Type 4s and 7s can be thought of as opposites. Type 7s run away from sorrow and pain almost more than anything else – limits are something they also avoid – while 4s run toward pain and suffering, both their own and that of others. So why do people sometimes confuse 7s with 4s when they are so different? There are two reasons for this. First, one of the three versions of type 4, the self-preservation subtype, is sometimes called the “sunny” 4. These 4s suffer in silence so that their suffering is not obvious. The name for this subtype, “reckless/dauntless,” describes the type of behavior they engage in to move away from their suffering by engaging in behaviors that have an edge to them. In this way, self-preservation 4s often have interesting and stimulating things they have done in their past that could make them appear akin to the adventure-loving 7s. The second reason is that 7s do get more deeply connected to their inner pain and suffering; they dive deeply into the place of sorrow and can appear somewhat like 4s.
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 | sadness
Do you stay with feelings of sadness, even when you prefer to not feel this way, or do you constantly avoid feeling sad by staying stimulated and excited, through positive thinking or by future-oriented positive possibility planning?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s tend to like melancholy more than deep sadness, but they generally do not avoid being aware that they are sad and dealing with it as best they can. In addition, 4s tend to live more in the past than the future.
Type 7 | 7s will almost always say that they do not like sadness and do not feel it very often or for very long. Once they say this, ask them to describe what they do when sadness does occur, and listen for matches to the question just asked – stimulation, excitement, positive possibility planning.
Question approach | heart or head
How do you know things and make meaning from your experience – from your heart or from your head?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s are almost always meaning makers from the heart. Although they may use their heads, they do so to make meaning of their emotions, which puts them right back in the heart.
Type 7 | 7s process almost everything from their heads. They share ideas, listen to others through the energy field of thought and idea, and they make sense of their worlds through their minds. Of course, they have feelings, but meaning making comes from the Mental Center.
Question approach | deep in meaning or lighthearted in intention
Would you describe yourself as a deep person or a light-hearted person? And how would others describe you if they had to choose?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s would rarely describe themselves as light-hearted and, in fact, few actually are. On the other hand, almost all 4s are deep emotionally, and they spend a great deal of time engaged in introspection. Most others also perceive 4s in this way.
Type 7 | 7s might want to experience themselves as deep, but this is not usually the case unless the particular 7 has gone through an extremely difficult situation and stayed with and processed their feelings. Otherwise, 7s perceive themselves as more light-hearted, though no 7 wants to view him- or herself as superficial.
On my website, TheEnneagramInBusiness.com, there is a special section titled “Enneagram Style Differentiators,“ where you can click on types 4 and 7 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. firstname.lastname@example.org