Nines may be motivated to change for a variety of reasons. Presenting problems to counselors can include: depression, procrastination, lack of focus, a sense of dispossession, addictions, problems in relationship, attempts to change themselves for other people, confused priorities, life-direction issues and household messes or other practical dilemmas that others in the Nine’s life think they should clean up. A few Nines also go to counselors for help with mystery medical ailments.

Counselors or sales people working with Nine clients will do well to communicate steady respect even if they act like a non-entity. Nines respond well when they feel noticed and listened to but you may have to search for them. Let them know that you know they are there even if they present you with a pleasant flesh-colored fog.

It often helps Nines to learn that they are angry and to use it as an effective tool. In the short-term it may be helpful to get Nines in touch with their anger. It brings a certain energy that can be harnessed and lead to being more honest about how unhappy they are about their unlived life.

If Nines simply get in touch with their anger but go no deeper, the chances are high that they will mismanage it. The focus needs to be on taking responsibility for how they deny their own needs before others do. The central problem is that the Nines are hiding, protecting their vulnerabilities by being invisible and pretending to not have a life.

In the process Nines may have to face what maintaining their self- effacing defense has cost them. Often it’s important for them to respect their past need for creating the defense even as they work on undoing its effects in the present. Some may need to recognize the sadder implications of pretending not to exist and even get upset about it.

Like Sevens, Nines have personality defenses that make them feel better so they may have a more tenuous hold on consequence. Encouraging them to flash forward in time, perhaps to the end of their lives, and experience how they will feel if they do not change can be an especially relevant exercise.

When Nines embark on self-improvement programs, they may approach them in an ill-formed way, coming up with large-chunked goals. When working with this style, watch for misshapen, off-kilter goals where the Nine tries to change the direction of the wind rather than reset his sails. Chunking down is sometimes important with this style since Nines tend to overcomplicate. When structuring exercises or steps in treatment you might keep it simple, proceeding in single, small, obvious steps. If you experience a Nine client as unmotivated beware of becoming too helpful or providing the energy for the Nine to change. Nines have good instincts about people and will know if you want to change them for your own reasons. It would be better to pay close attention to them and draw them out.

When Nines decide to venture within their subjective experience and sincerely search for themselves, they often initially fear that they will find no one there. That’s their defense talking; the fear is a reflection of having erased themselves. If a counselor guides the Nine past that fear, the Nine may find she has a sense of self after all. As she learns to pay more attention to herself she may also find that she likes herself. The counselor can then guide the Nine towards becoming more proactive, establishing and fulfilling personal goals and comfortably maintaining boundaries.

Nines are often incongruent when approaching change. A Nine client might say, “I really want to get some help for my hearing loss,” while shaking her head “no” and leaning away from the counselor. Part of her is saying “I want this” or “I think I should want this,” while another part of her is fatalistically convinced that it can’t work for her.

A small but reliable percentage of Nines have medical scripts. Allowing for genuine medical causes, a chronic limitation like hearing loss could serve to keep a Nine off the track of his life, get him attention or accommodate a family where having medical problems was somehow his role.

Nines have what NLP calls a long timeline, meaning that their internal subjective sense of time can stretch far into the distance. If you ask a Nine the question, “How long do you expect to live?” the answer is often between 80 and 100 years old.

This can affect a Nine’s motivation to change an unhealthy status quo. Since a Nine’s personality defense is to play down the amount of pain he is in, he may avoid getting uncomfortable enough to want to change. If the decades stretch out before him as well, he could also feel like there is no hurry. This lack of urgency dovetails with the verbal defense of minimizing and makes procrastination an attractive path of least resistance.

Nines will sometimes be motivated to change because of their effect on others, although less so if another person demands it. If a spouse is frustrated and angry, a Nine client can get locked into a stubborn, hostile stance. If the spouse is more evidently caring and can communicate their frustration without blame, the Nine might change out of love.

Nines can be very conservative, not necessarily in their politics but in their habits of living and especially about making changes. A “don’t rock the boat” attitude can come easily to them. This doesn’t mean they don’t change. It means that they work up to the change for a while, in their own time, no matter what anyone says. Internally the Nine could make a slow building decision of her own. Once the Nine has decided then it still might be a few months before she implements the change. But once she starts, she will be unstoppable. Nines don’t have trouble with action – they struggle with finding correct courses of action to take.

Other Nines are at their best when their back is against the wall. They may postpone a decision to a point where disaster looms and then wake up and suddenly get focused. Nines are also prone to what NLP calls “threshold” experiences where the Nine endures an unhealthy status quo and then crosses an experiential threshold and can take no more. At that point they wake up, take action and correct the situation.


Excerpted from The Dynamic Enneagram by Tom Condon

Copyright 2009, 2013 by Thomas Condon

Available as an ebook serial at Tom’s website


Tom Condon has worked with the Enneagram since 1980 and with Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP since 1977. These three models are combined in his trainings to offer a useful collection of tools for changing and growing, to apply the Enneagram dynamically, as a springboard to positive change. Tom has taught over 800 workshops in the US, Europe and Asia and is the author of 50 CDs, DVDs and books on the Enneagram, NLP and Ericksonian methods. He is founder and director of The Changeworks in Bend, Oregon.

Tom can be contacted at: