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Trigger Series: Type Five

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

We've all done it. Started a casual conversation with someone that suddenly turned into an all out fight. What happened? If you TRULY don't know (and it wasn't one of the usual suspects of sex, politics, and money), then you might have stepped on a Trigger for this Type. Read on for tips on how to translate the conversation in a Type Five's language and better understand how to navigate a path forward.

Scenario 1:

What you said: "Can you give an impromptu speech to the group on what you're learning about this new topic?"

What they heard: "You are never safe from being intruded upon, put on the spot, and (potentially) looking incompetent."

Why do they hear this?

At their core, Fives fear that the world is an unsafe, intrusive, overwhelming place and that they lack the basic skills to survive in it. With this fear of incompetence in tow, Fives attempt to become masters in any area they can (this Type is the most likely to have multiple advanced degrees) and value their veneer of competence and intelligence over most things. Beyond this core fear, Fives also belong to the Rejection Triad which emphasizes to them that they really have nothing to offer others but their knowledge, objectivity, and mastery. Being put on the spot like the scenario above would trigger so many fears--fears of being intruded upon (by an unsafe world that is all consuming and overwhelming), fears of looking incompetent, and fears of being totally depleted of their (self-believed) low energy stores.

How can you dig yourself out of this hole:

Like any Withdrawn Triad Type, a Five's reaction when triggered is a mixed bag--they may act aloof, distant, cold, and weirdly passive-aggressive (like our lovely Nines and Fours), or they may burst out with the most amazingly, cutting, witty response that will leave you charred. In most cases, Fives will become withdrawn, aloof, and passive-aggressive since emotional outbursts are exceedingly taxing to them.

If you find yourself in the position that you think they might be mad at you (but the clues are all a little subtle), assume they are upset and move quickly to try to resolve the issue. In a triggered state, Fives' mental analysis will go into hyperdrive allowing for dissection, planning, prepping, and a good amount of stewing. By the time most Types can tell something is amiss with the Fives in their lives, the Five has already become victim, judge, jury, and execution of the situation (and relationship), so jumping on the opportunity to talk about issues early is key.

The best way to approach a Five regarding conflict is to ask to schedule a time to talk that will work for them; set a time limit on how long the conversation will take place (you can always add more time later); and keep the discussion as factual and drama-free as possible. Allow them space to talk and end the discussion with a clear resolution and plans to prevent issue in the future. Fives appreciate having tangible solutions as this helps them navigate interactions in the future without the potential for more dramatic conversations.

Scenario 2:

What you said: "I heard from so and so something private about you"

What they heard: "My private information and resources are never safe in a world of scarcity. I'm always at risk of being overwhelmed and intruded upon"

Why do they hear this?

For Fives, the world always has less than enough (compare this to their Head Type partners, Sevens, where there is always more than enough). From this place of scarcity, Fives will hoard and protect their resources that they believe are always at risk of being squandered, taken away, or overwhelmed by unexpected need. These resources could be tangible like money, food, shelter, but more often it's time, energy, and information (especially private information). When these resources are threatened, Fives do not only feel that their livelihood is at risk (that they will be annihilated from being overwhelmed) but that the outside world has intruded upon them and their safety.

For these reasons, Fives hold their privacy and private information as sacrosanct and hate to have this information divvied out to the highest bidders. For most Enneagram types, sharing private information (i.e. gossip) is not exactly encouraged in a relationship, but for Fives it is catastrophic and could signal the end of a relationship.

How can you dig yourself out of this hole:

If you have accidentally shared information that you shouldn't have (we've all been there), the best way to handle it is to tell the Five yourself about the breach of information and discuss how you will handle things in the future. Allowing the Five to hear about your indiscretion from others will only compound your now "unsafeness" as a person, so own it and share how you will handle this kind of situation in the future. Fives (being in the Fear Triad with Sixes and Sevens) believe the world is unsafe, so assuring them that you can still be a safe person for them even when you make a mistake will help mend the relationship over time.

Other Triggers to Avoid:

  • Being given overwhelming tasks--especially without notice.

  • Being the subject of gossip or victim of broken confidences

  • Feeling surprised, intruded upon, or obligated.

  • Being prevented from alone time to recharge.

For more information on the Rejection Triad and Fear Triad, click the links below:

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