Some Enneagram 3s may, at least initially, think they are 8s, but the opposite is less common. In other words, some 8s may think they are 3s, but it doesn’t take very long to discover that they are not. The reason for this particular type confusion is that both 3s and 8s appear to be confident, and both like to get things done. In addition, both 3s and 8s like to be respected. Finally, if a 3 has had a strong parental figure who was an 8, the 3 may be more asserting (more 8-like).
Here are some differentiating questions that you might find useful. Two caveats for the questions to work effectively: (1) the question only works if the person has narrowed down the possible types to these two only and (2) once the question is asked and the answer is offered, it really matters that the guider/teacher/coach understands the meaning of what is being said.
Question approach | caring what others think
Do you care what others think of you and what you do, or do you really not care very much?
Listen for this
Type 3 | 3s care very much, even too much, about what others think of them and how they are perceived. They are attuned to reading the “audience” reaction, then adjusting what they do or say in response.
Type 8 | 8s care very little – although they sometimes care to some degree – to what others think of them or about what they do. In the view of 8s, they do what needs to be done; if people don’t like it or are displeased, the action taken was still necessary. As a result, 8s rarely fret over how others perceive them unless they are very close to these people.
Question approach | results or huge results
Do you get energized and enthused by really good-to-great results no matter whether the effort is big or small, or do you need the results achieved to be very big and with a large impact to feel energized and enthused?
Listen for this
Type 3 | 3s don’t mind big results at all, but they also enjoy a great deal of satisfaction from getting positive results from their efforts, big or small. From their point of view, a good result is a good result.
Type 8 | From the 8 perspective, results need to be big in scope and bigger in impact. They don’t like to bother with smaller tasks and items. Sometimes they think: Go big or go home.
Question approach | conforming or rebellious
Would you describe yourself as someone who accurately reads what is required and expected in different situations and then is adept at adjusting to the context you are in, or are you someone who is more rebellious and enjoys pushing against social expectations and norms?
Listen for this
Type 3 | Although many 3s would not describe themselves as conformists – and most 3s have some streak of inner rebellion – they do like to know what is expected and then meet or exceed that expectation. After all, that is what, in their minds, contributes to success. In addition, 3s don’t like to get in trouble with or push too hard against authority figures or rules if doing so will get them into trouble. In general, 3s like to know what the rules are and then play by them.
Type 8 | 8s often say they were born to be rebels, to break the rules and make the rules rather than to live by pre-established modes of conduct. Being rebellious in this way energizes them.
On my website, TheEnneagramInBusiness.com, there is a special section titled “Enneagram Style Differentiators,“ where you can click on types 3 and 8 to read about how they are similar and different. This section may stimulate additional differentiating questions you can ask. Click here to be directed to this section.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of six best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com. email@example.com