Here’s what it is, and why it can be helpful.
Have you ever wondered what kind of archetype best describes your personality? Maybe you think you’re a perfectionist, an achiever, or an advocate for the rights of the downtrodden. Luckily, whichever type you think you are, you can probably confirm or deny it by taking an Enneagram test.
The Enneagram test characterizes nine strategies that the human mind uses to develop a worldview and perceive themselves and others. Basically, that’s a scientific way of saying that your personality is built around how you process the world around you and which strategies you use to do that.
While some people may focus on repressing their emotions to make those around them more comfortable, others may prefer to fully feel their feelings and share with others to better process what their emotions are telling them. Based on how you react to different situations, you will fall under one of nine Enneagram types, most likely with a “wing,” or secondary personality type, to better describe yourself.
What is an Enneagram test?
The Enneagram is a personality theory that groups people into one of nine main categories. While the categories go by number, each number represents a different archetype.
The history of the Enneagram test is a little murky, mainly because no one really knows where it first came from. However, most psychologists credit Oscar Ichazo, a South American philosopher, with synthesizing its basic elements in the mid-20th century. In the early 1970s, psychiatrists Claudio Naranjo and John Lilly introduced it to the United States after studying with Ichazo.
The two saw the benefits of the test in their personal psychiatric practices, and many other psychiatrists, businesses, leadership coaches, and others have adopted the test as a way to learn more about themselves, employees, or those they’re working with.
What are the Enneagram types and their characteristics?
What are the types and what exactly are the traits that they tend to have? Here are some pared-down descriptions:
Type 1: “The Reformer”
Rational yet idealistic, reformers tend to be purposeful in their decision-making, perfectionist in nature, and have a pretty good sense of self-control. But, they can be brutal in their perfectionism, making them difficult to work with.
Type 2: “The Helper”
The helper is pretty self-explanatory — they take joy in aiding those around them and are generous. However, they can be possessive people-pleasers, too.
Type 3: “The Achiever”
The success-oriented achiever is both adaptive and driven. They are pretty aware of how others view them, though, which can cause them to put on a “face” to protect their image.
Type 4: “The Individualist”
Sensitive types may identify as individualists, but don’t let that make you think they’re pushovers. Type 4s tend to be expressive and dramatic, which can lead to them being temperamental and self-absorbed.
Type 5: “The Investigator”
If you consider yourself an introvert, you may be a type 5. Investigators are secretive and keep to themselves, but they are perceptive and innovative, too. They’re often known for being intense and brainy.
Type 6: “The Loyalist”
A loyalist is committed and responsible, but they’ll be suspicious of you or others until proven otherwise. They tend to be anxious people, only because they always want the best for those they love.
Type 7: “The Enthusiast”
Just as the name suggests, enthusiasts are fun-loving, spontaneous people who are always down for a good time. They can be scatter-brained and easily distracted, though.
Type 8: “The Challenger”
We all know someone who loves to play devil’s advocate, and chances are, they’re a type 8. Often praised for their decisiveness and self-confidence, these types can also be domineering and confrontational.
Type 9: “The Peacemaker”
Consider the peacemaker the middle child of the Enneagram world. They love to reassure others and go with the flow, but that can lead to them becoming complacent and overly agreeable.
No one fits perfectly into one category, but that’s what makes us unique, right? Normally, you will have a “wing” or secondary archetype that, when combined with your main one, will better describe how you may perceive and navigate the world around you. Once you discover your wing, it’ll look something like 1w3 (of course swapping out whatever numbers are your main and wing numbers).
How it’s used today
While you can certainly take the Enneagram test for fun, you can also use it to better understand how you may react to the world around you. Many millennials are using it to connect to themselves and find comfort during turbulent times — after all, in times of chaos, you might not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control yourself and the way you process them.
Some companies use the Enneagram test to see what kind of employees they have and what kind they’d like more of. Of course, this isn’t a foolproof method for seeing who will or won’t thrive inside a company, but it does give employers a tool to determine who may be more likely to take on leadership roles versus who may be more likely to act as a mediator when conflict arises (hello, type 9s).
Remember that people hardly ever fall into one “type.” That’s why the wings exist — to better determine what type of person you are. Want to learn where you fall on the Enneagram spectrum? Take a free quiz to start you on your journey.