We all need to apologize at times.
Our main Enneagram type’s motivations can cause us to get in our own way when it comes to taking accountability and attempting to repair harm or restore a connection.
This post is going to explore what could unintentionally keep our Enneagram type stuck on the wrong side of an effective apology, and offers some tips to try instead.
If some of this post doesn’t apply to yourself, that’s okay – the Enneagram is beautifully nuanced, but these might serve as food for thought.
*note: this post is meant for people who feel generally safe in the relationship, and there are no toxic, manipulative, or abusive dynamics present. Please seek trauma-informed counsel before and after attempting to take ownership of any mistakes you’ve made if this is the case.
Elements of an effective apology
- Expression of regret
- Explanation of what went wrong
- Acknowledgment of responsibility
- Declaration of repentance
- Offer of repair
So where can our Enneagram type get stuck? Read on for each type’s potential problem areas, and some tips to make sure your apology is effective.
Want to jump to your type without having to scroll? Here you go!
Where can type 1 get stuck in apologies?
1. Pointing out what you got right
When you’ve harmed someone, the apology is not the time to perform a postmortem on the whole situation, nor is it their responsibility to acknowledge all of the ways you didn’t harm them.
Own your side of the street without reservation, and don’t make it their responsibility to agree that it isn’t “all your fault.”
Harm & repair is the focus here, not right/wrong. Your character is not in the balance (remember that!), but taking ownership is important for your apology to be sincere (or sincerely received).
2. over-explaining intentions
When trying to explain what went wrong, you might want to emphasize your good intentions or the fact that you thought you were doing the right thing in the moment.
You might feel that explaining every action or aspect of the situation will help them see your side. Recognize that this often comes from the desire to be above reproach, and is a self-protection measure.
When that is your focus, you mitigate your ability to empathize and connect with the person deserving of your apology.
3. not seeing it their way
You might find yourself not being willing to apologize sincerely until you agree completely with their side of things.
This can cause you to require lots of litigation back and forth about what happened, who said what, etc.
It can also extend the harm done, as the person feels continually unheard or unseen while you’re trying to figure out the facts and have it proven that you’re in the wrong.
It can be difficult for type 1 to see another’s side when there’s tension (or when you feel that fingers are pointed at you), so practice allowing nuance now. Remind yourself in the small things that other people’s informed perspectives are “as right” as yours.
apology tips for type 1
- Keep it short and sweet. When talking about what went wrong, keep it to only your actions that caused harmed or overstepped a boundary (not extenuating circumstances, your good intentions, or their part in it).
- Listen without interrupting or correcting. They will have a different perspective, and that’s okay. Allow there to be grey and nuance. Focus on repairing, not litigating.
- Have someone else to process post-apology with, to help remind you of the good in you. You don’t need to stay stuck in shame or self-judgment (and it’s valid to seek support to walk through it), but the one who deserves your apology shouldn’t be the one supporting you right now.
Where can type 2 get stuck in apologies?
1. being overly self-deprecating
When it comes to apologizing, you might go down the rabbit hole of all the ways you don’t deserve their forgiveness, or become verbally scornful of your own character.
This can seem manipulative to the person you hurt, as they might feel the pressure to reassure you in the moment or pretend everything is okay to try to protect your feelings.
Own what you did (separate from who you are), how it impacted them (not just your connection to them), and focus on making things right if possible.
2. not knowing when an apology is necessary and deserved
You might find yourself:
– apologizing all the time for hurt that you didn’t cause or are not connected to choices you have made, carrying the weight of the other person’s negative experience, thinking it has to be caused by you somehow. This comes from a false belief that you should save the connection by taking the blame, all the time for everything you can.
or you might:
– Be unwilling to apologize for the “big” stuff, believing you had their best interests at heart and that should count for something. This comes from the false belief that you know what they need more than they do, so your actions came from love and should be understood as such.
3. not giving space post-apology
You’ve apologized, you’ve owned up. And things aren’t back to normal yet. This can be incredibly painful and even panic-inducing, as loss of connection & potential rejection are fears of type 2.
Remind yourself that your worth isn’t found in their attention, connection or even forgiveness. You can own up and take accountability without identifying with the mistakes you’ve made. This is an important practice to begin right now, and will help free you to apologize sincerely while letting them have their autonomy and time they need to make a decision about your relationship moving forward.
Apology tips for type 2
- Try to be factual when owning up. Infusing too many of your emotions into your apology can make it about you and your fears, not about the negative impact you’re taking ownership of.
- Have a trusted friend to process situations with. It can help to have someone who has your back but who will also be honest about what you should apologize for. This can help you see when you’ve overstepped and need to apologize (and also when you’re about to apologize for something that you didn’t do).
- Self-nurture through the “silent zone.” You’ll want them to be alright again long before they are (most of the time, unfortunately). This isn’t wrong or punishment, it’s just reality. Find ways to care for yourself – that don’t involve reaching out to check if everything’s okay yet.
Where can type 3 get stuck in apologies?
1. Self-deceit around motives
Getting to the heart of why you harmed someone can be some of the hardest work for a type 3, as you grapple with self-deception, desire for approval from others, and wanting to put your best foot forward. Fight this tendency with preparation.
Remember that reparation and restoration can only come from authenticity and truth. And truth around motives is one of the first steps to naming what went wrong that ultimately led to the harm done.
Before apologizing, it can be helpful to write out the motives behind your negative action or response. This will help mitigate the tendency to “save face” or put on a defensive mask.
2. moving too quickly to “solving”
Listening to the ways you hurt someone is a painful experience. You might find yourself wanting to move into the “making things right” phase too quickly, leaving the hurt person feeling unheard and unacknowledged, or even that you’re unapologetic or apathetic.
Remember they might heal slower than you hope they do. They might bring up the hurt multiple times as they work through it. There might not be anything for you to “do” besides apologizing, giving them space, and being available.
And that’s okay.
3. Being too matter-of-fact
Sitting in emotions might be uncomfortable for you, especially when added to an already difficult situation like attempting to repair the hurt that you caused. This is understandable, but can also make it more difficult to apologize sincerely.
This is an emotional situation, and it’s natural, right, and just that emotions are part of the solution. Work on expressing how you imagine they feel, practice expressing how you feel (grieved, sorrowful, upset?), and be willing to listen and seek to understand whatever emotion they express.
Apology tips for type 3
- Practice radical honesty around your motives. None of us have shiny, pristine motives at all times. Not every harm we cause is a misunderstanding. Spend time getting to the heart of what went wrong inside that led to the outer hurtful action.
- Be patient as they work through their hurt. The repair will likely not happen on your timetable. Rushing this will lead to additional harm. Patience will show that you are safe for them to take their time.
- Listen to and name emotions. This can take practice and is likely more difficult in situations like this. Be aware of when you’re closing yourself off to your feelings (or theirs), and remind yourself that emotions are a necessary part of communicating and healing.
Where can type 4 get stuck in apologies?
1. expecting mutual empathy
You’re negatively impacted when you hurt others. It’s true. We all are. And you might need some deep healing as you walk through the consequences or feel the sting of a strained relationship.
But now isn’t the time to bring up your hurt that your actions brought to you. And it’s not their job to understand or empathize with you at this point.
That isn’t to say you can’t seek help and support of your own from a trusted relationship. You can and should. But refrain from putting that on the shoulders of the one you are apologizing to, and don’t require the emotional balm of mutual understanding before you will own up to your harmful actions.
2. becoming defensive of your actions
We all want to be judged by our intentions, and this is true for type 4 as well. Part of the “perfect storm” of defensiveness that can come up in type 4 is (1) internalizing spoken or unspoken negative opinions of yourself, (2) desiring to be fully known and understood, and (3) sometimes allowing your emotions to be your main decision-maker.
This can propel you into the defend and attack stance, which does not end up alleviating any of the three issues above but does add to the harm.
Refraining from defending your position is so important in naming what went wrong and expressing regret for your actions.
3. burning out on repair
It might be unintentional, but type 4 can sometimes be quick to try getting to where things feel okay between you again. You probably want to feel that you’re still connected and accepted for who you are.
But when trust is broken or we hurt someone that we’re close to, any repair is facilitated not just through heart-to-heart conversations, but through the important but mundane actions: showing that we meant our apology, consistently, over time.
Allow the other person to take their time, watch from a safe distance if need be, and continue to mean it with your actions.
Apology tips for type 4
- Allow misunderstanding to happen. You will probably feel some sense of discomfort in how you or your actions are being perceived. This is normal when someone is hurt by us. But it’s more important for them to hear your sincere apology than to understand your perspective on what led both of you here.
- Don’t justify actions with emotions. How we show up after hurting someone is so important and is what leads to a deeper connection in the long run. Don’t set that aside for momentary defensive points.
- Do the work, even when it’s boring. Real repair looks and feels really mundane. But the time, repetition, and trust you’re building is worth it, and will mean so much to that other person watching to make sure you meant it.
Where can type 5 get stuck in apologies?
1. apology overwhelm & avoidance
When you realize that you’ve hurt someone, you might fall quickly into overwhelm. The processing, preparation, discussion, and repair can feel like a mountain you don’t have the energy to climb.
This might lead you to avoid the discussion, and even avoid the person – and when not at your best, even blame the other person for overwhelming you by bringing up their grievance to you.
Repair takes energy – but it is also necessary energy spend. One way to look at it is an energy debt that you owe the other person. If you’ve negatively impacted someone, they deserve your energy to make it right. That doesn’t negate the fact that it will be difficult for you (and that’s valid too!), but make sure you make time, space, and bandwidth to make amends.
2. withdrawing from the relationship
Similar to #1, you might find yourself withdrawing from the relationship on some level, either to avoid the apology, to avoid the potential of hurting them again, or to avoid your own potential hurt.
This makes sense and can feel like safety, based on your coping mechanisms and fears as a type 5. But this is a tendency to gently interrogate and move past. Remind yourself that worthwhile relationships elevate your life and are worth taking the time and effort to mend when they’re strained.
You deserve healthy relationships and close connections. And yes, in the future you might be on the offending or receiving end of relational hurt. But staying soft to emotional connection is an important part of yourself to tend and cultivate.
3. impatience with emotional convos
It might be easier to require factual communication, problem-solving, and keeping any emotions from muddying up the apology conversation. Remember that emotions are a valid and important part of expressing grievances.
It can be helpful to prep yourself for the conversation and enter it ready to hear anything they want to express without steering away from emotional language. You might need solitude and time to recharge post conversation, which is completely valid and a good strategy to utilize.
But remember that not listening attentively and compassionately to how someone feels after being hurt by you (even if the reason is your own discomfort and fearing catastrophic depletion) will compound and add to the original hurt.
Apology tips for type 5
- Prepare yourself to expend energy. The process of making it right needs to be more about what they need to repair the relationship, as opposed to your own comfort level. Care for yourself through the situation, but not at the other person’s expense.
- Don’t avoid the relationship because it took energy to repair. While there are valid reasons to withdraw to safety in relationships sometimes, recognize when your own actions and choices were the reasons that extra energy was required. Relationships that are worth repairing are worth continuing to cultivate.
- Stretch your ’empathetic ear’ muscle. Listening to difficult emotions (especially ones caused by you) is a tough space for anyone, and likely even harder for you. But it’s so important to grow in this area, not only to repair, but also to avoid further hurt. It’s so worth it.
Where can type 6 get stuck in apologies?
1. testing loyalty
It can be tempting for type 6 to use situations where they’ve hurt someone to “gauge” the perceived loyalty of the hurt person. This is often unintentional but come off as a sort of “if you loved me, this wouldn’t be as big of a deal to you” kind of vibe, often unspoken, or in the form of self-deprecation and overt guilt.
Type 6, remember that unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional access or immediate reconciliation. Own up to the hurt you caused without reservation, and accept any healthy boundaries they may put in place – without making it mean something about their ability to be loyal to you. Letting the relationship be what it needs to be and choosing understanding instead of anxious uncertainty or reactive hurt will increase the chances of healing and reconciliation later on.
2. overexplaining what went wrong
You can probably see all of the “multiverses” where this outcome didn’t even happen, and you might find yourself saying things like “if I had just…” or “It all started when…” or “If only you had…”
Hear my heart, type 6. I understand where this is coming from – the retroactive anxiety that your misstep or bad choice brings up and unleashes in you. But it is not helpful to unload the different potential possibilities on someone when what they’re seeing and feeling is the actual, existing hurt that needs acknowledging. Talking about what would have avoided this outcome can feel like a justification to them, even though it feels very honest and truthful to you.
Be practical, concise, and simple in owning up to what went wrong (in this reality), and save the “what if’s” for a separate conversation with a different trusted friend.
3. emotional reactivity & justification
When worry is a common default, like it is for many type 6’s, self-protection can come up in the form of pointing fingers away from ourselves to assuage any guilt or anxiety about our past or present choices.
And when loyalty is a highly held value, finding a way to prove it wasn’t our fault or that we didn’t really let anyone down can seem like the most important thing. These reactions can soothe anxiety in the moment – but they also harm the relationship further.
Remind yourself that loyalty is not never messing up. Loyalty is what happens when things are hard, when you mess up, when you can either lean in or self-protect to someone else’s detriment. Choose loyalty. Lean into being a part of the healing, not just to soothe your anxiety, but to care for the people that you care about.
Apology tips for type 6
- Don’t conflate hurt with disloyalty. Remind yourself that after being hurt, it’s normal and often necessary to step back and assess what needs to happen moving forward. They can still be on your team and also need some boundaries.
- Avoid the overexplaining rabbit hole. When you get to the “explain what went wrong” part of an effective apology, treat it like a hot potato. Use as few words as possible, because this is where you can start to compound hurt by (seemingly) explaining the unavoidable circumstances that led to the hurt in the first place. Get in, get out, move on.
- Practice empathetic loyalty. Remember your big why when it comes to valuing loyalty – and show that to the person deserving of your apology. Be there for them. Show up. It’s so worth it.
Where can type 7 get stuck in apologies?
Rationalization is the primary defense mechanism in type 7, and it can come out very strongly and viscerally when we’re confronted with the hurt we’ve caused. This can look like reframing, justifying, explaining away responsibility, or pointing out how something you perceive as positive may not have happened if you hadn’t made the choice you made.
This compounds hurt upon hurt, as rationalization requires us to (perhaps unintentionally) discount or belittle someone else’s experience of what happened.
Remember that the coping mechanism that helps you avoid discomfort or accountability in situations like this will only end up straining the relationship further. Lean into uncomfortable honesty, believe their experience, and trust that the relationship will be better for walking through it all.
2. trying to escape or avoid
Accountability can sometimes feel like you’re being held hostage. While that’s not true, the feelings you may experience of being confined, trapped, or cornered are valid and real, and come from legitimate fears.
However, responding to those fears by blaming the other person, lashing out, or escaping/avoiding the conversation are not appropriate responses. Because the truth is, you’re not being trapped or cornered or threatened. You’re rightfully facing the consequences of harmful actions.
It can be helpful to have a trusted friend or unbiased third party present in difficult conversations like these to help ensure that everyone is treated with respect, and to be there to remind you when you’re not being attacked (or to have your back if you actually are).
3. impatience with repair
As someone who often looks to the future with optimism and anticipation, it can be hard when the other person is healing slower than you thought, or if bring up the lingering hurt after you thought it was handled.
This might lead to frustration with them or the relationship, or even to judgment of them, blaming them for holding a grudge, or you pulling back from them.
Remember that someone else’s timeline for healing is valid, even if it’s very different from your own. Practice differentiating between someone working through healing at their own pace and someone retaliating against you – these things might sometimes feel the same because they can both be uncomfortable to experience as a type 7, so it’s important to notice the differences.
Apology tips for type 7
- Avoid rationalizing, reframing, or justifying. Even if it seems logical to you, remember that how you experienced the circumstance isn’t as important as taking responsibility for the impact on the other person.
- Don’t avoid or escape. Facing accountability is not going to be a comfortable experience – but it’s not meant to be. Being a part of reconciling will require facing the issue straight on. Remind yourself that you can walk through it, but also remember that planning some decompressing activities post-conversation can be helpful to release any stress.
- Accept their post-apology timeline. There can be many factors that impact how long it takes to repair after hurt or betrayal. Being a type 7, you probably bounce back much faster than someone else might. Give space and time, and practice patience.
Where can type 8 get stuck in apologies?
1. reactive or unconscious denial
Denial is a deep-seated defense mechanism for type 8, stemming from the felt need to protect ourselves from negative experiences or emotionally harmful situations. When it comes to apologies, it can show up as denying the lived experience of the hurt party, denying facts altogether, or admitting to facts while diminishing the seriousness of them or our own personal responsibility.
More often than not, this denial is not only pointed outward but also inward – type 8, sometimes you’re rewriting reality without knowing it to protect yourself. This is why becoming aware of when denial is happening is so important.
If someone brings up a grievance with you, it can be helpful to not put up walls of denial immediately. Instead, listen to them, try to see how it could be true, and then match that up with your authentic experience (not the rewritten one) to see what you might need to unequivocally own up to.
2. avoiding vulnerability
Turning the responsibility for being hurt onto the injured party (for example “I’m sorry you’re hurt”) feels so much safer than taking responsibility (“I’m sorry that I hurt you”). It also feels like proof that we’ve apologized that we can pull out as a receipt if needed later on, when in reality that’s not what happened.
Sometimes this non-apology comes from ego (which every type is prone to, not just type 8). But often for type 8, apologizing is one of the most vulnerable things we can do – we are not only owning up to mistakes we don’t like having to face but also putting ourselves (willingly) at the mercy of another person whom we’ve hurt. This vulnerability goes against the protective measures type 8 has leaned on to get through life.
My encouragement to you is to practice that kind of honest vulnerability. This is the kind of uncomfortable action that leads to positive change.
3. trying to willpower forgiveness
You’ve faced and owned up to the actions that hurt them. You displayed true vulnerability by apologizing for those actions (not just for how they were feeling about them). But there’s another way you can get tripped up. You might sometimes find yourself leaning into action as if reconciliation or forgiveness is a matter of willpower on your part. But it’s not something you can choose for them.
It can be really hard to face a potential reality where your choices created a rift that requires boundaries on their end to protect them moving forward or heal from what happened. It’s a difficult place to be when we understand our harmful actions alone caused the problem, but our positive actions alone can’t fix it.
Try to practice patience as they work through what forgiveness and reconciliation look like. Don’t attempt to prove anything (except continued, steady consistency), or expect them to be on your timetable.
Apology tips for type 8
- Avoid denial of facts, feelings, or responsibility. It can be helpful to have a trusted friend who understands this defense mechanism and can help you see clearly and be empathetic.
- Don’t try to make a vulnerable situation invulnerable. The reality of apologies is it feels like putting ourselves in the hot seat. But don’t be confused – it’s the harmful action that put you in the hot seat, not the act of apologizing authentically. So choose vulnerability, as that’s the only way out that also protects the relationship.
- Let go of controlling their forgiveness. We can’t willpower forgiveness out of someone else. Not through our words, actions, impatience, or demands. Give them space to figure out what they need, and honor it.
Where can type 9 get stuck in apologies?
1. Avoiding the conversation
When we legitimately hurt someone, there’s understandable conflict in the relationship. As a type 9, the conflict itself brings up fear, and the weight of knowing it’s because of your actions or overthinking potential negative outcomes as a stress response can feel completely paralyzing.
This can lead to a potential protective measure of avoiding the conversation completely, quietly downplaying the severity, or withdrawing from the relationship itself.
Type 9, I know your heart is to heal what was hurt if possible. Face the fear of walking through a difficult conversation, allow yourself to be held accountable (without shrinking away), and make space for real harmony to have a chance to exist between you again. It might feel better short term to settle for silence (feeling like it’s avoiding the conflict). But difficult & honest apology conversations are always better than stewing & avoidant silence.
On the other side of the coin, you might find yourself apologizing for things that are not your responsibility, out of your control, or just plain have nothing to do with you. This is another example of potential conflict-avoidant protection.
Learning how to hold space for someone who’s hurting without taking ownership of causing the hurt is an important skill to practice. Making sure that you are not in the habit of apologizing for what’s not yours will avoid misunderstandings, build trust for when there is something to apologize for and keep you from building up resentment from those knee-jerk apologies.
Type 9, try taking a breath between someone bringing up a grievance and you responding. Get clear on what’s yours and what’s not, and respond accordingly.
3. removing boundaries to reconcile
Another area you can get tripped up is when offering repair. You might instinctually be willing to give over your autonomy, and personhood, and lower important boundaries in an attempt to make things right.
Remember that making things right should never be objectively punitive, degrading, vengeful, or blackmail-ish at all. If you ask “is there any way I can make this right” and the response sounds something like eye-for-an-eye, don’t give in in an effort to smooth things over.
In true healing, both parties should be respected through the apology/forgiveness/reconciliation process. Punitive demands in order to be forgiven is not going to lead to mutual healing.
Don’t lose yourself in this process. You have things to own up to – and it’s important to do so with honesty, humility, and integrity – but you will always still matter.
Apology tips for type 9
- Don’t avoid the apology conversation. This might feel like it’s going to end you, but it’s a necessary part of getting back to the harmony that’s real.
- Avoid over-apologizing (and fake apologies). Apologizing to get along again isn’t going to help the relationship – just flip the tables on who feels hurt or resentful.
- Embrace realistic repair. Remember that you matter. Own up to what’s yours to take accountability for. But don’t lose yourself in the process.
I hope these tips help you practice effective apologies and avoid misunderstandings!