The Enneagram system has been popular among personality test enthusiast for quite a while now. But thanks to the internet, it has even gotten your next door neighbor into the craze. Its popularity can be because it’s an easy-to-understand framework that allows us to pinpoint our strengths and weakness to work on.
Why is the Enneagram framework so popular?
First, we have to understand why the Enneagram framework is so popular among the general public. Personality tests, in general, represent a mental shortcut that gives people an easy interpretation of who they are as a person. Especially with a complete and robust framework like Enneagram, it gives people an insight of their deepest desires, instincts, and motivations.
The detailed description of each Type that includes their strengths and weaknesses is also appealing to people since people want to affirm themselves. Have you ever read about your horoscope and go, “oh, this is so me”? By having a third-party site tell you what you already know about yourself just makes you more certain that that is who you are as a person. And by extension, it gives you a new perspective on the issues that you’ve already been facing your whole life. Most importantly, having this knowledge gives people a sense of agency and control over their lives. Knowing what you are or why you act a certain way gives you the power to consciously choose to do what’s best for you.
That said, self-improvement based on Enneagram can only be successful if you are certain that the knowledge you have is true. After all, I can scream about how the Earth is flat all I want and build my identity around that. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m crazy for going against a general truth.
So, let’s take a look at 3 of the most common misconceptions about the Enneagram framework so you can safely start your path towards enlightenment armed with the power of the truth.
1. Some types are better than others
The Enneagram framework uses numbers because numbers are a neutral value. You can’t assign a negative or positive meaning to a number. This represents the creators’ desire for all types to be equal.
So why do we sometimes still think that some types are better than others?
One possible reason is that we are conditioned to think a certain way by our environment and society. For example, a person brought up in an intense environment that emphasized success may think that Type Three is the ideal type. Similarly, Type Twos are often overlooked since they tend to shy away from the limelight because of their supportive nature. This doesn’t mean that these Types are worse. It simply means that they shine in different environments and situations.
This misconception can be damaging to your own psyche. When you think that your Type is inferior to others, it lowers your self-esteem and confidence. In addition to that, you might also feel the need to strive to be another Type other than yours. While it’s great having goals, the goals you have should align with who you are as a person. Wanting to be another Type you think is better than your own not only devalues yourself as a person but also puts a lot of unnecessary stress on yourself.
2. You’re trapped into a Type
The Enneagram system is one of the most open-ended personality theories in existence regarding our personality type. It covers a lot of ground – growth, disintegration, wings, instinct centers, and your core type. However, it also leaves room for you to develop into a better self.
While it’s true that Enneagram supports the notion that you’re likely never changing your basic Type by the end of childhood, it recognizes that you change your behavior when you’re coping or growing. The levels of development address exactly this – it allows movement and growth, unlike other personality tests that put you in a box based on a test.
Besides that, Enneagram doesn’t only talk about overt behaviors. It complements the behaviors you notice on the outside with the inner desires that motivate those very behaviors. These inner desires and motivations manifest differently in everyone, even though you might all be from the same Type.
3. You’re a master at typing other people
Typing other people is really fun, especially when you have an understanding of the framework. In our personal experience, it had also been a conversation fodder. You can have conversations for hours just talking about your Types and what it meant for you. It opens up a dialog for self-improvement and reflection among your friends, which helps every one of you grow into a better version of yourself.
Typing other people, however, is a whole different ball game.
Since the Enneagram framework focuses on the inner workings of your mind and motivations, you might not get a clear enough gauge to start typing people you know. After all, the observed behavior is different from what they actually think on the inside. Sometimes, behavior can be subtle – so subtle that you might not pick them up unless you’re with them 24/7.
It’s very easy to take a mental shortcut and type someone immediately based on a few isolated traits. This might introduce some biases that could be damaging to your social life. For example, when your friend is expressing how excited they are to backpack around the world, you might instantly think that they are Type 7 based on their enthusiasm and zest for life. This might lead to you treating them differently, which might lead further to misunderstandings.
However, typing other people is not a difficult skill. It simply requires a lot of patience, a keen eye for details, and a lot of practice. It’s necessary to type based on an overall picture instead of basing it on a few incidents. The Enneagram framework provides you a roadmap of quirks and behaviors of each Type; you simply need to study it properly and observe other people over a period of type.