What’s Up with the Enneagram?

A few years ago, a friend of mine sent me what I thought was another personality test. On the surface that appeared to be accurate. The test took about 5 minutes and asked me a series of questions about how I felt about certain things, what I would do in certain situations, etc. Then you plug in your email address, wait sixty seconds and voila! A few numbers appear and suggest an enneagram type. You then can follow the link to learn more about this type.

My results came back and suggested that I was an 8, the challenger. That sounded interesting to me since I do enjoy challenging the status quo as well as challenging myself. I clicked the link to learn more. On the description page I was told that an 8 is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational. That still sounded like me, so I read on. As I continued on with the more in depth description, it was impressively accurate. It talked about how the basic fear of an 8 is being controlled by someone else, how people with this personality are fiercely independent but also look to be protective to those closest to them. At the bottom it showed examples of what this personality type looks like at healthy levels, at average levels, and at unhealthy levels. Fascinating. I could see various parts of myself in several different levels. Then underneath of that, was a compatibility chart explaining how an 8 gets along with the other personality types in the Enneagram. This would become more interesting once I learned the types of my husband and kids, my coworkers and my friends.

There are 9 numbers around the Enneagram wheel. Each of those numbers stands for a type. On the surface, that seems simple, but when you really delve in, you realize that there are a myriad of subtypes as well as levels to each type. As I have studied and learned and given the test to many people at this point, I have come to see the Enneagram less as a simple personality test and more as a way of seeing the world. Each of the types has certain tendencies in health and not as well as certain fears, strengths and weaknesses. It has been extremely enlightening when looking at how I interact with various people in my life. If I understand their basic tendencies, fears and strengths it makes me more understanding and less frustrated that they don’t see things my way.

With my husband for example. He is a 6, the loyalist. He is engaging, responsible and personable. He also has a tendency to worry and process things out loud. I remember a few years back there was an incident where someone did something very hurtful toward him and our family. He was extremely sad and anxious about what would happen as a result. He went around verbally processing the situation with multiple people that he trusted, including me. He wanted to talk about what had happened and what it could mean for the future and he verbally played out all of the worst case scenarios. When he wasn’t talking to me, he was pacing the floor talking to his dad about it on the phone, rehashing stuff I had just heard him saying to me. I on the other hand felt rage. I texted my friends to let them know what had happened and explicitly said that I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to process it out loud. I wanted to set up an unsanctioned fight in the parking lot.

Now that I know more about the Enneagram, this tracks. The numbers are set up in a circle and within the circle, there are triads. My type is in the gut triad, also sometimes called the body triad. We feel things in a visceral way and tend to react based on instinct. My husband’s type belongs to the head triad, which means he spends a lot more time with his thoughts and processes things in a more intellectual way. Knowing this information actually helps me in two ways. First, it makes me less frustrated that he wants to talk through something for the twentieth time. I know that is his way of processing the world. Second, it helps me see how we balance each other out. I can help him get to the point of making a decision after ruminating on it for a while and he can help talk me off the ledge when I am ready to bite someone’s head off.

The Enneagram is also really helpful when studied on a team. I work with collegiate athletic teams and had everyone from one particular team take the Enneagram test a few years ago, including the coaches. The results were fascinating. The first thing we discovered was that almost half of the team had the same basic personality type. They were ones. The one has been dubbed the Reformer. They tend to be principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic. It makes sense that in a group of high level athletes, there would be a contingent of ones. It was very helpful to me as I created team building activities and communicated with them to understand the basic lens through which they saw the world.

It was also helpful in understanding how they related with the rest of the girls on the team. We also had several threes on the team. The threes are Achievers. They tend to be pragmatic, driven and image-conscience. Both types are very goal based and hard working. A potential trouble stop though is that they both may be so task oriented, that they neglect emotional connection to each other and when rough patches come they don’t have enough relational connection to fall back on. Knowing this at the outset of the season, I was able to create opportunities for them to build meaningful relationship to avoid this pitfall.

If you are interested in the Enneagram but don’t know where to start, check out this free Enneagram test: https://www.enneagramtest.net/

Then once you have your top results, head over to Enneagram Institute to read up on your possible types and how they relate to other people.

Lastly, have your friends and family take the test and then allow that knowledge to help you understand them better and relate to them in new and healthier ways.

Let’s learn and grow,


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