I’m so glad you’re here because the Enneagram just may well change your life as it did mine. I’ve been using the Enneagram as a map for all my relationships (with loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers alike!) since I was in grad school back in the mid-nineties. It might do as it did for me: deepen your understanding of yourself by about a million-fold and deepen your understanding of others every bit as much.
Below I’ve provided you with a brief snapshot of each of the nine personality types so you can see if you’re an obvious fit for one of them. After the short explanation of each type, I’ve provided some tips on how to select your type if it’s not yet jumping out at you. Then, if these two steps alone don’t yield up your type in a straightforward way, I strongly encourage you not to give up… just take the initiative in that case to do a more purposeful dive in! Please hop on the internet and do some research and take some proper Enneagram tests for yourself!
There are lots of more thorough and elaborate explanations of the Enneagram types than I am offering here and now. Here I’m offering you a savory, lovingly cooked taste of the Enneagram, with hopes you will choose to take it upon yourself to go back to the table for a whole plate. I also hope that it becomes a meal you return to regularly for the sake of better quality of life for you, and for the sake of better quality relating with others, forevermore.
THE NINE TYPES
Ones are the principled, disciplined, virtuous, obedient type. They usually appear “together” and on-track, and are often criticized for being “uptight”, “preachy” or a “goody two-shoes”. Their attention naturally goes to comparing the ideal of a situation to its reality, and they feel a tremendous sense of responsibility toward fixing what they find to be imperfect. At their worst, their need to maintain good behavior and perfection can cause them to become resentful, judgmental, anxious, and hypercritical of themselves and others. At their best, ones are able to adopt a more expansive and long-term quest for perfection (perfectionism morphing rather into a desire for “reform” and “improvement”), and to use their idealism and commitment to values of goodness to inspire real change in the world.
Twos are the warm, generous, nurturing, loving, friendly type. Theyʼre usually extroverted and positive, and are prone to people pleasing through flattery and favors. Twosʼ attention naturally goes to the unmet needs of the people and situations around them, and they respond by offering to help where their efforts will be most effective. This makes them highly intuitive and often quite powerful, albeit in the support position. At their worst, their denied needs spill over and they can become manipulative; guilt-tripping others, openly expressing possessiveness, demanding reciprocity, and remaining oblivious to their behavior. At their best, twos learn to love and take care of themselves, to reign in their tendency to over-give to others, and to instead become balanced, highly altruistic, and truly selfless givers.
Threes are the successful, driven, excelling, “achiever” type. Like ones, they appear “put together” and on-track, but in place of the oneʼs edge of perfectionism is the threeʼs effort to appear impressive and win approval. Threes can sometimes come across as “smooth-talking” and as unabashed self-promoters, but all in all, their presentation is that of the perfect model of success in their chosen field (or area of life). Their attention goes both to what will please the crowd in any given moment, and to the most efficient way of earning that applause. At their worst, this need to project a persistently winning image can make threes superficial, “cardboard,” ruthless in their pursuit of goals, and prone to producing results that dazzle but lack substance. At their best, threes allow their authentic selves to merge with the image they have created, and serve as genuine role models for others.
Fours are the romantic, dramatic, artistic, temperamental type. They usually come across as deep, self-expressive, creative, individualistic, and sometimes aloof. Their attention goes to what is missing in a situation, usually on the level of emotions (they pick up primarily on other peoplesʼ lack of depth, substance, or authenticity), and they are the most intuitive of the personality types. At their worst, their depth of feeling can cause bipolar-like mood swings, push/pull patterns in relationships, and endless fantasizing about their dream life in place of full participation in their present one (or in place of actively building the fantasy life). At their best, they can use their capacity for depth and self-awareness to produce extraordinary works of art, as well as to exhibit profound originality and self-expression in whatever they choose to create.
Fives are the intellectual, emotionally reserved, cerebral type. They will often come across as highly analytical, alternative thinkers, and can sometimes seem like detached loners. Their attention goes to the intellectualization of what they are experiencing, making them extremely good at observing the patterns of life and dynamics between people. At their worst, this type tends to replace direct experience with life and people, with concepts and ideas. They retreat into their minds and their books, and withdraw from real participation in the world. At their best, fives are able to bring their vast knowledge and innovative ideas to life, and become highly visionary.
Six is the most loyal and security-oriented type (loyal to people, principles, and ideas) while also being suspicious and anxious. Highly perceptive, their gift is to see the grey areas of things and accurately read between the lines. They often, however, come across as a bundle of contradictions and as endless devilʼs advocates who will question or doubt something just for the sake of it. Similar to fours, a sixʼs attention naturally goes to what is beyond the surface, but unlike the fourʼs search for depth of feeling, sixes are searching for hidden motives or unforeseen problems. At their worst, this external search to explain internal anxiety can lead sixes to become paranoid, to project their anxieties onto others, and to attach themselves to the first sign of security, only to later rebel against it. At their best, sixes are able to use their keen perceptions, trouble-shooting skills, and valuing of teamwork to become truly loyal and indispensable assets to the people and organizations they trust.
Seven is the happy-go-lucky, versatile, spontaneous type. They are epicures, loving adventure and glamour and great food and drink, and they are often something of a “jack of all trades.” They maintain busy lives with many tentative plans in place at once, and come across as fun-loving and enthusiastic. Their attention in any situation goes to what is new, exciting and interesting, to what will happen next. At their worst, sevensʼ desire to avoid pain can make them scattered and reckless, and cause them to have a difficult time staying with projects and relationships. At their best, sevens become fascinated with both the positive and negative sides of life, and can learn to find delight in the full range of experience. This enables them to apply their highly active, optimistic brains and dazzling array of talents, to making a truly meaningful and sustained contribution while also being a master of genuine well-being.
Eights are the assertive, decisive, straight-talking “boss/leader” type. Like sevens, eights have big personalities and a strong attraction to the pleasures of life, but in place of the sevenʼs avoidance of pain is the eightʼs avoidance of vulnerability. “Survival of the fittest” is an eight concept. Eightsʼ attention looks for situations where they can assert and re-affirm their power, making them natural leaders and powerful friends. At their worst, they have a tendency to be controlling, intimidating and confrontational, as well as emotionally cut-off in the effort to be “tough”. At their best, eights become heroic contributors, using their strength to assist and protect others, and to build a better, more just world.
Nines are the receptive, reassuring, agreeable, non-judgmental type. They often come across as warm, patient, good listeners who are easy to be around, and as highly agreeable. A classic nine reaction to the question, “what do you want to do?” would be, “I donʼt care, whatever you want to do.” The nineʼs attention merges with the thoughts and feelings of others, and they fall asleep to their own position in the indecision between compliance with or defiance against outside demands. At their worst, this tendency to fall asleep to themselves can cause them to be neglectful, undeveloped, passive aggressive, stubborn, and unable to move forward. At their best, nines learn to develop their talents and personal expression, and can use their ability to understand all points of view to synthesize many seemingly conflicting schools of thought, as well as to be excellent mediators and genuine peacemakers.
STILL NOT SURE OF YOUR TYPE?
1. Focus on the negative and the positive aspects of each type.
At our best, weʼre embodying the noblest qualities of human spirit, and while still distinctive and unique, weʼre in touch with the abundant, universal qualities that connect us as humans. These include love, compassion, tolerance, understanding, mindfulness, sensitivity, serenity, non- judgment, accomplishment, genius, the ability to see the higher picture, etc. Thus, if you look at the Enneagram levels of health, the healthiest levels of each type all start to resemble one another. Itʼs when weʼre under stress and in bad habits that our type is most obvious. So try to think of yourself at your absolute worst—do you become:
• Uptight, tense, judgmental, critical, and resentful (type 1)? • Manipulative, controlling, needy, possessive, and guilt tripping (type 2)? • Attention-seeking, self-promoting, hostile, contemptuous, and machine-like in your drive (type 3)? • Melancholic, depressed, self-hating, envious of others, and melodramatic (type 4)? • Isolated, reclusive, high-strung, radical, eccentric, delusional (type 5)? • Panicky, paranoid, reactive, irrational, and self-doubting (type 6)? • Reckless, demanding, scattered, hyperactive, prone to addiction and general excessiveness (type 7)? • Bullying, intimidating, emotionally detached, hard-hearted, controlling (type 8)? • Checked-out, passive, neglectful, unresponsive to demands, and fantasizing to avoid reality (type 9)?
2. Focus on the differences, not the similarities, of each type.
Type 1, 3, 7 and 8 can all look alike because these are the most outwardly busy and productive of the types. The difference between these personalities lies in the reason for their productivity, and the resulting style of their work. Respectively, the types are driven to:
• work for absolute perfection, eyeing details and control (type 1) • work for admirable successes, eyeing expedience and impressiveness (type 3) • work for fun and excitement, eyeing novelty and future plans (type 7) • work for power and control, eyeing challenges and leadership (type 8)
Types 2, 4, 6, and 9 can look alike, because these are the most intuitive and relationship oriented. Each of the types are driven to:
• intuit the needs of others, and adjust their personality to meet those needs (type 2) • intuit whatʼs special about others, and prove what is special in themselves (type 4) • intuit the hidden motives of others, and determine who is worthy of trust (type 6) • intuit the pain of others, and facilitate healing by not igniting it (type 9)
Types 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 are the more extroverted types, meaning that they extend themselves toward others. But they have different motivations. Each of the types is extroverted in order to:
• form relationships with others by being helpful (type 2) • project a successful image by impressing others (type 3) • form alliances with others to establish a security system(type 6) • enjoy the company of others by being entertaining (type 7) • establish their power with others by being assertive (type 8)
Types 1, 4, 5, and 9, are more introverted, meaning they move away from others in order to:
• protect themselves against impurities or distractions (type 1) • protect themselves against the disappointing world and exposing their fatal flaw(type 4) • protect themselves against the intrusion of the external world (type 5) • protect themselves against the demands of others and disruption to their peace (type 9)
3. Narrow down the two or three types that ring true for you.
The Enneagram unfolds as a spectrum of sorts, so we can be a blending of two types (called type wings). If your personality type jumps out at you immediately, you are probably a pure expression of your type. If none of the descriptions are resonating with you, youʼre probably one of the types with a very strong wing.
Often if your type is truly difficult to pinpoint, you are a personality type nine. Nine, being the last point on the Enneagram (many actually say itʼs the first), and the type to merge with others and with their environments, nines--much more so than the other types--can have attributes of all the types, and exhibit them at different points in their lives, depending on what their circumstances call for.
Types 2 and 6 are also possibilities if you are having difficulty identifying your type. Twos adjust their personalities to “people please” and to meet the needs of others. So like nines, they often lack a strong sense of their own identity. Meanwhile, the doubtful, skeptical nature of sixes often causes them to doubt their type when they first discover it.