Going directly from a Nine culture (Hawaii) to a Three culture (US Mainland) can be somewhat jarring. I know. I migrate that direction every summer. However, add going from a rural island to a cocktail party of movers and shakers and it elevates the shift to a true culture shock.

I was recounting my most recent reentry to my best friend  in Hawaii; how fast everyone talked, the questions they asked (most prevalent being “what do you do”), and the download of their latest projects, travels, etc. I felt like the proverbial deer in the headlights.  “Oh,” said my friend. “I know what you mean. They were sending, not receiving.”

There is a great deal of discourse in business and the media about what message we are sending. I rarely hear discussion about what message we are receiving at any given time. That got me thinking more deeply about sending and receiving.

To me, the Enneagram seems at its best when it is a tool for receiving. We receive another’s energetic and through disclosure, we receive a hint of what it might feel like to be him/her. To do this requires an open, passive stance, where we don’t know what we will receive. I think it also requires a vigilant awareness, so that we might recognize the gifts we receive from another. Then we may respond appropriately.

Each of the Enneagram types has protective mechanisms that may prevent us from receiving fully. As we become more aware of these protections, we may let down our guard and receive more fully. We may “send” less and “receive” more.

Lynette Shepherd 2

Here are a few questions for each Enneagram type to try eliciting ways around those protections:

Ones – can we receive paradox? No judgement, no right or wrong, just isness?

Twos – can we receive graciously from others without internal tabulation or giving back?

Threes – can we receive another simply as they are (and you are) without monitoring and adjusting yourself in their eyes?

Fours – can we receive blandness, flatness, ordinariness without increasing the juice or shining our internal nuance?

Fives – can we be impacted without being overwhelmed? Can we rest in the energy coming toward us from others?

Sixes – can we receive information that conflicts with a belief or hypothesis? Can we believe that no other shoe will drop in those moments of grace?

Sevens – can we receive painful information or that which conflicts with our positive self image?

Eights – can we receive even if it seems slow, laborious, or too loaded with feelings? Can we receive that which makes us feel vulnerable?

Nines – can we receive our inner desires, passions, priorities without being distracted by the receiving from others? Can we turn and tune our natural satellite dish?


There may be many more protections or blocks to receiving. As with any practice, bringing the light of awareness to them makes them more permeable. I’d love to hear any ideas of how this works (and doesn’t) in your daily life. You can bet that I am going to be watching myself to see how this plays out as well.

I suspect that I won’t suddenly become a great receiver overnight. But I’m interesting in and committed to the process. Maybe one day, I can receive as easily as I send.

Any helpful hints  or thoughts to contribute to this conversation can be left as a comment here or emailed to me at [email protected].


Lynette Sheppard has taught the Enneagram for over 25 years. She is the author of “The Everyday Enneagram” and moderates  the popular Everyday Enneagram Blog.