient Charlotte-Pedersen-2is more or less involuntarily exposed to being part of the situation where rhetorical possibilities and tools are displayed.

Rhetor’s purpose would be to communicate a message to the recipient in such a way that he/she either changes or continues his/her demeanour as a consequence of the message received. As such, a rhetorical situation aims at convincing the recipient through the message to act, thus separating it from ordinary communication. The rhetorical situation depends on the situation or the context, and conditions will therefore be present, which besides rhetor or recipient  are important to the communication (Blitzer (1992)).

The capable rhetor is able to identify the possible convincing elements in the rhetorical situation – and to make use of these (Aristotle (1983)). These elements or factors are decided by, e.g., time and place, the medium, historical and cultural context, and are, at the same time, examples of the conditions of communication. Other conditions may be the mood of the speaker or writer, experience, style or reputation. Finally, and not least, the recipient’s knowledge of and attitude towards the subject; personal assumptions, competences and preferences are very important to rhetor’s possibility of accomplishing the mission of convincing.

”Any communication must respect that the use of the words is embedded in a context which cannot always be verbalised, but is only accessible through practice.”
                             Tor Nørretranders (Danish author of popular science)

Communication between Two People – A Relation

”It takes two to tango” – and it also takes at least two people to accomplish communication and specifically a rhetorical situation.

Good communication requires receptiveness, true attention, and ”synchronisation” or identification between the parties.  If the recipient should be able to see the point of the message and act on it; it means a lot that you recognise, accept or respect rhetor and the rhetor’s purpose with the communication.  It rests with the rhetor to put himself in the recipient’s situation and to meet the recipient on his terms. When the human relation has been established, the communication and rhetoric can unfold.

”The meeting between two personalities is like the contact between chemicals: If there is a reaction, both will change.”  Carl Gustav Jung.

The Enneagram as Frame of Understanding

The theory of the Enneagram, and its description of nine equal personalities, is a valuable tool to understand the recipient in the rhetorical situation, and thus the possibility of establishing the identification and the human relation.

Charlotte-Pedersen-1The characters are described and understood on the basis of their thoughts and actions, as well as the motives behind them in the form of motivation (what we strive for and want to achieve) or what we try to avoid or escape (fear) because it creates discomfort. The motives, both the motivation and fear, may often block the message from the sender. They are called distorting filters and form the basis of the expression “you hear what you want to hear”– or believe that you hear. In communication, this is important both to the rhetor and the recipient. The rhetor must put himself in the recipient’s situation in order to establish the best foundation of communication and deliberations of the choice of rhetorical tools.

In the basis triad, the nine characters are grouped in three intelligence centres from which the immediate motivation stems when decisions Charlotte-Pedersen-3are to be made:

  • The Head (analysis),
  • The Body (gut feeling)
  • The Heart (feelings)

In a communicative situation where conviction and action are to be created, one of rhetor’s first tasks is to identify the recipient or the intelligence centre and placement of the target group in the basic triad as a shortcut to understanding the motivation for action.

In verbal communication, eye contact, body language, attire and physical presence are advantages as they can indicate the intelligence centre. Are these possibilities not present, e.g. in writing, it should be assumed that all intelligence centres are present and that communication takes place on the terms of all three centres. Clear, brief and relevant communication is always the best basis – but there are no guarantees.

Do you, who are the rhetor, know the recipient’s intelligence centre, it is possible for you to choose the rhetorical means based on a conscious strategy of meeting the recipient on the basis of his conviction.

Rhetorical Considerations – and Tools

The rhetorical tradition describes a number of tools which may be used in a communicative situation.
Three of the basic tools are choice of appeal, arguments, and linguistic style.

Forms of Appeal

The rhetor should be able to appeal to understanding, support and agreement with the recipient of your communication. In rhetoric, there are three basic forms of appeal or different kinds of means (Geist (2002):



The rhetor appears as a trustworthy, competent and responsible person. A rhetor that shows credibility and whom the recipient can trust.



As a rhetor influencing the feelings of the recipient by means of linguistic pictures, descriptions and actual details. A rhetor showing empathy and creating identification with the recipient’s feelings.



The rhetor providing the recipient with information and arguments, both radically and factually. A rhetor showing seriousness and professionalism when presenting the case.

The starting point is that all forms of appeal come into play in a rhetorical situation, but may benefit from an adjustment of volume and placement in the communication.

 Contention Subjects

Another important rhetorical tool is the choice of contention subjects which are the basis of the communication (Gabrielson (2009)). Or – in other words, on what do you base your contention? Examples are economics, environment, ethics, culture, religion, individuals and society. The well-chosen contention is the contention which is synchronised with the recipient’s interests and motives.

A complete communication will typically substantiate the message by several types of contentions.

Linguistic Style

The third rhetorical tool is the linguistic style, including the use of metaphors, pictures, graphic and examples. The rhetor is often offered the best possibilities of showing his/her appreciation of the context, which the recipient is in, as well as his/her preferences.

Walker Gibson (1966) introduced three linguistic types, which may be used as indicators:

  • Tough – the direct, tough, and rugged type
  • Sweet – the pleasant, sweet, and emphatic type
  • Stuffy – the passive, serious and neutral type

The three types are best identified through the length of the words and sentences, the use of nouns I /you and names, active/passive language as well as the use of punctuation and linguistic flowers.

Examples of Characterics


A lot of monosyllables, the nouns I and We, an average of less than 10 words in a sentence, active language.


The use of the noun You, personal language, an average of less than 10 words in a sentence, considerable use of punctuation and linguistic flowers.


Several words with more than three syllables, an average of more than 10 words in a sentence, useofpassive words and nouns inthird person.

 Rhetorics in the Enneagram

The rhetor may find ways to utilize the rhetoric situation in communication in the best possible way by analysing the recipient as a unique individual with specific requirements, expectations and competences. The table below describes the three intelligence centres with characteristics and distorted filters as well as the rhetorical tools.

The Three Intelligence Centers – and Rhetorical Possibilities

This description of the intelligence centers was inspired by Don Riso & Ross Hudson, Ginger Lapid-Bogda, Helene Kongsbak Makani, Mia Vendt Striim & Balder Striim and Michael Groser.


Body Types

Heart Types

Head Types

Characterics of Intelliegence Centers

Characteristics and Focus

Bodily intelligence where action springs instinctively from a bodily feeling. Very direct and dynamic or waiting. Acts without transforming the action into mental analysis and without contemplating what feelings might incur in others. Focus on control, intuition and progress in the now.

The ability to understand own and others feelings and focus on the relationship between people. Before acting they consider how their relationship to another person will be affected and how the other person will react to the action.

Focus on good relations, image and success.

Ability to analyse, think, plan and develop new ideas. Fond of collecting knowledge and conduct intellectual discussions. May at times be paralysed by the amount of thinking.

Focus on finding meaning and certainty, concerned about the future


Action, progress and/or standstill, control of surroundings.

Experience feeling, have and create relations with others, sensitivity towards the feelings and reactions of others.

Collection of information, ideas, rational analysis, planning, being part of mental processes.

Distorting Filters

Detecting weakness in the rhetor, critic and demands onrecipient, and lies in message.

Lacking sympathy with rhetor, negligent of recipient and contradictions of own objective in message.

Lacking trust in rhetor, restriction of recipient’s influence and incomplete message.

Rhetorical Tools

Preferred Form of Appeal


Ethos appeal where rhetor appears trustworthy, strong and worthy of confidence.

Pathos appeal where rhetor appeals to the recipient’s situation, feelings and own objectives.

Ethos and logos appeal where rhetor convincingly emphasises the message without restricting the recipient.



Result and action oriented, showing progress and strength combined with firmness of principle. Preferably argumentation types based on general principles.

Orientated on process and feelings. Basis in prior experience and documentation of good results. Preferably actual and value based types of argumentation.

Result oriented and complete, which inlogical fashion covers several aspects of the message. Preferably several types of argumentation.

Linguistic Style

Tough – because body types prefer direct messages.

Sweet – because the sensitive types would like to hear the story so that they can form their own picture.

Stuffy and tough – because it must be serious and professional but also with a touch ofdirect message.

Make Them Understand – Use Rhetorics When You Meet Intelligence

If you acknowledge, accept and respect that people are different – and different from you, and take that into consideration when you choose rhetorical tools, you will be convincing and able to create the action, you want.

If you know the intelligence centre of your recipient, you also now know some rhetorical tools that you may use when communicating – be it in connection with a meeting with your employees, with clients and with your children.

The rhetorical tools makes it possible for you to adapt to your recipient in communication so that you can be sure that they understand you and that you will be able to convince them of your message.

My invitation to you, who knows the Enneagramme is that you should replenish your toolbox with rhetorical tools. That is, of course, if you want your messages heard and understood in the best possible way.

In any case, it has been quite a surprise to me to find out how “little” it actually takes – if I just adapt my argumentation, my linguistic style and my way of appealing to the target group I meet, then communication will improve considerably. Enjoy yourself!

Example: Starting a dialogue of why the report to the client should be delivered in a timely manner?

  • To the body: We have promised and therefore we shall do so as responsible and professional consultants because …
  • To the heart: Otherwise the client will think badly of us, it will be damaging to our image and then …
  • To the head: If we do not deliver on time, we will not work for this client infuture, and then …


  • Aristoteles: Rhetorics. Translated with introduction by Thure Hastrup. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum. 1983/1991.
  • Bitzer, Lloyd F.: The Rethorical Situation. Philosophy and Rhetoric. Supplementary issue, 1992 The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1992
  • Gabrielsen, Jonas: Topisk kritik. Side 141-166 i Rhetorikkens aktualitet. Grundbog i rhetorisk kritik. Redigeret af Hanne Roer & Marie Lund Klujeff. Hans Reitzels Forlag. 2. Udgave 2009.
  • Geist, Uwe: Logos, ethos og pathos og deres sproglige realisering i tre teksteksempler. M/K – Mod og Kvindehjerte. Modtryk. 2002
  • Gibson, Walker: Tough, Sweet & Stuffy: An Essay on Modern American Prose Styles. Indiana University Press 1966
  • Groser, Michael: Diverse materiale om Enneagrammet og salg. 2009-2010
  • Kongsbak Makani, Helene: Enneagrammet. Din personlige udviklingsvej. 2. Reviderede udgave. Forlaget Akasha. 2009
  • Lapid-Bogda, Ginger: Værktøjet Enneagrammet og kommunikation.  Indsigt Forlag. 2004
  • Riso, Don & Hudson, Ross: Enneagrammets Visdom. Den fuldstændige guide til psykologisk og spirituel vækst for de ni personlighedstyper. Indsigt Forlag. 2007.
  • Striim, Mia Vendt & Striim, Balder: Brug dit Enneagram. Forlaget Striim. 2007