Melanie-small photoCommunication is challenging. So many factors influence it, from culture to timing, and misinterpretations abound. It’s because of communication’s tricky yet necessary nature that we’ve found it to be such a useful application for the Enneagram. Our communication workshops are popular with audiences in business and community settings, as they yield immediate, tangible insights that participants apply in their everyday life. Typically, we teach this material to Enneagram newcomers. However, we enjoyed the opportunity to share this angle on the Enneagram with enthusiasts who knew the types well.

In our 2015 IEA Global Conference presentation, we introduced the Enneagram’s Hornevian triads as a framework for understanding and improving workplace communication. Much of the learning in our session arose from its interactive aspects. Participants learned from each other what each style was like and how others preferred to be communicated with, and had chances to practice these new communication strategies.

We started our presentation with a game and a discussion of factors that lead to miscommunication. Keeping these in mind, we introduced the relationship between communication and personality types, particularly the Enneagram’s three communication styles. Learning how to “speak the language” of different personalities leads to more effective teamwork and surprising breakthroughs.

We gave an overview of the three communication styles, acted them out, and offered examples of each style in a workplace context. Our teaching of the communication styles applies Riso and Hudson’s corporate language to the Hornevian triads: the strategic Soloists (types Four, Five, and Nine), energetic Initiators (types Three, Seven, and Eight) and committed cooperators (types One, Two, and Six). Each style has distinct communication strategies and preferences.  

Participants identified their own communication style, and group activities gave them an opportunity to learn from each other as well as from us. First, participants worked in groups with of the same communication style, and then all the styles collaborated on a fun task that involved a lot of communication. This gave them the chance to apply the strategies they learned in a real situation. As often happens in our workshops, collaboration flowed smoothly, with participants taking each other’s strengths and needs into account. The ideas that they generated through this collaborative communication process were truly amazing.

You can learn more about the three communication styles through our Problem Solving Through Personality audio downloads and Crafting Successful Communication blog post.


Melanie Bell, MA and Kacie Berghoef, MSW are certified Enneagram teachers and international speakers. They specialize in bringing the Enneagram’s insights to emerging leaders and organizations. Learn more about their work at