I can’t remember when I first heard about the Enneagram test — it might have been when my sister told me about her boss being obsessed with everyone in their office learning their type, or last Thanksgiving, when my cousin gave me the full rundown with a list of podcasts and books to learn more. Point is, it’s been floating around my world for the last year or so, but a part of me resisted the idea of being typecast; I feel so strongly that each of us is a unique and one-of-a-kind combination of our nature and environment. And while I believe that’s true, everything changed for me more recently when I dipped my toe into the Enneagram waters and had my “aha” moment:
The Enneagram is intended to be a tool for understanding the motivations behind human behavior.
The idea that the framework isn’t supposed to fully to describe who someone is, but is more about learning the motivations behind their actions, really jived with me. For those of you who aren’t yet up to speed on the Enneagram, here are the basics (I took this from The Enneagram Institute’s site, just click over if you want to get a better understanding since there’s a LOT)
Basic Personality Types.
The Enneagram can be seen as a set of nine distinct personality types, with each number on the Enneagram denoting one type. It is common to find a little of yourself in all nine of the types, although one of them should stand out as being closest to yourself. This is your basic personality type. You can take the test from the Enneagram Institute here, or I also highly recommend just reading through these descriptions to see which word cluster resonates most with you.
Everyone is a unique mixture of his or her basic type and usually one of the two types adjacent to it on the Enneagram chart. One of the two types adjacent to your basic type is called your wing. Your basic type dominates your overall personality, while the wing complements it and adds important, sometimes contradictory, elements to your total personality. Your wing is the “second side” of your personality, and it must be taken into consideration to better understand yourself or someone else.
Levels of Development.
The nine Levels of Development within each type reveals how qualities can change when the individual is healthy, average, and unhealthy. We’re all changing all the time: sometimes we’re more free, grounded, and emotionally available; other times we’re more anxious, reactive, and emotionally volatile. All of us are shifting along the spectrum of the motivations and traits that make up our personality type.
On last month’s CS team retreat, we all took the Enneagram test and spent the most fun evening around the campfire sharing our results, and discussing what did and didn’t resonate with us. It was so interesting to learn about each of my coworker’s types, and how it impacts their fears, strengths, and motivations. I really did walk away understanding and appreciating each member of our team on a deeper level.
I asked each of our team members to share their biggest discovery or takeaway from the Enneagram, and here’s what they said…
Everyone has a basic fear and a basic desire.
For each personality type on the Enneagram, there is a basic fear and a basic desire. I found it fascinating to read about the motivating factors for all the types, not just my own.
When you understand what the people around you truly desire (and what they fear), it’s easier to be empathetic to their emotions and understand their behavior.
I’m a four, so supposedly expressing myself artistically is one of my biggest driving factors. I think that’s so true! – Jenn Rose
It’s not about stereotypes.
The Enneagram goes way deeper than the nine basic personality types — the complex system allows for an ebb and flow based on where you currently are in life. And as you dig deeper into your Enneagram, your understanding of your own personality (and that of friends, partners, coworkers, etc.) can deepen. As you discover your strengths and weaknesses, you can actually break out of negative cycles that you may not have even been aware of.
So, instead of being “put in a box,” the Enneagram can be used to help you expand and grow into your fullest potential.
Trust your gut.
As a Peacemaker (any other 9s out there?), the results noted that we are body-based with a “strong gut sense of knowing”. This really resonated with me because when I think back to making any major decisions against my gut (that gave me that sick to my stomach feeling), I’ve regretted it.
Luckily I’ve gotten pretty good about listening and trusting my gut – it’s telling me something!
Understanding another person’s motivations makes us more empathetic.
Talking about the Enneagram with the team gave me so many insights into everyone else’s core motivators and how they play out in their lives.
I loved getting to share mine with the team – I felt as if it gave them a glimpse into who I truly am.
Overall, the enneagram has softened me toward the incredible women I work with – I am able to understand them on a deeper and more meaningful level! – Rachelle
Lean into discomfort.
I learned that as a 7, my most basic desires are to be satisfied, content, and happy, so my mission is to make sure other people feel those ways too. The reality that life is not always wonderful is where things get complicated for us 7’s.
Because we hate pain and negativity, we are driven to avoid these things at all costs — responding instead with cheery denial and assurances that everything will be fine soon.
We shove any negative emotions away out of fear of not ‘being happy and having it all together’. I am so good at this, and it’s actually something I’ve been working through in therapy a lot this past year, so this made total sense to me. – Kat
Everyone’s got their blind spots.
I’ve long been a fan of personality type quizzes – if there’s a “what’s your energetic type” or even just a “what friends character are you” test I’m taking it and making the people around me to take it too. While some are fun for a laugh, I love how tests can give actual insight into the people around me! With our team, I loved getting to hear about the numbers people identified with and how they felt that the info translated to them in particular. The enneagram, in particular, is great for finding blind spots in your own life, but also for understanding where someone else might be coming from.
For my type (type 9) I have a deep desire to create harmony in my environment, and understanding what makes people tick around you is a great place to start!
Have you guys discovered your Enneagram type? I’d love to hear in the comments what you learned and if it resonated with you!