If you’re not sure what the Enneagram is, but have heard people talk about it a lot – you’re not alone. It’s a personality typing tool, but it’s not like any others that you might know.
The Enneagram has been used for hundreds of years, dating right back to Benedictine Monks using the tool for spiritual growth. While its function and purpose has evolved over time, it’s now taking modern society by storm as an extremely popular personality typing tool. It’s still linked to spiritual health in many circles, particularly Christianity, but is widely being implemented in workplaces, therapy, and other studies as a tool for psychological insight.
Unlike other personality matrixes such as the famous Myers Briggs or Disc, the Enneagram is not static. It’s the most fluid personality tool I’ve found – and is my favourite because of this.
Ultimately its fluidity means that individuals are less confined to ‘a box’. The Enneagram acknowledges that behaviours and characteristics change when people are feeling stressed or secure.
It leaves space for two individuals who identify as the same core number to look completely different based on wings that they might lean on at different times or what stage of maturity they are in their number.
The whole point of tools like these is to use it as a starting point to allow yourself to grow. It’s never meant to be used as a box to put people in, or a long list of reasons to justify your behaviour just the way it is.
How to read the diagram
When I first saw the diagram above I just thought, “what the heck are all those lines and arrows”. But when you actually get to grips with it, it’s not as complicated as it appears, I promise!
As you can see above, the Enneagram has nine core personality types, each of which correspond with different basic desires, fears and motivations.
The lines between the numbers show the connection between these different characteristics, and demonstrate the paths each number follows when stressed or secure.
For example, if you follow the arrows you can see that 1s move to 4, and 4s move to 2 when stressed. When you follow the arrows backwards, it indicates security movements. For example, 2s move to 4, 4s move to 1, 1s move to 7.
Later in the series I’ll unpack what this means for each number and why we need these movements to survive. Initially it can just be useful to take a look at your number and those that it is connected to.
What about wings?
Each number leans into the numbers on either side of it, otherwise known as its ‘wing’ numbers. For example, 2 has 1 & 3 as its wings, and so on. Some people draw from their wing numbers more than others. But generally is just helps to demonstrate how even if you are a 2, you might not always behave the same way.
Sometimes you might draw from your 1 wing and prioritise organisation and perfectionism, sometimes you might draw from your 3 wing and be a hostess of the mostess! My best advice though is to not get too hung up on wings right away, come back to them at a later point when you’ve really got to grips with your core number.
Doing the Enneagram wrong
There’s a right and a wrong way to look at personality types, but if you find it is condemning, over simplistic, or used to justify negative behaviour – ditch that train of thought ASAP.
The Enneagram is not for:
- Excusing behaviour
- Putting people in a box
- Finding your worth
- Finding your identity
- Disregarding certain people because they’re the ‘wrong’ type
- Making unhelpful assumptions about others
- Telling people what they ‘are’
- Using it as a horoscope
- Allowing it to change your natural behaviour trying to be more like your number
- Taking an online test and believing everything it says
Doing the Enneagram right
When used correctly, it can be an incredibly useful tool that improves relationships, both with yourself and others. I’ve found engaging with the enneagram to be such a freeing process where I’ve finally discovered things about myself I couldn’t previously identify.
- Use it as a helpful tool to indicate preference
- Celebrate differences
- Gain empathy and understanding for others
- Appreciate how others work differently from you
- Unpack your personal challenges and triggers
- Identify red flags and coping solutions
- Find vocabulary to describe your feelings, thoughts and processes
- Articulate your desires, fears and needs
- Use in leadership positions to get the most out of your team
- Improve depth of communication and understanding in relationships
- Use as a starting point to grow from
Remember, no number or type is better than another.
We’re all created differently, but equal.
But it can be a lot of fun to look into what makes us tick!
If you’re keen to take your first step into understanding the Enneagram better, I’d recommend the following avenues…
- Take a test
While this can be a great place to start, I’d always recommend reading around the numbers and exploring which resonates best with you. Oftentimes the tests are a bit limited and if you took it on a stressful day, or a super happy day you could come out as your stress or security numbers etc.
- Read about the different numbers
I’d recommend The Enneagram Institute and Crystal Knows
- Chat to someone who understands the Enneagram, or knows you well
My Instagram DMs are always open for an Enneagram chat!
- Read books!
I could not recommend The Road Back To You more. While it is closely linked to Christianity and has a few areas written from a spiritual perspective, even if you’re not interested in the faith side of things it’s got some excellent and clear guidance on the Enneagram.
- Stay tuned for my upcoming blogs about finding your number and understanding the depths of the Enneagram