The Enneagram of Personality seeks to create better understanding of both the individual and the surrounding group.
OVER the years, have I been romantic and imaginative, or pragmatic and down to earth? Hmm, good question. I stop to think for a moment, and finally settle on the answer that my instinct had immediately selected: romantic and imaginative. Actually, maybe I should check with my wife and see exactly just how she feels I fare in the romance department. I make a note to purchase some flowers and continue reading.
Having found my way here to www.enneagraminstitute.com, I’m negotiating my way through a trial online Enneagram Personality Test, with the end result promising to reveal my place in what best selling author and leading developer of the Enneagram Don Riso describes as “a geometric figure that delineates the nine basic personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships”. With its roots stretching as far back as Greek mythology, the word “enneagram” derives from the ancient Greek ennea, meaning “nine”, and grammos, which is akin to “graphic” or “image”.
This test seeks to determine exactly which of the nine personality types I am: The Reformer, The Helper, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Investigator, The Loyalist, The Enthusiast, The Challenger or The Peacemaker. So, where exactly do I fit in with all of this?
The 9 Enneagram Types
1. The Reformer
Conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders and advocates for change. Afraid of making mistakes.
2. The Helper
Empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing.
3. The Achiever
Self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, they can also be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement.
4. The Individualist
Self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious.
5. The Investigator
Alert, insightful, and curious. Able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, also can be preoccupied with their thoughts.
6. The Loyalist
The committed, security-oriented type. Reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious.
7. The Enthusiast
Extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined.
8. The Challenger
Self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering.
9. The Peacemaker
Accepting, trusting, and stable. Creative, optimistic, and supportive. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict.
Source: Enneagram Institute
The test continues: I have tended to take on confrontations, or avoid confrontations; I have typically been diplomatic, charming and ambitious – or direct, formal and idealistic. The statements keep coming, all 36 pairs to choose between. And thus, some ten minutes of head scratching, navel gazing and chin stroking later, I have completed the test. A number stares back at me: 9. Not only that, I find that I have a further two numbers to take into consideration: my stress level is Type 6 and my growth level is Type 3. So, now what do I do with this information?
“Basically you are a peacemaker,” offers Enneagram teacher and coach Anitta Koskinen, explaining what the overall Type 9 reflects. But, it seems, apart from building metaphorical bridges between feuding individuals, my personality type is also shaped by the information found in the other two numbers as well.
I ask Koskinen about my stress level linking me to Type 6 (The Loyalist), the behavioural extreme that occurs when I am not able to subdue a reaction to stress. “Decision-making might take longer than it does for others, you start questioning things,” Koskinen says. Actually, this seems quite true, as I cast my mind back through the quagmires of procrastination when I have to make major life decisions. As for my growth being a Type 3 (The Achiever), this is the personality type I am most aligned with when I’m challenging myself and at my most ambitious. “Type 3s are quite driven, they like to succeed,” she states. Thus, in a nutshell, it appears that in order to make the most of my potential, I must keep my levels of stress in check and strive for self-development in order to gain fulfilment.
Discussing the Enneagram is part and parcel of everyday life for Koskinen, educating variously-sized businesses with her company, Core Coach Oy. A fully qualified Enneagram teacher, Koskinen studied under Finland’s recognised Enneagram expert Marika Borg, the founder of the Enneagram Institute in Finland, and the person responsible for introducing the concept here after crossing paths with the Enneagram over 30 years ago in California.
“I visit corporations and companies and explain what an Enneagram is and give the test,” Koskinen explains. “In each working environment, you have a lot of the personality types. An Enneagram shows that there are nine different ways to do things. It’s interesting to see how people react and start to understand each other.”
Can I see you in my office?
While the absurdities of office politics were aptly summarised by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant in their blisteringly funny BBC comedy series The Office, thankfully most of the time behaviour never reaches the boorish extremes of Gervais’ character David Brent. Furthermore, Koskinen believes that knowledge of Enneagram Types can enable a better working environment for all gained by understanding the various dynamics at play.
“It’s important in the office to respect different personality types,” she continues. “Sometimes when an employer needs to hire a person, they look to the Enneagram to help find out what kind of person they should hire to help keep the balance of the personalities already at the office; a nice add-on to our team.”
Aside from ascertaining the strengths of a current team and also finding appropriate new members, this testing can also provide clarity for individuals in terms of the suitability of their current position. “Somebody might find that actually they are most at ease only when they have a certain type of role. No wonder they are stressed, no wonder they have issues with people in their department, because they are not in the role that is the most natural to them.”
Keeping spirits up
The most perplexing aspect of such potentially enlightening information, however, is the tendency for people to frame Enneagrams in a religious context. In fact, the Jesuits in the USA were quick to seize on this in the 1970s, with Jesuit priest Robert Ochs preaching the perceived link between Enneagrams and spirituality, in the process helping to spread the growth of Enneagram awareness. But, does Koskinen feel that there is an inherent link between the two?
“Probably,” she states, a slight hint of disdain in her voice. “Personally I haven’t taken that route. I’m a more practical hands-on type.”
After our phone call has ended, I sit at my desk for a moment, my enthusiasm for Enneagrams leavened by Koskinen’s final statement. Out of sheer curiosity I search for “Enneagram Type 9 career” online and immediately find a list of suitable career paths for my personality type including retail clerk, veterinarian, teacher and writer. Well, it seems I’m on the right track then. I continue reading. “It’s important that a 9 does something productive so they don’t end up sitting around all day and letting life pass them by”. When I catch myself staring out of the window pondering this fact moments later, I smile knowingly, turn to face the monitor and start typing.