The Enneagram personality system opens the door to self-awareness. It explains the motivation behind a lot of unconscious behaviors. If you can objectively reflect on your behavior, you will start to notice patterns that have been operating under your radar for a while. This journey of self-revelation is an investment with long lasting implications for how you influence the world and relate to others.
Recognizing which of the nine Enneagram types best fits you can sometimes take time and effort. That’s completely OK! It’s a process of observation and self-reflection. Here are a few common challenges you may face when starting down the path:
It is easier to see the strengths of your type than the negative tendencies. In our workshops, I’ll often hear leaders say, “I do all the things listed under the strengths of my type, but I don’t relate to any of the type’s derailers.” If I were to ask this person’s family members or colleagues that know him/her well, I’m sure they would recognize a few of the derailers! If you find yourself only seeing the positive step back and observe your behavior and actions to see if you might actually display some of the less positive qualities of the personality type.
You may be vested in seeing yourself a certain way – an image that is not really who you are. This might cause you to fall into the wrong type. Most of us are not as self-aware as we assume so this is a fairly common occurrence. Reality testing our view of ourselves with feedback from others can help here. Calibrate how you see yourself by asking someone close to you how they see you.
Your real type might cause you to wrinkle your nose and make you hesitant to consider it (even though you might suspect it as true on some level). This is actually a good sign and one I urge you to notice. Our less attractive qualities can stay hidden from our consciousness. No one wants to admit to being critical, possessive, shallow, moody, detached, suspicious, scattered, controlling, or complacent as each of the types can be at times. Having a sense of humor goes a long way to landing in the correct type.
If you work in a company that uses the Enneagram as part of leadership development, other people will be tempted to tell you what they think your Enneagram type is which may influence your own typing of yourself. When people tell you which type they think you are, it robs you of the chance to self-reflect. Although other people can see your behavior, they cannot know your motivation. If someone feels compelled to tell you your type, hear them out, but don’t let that stop you from your own self-reflection of your core motivations.
Beware of taking a shallow pass at typing yourself or others. As the Enneagram is used more and more, people may be tempted to over-simplify the process. Avoid the urge to “rush to the answer” and take your time. The Enneagram is a deep and powerful personality system that should not box you into a type. The value of the Enneagram is to help you broaden your lens of the world.
Knowing and accepting yourself gives you the best chance to make your maximum contribution and reach your fullest potential. The process to understanding your motivation reveals patterns that keep you stuck. Leaders who embrace the Enneagram better understand themselves and work to reduce self-defeating behaviors. This makes a huge difference in the way they relate to and work with the people around them. Because the Enneagram also gives leaders new compassion for those who see the world differently, they tend to get better at giving feedback and having two-way communication and this naturally results in improved relationships, which supports higher engagement.
As the late renowned Enneagram teacher, David Daniels, stated, “how we relate to ourselves inevitably is how we relate to others.”