Nine Tips to Discover Your Enneagram Type
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as taking a test. Discovering your Enneagram type isn't like taking a Buzzfeed quiz to find out what Disney Princess you are. In fact, you will notice that taking an online questionnaire is the last thing I mention. Online quizzes should NOT be your first go-to for discovering your type.
The Enneagram, in my understanding and opinion, is different than other personality typing systems. Yes, the Myers-Briggs, or the DISC, or the Strength-Finders tests can all give you a good overview of who you are. But those tests and systems tend to be more descriptive than proscriptive. Here's what I mean. The Enneagram is not just a personality typing system. Think of it more as the art of self-discovery and transformation. It doesn't just tell you who you are, it tells you who you don't want others to know you are. It reveals the masks and defense mechanisms you've come to hide behind. It tells you what happens when you are at your lowest, and it gives you a path of growth toward health and wholeness.
To find out more, check out my two-part posts on "Why the Enneagram?"
WHY THE ENNEAGRAM, PT 1
WHY THE ENNEAGRAM, PT 2
So you want to discover your Enneagram type, but don't know where to start? Here are some way to help you get going on the journey.
0. Self-Awareness and Brutal Self-Honesty
The journey of the Enneagram is not something to be taken lightly. I know it's a huge fad right now. It's really hip and trendy, especially among Christians. But not everybody is ready for this journey. It's not recommended for people under about age 20. And if you don't have a certain level of self-awareness and cannot be honest about the darker sides of your personality, then you won't get very far. This is a wisdom tradition, so there is a certain degree of maturity, honesty, and vulnerability that goes into this.
1. Read a Book
Specifically this book: The Road Back to You, by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. This is THE primer on the Enneagram. It's an easy read, and you will be hooked in no time. The temptation will be to skim through the types until you get to one that sounds like you. But I promise, patience is critical when learning about the Enneagram for the first time. You must take the time to learn about all nine types to understand the interplay between them all. The wings, the stress and security lines, the stances - it's very dynamic, and all the numbers interact with each other. So read, not just blogs and internet articles - read this book.
2. Research Online
Specifically, look to websites like The Enneagram Institute for further research and insights into the Enneagram types. Many sites like this will have a quiz or questionnaire section. You're not ready for that yet.
3. Stress and Security Lines
Ok, say you have read through the types, done a little extra research, but you're still not quite sure. If you have it narrowed down to two or three different numbers, pay special attention to the stress and security lines. On the Enneagram symbol itself, you will notice each number has two arrows connected to it. The arrow pointing toward another number indicates the security line. In other words, in health and security your number takes on the positive aspects of that connecting number. The opposite is also true. In stress, your number takes on the unhealthy aspects of the number with the arrow pointing away.
For instance, I am a type Three. When everything is going great and I'm in the groove, then I tend to go to the healthy side of type Six. But when I'm stressed, anxious, etc. then I take on the unhealthy aspects of type Nine. That was the real kicker for me. I wasn't sure if I was a One or a Three. When I read about going to Nine in stress, my jaw dropped and I got all tense. Who could ever know that about me? That sealed the deal. So if you're between two or three numbers, check out those stress and security lines.
This is a little bit more technical. The numbers can be subdivided into three sets of three stances - Aggressive, Dependent, and Withdrawing. The Aggressive Stance includes types 3, 7, and 8. These types tend to move toward others, and they tend to be future-oriented. The Dependent Stance includes types 6, 1, and 2. These types tend to come alongside others, and they have a present-focused relation to time. The Withdrawing Stance includes type 9, 4, and 5. They tend to move away from others and are more past-oriented. This is highly simplified, but if you are between a couple of numbers that happen to be in different Stances, this might help you home in on one.
Each number can be further subdivided into three different subtypes: Social, Sexual (or One-to-One depending on who you read), and Self-Preservation. These subtypes are all about how you relate to others. Are you more social and like to have a lot of relationships? Are you more geared toward fewer but deeper relationships? Are you more concerned about how others perceive you and tend to stick to yourself more often? One of these subtypes will actually be the "counter-type" for a given number. This can make it more difficult to nail down sometimes. Your subtype may mean that your behavior tends to look very different than the "normal" type. For instance, I'm a Self-Preservation Three, which I believe is the counter-type. That explains why Social Threes (the typical, almost caricature of a Three) bug me so much.
There are some great podcasts out there for those of you who are into that sort of thing. You can start with The Road Back to You podcast hosted by the authors of the book, Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Then there is Ian Cron's podcast called Typology. Suzanne Stabile has her own called The Enneagram Journey. The Sleeping At Last podcast featured Chris Heuertz, another Enneagram expert, as Ryan O'Neal wrote a song specific for each number. I'm sure there are plenty of others, but these are some I'd recommend.
7. Ask Someone for Help
By now you may know someone who is well versed in the Enneagram. It might help to have a conversation with someone who knows you well. But I've found that if there is a little bit of distance in the relationship it can go a lot better. The Enneagram reveals what's best about you and what's worst about you. If you are getting help from someone to figure out your type, be sure it's someone with whom you can be completely honest.
8. Attend a Workshop
I know it's not really possible at the moment to attend an in-person workshop, but I know Enneagram teachers who host them multiple times a year around the country. You might even be able to catch an online seminar or two in the time being. Hearing a professional Enneagram expert discuss the type and answer questions can open up the whole world.
9. Take a Test Online
After you've gone through multiple steps above and still aren't sure, then you have my permission to go online and take some kind of a test. But not all tests are created equal. For one of the very best tests, you can pay around $70. It will also include a comprehensive overview of your type along with multiple, high quality resources. For the free quizzes....well, you get what you pay for.
There you go. These are nine tips to help you discover your Enneagram type. Are there any other methods or insights that I missed? What did you find most helpful in learning your number? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to check out these other helpful resources.
11 GREAT ENNEAGRAM RESOURCES