What’s the Enneagram definition?
The Enneagram is commonly used as a system that describes personal dynamics, behaviors and motivations. It has become popular among people who are interested in making their life better, both personally and professionally. The system describes nine core types of people and is helpful to better understand yourself, others and your inter-personal interactions.
What’s the Enneagram origin?
The Enneagram origin as a system of personalities was precipitated by Oscar Ichazo in the 1950s in his work Enneagram of Personality and later by Claudio Naranjo in the 1970s. The Enneagram draws on the wisdom of ancient traditions. For instance, the Enneagram is thought to be reflected in Plotinus’ 3rd-century work, The Enneads.
Russian born George Gurdjieff introduced the Enneagram diagram or Enneagram symbol to the West in the early 20th century. Gurdjieff saw the Enneagram was as a tool to describe dynamical flows associated with the nine Enneagram energies. It is thought that Gurdjieff coined the term Enneagram from the Greek ennea = nine and gramma = figure.
Inspired by Gurdjieff, German psychologist Klausbernd Vollmar describes the connection between energy flows and personality in his book, The Secret of Enneagrams. Vollmar’s work inspired me to draw the connection between the Enneagram and team-based problem solving that I describe in my book, Teamwork 9.0, with the goal of using the Enneagram at work to improve team effectiveness.
Why are there nine Enneagram types?
This question speaks to Enneagram validity. The most satisfying answer I have found to this question comes from Peter Savich in his Enneagram book Personality and the Brain. Savich theorizes that the two parts of the brain that drive the behaviors associated with the Enneagram are the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
In our bi-cameral brain, there are two sides of each part, and each side is responsible for a different response. For instance, the amygdala is our fight-or-flight processor and the pre-frontal cortex is our optimism-pessimism processor.
Just as each of us can be right handed, left handed or ambidextrous depending on the asymmetric dominance of our motor cortex, the amygdala has three dominances and the prefrontal cortex has three dominances: 3 times 3 equals 9. In other words, the various combinations of dominance between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex yield the nine Enneagram types that we observe.
What are the nine Enneagram personality types?
It’s inadequate to describe the nine types with one-word labels. That said, the one-word labels are useful when first learning the system since the words provide a reference to a certain personality archetype.
Type 1 – The Perfectionist
Type 2 – The Helper
Type 3 – The Achiever
Type 4 – The Romantic
Type 5 – The Observer
Type 6 – The Questioner
Type 7 – The Adventurer
Type 8 – The Asserter
Type 9 – The Peacemaker
I provide a brief overview of the nine Enneagram types in chapter 1 of my book Teamwork 9.0. You can access that chapter for free here.
One of my favorite Enneagram reference books is The Enneagram Made Easy by Elizabeth Wagele and Renee Baron. I borrow the descriptions above from their book.
How do I discover my Enneagram personality type?
There are many quizzes available that guide you towards your dominant type. I find that the quizzes are better at informing you which type you are NOT than which type you ARE. Therefore, the quiz can be used as a process of elimination. Take a quiz, eliminate the low-scoring types, and keep the high-scoring types. Read more about each high-scoring type to determine which one matches you most closely. If you have friends or family who are familiar with the Enneagram, they may also be willing to give you some suggestions.
Enneagram personality test free of charge: www.enneasurvey.com
Using this Enneagram assessment, you will see your Enneagram results immediately after you take this free quiz.
How do you use the Enneagram in business?
There are workflows associated with teamwork, and there is an order in which that work occurs. Reflecting on Vollmar’s writings, it occurred to me that the Enneagram can be used to describe the sequential order in which business teams coalesce to solve problems. The Enneagram energies, one through nine, reflect the steps in that sequential order. Chapter 2 of Teamwork 9.0 describes this sequence and is a way you can use the Enneagram for business. Here is a summary of the steps:
Step 1: Problem-Goal — Identify the problems and define the goals.
Step 2: Stakeholder Identification — Recruit a committed team
Step 3: Ideation — Generate ideas for solutions.
Step 4: Emotional Reaction — Assess reactions to each idea.
Step 5: Logical Analysis — Study and score promising ideas.
Step 6: Planning — Select the most promising idea and build an action plan.
Step 7: Promotion — Passionately promote the plan and get approval to proceed.
Step 8: Implementation — Execute the plan and solve the problem!
Step 9: Integration — Confirm the problem is solved with all stakeholders.
I elaborate on these steps in this video:
What are Enneagram Wings?
Every Enneagram type has a range of behaviors and the Enneagram system has several explanations for this range, one of which is called Enneagram wings.
Every Enneagram Type has two wings, the types on either side along the circle. For example, Type 6 wings are Type 5 and Type 7.
There is a convention to denote the wing of each type using a “w.” For instance Type 6 with a 5 wing is denoted 6w5. Likewise, for the 7 wing it’s 6w7.
One way to use the wings is to describe the tendency of each type towards being introverted or extroverted.
*Note: it’s a tough call for me to determine whether the naturally introverted Type 5 would be more introverted with a 4 or a 6—likewise for the extroverted 5.
What are the intrinsic motivations of each Enneagram type?
Type 1: Getting it right.
Type 2: Receiving appreciation.
Type 3: Receiving recognition for accomplishments.
Type 4: Immersing oneself in emotional stimulation.
Type 5: Feeling safe by collecting resources.
Type 6: Avoiding risks.
Type 7: Being liked.
Type 8: Securing control of their environment.
Type 9: Reducing conflict in their environment.
Here’s a graphical depiction of the nine Enneagram motivations:
I elaborate on the nine distinct motivations described by the Enneagram in this video:
What are the blind spots of each Enneagram type?
This question really deserves a detailed answers for each type. In one sentence I would say, …
Type 1: Too much focus on problems and what is “right”, and not enough on people.
Type 2: Minimal sense of other’s personal space and thinking they know better what a person needs than the person themselves.
Type 3: Lack of awareness of people’s feelings and minimization of others’ personal situations.
Type 4: Overemphasis on feelings and minimization of logic and reason as a guide.
Type 5: Fear of being “wrong” inhibits making a decision or taking action.
Type 6: Immersion in everything that could go wrong makes it difficult to get enthusiastic about what can go right.
Type 7: Inability to deal with negativity.
Type 8: Lack of care about consequences of their actions on others.
Type 9: Inability to assert themselves and what is right for them.
Can the Enneagram be used for rapport building?
Yes! I elaborate how to build rapport with each Enneagram type in this series of blogs:
Also, I explain how to build rapport with each Enneagram type in this video:
What is the difference between the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®?
While both the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) demonstrate that there exist a multiplicity of personality styles, I find that the Enneagram speaks better to how the behaviors of a given personality type can change over time. Also, the Enneagram is more than a personality system–it can also serve as a problem-solving framework, the topic of my book Teamwork 9.0.
I elaborate on some of the differences between the two systems in this blog post:
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