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How to Take Criticism Without Offense as an Enneagram Nine


We’ve all been there. That burning, fiery feeling that creeps into our bellies when something (or someone) makes us feel offended. We don’t want to feel it…but how on earth can we not?


Maybe you’ve experienced something like this: The holidays are here and you’re circled up with family members playing a board game. You haven’t seen most of these people all year, and you’re excited to spend some quality time with people you love!


You’re up first to roll the dice and take your turn - and it’s the first time you’ve ever played this game. A few moments go by as you process the best move for your turn, and suddenly your sibling is saying “Geez, you’re taking forever!”


So you rush into taking your turn, even though you haven’t had enough time to think. And as soon as you make your move, another family member points out that you’ve broken a rule or played “the wrong way”.


Agh. I can feel this in my bones. Can you?


Chances are, your reaction is one of defensiveness. Maybe you snap at everyone at the table…or if you’re anything like me, you let it fester inside of you, but then you say thing passive-agressively. Then you fume from what just happened.


You feel hurt, misunderstood, and downright offended. And now, instead of spending the evening with family like you’ve been looking forward to for months, you’re isolated and too embarrassed to rejoin the group.


Situations like this are REAL for us Nines…and they’re a sign that we’ve got some room to grow when it comes to taking criticism without offense.


As Enneagram Nines, most people see us as laid-back, easy-going individuals. And we are!


But here’s something to clarify: being peaceful and easy-going does NOT mean that nothing phases us.


In fact, we have a deep sense of feeling (commonly anger) - especially when something strikes a nerve. And anything said to us that validates our underlying story that our presence doesn’t matter, well, chances are that we’re boiling hot underneath our calm exterior. Would you agree?


Just like in the example above, it’s things like the following that really set us off…


“You’re doing it wrong.”

“YOU decide.”

“Quit being lazy.”

“Are you ignoring me?”

“You’re taking too long.”

“Do what I say.”

“You’re so sensitive.”

“You’re so slow.”

“You’re so quiet.”

“Just make a decision already.”


Our most common response to scenarios like this can often feel automatic.


We react with the one “tool” we feel like we have in our belts - defensiveness.


But while this can certainly seem like a tool, especially in the heat of the moment, it’s actually not the best way to respond.


TRUST ME when I say I know how challenging this can be! Because when someone jabs at us, oof. All we want to do is defend ourselves. Or storm off. Or both :)


But as Nines who are stepping into living a fulfilled life of growth and health, there are a few ways that we can take criticism without offense.


  1. Listen with an open mind, and look for any truth you can find in what the other person is offering. Remember - them being right and you being worthy are not mutually exclusive! This means that just because something they’re saying may be true, it doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable and worthy at the same time. Using the same example from above - being slow to take a turn does not mean you’re not smart or proficient at playing a game. Maybe there’s truth in what they’re saying, or maybe not. But you can be the bigger person by being open-minded to see their perspective while knowing it doesn’t define you or your worth.

  2. Imagine their words softly landing in front of you, and then simply observe them. They aren’t coming into you unless you let them! Remember - our core fear of loss of connection with others can make people’s words feel VERY intrusive. But at the end of the day, WE are the ones who choose whether or not to give them power over us.

  3. Ask yourself - are they sharing anything that isn’t true? Remember - You can allow them to be wrong. Approval is an inside job. Give it to yourself and you won’t need it from them.


There’s nothing worse than the feeling of regret or shame that we often experience after reacting out of offense. We replay the scenario or conversation over and over again - thinking through ways we could have handled it differently, and wishing we would have.


I want to remind you that there are beautiful, confident ways to share your opinion - even in situations where you want to explode. You are wired the way you are for a reason, and the most powerful thing you can do when it comes to responding in triggering moments is to take a deep breath and consider one (or all) of the tips above. Give yourself the space and time that you really do need to respond in a healthy way.


Responding from a place of calm confidence does not mean you are backing down - it means you KNOW what is true about yourself, you are in control of responding in a way that you’re proud of, and you’re secure enough to not let other people’s behaviors (which are totally out of your control) take you down.


Which of these resonates with you the most? Do you have real-life examples? I’d love to hear from you, because remember - sharing our stories makes us feel less alone and more empowered! Let me know in the comments below!



Are you ready to start taking control of your responses and learning more ways to address your biggest challenges as an Enneagram Nine?


Spaces are open in the BOLD NINE ACADEMY - and one of them has your name on it!

Come join us.