I think we all know people who could easily be described as peacemakers. Usually, they are the quiet ones in the conversation who mostly listen, but they don’t say much. They aren’t necessarily limited to being a certain type of personality, as it is more of a characteristic that they project. We often view these people as the nice ones, or the good ones. That is perfectly ok because, usually they are! They are easy to like and easy to respect, however, they can also be easily overlooked.
There are different aspects of a peacemaker that I will discuss today: healthy and average. The healthy traits of a peacemaker, according to the Enneagram1 definition are:
- Deeply receptive accepting, unselfconscious, emotionally stable, and serene
- Patient, unpretentious, good-natured, genuinely nice people
- Having a healing and calming influence
- A good mediator, synthesizer, and communicator
If a person is a healthy peacemaker, they can understand the different sides to a conversation and can formulate the right words that will de-escalate a situation. In this regard, there is communication and closure. These persons may not say much, but when they do, their words are small in quantity, but are largely effective in quality. The main point here is that to truly be a peacemaker, you must be able to make peace; and this requires the ability to communicate well.
Now, turning the attention to a person who is an average ‘peacemaker’, they will shut down at the sign of any confrontation and stuff their opinions and thoughts inside. But the unspoken will only accumulate to an unbearable degree with only one escape route; hence the inevitable inner implosion that is expressed in an outward explosion. This explosion will manifest itself in different forms such as emotional breakdowns, angry outbursts or even passive aggressive treatment to the person causing their frustration.
Many of the victims that I have worked with have the peacemaker characteristic and, sadly, that is exactly why they were targeted. This is why I think it is important to define the healthy and unhealthy differences of what a true peacemaker is. In my research for this topic, I found it interesting that the average traits of a peacemaker overlapped a little with the traits of a person with an Avoidant Personality Disorder.
The Enneagram1 lists some of the aspects of an average peacemakers as:
- Fearing conflict
- Idealizing others and “going along” with their wishes
- Saying “yes” to things they do not really want to do
- Walk away from problems and “sweep them under the rug”
- Minimize problems to appease others to have ‘peace any price’
Compare the above traits to what The Cleveland Hospital lists as traits of Avoidant Personality Disorder2:
- They are oversensitive and easily hurt by criticism or disapproval.
- They have few, if any, close friends and are reluctant to become involved with others unless certain of being liked.
- They experience extreme anxiety (nervousness) and fear in social settings and in relationships, leading them to avoid activities or jobs that involve being with others.
- They tend to be shy, awkward, and self-conscious in social situations due to a fear of doing something wrong or being embarrassed.
- They tend to exaggerate potential problems.
- They seldom try anything new or take chances.
- They have a poor self-image, seeing themselves as inadequate and inferior.
I, emphatically, am not saying that persons with a peacemaker personality have an Avoidant Personality Disorder. I am simply saying that both characteristics can produce the same result which do not generate peace. In actuality, they incite a lack of peace and only serve to prolong an inevitable confrontation of some sort. And this confrontation can be even more harmful and dangerous in the context of an abusive relationship. A narcissistic abuser will take advantage of these personality types because it is easy for them to manipulate and take control of them. As I explained in Ebony: Part 2 and Pass the Baton, abusers know how to target their victims and peacemaker (average) personalities and those with avoidant personality disorders are usually their prime targets.
Both Effie and Ebony can be described as peacemakers, however, they were of the average peacemaker description and their ‘explosions’ were exposed in different ways. In Silent Prison, Effie was isolated from everyone she knew and was left at home with three young children to raise, practically alone. After getting to know her better, she admitted that she could only stay silent for so long. Whenever Effie reached her end, she would lose her ability to control her insecurities and would erupt into emotional verbal attacks on her husband. She would break down and sob and accuse him of being a cheater and a liar. Now, mind you, what she was saying was factual, but the confrontation was done in the heat of an argument that she couldn’t win. He knew how to manipulate her and would immediately remind her of her failures such as losing her temper and treating her husband with disrespect; and this was enough to humiliate her and shut her down. Her inner turmoil not only remained inside, but it became worse because she was, once again, shoved back into her place of being silent. The emotional upsurges only grew in intensity throughout the duration of the marriage.
In Ebony’s case, whenever her explosion was at hand, it manifested in angry outbursts that caused seriously intense arguments with Dick, which often resulted in law enforcement being called to the scene. Whenever the arguments were over, Dick would become the humble and apologetic one. Neither the humility, nor the apologies were ever legitimate, but were successful manipulative tactics that silenced Ebony back into submission.
Both Effie and Ebony did their best to remain silent and to keep the peace at all costs. However, all they accomplished was to allow themselves to let their inner anger grow and cause them more harm than good when they couldn’t take being silent any longer. The cost was their lack of peace and a harmful pattern that repeatedly put them in more danger each time their inner ‘bombs’ exploded.
It is important to see this subject from a totally different viewpoint and this one is personal for myself. Not only can abusers easily take control of situations involving peacemaker personalities and those with avoidant personality disorders, but people with strong personalities can also take control. However, it is in the motives where the difference between the two lies.
I have talked about how I have a strong personality before (Nini) and that it is very easy for me to lead a conversation and to make any decision. For instance, if a group of us are trying to decide where to go out to dinner and no one will give their opinion, I will. I know what I like, I know what I want, and I know where I enjoy eating dinner; so, I will happily make the decision. Having said that, if anyone does choose to give their opinion, I will go with that too! I don’t need to be in control, but I will take it if no one else will. That is simply my Commander personality (ENTJ)3. Those who know me well, know that I am willing to listen to others’ opinions and that I respect those opinions. This is one of those gray areas between a narcissist and a strong personality as I described in To Be or Not to Be.
Peacemakers, in the healthy form, are some of the strongest people around. They are the levelheaded ones who think before they speak and should be greatly respected. I admire these personality types and when they speak, I certainly listen. I may be as strong as a lion (I am a Leo after all!) but I respect the lamb-like gentleness of peacemakers. After all, gentleness is really strength under control.
Until next time, listen more and stay safe!