You have likely at least heard the word “Enneagram” by now. For those completely new to this tool, the Enneagram is a 9-sided symbol that represents a spectrum of 9 personality types. This secular tool has mysterious origins but is believed to have originated with early Sufis or Christians thousands of years ago and has withstood the test of time. From individuals to religious organizations, to therapists, this tool is used to help folks with self-discovery, developing self-awareness and empathy, and dismantling defense mechanisms that hold us back – among many other amazing reasons.
If you want to effectively use the Enneagram, you must understand the tool holistically. A holistic understanding will ensure that you accurately discover your type. This is not easily or accurately done by using a typing test or being typed by another person. This is because the Enneagram is based on motivation – why we do the things we do – not behavior. Motivation was developed in childhood – what happened to us when the world got to us (as I like to say) that made us think and operate a certain way. You see, in childhood, we develop defense mechanisms and motivations that form our personalities and influence who we are today. Those seeds planted so long ago may not be evident in our behavior because our behavior changes with the seasons of life. Think about it – if you are in your 40s, are your behaviors the same as they were in your 20s? Probably not. The through line of the seasons of our lives is that our motivation and defense mechanisms – if unchecked – continue to drive our subconscious automatic decision-making – even if our behavior presents differently. These defense mechanisms and motivations that often may have served us early on may no longer serve us now and can become barriers to receiving our desired outcomes.
Once we use the power of the Enneagram to discover our core motivation, we become more mindful of living from integrity – from our truth, and not in defense of ourselves. When we stop operating in defense-mode, barriers are dismantled, and intentionality and clarity begin to drive healthy decisions in favor of the lives we want.
This is why a test and/or another person typing us is not recommended. Tests only see a snapshot of answers based on a moment in time – and tend to capture the behavior versus the motivation. Humans typing humans is just a big no-no. Nobody can tell you what your motivations are – they can only assume based on what they see and how they know you – again behaviorally based during a specific time frame. Enneagram coaches, such as I, can help guide discovering type by asking probing questions, and helping clients gain an understanding of the Enneagram types, but ultimately, the internal work of discovery must be done by the individual on the journey. As a matter of fact, the Riso Hudson Enneagram Type Test – the most popular and accurate Enneagram test – is only somewhere between 56-82% accurate. I can vouch for that, because I have coached many people who took the test or had corporate coaching with the test as a starting point and were mistyped. Being mistyped is counter-intuitive because it does not get to the heart of who we are. That is why I encourage everyone to understand each type. We have every type in us, we just happen to lead with one of the nine types. In addition, understanding each type ensures we develop empathy for others – it allows us to discover something truly ground-breaking: not everyone thinks the way we do. When we gain this knowledge, we have less conflict and more productive communication. It sounds basic, but it is a powerful truth.
This is why, for the next 9 weeks, I hope you’ll join me as we explore an overview of each Enneagram type. In next week’s Cincy Chic edition, we will explore the Enneagram Type 1, the Perfectionist or Reformer.
If you find yourself wanting more information about the Enneagram, consider taking my online introductory course which will give you a more in depth overview, and provide a path to help you discover your type!
Whitney Ellison is a thought leader and coach of the Enneagram and Quantum Energy. Learn more about her by visiting her website, wellisonenterprises.com and following her @wellisonenterprises on Instagram where you can find all of her Enneagram series interviews and other comings and goings.