We’ve probably all had those moments in our relationships when we think “Why did they react that why?”. Or “Why is this so important to them?” or “Why can’t they see my side? Clearly, I am right!” Sometimes it feels like no matter what we do, understanding our people and their motivations seems impossible. And sometimes understanding why we react the way we do to certain situations can also leave us feeling confused. Understanding the Enneagram can help.
A few years ago, my sister introduced me to the Enneagram. It instantly fascinated me. To put simply, the enneagram helps us understand what is subconsciously driving our actions and feelings. Tuning into these aspects of our personality helps us better understand ourselves and others.
The enneagram provides a framework for deeper self-awareness and goes way beyond the simplified introvert vs. extrovert type personality tests. While I am not an enneagram expert and can’t go extensively into every single detail, I hope this article will give you a general sense of what it is about. And I will provide a couple of resources at the end to help you dive into it more on your own.
Here is a quick overview to help you in understanding the Enneagram.
The Enneagram helps us understand other people’s and our own driving emotional fears and motivations. Nine specific personality types make up the enneagram. As you explore which number you are, you will probably find that you might not be a perfect match with any of the numbers. But there will probably be 1 or 2 you deeply connect with. An “aha” moment, if you will.
I’m a number 9 on the Enneagram and while I don’t connect with everything said about “nines”, when I initially started exploring the Enneagram, the 9 easily stood out as the number that sounded the most like me.
Nine numbers comprise the enneagram. The numbers are categorized into three types: heart types, head types and body types. Here is quick overview:
Heart types (numbers two, three, and four) use emotional intelligence when connecting with others and understanding why they react to things the way they do. In general, heart types understand their feelings, empathetise well, and are guided by their emotional connection with others. They value recognition, inclusion, feeling emotionally supported and providing that to others.
Head types (numbers five, six, and seven) use intellectual intelligence to make sense of the world and other people. While heart types lead with emotion, head types lead with analysis. They tend to have an easy time connecting with people on an intellectual level. Head types use their intellectual intelligence to understand the systems and theories that drive their experiences. They value stability, competence, and security.
Body types (numbers eight, nine, and one) use instinctual intelligence. They are great at following their “gut” instinct when it comes to decision making. Body types make sense of their experiences by tuning into their body’s reaction. They value independence and not being overly influenced by others.
Now, let’s dive further into the 9 numbers. As you learn more about the enneagram, you might come across a number labeled a slightly different way. For example, sometimes the helper type is called a giver type. The descriptions below are very basic. So, to really figure out which number you are, you need to explore the enneagram further.
First, let’s talk about the heart types.
Type Two – The Helper
Twos are driven by the need to want to be liked and often will try to find ways to help others. This type fears being unlovable.
Type Three – The Achiever
Threes are driven by success and want to be admired by others. Threes fear being seen as invaluable to others.
Type Four – The Individualist
Fours are driven by their need to feel unique and experience deep emotion. They fear being flawed and tend to overly focus on how they are different from others.
Next, the head types.
Type Five – The Investigator
Fives are driven by understanding and knowledge and can be more comfortable dealing with ideas rather than people. They fear being overwhelmed by the needs of others or their own needs.
Type Six – The Loyalist
The need for safety, security and being prepared for anything that arises is what drives sixes. They fear being unprepared and unable to defend themselves.
Type Seven – The Enthusiast
Sevens thrive on adventure and fun. They find themselves bored more easily than other types. Sevens stay busy to avoid their fear of experiencing emotional pain.
Last, the body types.
Type Eight – The Challenger
Eights thrive on being strong and powerful and aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in. They often try to control their environment in order to avoid feeling powerless, which is their fear.
Type Nine – The Peacemaker
Nines are driven by their need to have everything go smoothly. They want others to be happy. They avoid conflict. Their fear is pushing people away or rocking the boat and tend to be passive because of it.
Type One – The Reformer
Driven by their need to do things correctly, ones generally follow the rules. Ones fear imperfection and can be hard on others and themselves.
Wing numbers refer to the two types adjacent to your core number on the Enneagram circle. It is common to recognize yourself in your wing numbers. Your wing numbers can help you understand the subtleties of your core type.
Ready to explore more?
Take a free Enneagram Quiz here.
The Road Back to You is a great book that will help you dive into each type in a lot more detail.
This website provides a much more detailed description of each type as well.
So why bother figuring out your enneagram number? Many reasons! It helps you become more self-aware, which is usually a good thing! It can help you understand how your loved ones are wired, and why they think and react the way they do. (Partners should really do this together!) It is fun to learn new things about yourself.
Have fun exploring and understanding the enneagram!