Ever since I was very young, I remember being fascinated by what motivated people to do what they did, to behave incongruently from they way they talked, and what made them tick in general. On my dorm floor in college, I was known as the “psychoanalyzer of everything.” No wonder I became a therapist!
Since I love figuring out what makes people act the way they do and what motivates their behaviors, I love using personality assessments as one of the ways of understanding people. I remember taking the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator and being surprised as to how well it understood who I was. Then Maryanne introduced me to the True Colors assessment, which I also found interesting.
A few years ago, Maryanne introduced me to the Enneagram personality tool. If you are not familiar with the Enneagram, here is what it is: The Enneagram describes nine personality types which are represented on a geometric figure with each number corresponding to a different personality type:
I must say that when I first heard the Enneagram had only nine numbers to describe the complex human personality traits we all possess, I was underwhelmed. I didn’t think it was possible and I was pretty skeptical.
It wasn’t until I gave it a chance that I started to see the richness it offered to those who wanted to dig deeper. That this is the key—you have to dig deeper into the Enneagram to understand how it works and how all the numbers are interconnected.
Also, don’t assume that you know what your number is just from looking at the description of each of the types. For example, when I first saw all the types, I thought for sure I was a Peacemaker (Mediator), Number 9.
I wasn’t. You really need to take a well-designed, valid assessment in order to know what your number is. I am actually a Helper, Number 2. Even as Number 2, I have a lot of qualities in common with my neighboring numbers, Number 3—the Investigator and Number 1—the Perfectionist. The test I took indicated I leaned more toward the Perfectionist, which would not be a surprise to those who know me.
You can still dig even deeper in the Enneagram. One other thing that it offers is to show you what personality type you lean toward under stress (Number 8 for me) and under growth (Number 4 for me). You can keep digging and see what stance you have—are you the self-preserving type or socially-leaning type?
One other thing that I really appreciate about the Enneagram is that each personality type asks you to think about your shadow side—the not-so-good things about your type. For example, for me as a Helper, I can get overwhelmed with helping and start feeling sorry for myself. How do I avoid doing that? Setting good boundaries and caring for myself. What a great reminder for daily practice in my life!
I hope I whet your appetite a bit about what the Enneagram can provide as a way of understanding ourselves, our behaviors and motivations, and our ways to grow and evolve.
In this series, we will be looking at many of the different aspects of the Enneagram. I hope you will enjoy the journey into the Enneagram as much as this skeptic has!
If you would like to the take the Enneagram assessment, one of the best ones out there is:
My favorite book on the Enneagram:
Journey Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Susan Stabile
My favorite podcasts about the Enneagram:
Typology with Ian Morgan Cron
Enneagram Mapmakers with Chris Heuertz