The subject of personality has always been a point of interest for many people, even if you’re not directly involved in the field of psychology. This fuelled the popularity of various personality tests throughout the years like MBTi, The Big-Five Personality test, and so on. The Enneagram framework is a unique, robust model that offers insights from many perspectives. Asides from the basic personality type, the Enneagram framework also offers explanations for your behavior based on centers, wings, and level of development.
What is Enneagram?
Every single person on Earth comes out from childhood having a predominant personality type, which can be a result of their innate temperament or their environment. This innate temperament determines how a child perceives things when they were growing up and these perceptions form their behavior towards the world. So, it’s a safe assumption that a majority of behavior we display as a grown-up emerges from our perception and reaction towards the world as a child.
Why we love Enneagram
The Enneagram system consists of nine distinct personality types, with each number denoting one personality type. It’s sometimes known as the nine-point system for obvious reasons. The reason numbers are used instead of names in Enneagram is because those numbers present neutrality instead of positive or negative connotations related to a word.
1. It doesn’t attempt to box you in
One of the best things about Enneagram is that it doesn’t want to box you into a certain type. According to the Enneagram Institute, you’d most likely see a little bit of yourself in every type. Your predominant type, however, is the type that resonates with you the most based on your answers.
Unlike the MBTI test, which puts you in one of the sixteen types, Enneagram doesn’t propose that you’re one pure personality type. Instead, it embraces the idea of “wings”, which is the complementary personality type normally adjacent to your main personality. For example, if you’re a Type 3, your wings would probably be Type 4 or 5. This allows for many variations since your type would never manifest in the same way as another person even though you’re the same type.
There are three centers in Enneagram: head, heart, and body. The idea is that the basic emotion that emerges from these centers motivates our behavior and reinforces the way we think. Despite that, even though the same types are motivated by the basic emotion, the manifest in wildly different ways from each other. For example, head types like Five, Six, and Seven deal with their basic emotion, fear, differently. Fives deal with fear by isolating themselves to their mind, Sixes by clinging onto beliefs, and Seven by occupying their minds with new possibilities.
Levels of development
The Enneagram framework also explains behavior in terms of levels of development. Nine levels of development are arranged on a scale; the smaller the number, the unhealthier you are. So, even though you’re the same type as your friend, you’ll display different behavior depending on how healthy you are. For example, in this article, we wrote about famous people and their Enneagram (link), we chose Adolf Hitler as our classic Type Six. That doesn’t mean that every Type Six in the world is similar to Hitler. On the contrary, it serves as an example of how drastically different people would be on the level of developments.
2. It promotes more self-awareness
Enneagram is used for various purposes. Some people use it as a tool to validate what they already know about themselves. Some people do it because it’s fun. Others do it because they want to discover more about themselves. Regardless of what you want to do with Enneagram, the detailed insights it gives you about your type is sure to promote some deep reflection afterward.
Enneagram differs from other personality tests because it doesn’t only attempt to tell you what you are. It tells you what emotions and feelings you’re motivated by. It also tells you what challenges you’ll face, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Most importantly, it doesn’t assume that your mental state is stagnant. It accepts that your number will change depending on how stressed out you are or how well you’re coping in your life. Based on these interpretations, you can draw a conclusion of what put you in a bad mental state or do an introspective reflection to learn more about yourself.
Have you ever had to deal with someone who annoys the heck out of everyone but is oblivious to it? You don’t want to be one of those people, do you? Self-awareness is extremely important in social contexts. When you’re aware of what makes you feel a certain way, it helps you shift the blame from other people on to the real issues. This helps you to start working on yourself and start a path towards growth.
3. It facilitates empathy
When I was doing my psychology degree in college, I was always told by my professors that the more I know about people, the less angry I’d be about them. It’s still a truth that rings true to me even till this day.
Most of the time, we get angry at other people because we believe that they deliberately do things that make us angry. What if you know for a fact that that isn’t true? Knowing the motivating emotions that make people act a certain way is a great place to start understanding them. It could help you start empathizing with them instead of bottling up feelings of dissatisfaction you have for them.
This is especially important in workplaces. You spend a huge amount of your day with people you don’t have to care about. But understanding their type is the beginning of making your work life a little smoother. You don’t have to make excuses for them. On the contrary, understanding what your colleagues’ types are would help you figure out a more effective communication for them. This, in turn, might help decrease your blood pressure while working.
No matter what your motives for learning the Enneagram framework is, it’s a great tool to help you begin a journey of self-understanding and the people around you. Like any other tool, it’s imperative to remember that it is simply a tool for understanding, not a be-all, end-all model.