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Differentiating questions | helping people distinguish between type 3 and type 9

Because 3s and 9s are connected by an arrow line, many 3s feel familiar with aspects of type 9 and vice versa. For example, when 3s get quite stressed, they may move to some qualities of type 9 and engage in a distracting activity to relax them such as video games, watching TV or something else that takes very little effort. And some 9s, particularly the social subtype 9, can get very active on behalf of groups or teams as they attempt to merge with a group or with work as a way to fit in or belong to the group.

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 | relaxation
Do you have difficulty truly relaxing and often feel more comfortable working under some degree of pressure (specific deadlines, for example), or do you relax very easily and more pressure makes you feel stressed?
Listen for this
Type 3 | 3s have difficulty relaxing, often perceiving relaxing as doing nothing, which for 3s is not OK. From the 3 perspective, their value is based on activity and doing something. 3s might relax by engaging in sports, but this is still an activity. Listen for just being still as a way of relaxing. In addition, some pressure gets 3s moving forward.

Type 9 | 9s love to relax and go into a zone of comfort of no pressure. They even do this when they “should” be doing something else. The tendency to engage in relaxing or non-essential activity is a regular occurrence for 9s, especially when faced with conflict, tasks they are concerned they may not be able to do, or pressure. Pressure to 9s feels like a demand or a form of control by others, and they don’t like it at all, though they are unlikely to express this directly.

Question approach | reading an audience
Are you really good at reading your audience and then, if needed, adjusting how you look, act, and communicate to get the result you want, or do you not pay much attention to how you are coming across to others, preferring to just be yourself and engage with people?
Listen for this
Type 3 | 3s are highly adept at reading their audience, whether it be one other person, a small group or a large audience. They use their heart center to read how others are responding and then, often unconsciously, adjust their voice tone, what they are talking about, their physical demeanor and more in order to create a positive impression or impact.

Type 9 | 9s don’t bother much to read their audience because this is not how they relate to others. Although 9s are usually very relational, they develop relationships by establishing rapport via small but interesting chats, blending energetically with the other person, or simply by being highly approachable and drawing others toward them.

Question approach | speedy action
Do you like to make things happen and to see concrete results quickly, or do you prefer to allow things to roll out smoothly in the best possible way, whether it takes a long time or very little time?
Listen for this
Type 3 | 3s really like forward movement and rapid action; in fact, they strive for this and become impatient when they perceive something as taking too long. They like results, they like them fast, and then they want to move forward.

Type 9 | 9s are fine whether something is fast, slow or something in between, as long as it feels like something is happening and the outcome is going to be a positive one. When they feel forced to engage in speedy action, many 9s will resist, perceiving this as an unnecessary demand on them, even if they set the deadline themselves.

On my website, TheEnneagramInBusiness.com, there is a special section titled “Enneagram Style Differentiators,“ where you can click on types 3 and 9 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. ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com